The Dark Side of Tourism in Latin America: Medellín Cracks Down on Its Safety Measures After a Tourist Abused Two Underaged Girls

The Dark Side of Tourism in Latin America: Medellín Cracks Down on Its Safety Measures After a Tourist Abused Two Underaged Girls

Medellín once used to be a city people didn’t want to step foot in. Decades ago, this beautiful city was riddled with crime and violence, which was not an appealing sight to tourists. However, fast-forward to today, and things are different. People are taking in its beauty and lively culture. However, this doesn’t mean that danger has left the city of eternal spring. No. Amidst the city’s renowned beauty and transformation, an unsettling reality lurks beneath the surface: the rise of sex tourism and the exploitation of minors.  

It’s a stark reminder that when visiting Medellín, travelers must reassess their expectations. This isn’t just another tourist hotspot; it’s a place where respect and dignity should reign supreme, especially for the women and girls who call it home. 

Recent events have underscored this grim reality. On March 28th, authorities uncovered a distressing scene at the Gotham Hotel in El Poblado — a tourist from the United States, aged 36, was found in the company of two young girls, aged 12 and 13. Despite compelling evidence of wrongdoing, the suspect managed to evade capture, raising questions about law enforcement’s effectiveness in combating such crimes. 

This incident is not an anomaly. It’s part of a disturbing pattern that sheds light on the Colombian authorities’ struggles, and perhaps complicity, in addressing human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors. Interpol, in collaboration with local law enforcement agencies, recently issued a Blue Notice against Timothy Alan Livingston, accused of heinous crimes against children. 


The numbers paint a horrific picture. In 2023 alone, Medellín reported 329 victims of commercial sexual exploitation involving minors — a staggering figure that underscores the urgent need for action. The city, once making so much progress due to its cultural resurgence, now battles with the dark underbelly of sex tourism. 

What Medellín Is Doing to Protect Women and Underaged Girls

Mayor Federico Gutiérrez has taken decisive steps to curb this scourge, including the temporary suspension of sex work and stricter regulations on nightlife establishments in El Poblado. While these measures are aimed at curbing exploitation, they have stirred controversy and drawn criticism from local businesses.  

But one must wonder. Were these business owners also complicit in the exploitation and pedophilic behavior that ran wild in the streets of El Poblado in recent years? If that’s the case, their protests are worthless. Women and children need to be protected at all costs.  

In response, Gutiérrez has personally engaged with tourists, distributing flyers at José María Córdova Airport to raise awareness about combating sexual exploitation and child trafficking. However, the road ahead is fraught with challenges. 

Valery P. Ramírez, president of the Sex Workers’ Union of Antioquia, advocates for a nuanced approach that recognizes the distinction between voluntary adult sex work and exploitation. She emphasizes the importance of dialogue and collaboration to address the root causes of exploitation. 

Yet, there are concerns that these measures may inadvertently drive illicit activities further underground, perpetuating the cycle of exploitation. Tyler Schwab of Libertas International acknowledges the importance of government action but stresses the need for accountability from lodging establishments and other stakeholders. 

The city’s future hinges on its ability to confront these challenges head-on, safeguarding the well-being of its residents and upholding the dignity of all who call it home. 

For future tourists: Medellín is not your paradise to commit crimes.  

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