Monthly Archives: January 2013

Moving to Colombia with Kids

Russell’s comments:    This week I read a Phoenix Arizona newspaper article on a family coming to Colombia as a second home, with their kids.  Interesting how different views of Colombia are present by non-Colombian people, take a quick read, credits given to this story as shown.  All good comments if your brining your family, have small children or even grand children to visit, the points made in this story apply to retiring in Colombia too.


Here is the direct link to the story, content of the story is shown below for easy reading.


Colombia with the kids

Despite its dangerous reputation, country has plenty to offer travellers up for adventure


My wife, our two boys, and I are riding a state-of-the-art gondola up the side of a mountain on a gloriously sunny afternoon. We’re chatting in fractured Spanglish with some Colombian students. But we’re not in Whistler or Aspen. We’re on our way to the neighbourhood which, 25 years ago, was considered the most dangerous part of the most dangerous city in the world. The students aren’t on our turf — we’re on theirs. We’re in Medellin, Colombia. Its nickname is “The city of eternal spring,” and after the drug wars of the 1980s, it certainly does feel like metaphorical spring in Colombia.

“You’re taking your kids where?” That was the slightly horrified response we heard again and again when we told people we were planning a month-long family trip to Colombia. Yup, Colombia. Drug lord Pablo Escobar and his hippos. FARC revolutionaries behind every tree. A “failed state,” completely lawless, with bombings and kidnappings every day. Basically, everything Crockett and Tubbs were saving the world from on Miami Vice, right? So why on earth take our seven- and nine-year-old sons there for a vacation?

Well, Escobar was killed in a rooftop shootout in Medellin in 1993 — 20 long years ago — but stereotypes are persistent. Colombia was a complete mess back then, but it’s had an amazing renaissance. The rebirth can be directly traced to three people — Enrique Penalosa, Antanus Mockus, and Sergio Fajardo, former mayors of Bogota and Medellin. All three decided to invest in parks, libraries, schools, transit, and other public works, all with a strong social- and economic-justice agenda. They hired renowned architects to design the buildings. As Fajardo once said, “Our most beautiful buildings must be in our poorest areas.” The gondola in Medellin — the world’s first public-transit cable-car system — provides transportation to those areas.

In other words, Bogota and Medellin have been living labs, experimenting with the idea that architecture and urban design can have meaningful social and economic impacts. Judging by all the awards, books, and documentaries about their achievements, the answer is yes. That’s why we wanted to visit Colombia.

If that sounds just a bit too nerdy, you have to understand that my wife and I are architecture, urban design and public policy geeks. People like us may not be typical tourists, but our “tribe” is compelled to travel to see interesting cities. The more we looked into it, the more Colombia seemed like an ideal destination.

The historic centres of Cartagena and Mompox are UNESCO World Heritage Sites for their amazing Spanish colonial architecture. Cartagena is on the Caribbean coast, with beaches and average highs just over 30 C year-round. I’ve been trying to learn Spanish for a few years, so we wanted to go somewhere I could practise. We were both lucky enough to live overseas for a year at a time as kids, and we’re trying to provide similar (if shorter) experiences for our children. And we like to visit places that are somewhat off the tourist radar. Check, check, and check.

Cartagena was home for the month. We found a fantastic apartment in the heart of the old city (through travel rental website AirBnB), an ultra-modern third-floor walk-up with flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi, and an incredible rooftop terrace, all hiding behind an entirely nondescript door in a charmingly crumbling colonial building. We didn’t even realize until the last minute that the apartment came with a housekeeper, who cooked, cleaned, and did laundry every day. Cartagena has the full gamut of places to stay, from hostels to five-star luxury properties, but for an extended stay with a family, apartments are totally the way to go. (A visit to the Hotel Santa Clara for a drink and a chance to peek into Nobel-prize winning Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s yard is totally worth it, though.)

We found a charming little business ( offering Spanish classes in the daytime and salsa classes in the evening. We spent our first week in Cartagena taking language lessons in the morning, snoozing in the midday heat, and exploring the city in the evening. The first day or two, we acted like paranoid tourists in a dangerous place. By the third day, the kids were happily skipping off in all directions and we were feeling very much at home in the city of Love in the Time of Cholera (an absolute must-read by Marquez if you’re thinking of visiting Cartagena).

