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End of Sex Tourism: Fico Cracks Down on Sex Offenders

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Colombian immigration authorities are taking a tough stance against foreign sex offenders attempting to enter the country, denying entry to several American citizens recently flagged as potential sexual predators.

Over just this past weekend, two U.S. nationals were turned away at the José María Córdova airport in Rionegro after being identified through the “Angel Watch” system as having histories of sexual assault allegations.

“Thanks to the Angel Watch system, Colombia’s immigration service was able to determine that he was a possible sexual offender and prohibited his entry,” stated the agency regarding one of the denied entries, who had arrived on a flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

After being screened and informed of the reasons for being denied admission, the men were immediately put back on return flights to the United States by the airlines they arrived on.

The stringent measures are part of a coordinated crackdown on sexual tourism and exploitation involving minors that has plagued areas like Medellín in recent months. They follow high-profile cases such as that of American Timothy Livingston, discovered sexually abusing two underage girls at a residence in the upscale El Poblado neighborhood during Holy Week.

Livingston was briefly detained but then allowed to flee the country, sparking outrage. Medellín’s mayor Federico Gutiérrez has since been actively collaborating with U.S. officials to identify potential sexual predators before they can enter Colombia.

“Our commitment to protecting children and women is serious,” stated Gutiérrez after the most recent visa denials. “We are not going to stop. This is just the beginning.”

The Angel Watch system, implemented by U.S. homeland security, shares information on registered sex offenders with partner countries. In 2023 so far, it has allowed Colombian officials to identify 19 travelers attempting to enter with criminal records of sex crimes or child exploitation.

What is #AngelWatch

The AngelWatch program, run by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), is aimed at tracking and preventing the international travel of convicted sex offenders to offend against minors abroad. Implemented in 2016, the AngelWatch Center cross-references flight data with national sex offender registries to identify registered sex criminals attempting to travel overseas. It then alerts foreign countries to the individuals’ travel plans and any potential threat they may pose to children before their arrival. Since its 2016 inception, AngelWatch has issued over 10,000 notifications to other nations about traveling sex offenders from the United States. The program plays a key role in HSI’s global efforts to combat child exploitation and sexual abuse crimes across borders.

Overall in 2023, Colombia has denied entry to 5,559 foreign nationals for various reasons, with a total of 70 inadmissible due to potential threats to public safety or registering as sexual predators on Angel Watch.

While the recent actions have drawn praise, activists urge sustained vigilance against what they condemn as a thriving sex tourism trade preying on society’s most vulnerable. The Colombian government vows not to let up in excluding any travelers found to pose such unconscionable risks.

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