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Colombia Travel Warning

Issued by US Department of State

Jul 29, 2003

This Travel Warning is being issued to alert American citizens to ongoing security concerns in Colombia and continues to warn against travel to Colombia, but notes a reduction in security incidents in Cartagena and on San Andres Island. This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on February 24, 2003.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to Colombia. Terrorist and criminal violence by narcotraffickers, guerrillas, illegal self-defense (paramilitary) groups and other criminal elements continues to affect all parts of the country, urban and rural. Citizens of the United States and other countries continue to be the victims of threats, kidnappings, domestic airline hijackings and murders. Threats targeting official and long-term resident Americans are expected to continue and possibly increase in response to U.S. support for Colombian drug eradication programs. Colombian groups have been known to operate in the border areas of neighboring countries, creating similar dangers for travelers in those areas. Bombings have occurred throughout Colombia, including a steady recent rise in attacks on civilian targets in urban areas. This trend shows no sign of abating in the near future, and some foreign interests have been among the targets. There have been significantly fewer security incidents in the tourist area in the colonial, walled part of Cartagena and none, to our knowledge, on San Andres Island (off the coast of Nicaragua).

About 3,000 kidnapping incidents were reported throughout Colombia in 2002. There is a greater risk of being kidnapped in Colombia than in any other country in the world. In the past three years, 26 Americans were reported kidnapped in various parts of the country. American kidnap or murder victims have included journalists, missionaries, scientists, human rights workers, U.S. government employees and businesspeople, as well as persons on tourism or family visits, and even small children. No one can be considered immune on the basis of occupation, nationality or any other factor. Most kidnappings of U.S. citizens in Colombia have been committed by guerrilla groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), which were both initially designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the Secretary of State in 1997 and re-designated as such in October 2001. Since it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to, nor to strike deals with, terrorists, the U.S. Government's ability to assist kidnapped U.S. citizens is limited.

For further information on travel to Colombia, consult the Department's Consular Information Sheet for Colombia and the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement at http://travel.state.gov.

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