By the end of the month, we were regulars, if not quite locals with the people selling astonishingly good coffee, fruit, juices, and food of all kinds on the streets; the bakery where the kids got their chocolate croissants every morning; and the gelateria where we all got our daily cones of amazing gelatos made with the fruits you can only find there (corozo and lulo are the best).

From base camp in Cartagena, we took a few excursions. A day trip took us to the “mud volcano” El Totumo. We spent a few days just before Easter in Mompox. Getting there is definitely not half the fun. Just ask our nine-year-old, who barfed several times on the harrowing, nine-hour overnight “executive limousine” trip from Cartagena with a deranged “chauffeur” careening through the pitch darkness of increasingly dense jungle on iffy roads spotted with random herds of cattle and overladen ancient trucks rounding hairpin corners in the wrong lane at high speed.

The payoff is one of the world’s most incredible Semana Santa (holy week) observances. The Good Friday processions are profoundly moving, whatever your beliefs may be. Large groups of people wearing heavy robes in 35 C heat carry life-size elaborate scenes depicting the Stations of the Cross through the streets, moving from one church to another. The tableaus are mounted on heavy wooden platforms. The worshippers lift the entire thing to their shoulders, take three steps forward, two steps backward, and put it down again. The processions go on for hours, all through the night.

The trip back to Cartagena (much better, thanks to the driver Richard and Alma of La Casa Amarilla in Mompox found for us!) provided one of the most special moments of our entire trip. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, our driver asked if we wanted to stop for breakfast. We said sure, so he pulled in at a shack along the road which turned out to be a mom-and-pop “restaurant.” As we chatted, we learned that the couple also runs a personal “biblioburro” program, entirely on their own initiative. They take their burros (named Alpha and Beta) up into the mountains to deliver books to kids who might otherwise never see one. Being book lovers, our kids adored that story — one they would never hear at the Kids Camp at a “safe” all-inclusive.

Ironically, the only time we felt even slightly unsafe was when Cartagena went into full lockdown for the Summit of the Americas. The police, military, and (foreign) security presence was intimidating and completely sucked the life out of the city. That’s when we made the last-minute decision to hop over to Medellin for a few days.

The kids had an amazing time everywhere we went once both of them (but especially our very tall, freckle-faced redhead) got used to people fawning over them. Throughout the country, people were delighted to see us. At the library in that formerly lethal neighbourhood in Medellin, we got the full VIP tour from a staffer bursting with pride. Colombia has been waiting for years for visitors to start coming back. We ran into a few other travellers, but we were the only family. It is still a bit of an adventure compared to typical vacation destinations.

Yes, much of the world’s cocaine supply still comes from or passes through Colombia. Yes, FARC still exists, but barely. And yes, the Canadian and U.S. governments still have official “advisories” or “warnings” about going there. But we’re not crazy-risk takers. We would never take our kids anywhere there’s real danger. The clever (and risky) official slogan of the national tourism agency ( is Colombia: The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay. The kids floated in a mud volcano, swam in posh hotel pools and a river in the middle of the jungle, saw centuries-old forts and ultra-modern libraries, learned a bit of Spanish, ate weird and wonderful new things, had experiences to remember forever, and still managed to FaceTime with their friends back home. Isn’t that what travel is supposed to be all about?


If You Go

Air Canada and its Star Alliance partner United offer the best flights from Calgary to Colombia, typically through Houston. As of April 15, a Calgary-Houston-Bogotá return ticket cost as little as $955. Within Colombia, the flag carrier airline Avianca (also a Star Alliance partner) provides excellent connections between cities. Flights from Calgary to Cartagena usually require a second stopover in Panama City or Bogota, and cost about $50 to $100 more than flights to Bogota. We recommend sticking to planes, buses, and taxis for getting around.

Until recently, guide books for Colombia were almost unheard of. In the last 18 months or so, there’s been an explosion of them. The Michelin and Footprint guides were published just before our trip, and we found them both very useful. Several more have been published since. The official government tourism website ( is surprisingly good. Two more excellent websites for Cartagena are “This is Cartagena” ( and “Lure Cartagena” (

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald


Original source article: Colombia with the kids

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Medellin Colombia Empanada Street Food treat

Retirement in Medellin Colombia means you can enjoy the little things in life, one of them is going for a snack when you feel like it.  One of my favourite snack food cafe is the Empanada Cafe located just across the street from Park Bolivar directly across from the Church fountain.  Empanada cafe serves warm crunchy deep fried corn meal filled goodness of meat potato mixture, with a squeeze of lime a little guacamole sauce your in heaven for that late morning treat snack or even for lunch.  These re-heat great in the microwave too.

