Medellin’s Transformation Under Fico’s Leadership

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Federico “Fico” Gutierrez was just elected to be the Mayor of Medellin once again. He was previously the mayor of Medellin from 2016 until 2020. After 4 years of Daniel Quintero as the mayor, he ran again and was overwhelmingly re-elected to Medellin’s top office.  So many ask what can we as visitors here expect from him being in charge of the city. Let’s have a discussion about this

Medellin's Transformation Under Fico's Leadership -

A narrow miss

He came into office my first year here in Medellin. I visited many times before that, and I got to see the city from the perspective of a tourist pre-Fico, but when I moved here things changed rapidly. Colombians don’t have a trust for anyone in power, and Fico is a polarizing figure. However most Colombians have a great deal of respect for Fico as a person and a political figure. So much so that in 2021 he was a candidate for President, and narrowly lost the election to eventual president Gustavo Petro. Many ardent supporters lament electing Petro and wonder what a Fico-led Colombia would look like. We get a chance to once again see a sneak peek here in Medellin. 

High hopes

So what can we expect? One thing is for sure, Medellin will look a lot cleaner. The Saturday after his election, Fico asked his supporters to once again hit the streets, this time with garbage bags instead of political flyers. His supporters took to the streets and collected some 7,500 bags of trash from Medellin streets. This shows the pride he has for the city we all call home, this is something we can expect to happen on a wider scale once he is elected, and I for one am happy to see this. The amount of street cleaners increasing has been a part of Fico’s plan to clean up the city, and spur economic growth through sustainable employment. 

In his first term, he was a proponent of Medellin being a technology hub in South America, investing billions of pesos in digital infrastructure projects to give Medellin businesses a chance to compete in the digital marketplace. Just an example of how this has made a drastic difference in availability and reliability of the internet here in Medellin, I lived in a building in La Frontera, where the only option I had for internet access was Claro, and the highest internet I could get was PYMS service. The top speed I was able to get was 30mbps, and it was far from reliable. I would spend days without the internet at times. This happened in the highest strata in Medellin, so I could only imagine how bad it was in the lower stratas. I also paid $220mil COP for service. 

When Fico took office for his first term, he vowed to improve this with wide-spread Fiber Optic internet availability in Medellin. In 2016, the installation of fiber optic lines began and now is the backbone of the network of Medellin. Ushering in the possibility of low cost providers to come in and challenge the legacy providers here in Medellin, which has been a boon for many industries that work with the internet exclusively, and paving the way for the Digital Nomad visa, which brings talent to the city. For example, now for my internet, I have 2 services, Movistar and Somos, both of which give 500mbps unilaterally, and I pay $100mil COP for both. 

There’s a new (former) Sheriff in town

Another big part of Fico’s platform he ran on was being tough on crime. During the former administration, the rampant abuse of tourists increased year over year, with 2023 being the most dangerous year to be a tourist in Medellin since the 90s. Robberies, druggings, rapes and violent crimes perpetuated against tourists was at an all time high. Many who have been here for a long time will tell you that after the quarantine the safe feel in Medellin was gone. This is something that you can’t quantify with statistics, but you can feel in the streets. Many expats won’t visit Provenza, Parque Lleras or La 70 unless they have to. This is partly due to the danger, but partly to the state of these areas. Pre-pandemic, Parque Lleras was for the tourists, Provenza was for the wealthy and La 70 was for regular people looking to go out and not be around the element that the tourists bring in – prostitutes, drugs and robberies. But this has spilled over into la 70, and now it’s just as dangerous in all three places. Regardless of what some idiotic article wants you to believe, it’s dangerous in that area, and it’s FAR from the coolest neighborhood in the world

Upon taking office the first time, Fico addressed the drive-by robberies by enacting a new law prohibiting two men to ride on a motorcycle or scooter at the same time. Upon enacting this law, drive-by robberies dropped by more than 35% in the first 3 months. Since this crime has seen a resurgence, you can expect more of the same. I expect to see this in place to curb the recent rise in this crime of opportunity. You can expect to see harsher sentences for violent crimes committed here in Medellin. Just in the first week alone, he has cleaned house in City Hall, removing many that he sees as non-contributors to his plans for the city of Medellin. You can expect social programs focused on giving residents a hand up, as opposed to a hand out. 

My Wishlist To The Mayor

Since I have been here, I have seen the city change drastically. I’ve seen both the improvements made and the governmental failures that have put this city into the state it is right now. One of the biggest tourist attractions remains closed because the government couldn’t figure out how to deal with the crime problems. Fico put the park memorializing the victims of the violent regime of a psychopathic genocidal drug dealer, in the location of his residence, to stick up both middle fingers at that dark history of Medellin. Now that park which was initially meant to be a place of reflection and memorial for the victims of senseless violence is a place where people sit all over the memorials, and smoke weed, sniff tussi and party. 

I hope that mayor Fico sees this, and providing he does,  I may humbly ask for a few things of you Mr. Mayor – First, can you set up a place for tourists who have gotten drugged and robbed to go for help? The state police are USELESS in this. When you report it, it’s never taken seriously. The police almost laugh and blame the victim instead of helping. I’m not asking for a paramilitary group to recover the stolen items, I’m asking for a place where victims can get information on how to proceed once it happens. Second, can you please push the use of a identity service, like Verificaa or something similar to prevent the druggings from happening in the first place. Nothing will prevent it all together, but anything is helpful. Third, and this will be the one that’s controversial, treat AirBNB’s like real hotels. Make them get business licenses, pay the same tax that hotels pay, have hotel licenses and insurance for their short term rentals. As a new property owner in a large conjunto, I would also like to see the AirBNB hosts being held responsible for the actions of their guests. During the week, we are treated to the loud music, parties and craziness of narcotourists and sexual tourists. To us, it’s just a Wednesday night, but to them it’s their “Pablo Party” (as they advertise them on AirBNB). We as the other residents are the ones inconvenienced while the property owner profits off of the actions of their guests. Hotels won’t allow this to happen, and if you treat AirBNB hosts like hotels with a real consequence to losing their license, they will likely be more diligent about keeping their guests from having naked women on the balcony and snorting tussi at 3AM. Ask me how I know about this one…

My list of requests is small here. I want to see this city grow into what it can be, not what it has become. It’s becoming a playground for sexual tourism, narco tourism and what some see as a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah. This city has so much potential, but is overshadowed by its history of debauchery and lawlessness. During Fico’s first term, Medellin was on its way to being a true international city. Now it has devolved into what it was in the past. When you were mayor before, I shook your hand a few times when we were both jogging during ciclovia, if I had that opportunity again, I’d share these with you. If you need any advice from the perspective of a long time immigrant to Medellin, my office door is always open Mr. Mayor. 

Let’s roll

It feels like Medellin once again has a mayor that cares about the city as a whole. A mayor who has pride in the city and wants to see it as a safe place for everyone. Well, as safe as it can be. I for one am excited to see the changes that can take place over the next 4 years.

I want to know what you think. Comment below your thoughts and opinions of Fico. If you have any questions, I hope to get a chance to ask them to him personally, so I will take your questions to him if I’m given this opportunity. Let’s start a dialog about this. Till next time.

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