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Published in general news Written by July 07 2021 0

Colombia’s national infrastructure agency INVIAS announced July 6 that Antioquia highway toll-booth worker Luis Fernando Álvarez Correa has just died of massive burns suffered as a result of a terrorist “protester” attack on the “Los Llanos” highway toll booth in Antioquia last month.

The 38-year-old Álvarez is just the latest of thousands of victims of the “Comite del Paro” and the “Primera Linea” strikes and blockades, both of which arose in April supposedly in reaction to a proposed tax bill that (ironically) had already been withdrawn by the Colombian government.

Colombia’s Health Minister Fernando Ruiz has estimated that thousands of Covid-19 victims here unnecessarily died as a result of “Comite del Paro” mass-spreader events, road blockades and terrorist attacks on delivery vehicles, ambulances and their drivers, which prevented the timely delivery of crucial oxygen tanks, medical supplies and patients to hospitals and clinics in many parts of Colombia.

Rather than a protest over a non-existent tax bill, the violent protests, road blockades, massive destructions and burnings of buildings, vehicles, public transport infrastructure and injuries to thousands of police and demonstrators can be seen as largely the result of cynical left-wing politicians organizing and manipulating hundreds of thousands of understandably frustrated unemployed youths who have lost their jobs because of the Covid-19 crisis – tricked by an all-too-human frailty of blaming “the government” – a government that ironically has gone deep into debt with massive subsidies to the poor and working classes to help them survive the Covid crisis.

Unfortunately, excessive force by some riot police – rather than justifiable force in reaction to certain rioting and violent blockades by protesters -- has prompted Colombia’s Attorney General to investigate and/or bring charges against at least 105 policemen so far for abuse of authority, as well as for possible culpability for 16 civilian deaths during the riots and blockades, according to the National Police.

Beyond the more than 1,000 protesters who have reported injuries during the May-to-June marches, road blockades, Molotov-cocktail attacks, shootings, burnings, lootings and destructions of hundreds of buildings, buses and private vehicles, 1,564 police also have been injured -- and three police murdered by rioters -- according to the National Police.

In addition, 24 violent protesters so far have been captured for attempted murders of police, including an attempt to burn-to-death several policemen trapped inside just one of the 121 police stations destroyed by protesters during the riots, according to the latest National Police statistics.

What’s more, the National Police have detected and reported at least 94 fake-news reports -- mainly disseminated through social media -- including cleverly edited videos that only show police attacking “innocent” protesters (and in a few cases, some nearby news reporters).

However, in some (but not all) cases, police counter-attacks often came in response to protesters throwing of rocks, Molotov cocktails, small bombs, bricks and sometimes shooting bullets at police.

But some of these violent protester attacks -- followed by police counter-attacks -- were cleverly edited-out by the fake-news propagandists, according to 94 documented cases reported by the National Police.

Several extreme left-wing politicians -- aiming to manipulate certain voters and especially naïve youth – also have reposted these fake-news videos via Tweets and Facebook pages, aiming to stir-up hatred against Colombia’s moderate-centrist, democratic government.

Fake videos also have aimed to trick some of the international news media into unbalanced “human rights violation” stories that unfortunately failed to investigate or report extreme left-wing political forces -- including the narco-communist ELN and reFARC terrorist groups, as well as Venezuelan government agents – who in part are financing and promoting this violence.

Published in general news Written by May 18 2021 0

The latest InterNations global survey of the “best and worst” nations for living and working abroad finds that Colombia ranks 11th out of 59.

Colombia’s highest rating (third overall) is in the “personal finance index” but its worst ranking (38th overall) is in the “working abroad index,” according to InterNations.

“With more than 12,000 respondents, this is one of the most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, sharing insights into expat life in 59 destinations,” according to Munich-based InterNations.

Besides making it into the top 10 for “personal finance,” Colombian ranks fourth in “ease of settling-in,” fifth in “cost of living,” and 25th in “quality of life,” according to the survey.

In total, “46% of expats in Colombia have mostly local friends and acquaintances, which is 26 percentage points more than the global average (20%). Close to two-thirds (65%) also agree that finding new friends in general is easy in Colombia, whereas globally only 48% of expats feel this way.”