Enjoy this short video on the quality of life living in the Valley of Eternal Spring, Medellin Colombia.

Colombian Fruit Juices served at the local Cafe

This is a short video to show n tell about the different types and names of the Fruit Juices served in the local Colombian Cafes and Restaurants.  Colombia has over 200 different types of fruit of these about 20 plus are squeezed for juice and of these there are the TOP TEN.  Here are a few to get you started into the wonderful TROPICAL FRUIT JUICES served with every meal in Colombia, watch and take notes OR sign up for my newsletter and get your free copy of my book a Photography Tour on the foods of Colombia has a section with all the names and images, your copy is free for signing up. Photo is a Granadilla, grab a spoon and eat as fresh fruit right out of it’s God given bowl, seeds and all, just awesome !!

Retire Colombia Medellin how to catch a Taxi

Hello everyone today let me show you how easy it is to get a TAXI in Medellin or any city in Colombia all have the same methods.  The Taxi in Medellin is “metered” meaning you pay the actual amount shown on the meter.  A few cities in Colombia there are taxi service however they do not have a meter system in place for a few smaller cities, in that case ask about the fare prior to getting into the taxi !!

Medellin is no problem, stick your arm out flag one down, jump in, the meter should be re-set to 2600 peso, if not ask the driver to re-set prior to your start.  The minimum meter amount to pay is 4400 peso, a very short trip this is what to expect to pay if less than this amount on the meter.  Taxi to the airport is fixed flat rate set  by the government, now at $57,000 peso and includes the toll booth fee, the taxi driver will pay this.

Enjoy the video, for the most part in Medellin or any city in Colombia the taxi drivers are courtesy, friendly group of guys and gals too.

Medellin Colombia Fruit Juice Cafe Tropical Fruit explained

Hello this is Russell to help guide you into the world of Tropical Fruit Juices of Colombia.  Colombia grows over 200 hundred different types of fruit and of these 20 are typical to squeezed into juice and then again of these about 10 are most popular.  Learn about these Top Ten Juice Picks in a two part YouTube video set, this is part one of two.

Besides making squeezed juices Colombia makes Fruit Smoothies blended with a little bit of ice, sugar along with fresh fruit.  My favourite TROPICAL DRINK is a mix of Watermelon and fresh Coconut chunks into a blender with ice to make one great Tropical drink, a Coconut Watermelon smoothie, give this combo a try when in country.

I hope this mini guide will help you order when your faced with a list of unknown words on the cafe restaurant menu, order two to find your best top ten juice picks.

Medellin Colombia Supermarket Citrus Fruit and Avocados

This is a short video to show you about the different types of Citrus fruit and Avocados available in your local Colombian Supermarket or street side fruit vendor.  There are over 200 different types of fruit grown in Colombia.  See our other videos on the TOP TEN FRUIT JUICES of Colombia you will find on the menu out of the 20 plus possibles they make juice from my personal ten favourites.  My how to make my personal recipe for Killer Guacamole and fresh Salsa video is on my YouTube Channel too.  Enjoy your time in Colombia a Retire Colombia Cheap is possible on a limited budget.

Summit of the Americans Correa, Obama engage in heated exchange of words

Although the weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Panama City was highlighted by a handshake between Cuba’s Raul Castro and the U.S. President Barack Obama, there were also emotional exchanges between several Latin American leaders and Obama.

Latin America Leaders exchange emotional words with Obama

One of the most intense came on Saturday when Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa told Obama that Latin America will no longer accept U.S. intervention in its affairs.

“Our people will never again accept the interference and intervention of the United States. Our memory is still torn by the abuse and violence of the past,” Correa said. “Panama is a good example of this with the December 1989 U.S. invasion, which caused the deaths of thousands of innocent people, so that the U.S. could arrest the bloody dictator that it installed into power,” he said.

Correa continued, personally addressing Obama: “Your government is still trying to intervene in our affairs as evidenced by your executive order that declared Venezuela a threat to your national security. It is also evidenced by officials from your office asking the U.S. Congress for money to defend freedom of expression in Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua,” he said. “We totally reject this act of arrogance,” he added.

Apparently caught off guard, Obama at first said he was not prepared to respond, but then said the U.S. had not always respected Latin American rights in past. “We admit this but we must move on and not be trapped in old ideology,” Obama said. “At least I’m not trapped in it.”

