Colombia Country Report
President Juan Manuel Santos's position is stable and his government is likely to see out its term to August 2018. The government's until then will be the implementation of the peace agreement reached with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) in late 2016. Formal peace talks with the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) have been suspended and the group continues to target oil pipelines, state security forces, as well as engaging in kidnapping. Murder rates are on a declining trend, but new generations of paramilitary and drug-trafficking gangs pose a significant threat. The Colombian economy is expected to achieve a moderate real GDP growth rate of 2.4% in 2018. Frequent tax changes and regulatory and legal uncertainty as a result of judicialinterventions undermine the business environment.
Unions outside the public sector will continue to strengthen in 2018. With risks of strikes in the cargo, aviation, and oil-sector, unions can cause significant business disruption through work stoppages, road blocks, and site blockages. The Colombia's Oil Workers' Union (Unión Sindical Obrera De La Industria del Petróleo: USO) is considering forming a super union with the Coal Mining Union (Sintracarbon) and the Electricity Workers' Union (Sintraelecol), which would likely increase the risk of solidarity strikes in those sectors. Corruption affects all levels of government, with charges regularly brought against politicians and civil servants at the local and national level and companies regularly investigated for paying bribes.
The ratification of a revised peace agreement between the government and Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia has reduced the risk of terrorism from this group, who have largely demobilised, disarmed, and been granted amnesty. Peace talks with the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) began in early 2017, but were suspended in January 2018. A bilateral ceasefire ended on 9 January; the ELN have resumed targeting state security forces and hydrocarbon assets, operating in Antioquia, Arauca, Atlántico, Bolívar, Chocó, Nariño, and Norte de Santander. Left-wing urban militias in Bogotá are likely to deploy occasional improvised explosive devices against banks, health providers, and state security forces.
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 that granted previously Colombian-held maritime territory to Nicaragua. Relations with struggling neighbour Venezuela can flare, but are unlikely to deteriorate into military engagements in 2018. The border between both countries has been periodically closed by Venezuelan authorities, largely as a result of domestic political dynamics within Colombia's neighbour. Despite recent Colombian criticism regarding the actions of the Maduro administration in Venezuela, armed confrontations between the two countries remain unlikely, despite occasional border incursions by Venezuelan troops.
Protests are likely to increase in frequency and sophistication during 2018 as the intensity of the country's armed conflict continues to decline. Oil and mining projects are likely to face increased opposition by local communities over environmental and social issues or by illegal miners seeking to continue to exploit nearby mineral deposits. The General Work Confederation (CGT) has warned of strikes in response to tax rises and wage issues. The oil sector is likely to experience a rise in labour strikes leading to production interruptions, although rising oil prices are likely to reduce the risk of industry job cuts.
Vaccinations required to enter the country
No vaccinations are required to enter the country.
Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.
Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.
Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).
Yellow Fever-Measles: Travelers to the coastal regions along the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as well as to Guajira Department (on the border with Venezuela) are strongly advised to vaccinate themselves against yellow fever at least ten days before their arrival in the country. Furthermore, health authorities in this area also encourage visitors to receive the MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) and/or antisarampionosa (measles) vaccine.
Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).
Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).
Meningococcal Meningitis: For prolonged stays, or in case your travels will put you in close contact with a local population affected by an epidemic of the disease (for children over the age of two years).
Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - chloroquine and proguanil (sometimes marketed as Paludrine ) or proguanil and atovaquone (sometimes marketed as Mepron); for those traveling to the Amazon region, mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam) or doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin) is recommended.
For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.
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.
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).
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.
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