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Colombia Country Report

Country Risk Level

High

Overview

Executive Summary

The ruling coalition lacks a legislative majority and President Iván Duque, in office since August 2018, is focusing on containing the political and economic impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus pandemic. Duque’s popularity has shown a rebound; he has favoured sharp increases in public expenditure, unveiling a relief package to invest in medical equipment, credit for struggling companies, and job protection. The emergency means that tax, pension, and labour reforms will be put on hold until 2021.Multi-issue nationwide protests increase property damage and business interruption risks. Five weeks of protests that lasted into December 2019 cost the government and businesses about USD400 million because of property damage, looting, and business interruption, particularly in Bogotá. Protests have receded after the government agreed to a dialogue with strike organisers and the introduction of curfews to contain COVID-19. However, unrest is likely to reignite if recession deepens and unemployment soars.IHS Markit forecasts GDP to contract by 8.1% in 2020, with a recovery to 4.1% growth in 2021. The fall in the price of oil, which accounts for 40% of Colombian exports, will depress growth, but also exacerbate the fiscal deficit. This assumes that the COVID-19 lockdown will be lifted by the end of the third quarter. Security improvements resulting from the peace agreement signed between the government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) in 2016 have stalled, leading to a rise in the number of FARC dissidents to around 4,000, with most of them moving into drug trafficking and illegal mining. Talks with the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), which were called off in January 2019 following an attack that killed 22 police cadets, are unlikely to resume in 2020. Mining, energy, hydrocarbon, and infrastructure projects will face a high risk of assault or improvised explosive device attacks in Arauca, Norte de Santander, Nariño, and Antioquia departments.

Operational Outlook

Unions outside the public sector will continue to strengthen into 2021, capitalising on marked discontent with the Duque government, temporarily tamed by the COVID-19-related lockdown. Numerous grievances by unions in transportation, public employees and oil sectors, can cause significant disruption through work stoppages, road blocks, and site blockages. Corruption affects all levels of government, with charges regularly brought against politicians and civil servants at the local and national level and companies frequently investigated for paying bribes. President Iván Duque has sought to advance anti-corruption reforms following a referendum in August 2018, but progress on these measures has proved slow, partially as a result of opposition from within his Centro Democrático party.

Terrorism

High

A peace agreement between the government and Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) has reduced the risk of terrorism from this group, which has largely demobilised and disarmed. However, FARC dissidence has grown and confidence in the peace process has diminished under the administration of President Iván Duque, with thousands of dissidents declaring a return to arms. Peace talks with the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) began in 2017, but were cancelled following a car bomb attack against a police academy in Bogotá in January 2019. The group continues to target state security forces and hydrocarbon assets in Antioquia, Arauca, Atlántico, Bolívar, Chocó, Nariño, and Norte de Santander.

Crime

Drug trafficking is likely to continue to be the single most important driver of violent crime in Colombia. Since the disintegration of major cartels in the 1990s, drug-trafficking operations have become much more fragmented. However, several large, armed criminal structures continue to operate including the Úsuga Clan with approximately 3,000 members and several dissident factions of the demobilised Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) which together have also have approximately 3,000 members. Beyond drug trafficking, these groups are also involved in extortion schemes and illegal gold mining, particularly in Antioquia department, where multinational mining companies' staff and assets have been targets of sabotage and assassination.

War Risks

Relations with Venezuela have been strained by large inflows of Venezuelan refugees and the presence of ELN insurgents in Venezuela. Relations are deteriorating further as President Iván Duque no longer recognises Nicolas Maduro as Venezuela’s president, but instead recognises opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. Maduro accuses Colombia of tolerating plots to unseat him. Despite this, and the occasional border incursions by Venezuelan troops, prolonged armed confrontations between the two countries remain unlikely. There is a residual risk of accidental infractions in a disputed maritime zone with Nicaragua following a 2012 ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that granted previously Colombian-held maritime territory to Nicaragua.