Obama suggested that the U.S. is a convenient scapegoat for problems not of its own making. “This kind of thinking will not bring progress. It will not educate our children or feed those who don’t have enough to eat,” he said.

Obama added that he was “open to the history lessons” he was receiving at the summit. “My country does not presume to be perfect but we can learn from your experience as well as our own and we can work together for a better future,” he said.

credits for news from April 2015

Ecuador President Promises Venezuela Support Against U.S.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said that the government of Venezuela can count on Ecuador’s help to facilitate a solution and to reduce the current tension between the United States and Venezuela.

“If we can serve as mediators to resolve by peaceful means, through dialogue, Venezuela knows it can count on us. We will be where we need,” Correa said Friday during a television interview. The Venezuelan government has asked Ecuador to lead a group of facilitators to initiate dialogue with the US, as decided at a meeting of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) on Tuesday in Caracas.

Ecuador has accepted the Caracas approach, but also stressed its position that Washington’s executive order, which declares the internal situation in Venezuela as an “extraordinary threat” to U.S. safety, is an interference in Venezuelan politics.

Correa was asked during the interview whether Ecuador should suggest possible concessions to the parties during the mediation process, if a mediation does materialize. Ecuador’s president asked in return: “What concession has Venezuela to make to the U.S.? The United States is practicing a blatant interference that violates American law, against international law that prohibits a country to interfere in each other’s internal problems. The problems of Venezuela are for Venezuelans to solve,” and after ensuring that, there must be “zero tolerance for such interference.”

Correa went on further to say that an Executive Order from Washington, “was always the prelude to invasions. Latin America has a very sad story about it,” he recalled. “Who could believe such nonsense? [contained in the Executive Order]” Rather, it’s that Executive Order that proves Washington is “a serious threat” against the Venezuelan government.

However, Correa forecasted a “very difficult military intervention” since “boots and bombings are a thing of the past” but that now it is “more effective to destabilize a country and maybe that is what the U.S. is looking to accomplish in this situation with the Venezuelan government.” The “isolation, these sanctions, economic, media manipulation, etc.,” are part of these subtle ways to destabilize governments,” he added. The Ecuadorian president said that Venezuela has “endured intense political, economic and media harassment for several years” and emphasized that the Executive Order issued by the U.S. Government has only added to that situation.

However, Correa stressed that the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) had passed a resolution in its meeting last week asking the U.S. to repeal the Executive Order against Venezuela. “Just the fact that UNASUR has formed a unanimous decision, means that something has changed irreversibly in Latin America,” a region which “will no longer accept impositions from anyone,” said Correa.

Originally published in el Mercurio as “Correa dice que Venezuela puede contar con Ecuador en tensión actual con EEUU”  on March 20, 2015;
translated and reprinted here with express permission.

Retire in the Andes Mountains

Here is another opition to anyone thinking about retirement in Colombia, is to look at Ecuador too.  Many things are very similar to life in Colombia, cost of living, quality of life, health care and of course plenty of farmers markets too.

The ABC News team did a great video on telling about the life in Cuenca Ecuador, without another moment, check out this video too.  I think Colombia is the best place on earth you only need to make up your own mind to see which country is best for you.