Meanwhile, “81% of respondents rate the cost of living in Colombia positively, compared to just 48% globally. Colombia ranks high in the personal finance index (third), where only Vietnam (first) and Mexico (second) perform better,” according to the survey.

“Most expats (84%) in Colombia say their disposable household income is enough or more than enough to cover their expenses (versus 77% globally). What is more, 76% are satisfied with their financial situation (versus 64% globally) — 40% even very much so (versus 23% globally).

“The majority of expats (86%) is happy with their life in general (versus 75% globally), and nearly all of those with a partner or spouse (98%) are happy with their relationship (versus 87% globally).

“Actually, more than three in five expats in Colombia who are in a relationship (61%) are romantically involved with a local resident, which is a lot more than the global average (38%).

“For the majority of expats (97%), Colombia’s natural environment is also a highlight (versus 84% globally). However, with close to one in four expats (23%) rating their personal safety negatively (versus 8% globally), Colombia lands in the bottom 10 of the ‘safety & security’ subcategory (50th).

“Another 19% also rate the country’s peacefulness negatively, ten percentage points more than the global average (9%). And less than half the expats (49%) are happy with the political stability in Colombia (vs. 64% globally),” according to the survey.

Another Colombia weak spot is the “working abroad index,” ranking 41st in the “career prospects & satisfaction” subcategory, “with just 31% of expats rating the local career opportunities positively (versus 45% globally) and one in five (20%) being dissatisfied with their job (versus 16% globally),” according to InterNations.

“Moreover, 22% of expats rate the state of the local economy negatively, which is slightly above the global average (19%),” the survey added.

According to the survey, the top 10 destinations for expats are Taiwan (first), followed by Mexico, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Portugal, New Zealand, Australia, Ecuador, Canada, and Vietnam (10th).

The worst countries for expats are Kuwait (59th), Italy, South Africa, Russia, Egypt, Japan, Cyprus, Turkey, India, and Malta (50th), the survey concluded.

Published in general news Written by May 09 2021 0

Antioquia Acting Governor Luis Fernando Suárez announced  May 9 that starting Monday, May 10 through Monday, May 17, a 10-pm to 5-am daily curfew and booze-sales ban will replace the stricter Covid-19 curfew/quarantine standards of the past three weeks.

“Pico y cedula” shopping restrictions will switch to odd/even-numbered days tied to cedulas ending in odd or even numbers. Hence people with cedulas ending in odd numbers can start shopping on Tuesday, May 11, while even-number-ending cedulas qualify for shopping on Wednesday, May 12. Restaurants and hotels are exempt from pico-y cedula.

Because of a delay in getting final approval from Colombia’s Interior Minister for the new shopping and travel restrictions, the prior regulation enabling shopping for cedulas ending in 2 and 3 continues for Monday, May 10.

A significant decrease in new Covid cases, a lower positivity rate in Covid-19-infection tests, a decline in existing Covid cases and a decrease in waiting times for intensive care unit (ICU) beds collectively explain the easing of restrictions for the coming week, he added.

“The indicators show fewer cases and less positivity in tests, but it is not the [hoped-for] expected decrease,” Suárez cautioned during a televised press conference today.

“This rate of recovery is not enough to relieve pressure on the health system. We understand the exhaustion of commerce, of people, but we cannot lower our guard,” hence face-mask mandates, social distancing and strict workplace/public-space health-protocol regulations will continue, he said.

Thankfully, Antioquia also just cleared the Medellin-Bogota highway this morning (May 9) of groups of “protestors” supposedly protesting a recent tax-reform proposal. As a result, crucial oxygen supplies for hospitals, medicines for Covid-19 patients, food and fuel supplies can once again reach all of the Medellin metro area.

Fortunately, Antioquia has largely escaped the violence of other parts of Colombia during the last two weeks of public protests -- supposedly sparked by a tentative tax-reform proposal, but in reality sparked by unemployed people, certain left-wing labor unions, some left-wing students and just too many people fed-up with 15-months of economic and social suffering along with suffocating mobility restrictions, all caused by the Covid-19 pandemic rather than by the Colombian government.

These mainly peaceful protests also have been infiltrated by violent narco-communist terrorist actors including ELN and re-FARC -- along with agents from the narco-communist dictatorship of neighboring Venezuela, which sent agent-provocateurs dressed in fake Colombian police uniforms to cause havoc, as has been publicly documented by official video cameras of captured terrorist agents.

