Am I being paranoid or is this a genuine concern?


#1

A professor at my school works with a Catholic health agency in Colombia and has been working on this project for several years. As a part of his work he regularly visits the clinic in Bogota and occasionally brings students with him to assist him. This summer he is once again visiting Bogota and is bringing several students along with him including my good friend.

For another class I had been reading stuff on the State Department's Current Travel Warnings website (tiny.cc/qiwr2) and noticed that Colombia is on the list of countries with a travel warning for Americans (tiny.cc/26hoq). For those not familiar, the State Department's Travel Warnings

...are issued to describe long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable. A Travel Warning is also issued when the U.S. Government's ability to assist American citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff. The countries listed [on the website] meet those criteria.

The reason for the travel warning for Colombia is because

...violence by narco-terrorist groups continues to affect some rural areas as well as large cities. The potential for violence by terrorists and other criminal elements exists in all parts of the country...In recent months there has been a marked increase in violent crime in Colombia. Murder rates have risen significantly in some major cities, particularly Medellin and Cali. Kidnapping remains a serious threat. American citizens have been the victim of violent crime, including kidnapping and murder. Firearms are prevalent in Colombia and altercations can often turn violent. Small towns and rural areas of Colombia can still be extremely dangerous due to the presence of narco-terrorists. Common crime also remains a significant problem in many urban and rural areas.

and

The incidence of kidnapping in Colombia has diminished significantly from its peak at the beginning of this decade. Nevertheless, terrorist groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and other criminal organizations continue to kidnap and hold civilians for ransom or as political bargaining chips. No one is immune from kidnapping on the basis of occupation, nationality, or other factors.

So while my friend, her professor, and the group of students is staying within Bogota (or so I assume) I'm still worried about my friend going and I still have a bad feeling about the trip. I don't know how safe my friend is going to be visiting Colombia, even as a part of a school-related activity.

What are your thoughts? Am I being paranoid or do I have reason to be worried? If she was visiting any other Latin American country that is stable and isn't listed as a threat I wouldn't be worried at all. *But those warnings are much more serious than the typical "avoid becoming a scam victim" or "avoid becoming a pickpocketing victim".*


#2

I don’t doubt that your concern is genuine, however, I think it may be overstated.

The rest of the travel warning says:

The incidence of kidnapping in Colombia has diminished significantly from its peak at the beginning of this decade. Nevertheless, terrorist groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and other criminal organizations continue to kidnap and hold civilians for ransom or as political bargaining chips. No one is immune from kidnapping on the basis of occupation, nationality, or other factors. Kidnapping in rural areas is of particular concern. On July 2, 2008, the Government of Colombia rescued 15 hostages, including three Americans, who had been held for more than five years. Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped Americans, it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to or strike deals with kidnappers. Consequently, the U.S. government’s ability to assist kidnapping victims is limited.

U.S. government officials and their families in Colombia are permitted to travel to major cities in the country, but normally only by air. They may not use inter- or intra-city bus transportation, or travel by road outside urban areas at night. All Americans in Colombia are urged to follow these precautions.

So, kidnapping is down, but still a concern, and the State Department still authorizes dependent travel to Columbia.

Additionally, I’m assuming that your professor is experienced with the area and takes his responsibility seriously. Given that experience, I expect that his ability to judge the hazard of the situation is probably superior to your own.


#3

My sister and her husband flew down to Colombia twice to adopt children. They were aware that they were taking a risk. They did their best to be cautious. They had decided that their reason for going was worth the risk.

Your friend, the professor, and the group of students will need to make a similar decision, educate themselves as best they can about the environment they'll be in, and take reasonable precautions should they choose to go ahead with their mission. As it sounds like the trip will be for a charitable cause, it seems like a noble reason to go.

:blessyou:


#4

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