direct link click here


Americans Find More Affordable Paradise for Retirement

May 15, 2013

Nestled in the Andes Mountains is a kind of paradise that has lured thousands of Americans away from home.Cuenca, Ecuador, may be a place many people have never heard of. But it’s become a city teaming with retirees from all over the United States, drawn there by quality health care, a booming social scene and a low cost of living that makes their nest eggs suddenly seem golden.Jan and Paul Cottage moved to Cuenca from Houston, Texas about a year ago. But it was not a future they were counting on when they began discussing retirement several years ago.”I think we are the least likely people to end up in Ecuador,” Jan Cottage said. “We owned a time share in New Mexico. That’s where I thought we would always retire.”But when Jan Cottage, 61, lost her job and the company Paul Cottage, 67, owned was downsized, they realized they were looking at an early retirement with less money than they had planned on. So he got on the computer and started researching.”So when he comes home and says, ‘What do you think about Ecuador?’ I just burst into tears,” Jan Cottage said, smiling now at the memory. “You could see him go, ‘Oh, this is not good.’ And so he kind of went away and didn’t mention it again for several months.”She said she could have looked for a new job, but knew at her age the chance of finding something at her same salary was slim.”It’s real hard when you’re in your mid-50s to find another job. You’re competing with very well-qualified people that may be 30, 35 years old,” she said.Despite her initial hesitation, the couple kept researching the possibility of retiring overseas, knowing that if they stayed in the United States, even moving to a less expensive city, they would be strapped by high health care costs, property taxes and other fixed costs like utilities and gas.”We all know people who have retired and they spend a great majority of their time watching television,” Jan Cottage said. “We wanted to make sure that wasn’t us.”They went to Costa Rica on vacation but decided it wasn’t a place they wanted to live. They also visited Panama and Mexico.Then they flew to Ecuador and found it had just what they were looking for: a moderate climate where temperatures didn’t typically climb out of the 70s, an active art and music scene, and plenty of places to hike and exercise.They went back for a second trip, this one for five weeks, where they tested what it would be like to live in Cuenca. They took Spanish lessons and learned to navigate the cobblestone streets. Then they moved there for good.The Cottages, who don’t have any children, said they don’t miss much about their life in the U.S. aside from their friends. Their property taxes were slashed from about $10,000 per year in Houston to just $72 per year in Cuenca.Jan Cottage’s health insurance dropped from $640 per month in COBRA payments in the U.S. to just $100 a month for private insurance in Ecuador.Even a year later, they marveled as they moved around their kitchen pointing out fruits, vegetables and a loaf of bread they bought for just a dollar, even less in some cases.There have been some hiccups. While Cuenca offers most of the amenities they were used too — such as widespread Internet service and DirectTV — there is a more relaxed vibe that took some getting used to.”I don’t think I would do people thinking about this justice without saying that this isn’t probably for everyone,” Jan Cottage said. “You have to be flexible here. If someone says they’re going to do something like show up to hang a chandelier tomorrow, tomorrow may be Wednesday of next week. So you have to be patient with all that.”The Cottages are just two of what some have coined “recession refugees” — Americans who left the country in search of a more affordable, yet still rewarding life.It’s a crunch many Americans have felt. The Social Security Administration sends monthly benefits to more than 346,000 Americans living overseas, an increase of nearly 47 percent from 10 years ago.In Cuenca, the Americans first came in a slow trickle. Then, in the last couple of years, a deluge of retirees began settling there. The mayor of Cuenca estimated 4,000 Americans were now living in his city of about half a million.”There has been a growth and, of course, it is complicated for us because, evidently, it makes it less accessible [for] Ecuadorians,” Cuenca Mayor Paul Granda told ABC News in an interview conducted in Spanish.Granda said prices in Cuenca have soared by as much as 40 or 50 percent, in some cases. He pointed not just to the Americans for the prices rising, but also the large number of Ecuadorians that had moved to the United States decades ago and were now bringing their families back.”The basic services are very cheap and of quality. Obviously we are also obligated to keep being more efficient,” Granda said. “But I think that the goal is how to make politics active so that that immigration fits in with our society and would be a contribution to our society.”The locals have been welcoming to the Americans. In Cuenca, the word “gringo” is a term of endearment, with many establishments even hosting “Gringo Nights” once a week.International Living magazine has named Ecuador a top retirement destination for five years in a row.Some of the Americans who are now living in Cuenca worry that the city will become too popular with expats.Edd and Cynthia Staton moved to Cuenca from Las Vegas about three years ago. They had always talked about retiring overseas, but their search began focusing on the more affordable South American countries after the recession forced both of them into early retirement.”We had an idea of the kind of retirement life we wanted,” said Cynthia Staton, 59. “And Cuenca seemed to check all those boxes.””We had the choices of accepting a lousy retirement, which wasn’t a choice, continuing to keep on keeping on like we’d always done before,” said Edd Staton, 64. “But there was no guarantee that was actually going to work. And if it didn’t work we would have given up perhaps the best 10 years of our life we had left.””Plan C,” he said, “was think of something else.””This is our something else,” she said. “And we couldn’t be happier. This was a great decision for us. “Their news raised some eyebrows among their family members, including their two children. But they pointed out that if they had chosen to stay in the U.S., they would have kept working to pay the bills. So they would be on a tight budget and get very little vacation time to visit their family, which is scattered across the country.Now they can visit the States for two to three weeks at a time. Living in Cuenca, Edd Staton pointed out, has meant that they’ve been able to see their children and, now, grandchildren more than they ever did living in Las Vegas.And they Skype daily.”With technology what it is, I think that you can move abroad and still feel connected to your family, whereas years ago that wasn’t possible,” Cynthia Staton said.Neither couple has any plans to move back to the U.S. Instead, they are just enjoying what they call the best years of their lives.”We certainly wanted to have this fling before we possibly physically can’t do that,” Jan Cottage said.It’s what Ecuadorians call “la tercera edad” — the third and, quite possibly, best chapter of their lives.


