Medellín’s Personeria has issued an alert expressing concern over the number of foreign tourists that are meeting violent ends in Colombia’s second largest city. In December it issued a statement saying that the 18 deaths it had accounted for were only through October, and that the actual count may even be higher. The number does not include refugees or migrants.
Of the 18, local newspaper EL Colombiano reports that two of the deaths were homicides, three were suicides, one was a traffic accident, two were drug overdoses, and two were botched surgeries. Nine others have indeterminate causes, but are classified as violent or criminal by the government, as opposed to illness or natural causes. While Colombia has very capable licensed medical facilities, some victims seek dubious procedures from unlicensed practitioners, often acting out of garages with products purchased in hardware stores.
In Colombia, the government agencies known as personerias are responsible for protecting and promoting human rights, and for monitoring the conduct and accountability of public officials. The offices seek to protect the environment and vulnerable populations, both Colombians and foreigners in Colombia.
The countries with the most victims are the United States, the Dominican Republic, the United Kingdom, Spain, Slovenia and Puerto Rico.
Last September, Dominican tourist Féliz José Almánzar Jiménez was found dead in a Poblado hotel near Parque Lleras. Prosecutors say he was a victim of intentional poisoning.
British actor Justin James Danton died after being hit by a car last August. Israeli Shay Pesso appears to have been assassinated, and investigators have advanced a hypothesis tying him to an Israeli mafia that has operated in Colombia.
British pensioner Leon Victor Dean was found floating in a Poblado Jacuzzi on January 5th after celebrating New Year “with drugs, liquor and women,” according to police sources. Two days before the new year, 39-year-old Nicaraguan national and US resident Victor Manuel Lacayo Vilchez was found dead among three other unconscious individuals, all overdosed on drugs, according to prosecutors. This added at least one more to the Personeria’s count, bringing the observed 2021 total to 19.
Luis Guillermo Orjuela, executive director of the Zona Rosa de El Poblado Corporation and director of the Confederation of Entrepreneurs of the Night Entertainment Industry, Tourism and Services (Confedecont) told El Colombiano: “We have to reflect on the tourism that is being offered abroad, in which we appear as a destination for drugs and sex. The problem is growing and it will be increasingly difficult to change that image. We cannot allow Medellín to be the after party of Latin America and that anyone can come and do whatever they want.”
Photo: Loren Moss