Colombia in 2007: a look into the crystal ball Those well-connected contractors
Jan 032007

The beginning of the new year is a slow news time in South America, as most of those who make the news have yet to return from vacation.

There are sad exceptions, though, such as the group of FARC fighters who massacred four civilians in rural Yarumal, Antioquia, on New Years’ Day, and whoever killed paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso’s right-hand man on December 27, in an apparent attempt to intimidate and silence his boss, who is giving testimony to prosecutors.

Here are a few interesting links, however.

  • The Colombian newsmagazine Semana, which has done some of the most aggressive reporting on paramilitary groups’ influence on the country’s politics and society, named “The Paramilitary Phantom” its “Personality of the Year” for 2006.
  • In Bolivia, the government of Evo Morales decreed that visitors from the United States, including tourists, from now on must apply for visas. This is an increasing trend: Bolivia is the third Latin American country (after Brazil and Paraguay, though – interestingly – not Cuba) to add a visa requirement for U.S. visitors in the past few years. They are calling it “reciprocity”: if their citizens have to apply way ahead of time and meet lots of requirements to visit the United States (everything from passport-sized photos to proof of financial status to a $100-plus fee), then U.S. visitors should have to go through a similar process. (For its part, Chile has begun charging U.S. citizens $100 upon arrival in the Santiago airport.)

    This reasoning is very sound, and these countries are well within their rights to demand reciprocity. But U.S. travelers who have become accustomed to traveling throughout the region without worrying about visas must now do their homework ahead of time. If you are a U.S. citizen, be sure to check whether the country you plan to visit has added a reciprocity requirement; if so, you may have to go through a long visa-approval process. Don’t get caught unaware and find yourself barred from boarding a plane. This happened to me in Santiago in November, when I tried unsuccessfully to visit Paraguay, which had started requiring visas in May.

  • Aldo Cívico, an Italian analyst who worked on anti-mafia efforts in Sicily before becoming a PhD candidate at Columbia University in New York, wrote an interesting column in the December 23 El Espectador. He compares Colombia’s experience with its own paramilitary mafias to Italy’s effort to rid itself of La Cosa Nostra.
  • On a much lighter note, Colombian band Aterciopelados played two wonderful sets, with much from their great new album, on Nic Harcourt’s radio show back in November. Listen to it or watch it here.

3 Responses to “Four interesting but unrelated links”

  1. Randy Paul Says:

    Regarding visas, the situation with Brazil has been that way since the military was in power. It’s a minor inconvenience if you live in a big city and they usually issue a multiple entry visa for about five years.

    Brazil require all nations that require visas of its citizens to get a via for entry into Brazil.

  2. richtiger Says:

    The U.S. really does require a lot of potential visitors from Latin America, or at least from Peru. My wife and I, together with her niece, submitted a ton of paperwork to the American Embassy in Lima so that my wife’s sister could come visit us here in the U.S. She was turned down twice because, I suppose, my wife’s family in Peru is poor; and the American Embassy is afraid that my sister-in-law really wants to stay in the country illegally. I wasn’t at the two interviews of the Embassy Officers with my wife’s sister; but supposedly the officer was curt to the point of surliness.

    Well, I certainly hope Peru and Colombia don’t treat ME that way if I decide to visit.

  3. jcg Says:

    Randy Paul: What Brazil did recently add, IIRC, was fingerprinting though.

Leave a Reply