Scores of private buildings, stores, police stations, bus stations, public transit buses, ambulances and police vehicles have been torched by these terrorists -- and in addition some terrorists tried to burn alive policemen trapped inside one police station, as has been officially documented.

More than 600 police so far have been injured by violent protestors who have been shooting bullets, rocks, bombs and Molotov cocktails, while more than a dozen other people – allegedly including some “innocent protestors” – have died in obscure circumstances during the protests, according to Colombia’s Attorney General.

Published in general news Written by April 23 2021 0

The Antioquia departmental government’s Institute for the Development of Antioquia (IDEA) announced April 22 that it just signed an alliance deal with Medellin-based “green” project consultant Animal Bank.

Animal Bank is an initiative created by Medellin’s Portafolio Verde organization (see Medellin Herald 08/26/2019), which helps various commercial or industrial project developers to find novel ways to offset, avoid or minimize environmental impacts.

“IDEA will be a founding ally of Animal Bank, becoming the first public entity to support this initiative,” according to the agency. “The alliance will support the design, structuring and development of projects focused on the conservation of biodiversity.”

Animal Bank allies also include Renting Colombia (subsidiary of Bancolombia), Continental Gold, the Humboldt Institute of Colombia, Vanderbilt University and B Lab. Its board of directors includes environmental sustainability expert Brigitte Baptiste, rector of EAN University.

According to Portafolio Verde executive director Alejandro Zapata Arango, “through the management of partner organizations, the Animal Bank establishes sources of operation and financing that allow it to advance in the fulfillment of its purpose. Along this route, we have identified the importance of having the support of a public-sector company such as IDEA, an entity that shares the principles and meaning of [environmentally conscious] banking and that acts from a commitment to the development of society.”

The alliance between IDEA and Animal Bank “will contribute to the future of the territories and the next generations by creating social awareness with actions aimed at the efficient use of natural resources and carrying out collective work for the conservation of biodiversity,” according to the organization.

Published in general news Written by February 18 2021 0

American Airlines announced February 18 that it is launching daily nonstop flights to and from Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordova (JMC) international airport to New York’s JFK international starting May 6.

American simultaneously is expanding code-share flight deals with JetBlue for ticket purchases starting February 22, according to the companies.

“American’s customers will have access to 49 codeshare routes on JetBlue, while JetBlue customers will have access to more than 25 routes on American,” including future international routes, according to the companies.

Viva Air Expands Nonstops from MDE

On a related front, Viva Air announced February 16 that from its new “hub” at JMC, it will launch nonstop service to and from Mexico City starting June 8, while nonstop service to and from Cancun starts June 2. Medellin-Orlando nonstop service will start June 12, according to the company.

Published in general news Written by February 02 2021 0

In what critics see as a disturbing habit of recklessness and political capriciousness, Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero and his hand-picked Board of Directors of city-owned public utility EPM on February 1 fired EPM general manager Álvaro Guillermo Rendón.

Rendón -- himself hand-picked by Quintero to take over as EPM general manager in January 2020 upon Quintero’s election as Medellin Mayor – is just the latest victim of  growing turmoil inside EPM, as EPM unions and civic groups slam Quintero's capriciousness and his appointments of political hacks rather than technocrats in several key executive positions.

Quintero, with a circus-empresario political flair -- accompanied by his now-departed, sedate alter-ego Rendón, a lawyer with no engineering experience in a company that is overwhelmingly engineering-driven -- last August had made what critics say could turn out to be a catastrophic decision to sue EPM’s construction contractors at the US$5 billion Hidroituango hydroelectric project, as well as propose a mind-boggling, quixotic series of changes to EPM’s business model.

Those moves -- taken without consulting EPM’s prior Board of Directors -- triggered an unprecedented mass resignation of the entire Board last August.

Then, two days ago (on January 31), Rendón publicly released a letter asking EPM’s board to consider Quintero’s previously secret demand for his resignation, only days after Quintero had falsely denied publicly that Rendon must resign.

But as of this morning (February 2) neither Quintero nor the EPM Board have given any public explanation for the firing -- or explain what is really happening inside EPM – in defiance of EPM’s mandatory, legal requirement for transparent corporate governance.

