Sunday, October 24, 2010

Medellin as a Model for Panama City

Medellin is increasingly turning into a Model city for other Latin American cities. The most recent and maybe most prominent example: Panama City!

As Newsroom Panama reported on Saturday, the mayor of Panama City Bosco Ricardo Vallarino took off to Medellin to meet with his peer in Medellin Alonso Salazar.

According to Newsroom Panama, the purpose of the trip is for Bosco to learn from his counterpart in Medellin about policies put in place in Medellin in areas of social planning, mobility, coexistence, openness, recreation and sports. Rumors are that the two mayors will also talk about garbage collection, which has created a lot of grief in Panama City lately.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Medellin: A Mecca for Medical Tourism

Medellin Finds International Recognition as a Mecca for Medical Tourism

The Medical Tourism Magazine featured Medellin as a prime destination for Medical Tourism in their March 9 article.

If you these days ask international tourists in Medellin why they chose Medellin over other international destinations, you increasingly hear that they're in town to take care of their health: Whether it's a complicated knee operation, a liposuction to quickly reduce excess weight or cosmetic operations to appear younger or simply more beautiful. Of course you can also get that "boob job" done here. Sometimes Medellin is referred to as the "Silicon Valley" of Latin America (pun fully intended).

Visitors who come to Medellin for medical treatment appreciate the top-notch service in the many hospitals and clinics in town. Concerned whether your health insurance will pay? Don't even worry about it! Even though medical services can easily be compared with Europe or the US, in Medellin they can be done for a fraction of what just the co-payment would be in the US.

And while you're in town, you might as well enjoy the ride: Medellin, also known as the "City of Eternal Spring" is famous for it's year-around pleasant climate and the friendliness of their people, called Paisas. And not to forget that Colombia is one of the few countries in Latin America with a pro-western, pro-US attitude. And while Medellin doesn't have a beach (other than a main road in El Centro called "La Playa"), there are many things to do: Horse back riding, hiking, bicycling, Salsa- or Tango-dancing, golf, ... the list is endless!

The Medical Tourism Magazine in December hosted a Familiarization Tour in Medellin to get to know this beautiful city and the state-of-the-art medical facilities which have their home here.

Next time you're considering an operation or cosmetic surgery, check-out Medellin as a safe, low-cost and FUN alternative!

Monday, March 1, 2010

No Third Term for Uribe!

Colombian Court Decided: Third Term for Uribe Against Constitution

A debate which has been going on for 2 years has finally been decided: Uribe will not be allowed to run for presidency for a 3rd time.

On Friday February 26 Colombia's constitutional court decided with a vote of 7 to 2 that allowing Uribe to run for a 3rd term would be against the constitution and would be violating democratic principles.

Uribe has been Colombia's president since 2002, when he was elected with a 53% majority. In 2005, the constitutional court approved an amendment allowing a single re-election. In 2005, Uribe was re-elected with an even more comfortable majority of 63%.

With his policy of confronting the FARC and establishing security in Colombia, pushing the civil war back into the most remote rural areas, he maintained high approval ratings throughout his presidency. Only recently public support of a 3rd term seemed to have faded.

The other candidates for the May 30 election are now re-calibrating their campaigns, which have been in limbo due to the unclear situation about Uribe's 3rd term. In a recent poll the current defense minister, Jan Manuel Santos led with a narrow lead before Gustavo Petro of the Democratic Independent Pole and the charismatic Sergio Fajardo, the former mayor of Medellin. Medellin would certainly love to see yet another Paisa after Uribe lead the nation.

Whoever wins the presidency, it will be key for the new president to continue with Uribe's policy of fighting the FARC and continue the process of re-establishing security in the country.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Colombia a Good Place to Do Business

Colombia a Good Place to Do Business: Colombia Beating All Other Latin American Countries

When asked which countries are the best to do business in, Colombia probably doesn't come to mind. Colombia typically comes to mind when talking about Guerrilla or drug trade. And yes, there is still coffee.

It might be time to let go of this perception: The World Bank in their yearly report "Doing Business" ranked Colombia 37 among 183 countries. While this might not seem like an impressive number, it might be interesting to note that highly industrialized countries like Germany ranked 25, Japan 15, France 31, Italy 78. Upcoming countries like India ranked 133 and China 89.

What's even more surprising is that Colombia beat all other Latin American countries by far, even countries which have recently been looked at as shooting stars in Latin America, like Brazil (129), Chile (49) and even Mexico (51). It might not be too much of a surprise that Chavez-led Venezuela (177) is coming in at the very end among the Latin American countries.

Colombia with a 5th place ranked particularly well in the category "Investor Protection". No nationalization of privately owned businesses in Colombia!

Also the development over time looks good: Colombia improved it's rank by 12 from 49 last year to 37 in 2010. Go Colombia!

Checkout the relevant links for this article:

Friday, February 5, 2010

The King is Dead, Long Live the King (or: Colombian Population Not Anymore Behind Uribe's 3rd Term)

For the longest time, the Colombian population has been in favor of Uribe running for president for a 3rd time. This wide support for Uribe seems to be waning, following most recent polls.

Alvaro Uribe, who was elected president of Colombia in 2002 and re-elected in 2006 has been instrumental in transforming Colombia from a violence- and crime-ridden country into the safe haven in Latin America it is today.