Here is a recent news blog post by the Huffington Post, link click here, on the compare of these two cities as a retirement spot, only you can decide but Kathleen Peddicod points out in her article there is no winner, it is your personal life style you wish.  Read what she has to say, all good, both cities are great spot to retire in for South America. Photo above is Cuenca from Huffington Post.


Cuenca, Ecuador, and Medellin, Colombia, are two of the top retirement options in Latin America right now.

Which is better? Which one might be the right place for you to think about retiring overseas? Trying to answer those questions requires drawing some comparisons.

Both of these cities enjoy great weather, with no bugs, all year. Living in either place, you wouldn’t need to use heat or air conditioning, a big help with monthly utility bills.

That said, the weather is not the same in these two cities. Medellin is warmer, with daily highs averaging around 81 degrees Fahrenheit, lows in the 60s, and minor seasonal variation. In Cuenca, monthly average highs vary from 65 to 71 degrees, depending on the time of year, and nightly lows are likewise correspondingly lower.

Medellin sees more rain (66 inches annually versus 35 inches in Cuenca). At the same time, Medellin sees more sunny days, on average, annually, than Cuenca.

Does either of those descriptions qualify as “perfect weather” for you? As with all retire overseas factors, it’s a matter of your own preferences.

Residency is fairly easy to establish in both Colombia and Ecuador, with low thresholds for visa qualification in both countries. In Colombia, the pensioner’s visa requires an income of just under $1,000 per year, while in Ecuador the level is even lower, at $800 per year. For an investor-type visa, Colombia’s options start at around $34,000, while Ecuador requires but $25,000.

Colombia’s visa, however, is quicker and easier to obtain, with fewer documents required. Also, Ecuador imposes some restrictions on your travel during your first two years of residency in that country, while Colombia imposes no such restrictions at any time.

The cultural scene in Medellin is remarkably similar to that in Cuenca… which is to say that both of these cities are culturally rich. This is surprising because, while Medellin is home to about 4 million people, there are but 600,000 living in Cuenca. Still, in both cities, you can enjoy orchestra, theater, art openings, museums, and a generally sophisticated cultural scene. You’ll pay a modest fee for most of these things in Medellin, while in Cuenca they’re usually free.

The infrastructure is good in both cities. You’ll enjoy drinkable water, reliable broadband Internet, and dependable electricity, water, and phone service.

Also, both cities are very walkable, and both boast excellent and cheap public transit systems. And, if you decide to drive, you’ll find traffic jams equally maddening in both cities.

Real estate is a tremendous bargain in both cities, cheap for the region and on a global scale. Apples to apples insofar as that’s possible (that is, comparing comparable properties in comparable regions of each city), Medellin’s El Poblado neighborhood (the best address in the city and the place where most expat retirees are settling) is the winner. On a per-square-meter basis (which is the only reliable way to compare property prices between two places), prices in El Poblado are lower than prices in the best neighborhoods of Cuenca.

Bottom line, you can buy a nice, two-bedroom apartment in both these cities for less than $100,000.

For the lifestyle you’ll enjoy in Medellin, the cost of living is a tremendous bargain. The same is true in Cuenca–for the lifestyle it offers, it, too, is a great bargain.

However, the lifestyle in one is nothing like the lifestyle in the other, which brings us to the ways these cities differ. (As Medellin is such a big and diverse city, I’ll confine my comparisons to its El Poblado neighborhood, which, again, is likely where you would want to settle if you were to retire here.)

To start, Medellin’s El Poblado offers a modern, upscale ambiance. It has elegant shopping, state-of-the-art infrastructure, attractive new buildings, and many and diverse options for dining out. New, luxury, brick high-rises look down from wooded hillsides. Tall trees line the well-maintained streets and nicely landscaped parks. And El Poblado is only one of many such desirable areas in this city.

On the other hand, Cuenca is one of the Americas’ premier Spanish-colonial cities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old Cathedral was built in 1557, the architecture is well-preserved Spanish colonial, and the streets are cobblestoned. You’ll even see evidence of the Inca occupation from the early 1500s. Yet just outside the historic center, Cuenca also offers new, modern high-rises. So you can live in a modern home, yet have the historic center just a short distance away.