Meanwhile, in a February 2 interview with Colombia’s Blu Radio network, Rendon revealed that his clash with Quintero arose because Quintero has been pressuring Rendón to appoint political hacks to key management positions.

“The mayor, on January 14 [2021], asked me to resign, a decision that I found a bit intriguing," Rendon stated in the Blu Radio interview. “Mayor Quintero told me: 'I want a person to copy me more.' I think the mayor still assumes that EPM is his personal dispatch secretary,” he added.

Proantioquia Slams Manipulations

Medellin’s leading civic group Proantioquia on February 1 publicly slammed the Mayor’s manipulations, “just as we did on August 12, 2020, after the massive resignation of the Board of Directors.”

“It is an obligation to respect the administrative independence of the company as defined by the principles of good corporate governance and the framework agreement of relations between the municipality of Medellín and EPM, in force since 2007,” Proantioquia noted in a press statement.

“In just one year of the current administration, EPM has been immersed in various crises. First, the request to change the corporate purpose of EPM that alerted the international risk-rating agencies and over which there was no political control prior, nor a participatory public conversation.

“Then, the full resignation of the Board of Directors for the decisions that were not consulted on the change of the social object of the company, and the lawsuit filed against the builders and auditors of Hidroituango.

“Third, the inappropriate way of handling matters related to the constitution of the new Board of Directors, ignoring what is required by corporate governance to guarantee transparency, rigor and plural participation in the formation of the company.  And more recently, the departure of the General Manager appointed by the Mayor after just one year, his trusted interlocutor and whom he supported only 10 days ago in the media via a communication to all citizens.

“We emphatically reiterate that EPM’s administration requires technical, legal and financial rigor. Therefore, we demand that the Mayor of Medellín and the Board of Directors -- assuming the statutes of the company and the rules of corporate governance -- make decisions based on the institutional stability of the company, guaranteeing the provision of public services and transparency before the community and its groups of interest.

“Finally, we summon the citizens, the Medellín City Council and the national and territorial control entities to activate their social and legal mechanisms for EPM’s protection. The welfare of our city, and the energy stability of the country, are linked to the sustainability of EPM,” Proantioquia concluded.

Medellin Chamber of Commerce Rips Political Schemes

Meanwhile, Medellin Chamber of Commerce executive president Lina Vélez on January 31 issued a public statement slamming Mayor Quintero’s bizarre behavior in directing EPM.

“It is incomprehensible that, for a young mayor who by his own academic merits achieved a specialization in finance at the University of the Andes and a Master's degree in business administration from the University of Boston, does not want to understand and abide by governance statutes for public administration that are written in basic Spanish,” Vélez said.

“For the sustainability of the company and for the confidence of the international and national financial markets [upon which EPM’s financing depends] it is essential that another crisis does not repeat itself.

"[Mayor Quintero and the EPM Board] have the obligation to publicly explain why, for the first time in EPM’s recent history, a manager lasts barely a year. The responsibility of directing Grupo EPM, made up of 47 multinational companies with an equity of more than COP$22 trillion (US$6.15 billion) . . . is in the hands of its Board of Directors and common sense.

“If the current framework agreement governing relations between the municipality of Medellín and EPM is not the most appropriate, then from the Chamber of Commerce of Medellín for Antioquia we call upon the City Council to prioritize its debates and establish a scheme of mandatory compliance with the model of corporate governance for EPM.

“I also urgently await the IDB's [International Development Bank] intervention in this [corporate governance] model,” she added.

Published in general news Written by December 31 2020 0

Medellin and Antioquia governments announced December 30 that a total quarantine will be imposed here from 8 pm Thursday December 31 to 6 am Sunday January 3 because of surging cases of Covid-19.

Acting Governor Luis Fernando Suárez Vélez pointed out that Antioquia is suffering about 2,000 new cases daily of Covid-19, flooding hospitals to dangerous levels of crowding.

Department-wide, Antioquia hospital beds are now almost 83% full, while Medellin is at 87%, Valle de Aburrá at 86% and the “Oriente” (eastern Medellin suburbs) at an astounding 96.7%, he said.

