U.S Government urges citizens to “reconsider” travel to Colombia

President Gustavo Petro, US secretary of State Antony Blinken and VP Francia Márquez / Presidencia.

After a recent trip to Washington where Colombian President Gustavo Petro was hosted in the Oval Office by his North American counterpart Joe Biden, the U.S administration issued a stern recommendation to citizens considering travel to Colombia’s given the country’s security situation.

According to the updated Colombia Advisory, released by the Department of State, U.S citizens should “reconsider travel due to crime and terrorism.” The Level 3 ranking also recommends travelers “exercise increased caution due to civil unrest and kidnapping.”

In the paragraph Country Summary, the Department of State warns that the National Liberation Army (ELN), Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP), and Segunda Marquetalia terrorist organizations, as well as the Clan del Golfo and other criminal organizations, “may attack with little or no warning, targeting transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, police stations, military facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, airports, and other public areas.” Included in widespread security risks that could target U.S citizens among “unintended victims” are homicide, assault, and armed robbery.  “Organized criminal activities, such as extortion, robbery, and kidnapping, are common in some areas,” reads the advisory.

The State Department also points out how demonstrations can affect the mobility and security of travelers. “Large public demonstrations can take place for a variety of political or economic issues. Demonstrations can shutdown roads and highways, often without prior notice or estimated reopening timelines. Road closures may significantly reduce access to public transportation and may disrupt travel within and between cities. Protests can become violent and can result in fatalities and injuries,” states the advisory.

Listed in the “Do Not Travel to” areas are the departments of Arauca, Cauca (excluding Popayán), and Norte de Santander departments due to  crime  and  terrorism. The Colombia-Venezuela border region is also off-limits due to crime, kidnapping, and risk of detention when crossing into Venezuela from Colombia. ”US. citizens should not go near the border due to the risk of crossing into Venezuela accidentally. U.S. citizens attempting to enter Venezuela without a visa have been charged with terrorism and other serious crimes and detained for long periods,” warns State.

U.S. government employees must adhere to the noted restrictions:

  • U.S. government employees are not permitted to travel by road between most major cities.
  • Colombia’s land border areas are off-limits to U.S. government personnel unless specifically authorized.
  • U.S. government employees may not use motorcycles.
  • U.S. government employees may not hail street taxis or use public buses.

If you decide to travel to Colombia, avoid protest areas and crowds. Monitor local media for breaking events and adjust your plans based on new information. Keep a low profile and be aware of your surroundings. The U.S Government recommends its citizens enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency, and to follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.