El Poblado is a First World environment; you’d be hard-pressed to find a U.S. city that can beat it. On the other hand, Cuenca is part of a developing country, where you see evidence of the Third World… things like sidewalks in poor repair and unmaintained structures.

Access to the United States is easier from Medellin than from Cuenca. You can fly direct to Medellin from Miami (flights are available daily), whereas you’ll need to connect (and probably spend the night) in Guayaquil or Quito when traveling to Cuenca. This adds a day to the trip coming and going, as well as the cost of lodging and taxis.

The expat community is far smaller in Medellin than in Cuenca. You can find expats in Medellin — at a local coffee shop or the Irish pub — if you look for them, but you won’t normally see your fellows around.

In Cuenca, the expat community has grown dramatically in the past few years especially. Today’s estimates put between 4,000 and 5,000 expats and foreign retirees in this city. They are making a cultural imprint. Most of their impact is positive, in my opinion, but whether an expat community of that size is a positive or a negative for you overall is, again, like all retire overseas factors, a matter of choice.

The cost of living is higher in El Poblado than in Cuenca, due in part to currency exchange rates. Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar, so dollar-holders don’t feel the pinch of a weakening currency in this country. Meantime, Colombia uses its own peso. The stronger it gets, the more dollars you need to maintain the same standard of living. Bottom line, your living costs in Medellin would be noticeably higher than in Cuenca.

That said, as I write, the U.S. dollar is at a 16-month high against the Colombian peso, making a real estate purchase in Medellin more appealing right now than ever.

A basic budget for Medellin might be $1,750 per month (food, entertainment, utilities, public transit, taxes, and HOA fees). In Cuenca, figure about $1,250 per month. Neither city is expensive, but Cuenca is definitely more affordable.

All things considered, the winner is?

There is no winner. Neither city is “better.” Manhattan is not inherently better or worse than New Orleans, say, but it’s certainly different. The same goes for Medellin and Cuenca.

I see Cuenca as an adventure, a cultural adventure. It offers a lifestyle that’s as different as you can get from the United States or Canada without leaving the world’s European-based cultures.

Medellin, on the other hand, could be perceived as a reward destination. A pretty, pleasant, comfortable place to live, a place where it’s a treat to spend time. In Medellin, you can embrace a sophisticated, elegant lifestyle, the kind of lifestyle that most retirees wouldn’t be able to afford in the United States.

Ecuador President compares US to Nazi Germany

photo is Ecuador President Rafael Correa

This is one more RED FLAG for me to consider moving to Ecuador, where the government really does not wish your presents, your persona non grada

 Do you really want to move to Ecuador??  Think about it !!

Correa has been criticized by international groups for cruelly silencing journalists and critics of his administration. The South American leader also supported former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and has been actively strengthening his relationship with Iran and Syria.


the full story below

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa said that American exceptionalism is reminiscent of Nazism “before and during World War II.”

“Does not this remind you of the Nazis’ rhetoric before and during World War II? They considered themselves the chosen race, the superior race, etc. Such words and ideas pose extreme danger,” Correa told RT Spanish.

Correa referred to President Barack Obama’s statement that “America is exceptional” because it stands up for the world’s interests not just its own. However, Correa said that the U.S. has and will continue to violate international law.

“What Plato wrote in his [Socratic] dialogues more than 2,000 years ago is true. Justice is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger. They are strong, that’s why they will continue lying, violating other states’ sovereignty, and breaching international law. But one day this unjust world will have to change,” Correa said, adding that the United Nation’s headquarters should eventually be moved from New York City.

“The headquarters of the organization is in the U.S. and they finance their activities,” Correa said. “This is outrageous and an example of a relationship the US established with developing countries in the form of subordination.”

Correa has been criticized by international groups for cruelly silencing journalists and critics of his administration. The South American leader also supported former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and has been actively strengthening his relationship with Iran and Syria.

RT also asked Correa about the country’s pending $19 billion case against the oil giant Chevron. Ecuador and a coalition of trial lawyers have been battling Chevron for decades for alleged damages by Texaco, now a Chevron subsidiary, while they were drilling in the country during.

“Chevron has caused irreparable damage to the Ecuadorian jungle,” Correa said. “Texaco did nothing to clear the area. … At the time, there were cleaner technologies available, but they wanted to save a few bucks, and they destroyed the environment and did not even bother to pay for the damages.”