The total quarantine applies to all-but-essential workers and emergency situations. Residents can order food, medicine and grocery deliveries, or make emergency trips to hospitals, but restaurants, bars, pharmacies and grocery stores won’t allow personal shoppers.

More Vaccines Coming

Meanwhile, Colombia Health Minister Fernando Ruiz announced today (December 31) that the nation just inked a deal with pharmaceutical giant Janssen for 9 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, on top of earlier deals with other companies for 40 million doses.

“This vaccine will be approved in the coming months by the FDA [U.S. Food & Drug Administration],” Ruiz announced.

The Janssen vaccine, unlike the Pfizer double-dose vaccine, requires only a single dose.

“The reality is that everything will be known with the analysis and data from phase 3 trials, which we are waiting for,” Ruiz said, adding that “this has been one of the lowest-cost vaccines acquired” by the Ministry to date.

People previously infected by Covid-19 and now recovered won’t be in the first phase of vaccinations, nor will people under-16 years old nor pregnant women, he said.

Military personnel, school teachers and people with comorbidities will be in the phase-2 schedule of vaccinations, he added.

Persons seeking vaccinations through their private doctors rather than through the government-funded, nationwide free vaccination program “must register on the [Covid-19 vaccination] platform to have a correct handling of the information and avoiding, for example, a double vaccination,” he added.

“Private individuals will be able to sell [vaccinations]. Surely in the second half of 2021 the countries that bought more than their population requires will be selling. We will have a second wave of vaccine developments, taking into account that there are currently more than 100 developments, and that will lead to lower the price and expand offers privately,” Ruiz explained.

Published in general news Written by December 14 2020 0

Medellin’s Environment Secretary Diana María Montoya Velilla announced December 12 the first-ever confirmed sighting of a Southern Beardless Tyrannulet (Camptostoma obsoletum, see photo, above), making it the ninth recording of previously unrecorded bird species here this year.

The bird, locally known as “mosquerito silbón,” was sighted in the Cerro Nutibara park, not far from the city center.

The Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, “a species never before registered in our city,” is native to Central and South America, usually found in semi-open areas and forest edges, according to the Environment Secretary.

“These findings are the result of protection and conservation efforts in this area, with which we guarantee ideal conditions for the fauna and flora that live here,” Montoya said.

“Among the ecosystem benefits offered by Cerro Nutibara is a barrier to urban expansion, support for ecological connectivity, climate regulation and soil protection,” she added.

The “mosquerito silbón" measures 10 centimeters in height, has grayish and opaque-yellow feathers and a disheveled forelock. It feeds mainly on flying insects and some fruits, “contributing to the biological control of insect populations and the dispersal of seeds for botanical renewal,” according to the Environment Secretary.

During 2020, 22 new species of wildlife have been reported in Medellín, of which nine are birds, “this being the year in which more wildlife has been recorded in the strategic ecosystems of the city,” the Secretary added.

Published in general news Written by October 19 2020 0

Spain-based Air Europa announced October 19 that it will resume nonstop flights between Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordoba (MDE) international airport and Madrid (MAD), Spain.

“As of November, Air Europa resumes its flights to Bogotá, Medellín, Caracas and Havana and increases frequencies to Santo Domingo, Quito and Guayaquil,” according to the company.

By year-end 2020, Air Europa will have nonstop flights to 18 destinations in the Americas, according to the company.

Initially, nonstop flights to Medellin, Bogotá, Caracas and Havana will be once-a-week until passenger demand rises, enabling more flights, according to Air Europa. As a result, twice-a-week service is foreseen for Bogotá, Havana, Buenos Aires, Lima and Santa Cruz (Bolivia), according to the company.

Covid-19 Insurance Provisions

Via a new insurance policy through Allianz Partners, “the Air Europa customer will have medical and hospital expenses covered in the event of a possible Covid infection, as well as the cost that could arise from the extension of your hotel stay or, where appropriate, from the pertinent quarantine,” according to the company.

The new policy “includes medical transfer and repatriation, and the cancellation, in the case of not being able to fly due to contagion, up to the limit established in the policy," according to Air Europa.

In addition, Air Europa “allows a free date change on all reservations made,” according to the company.

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About Medellin Herald

Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

Medellin Herald welcomes your editorial contributions, comments and story-idea suggestions. Send us a message using the "contact" section.

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