River boats, Caracas connections and flying hippos: the Bogotá Buzz is back!

By Gerald Barr March 9, 2023

Our regular round-up of Colombia news that caught the world’s eye.

Pablo’s hippos: wild ones might be trapped and flown to India and Mexico.

Hippos on the move

Pablo Escobar’s escaped hippos are now facing capture and exile to India and Mexico, as reported by Voice of America and everyone else. Never out of the news for long, the massive mammals – 70 at the last count – went wild in the Magdalena River after their narco owner was killed in 1993 and were declared an invasive species. This latest plan proposes trapping them then flying them to zoos and parks willing to take them in, with Botswana, the Philippines and Ecuador also showing an interest.

Military admits female recruits

Colombia’s armed forces are now enlisting women in the ranks of combatants, with 1,296 joining up during February. The volunteer recruits have started basic training alongside male counterparts as part of the 200,000-strong military force. Women have previously signed up in admin and support roles but this is the first time in recent history they will join fighting units.

Release of oil workers

London’s BBC related the release of 88 police and oil workers detained by protestors at a petrol company compound in Caquetá. This followed a three-day standoff with campesinos and indigenous activists demanding better roads and schools in the area. Two people were killed – one a police officer – during the unrest.

Connecting Caracas

State airline SATENA has started its first international flights, from Bogotá to Caracas, according to Aviation Online, joining Venezuelan airline Turpial to connect the two capitals. Several other airlines have been granted rights to the route, including Avianca and Wingo, but are yet to schedule planes. Resumption of airlinks reflects a thaw in relations between the two neighbours. SATENA is also planning a Barranquilla-Caracas flight. Meanwhile much international media – and The Bogotá Post – reported on the demise of local airline Viva Air.

Slow boat to Colombia’s historic heart

From air to sea, and back to the Magdalena. Cruising company AmaWaterways announced plans to launch two riverboats to take travellers up Colombia’s colourful river in 2024, according to Travel Weekly.  The  luxury week-long tours will include the historic outposts of Mompox, Palenque, Magangué and the stilt-houses of Nueva Venecia and feature a gym and activities such as bird-watching. It remains to be seen if hippo-spotting will form part of the itinerary.

The colonial town of Mompox will feature in week-long river cruises of the Río Magdalena.

British traveller killed in Medellín

Sad news from Medellín of the suspected murder of a 34-year-old British visitor. Kyle MacKenzie was found with severe injuries in a ravine close to the city’s Cerro de Los Tres Cruces mountain path, but later died in hospital. He had been planning to stay several months in Colombia. Medellín investigators are following leads to the attackers.

Courting the Metaverse

A first for Colombia, and the world, was a legal case held entirely in the Metaverse with avatars – including a black-robed judge presiding over a virtual courtroom.  The two-hour case, involving a trade union and police, “felt more real than a video call,” commented the (real) judge who promised to extend the trial.

Uncovering Maicao’s ´Middle East´

With its Moslem mayor, mosques, minarets, bustling markets and desert heat, the Guajira town of Maicao feels closer to Mecca than anywhere in Colombia. Al Jazeera has the latest on the ups and downs of a border town settled by migrants mostly from Lebanon, Syria and Palestine.