Like in many countries, one person being president 3 times in a row is prohibited by the Colombian constitution. In order to change that, a 2/3 majority of voters would be needed. This is the majority Uribe seem to have lost now.

According to pollster Datexco, 47% of Colombians interviewed say they do not want a referendum, while 41% say they do.

Uribe not being able to run for presidency a 3rd time might have an important side impact on Medellin: If Uribe will not be allowed to take part in the elections, the front runner will most likely be Sergio Fajardo, the former major of Medellin, which on his own has been key to transforming Medellin from the former playground of Pablo Escobar to a city which is respected on a worldwide basis.

The king is dead, long live the king!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fashion and Models: ColombiaTex in Medellin

Fashion and Models: ColombiaTex is in Medellin

Did you know that Medellin is the fashion capital of Colombia? Did you know that Medellin is also the model capital of Colombia? I would even go as far as stating that Medellin is the BEAUTY CAPITAL OF THE WORLD.

There is no city in the world where the number of models per capita is higher than in Medellin. There are beauty contests taking place all over the city all year long. Girls start participating in these beauty contests at the tender age of 14 or 15. Their biggest dream is to become one of the big models like Natalia Paris, who happens to be the most famous model in Colombia. The ones who are serious about realizing their dream typically work at the big fashion fairs like Colombia Moda or ColombiaTex which take place in Medellin once per year.

Even if you're not in the fashion industry, check out the beautiful girls at ColombiaTex. Make sure to bring your camera. The models love having their picture taken. You might even dare to ask them for their telephone numbers.... everything is possible in Medellin! You might end up flying home having a real model as a girlfriend.

Enjoy ColombiaTex and enjoy Medellin!

Monday, January 25, 2010

South American Olympics in Medellin

The South American Olympics will take place in Medellin in March 2010, which is yet another demonstration that Medellin is back in the circle of safe, respected and reputable cities of the world.

The most important sports event on the American continent, the 9th South American Olympic Games will take place in Medellin from the 19th to the 30th of March 2010. 15 Countries from Aruba to Venezuela are going to celebrate this big sports event in our city.

The history of this event reaches back to 1978, when the South American Olympics took place for the first time in La Paz, Bolivia.

During the games, 5,040 representatives are expected to be hosted in Medellin. 72 Billion Colombian Pesos (about 36 Million US Dollars) were invested to improve the sites where the sports events will take place. Surrounding cities like Envigado, Copacabana (Copacabana is not only a beautiful beach in Rio de Janeiro, but also a city in the north of Medellin) and Itagüí also remodeled their sports arenas to be able to accommodate this fascinating event.

Just like the Assembly of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which took place in Medellin in March 2009, having a sports event of this scale in the city is yet another demonstration that after a wild past, Medellin has successfully established itself as a safe, trusted and reputable city.

Please watch the promotional video for the Olympics, which also shows some of the beautiful sites of Medellin.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Is the Murder Rate Down in Medellin? Is Medellin Safe or Unsafe?

Is the Murder Rate in Medellin Down....or Up? Is Medellin safe....or unsafe?

Well, the answer to this important question seems to depend on who you listen to. If you listen to Gabriel Silva, the Colombian defense minister, the murder rate in Medellin is on a 30 years low. According to Silva, there are now 22 homicides per week in Medellin, which would be a significant improvement.

However, there are some doubts that Silva has his numbers right. The local ombudsman Jairo Heran claims that the homicide rate doubled to 2,200 in Medellin in 2009 from 2008.

Anecdotal evidence seems to confirm the ombudsman's view point: friends of mine from poor neighborhoods like Manrique tell me that these neighborhoods are still "hot", which means that there are shootings which at times keep taxis from going into these neighborhoods at night.

This new violence has been ongoing for about a year now and it a direct consequence of some of the biggest mafia- and drug-bosses being arrested. Now a follower's and territorial was has begun between rivaling drug gangs. It's the irony of the situation that huge successes against violence in Medellin now generated more violence.

So is Medellin safer or unsafer for the foreign traveler? In my personal opinion and from my observations having lived here for almost 2 years Medellin in 2010 seems just as safe as in 2008. The new violence is stricly contained to the poorest of the poorest neighborhoods, essentially gangsters killing other gangsters. It does not affect areas like Poblado, Laureles and other, where the majority of the tourists and ex pats live and party.

Are you considering visiting Medellin? Let the negative press and more importently the public opinion about Medellin outside of Colombia not hold up your plans. Medellin is gorgeous, the people are wonderful and the city is safe, as long as you're not doing anything particularly stupid.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

No, this is NOT Manhattan!

A client of mine visited me in Medellin the other day and, looking down from my balcony, he was all but astonished.

He told me: "I had no idea that they had things like, well, houses with more than 2 stories, good roads, all that stuff we call CIVILIZATION here in Colombia! Look at this! This resembles Manhattan more than anything!".

Well, it's not Manhattan. It's Medellin. More precicely, it's El Poblado, the most upscale part of Medellin. Specifically, it's the view from my apartment.

These photos show what my client saw when he made these comments. Astonished too? Is this how you had imagined COLOMBIA?