Social Stability

High

There is a significant risk of repetition of the nationwide protests that paralysed Colombia in late 2019. The leaders of the protests agreed to lift the strike to pursue negotiations with the government over numerous grievances raging from economic to social inclusion to the peace process issues. This has been further delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak, but the protesters’ demands remain unaddressed. Therefore fresh protests are highly likely in late 2020 and through 2021. Elsewhere, protests over oil and mining projects are likely. The curtailment of local authorities’ powers to legally block extractive projects, following several court rulings, is likely to result in increased protest activities near proposed developments.

Health Risk

Vaccines Required to Enter the Country

Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travelers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission. A single dose of YF vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained life-long immunity against the disease; it should be taken ten days in advance to be fully effective.

Vaccines Recommended for All Travelers

Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).

Vaccines Recommended for Most Travelers

Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.

Typhoid fever: The typhoid fever vaccine can be administered via injection (administered in one dose) or orally (four doses). The vaccine is only 50-80 percent effective, so travelers to areas with a risk of exposure to typhoid fever, a bacterial disease, should also take hygienic precautions (e.g. drink only bottled water, avoid undercooked foods, wash hands regularly, etc.). Children can be given the shot beginning at two years of age (six for the oral vaccine).

Vaccines Recommended for Some Travelers

Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.

Malaria: There is currently no malaria vaccine. However, various antimalarial prophylactics are available by prescription and can reduce risk of infection by up to 90 percent. Different medications are prescribed depending on the risk level and the strains of the virus present in the destination. Antimalarial tablets need to be taken throughout the trip to be effective and may need to be taken for as long as four weeks following the trip.

Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).

Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is generally recommended for travel to areas OUTSIDE the following regions: the cities of Bogotá, Barranquilla, Cali, Cartagena, and Medellín; areas over 2300 m (7500 ft) in elevation; the department of San Andrès y Providencia.

Natural Risks

Torrential rains and subsequent floods and landslides are common, often leading to casualties and blocked roads. This is especially true during the rainy seasons, which typically occur in April-May and October-November.

Weeks of torrential rain in the first half of 2017, the worst seen in the country in the past six years, resulted in major destruction in large areas of the country, notably the April 1 landslide that devastated Mocoa, the capital of Putumayo department, resulting in some 300 deaths. Flooding and landslides washed away or blocked many roads and bridges and resulted in regular power and water outages. 

From June until the end of November, the northern Caribbean coast is regularly affected by tropical storms. While direct hits by hurricanes and tropical storms are relatively rare, storm systems can bring torrential rain, wind, and associated flooding and material damage to the country.

Wildfires are common, particularly during periods of drought and high temperatures.

Colombia is located in an active seismic and volcanic zone. Volcanic activity in Colombia is monitored by Ingeominas, the Colombian geological service. 

Transportation

High

Security conditions on highways and other roadways vary considerably by area due to the presence of criminal groups. The US Embassy prohibits employees from traveling by road outside cities after nightfall (including main highways linking Bogotá with Bucaramanga and Ibague), as well as all travel on municipal or long-distance buses.

Do not flag down taxis on the street; taxis should be called via phone or web app or taken from a taxi stand. Airports, hotels, and some restaurants/shopping centers have taxi stands or will call taxis for customers. Travelers should note that while Uber has been banned in Colombia, the application is still active. Uber users could be fined and attacks against Uber vehicles by taxi drivers have occurred.

Traffic in Bogotá is exceptionally congested, creating opportunities for criminals to rob vehicles. Drivers and passengers should always be aware of their surroundings and keep doors locked, windows rolled up, and all valuables out of plain sight.

Due to poor security conditions on some roads and the presence of armed groups in many rural areas, it is highly advisable to use air travel for all long-distance trips.

Roads, including main highways, are regularly rendered impassable by flooding and landslides (see NATURAL RISKS section).

Practical Information

Climate

Temperatures in Colombia, located along to the equator, remain steady throughout the year. The dry and rainy seasons vary by region but generally rain is most common in April and May and again in October and November. Colombia's climate is tropical and humid along the Caribbean coast and in the Amazonian regions yet arid in the Guajira desert. All zones located above an elevation of 3000 meter have a generally cold climate.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +57
Police: 112
Fire Dept.: 112
Medical Emergencies: 123

Electricity

Voltage: 110 V ~ 60 Hz

Outlets:

Risk Level
Critical High Medium Low Minimal