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However, the case has been plagued with allegations of corruption, and key witnesses and case experts have switched sides and admitted to manipulating data to favor a judgment against Chevron.

In April, Stratus Consulting and the company’s managing scientist Ann Maest admitted to providing false statements in the $19 billion lawsuit against Chevron. Maest and Stratus claimed that they had been misled by a plaintiffs’ lawyer and disavowed an environmental impact report as “tainted.”

“I now believe that the damages assessment in the Cabrera Report and Cabrera Response is tainted. Therefore, I disavow any and all findings and conclusions in all of my reports and testimony on the Ecuador Project,” said Ann Maest, managing scientist for Stratus, in a court declaration.

Stratus was hired by trial lawyer Steven Donziger, who is representing Ecuadorian villagers against Chevron. The environmental impact report was ordered to be written by an independent expert, but was instead written by Stratus.

The company said that Donziger ordered that portions of the report detailing the environmental damages be drafted in the first person to appear as if it were written by the court-appointed independent expert.

“Donziger stressed to me and Ann Maest the importance of Stratus ensuring that no one learn of Stratus’ involvement in any aspect of the Cabrera Report or Responses,” said the consulting firm’s executive vice president.

Chevron has filed a countersuit against Donziger and his fellow plaintiffs, accusing them of fraud and racketeering. That case will be heard in the coming weeks.

Last December, Ecuadorian author and engineer Fernando Reyes switched sides in the case against Chevron, handing over a sworn statement to Chevron that accused the lawyers suing the company of trying to manipulate and control the outcome of supposedly “independent” court reports on oil field contamination in Ecuador.

Reyes was asked by Donziger to review environmental tests by court-appointed experts, but was instructed not to tell the court that he was being paid by the plaintiffs. Reyes said in his sworn statement that three of the lawyers “acknowledged that the judicial inspection process had not yielded data to support their claims of contamination.”

“During our discussions, Mr. Dozinger (sic) told us that our report should establish that the findings of the settling experts’ report … were wrong, that they lacked objectivity and were biased toward Chevron, and therefore the report should be discounted,” said Reyes. “However, in my professional opinion the evidence did not support Mr. Donziger’s position and I could not twist my professional assessments to make them fit the plaintiffs’ interests.”

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Ecuador not really friendly to USA

Photo is President of Ecuador Rafael Correa 

The story below reflects the “attitude” of the government of Ecuador, which has turned to be similar to the Venezuela government.


“The political climate in Ecuador and the rest of the anti-American contingent should be continuously monitored,” Quintana said.

“In light of the deterioration of Venezuela’s economy, ALBA** member states will continue subversive actions against the U.S. in exchange for the friendly regimes of China and Iran.”

“Following in the footsteps of Cuba and Venezuela, [Correa] has been systematically repressing freedom of speech by criminalizing dissenting opinion,”


** ALBA is the Spanish acronym for the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America.


Here is the full story:


The U.S. Agency for International Development announced on Friday that it would withdraw from Ecuador after President Rafael Correa prohibited the introduction of additional aid programs aimed at strengthening civil society.

Acting USAID mission director Christopher Cushing said the move was “a result of the Government of Ecuador’s decision to prohibit approval of new USAID assistance programs.”

Observers said the move was indicative of the continued regression of political freedoms in Ecuador, which, as part of Latin America’s Bolivarian socialist bloc, is increasingly hostile towards the United States.

The Ecuadorian government has accused USAID of supporting “opponents of the Citizens’ Revolution,” who allegedly include journalists and non-governmental organizations that have criticized the Correa regime.

According to a letter from Cushing obtained by the Christian Science Monitor, the regime “informed USAID it could not execute any new assistance activities or extend existing activities pending negotiation of a new agreement governing bilateral assistance.”

The decision capped months of tensions between Quito and USAID. Correa has threatened to expel the agency for years, though he insists that all USAID-supported projects are the property of the Ecuadorian government.

Ana Quintana, an expert on Latin America at the Heritage Foundation, said USAID’s departure should be interpreted in light of larger regional trends. She called the move “another win for the socialist ALBA bloc.”

ALBA is the Spanish acronym for the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America.

“Led by Venezuela, the organization is collectively working to rid the region of the U.S.’s influence and solidify their 21st century socialist movement,” Quintana said. “Virtually all member states have kicked out U.S. ambassadors, shut down DEA operations despite the region’s prevailing drug trafficking problems, and are now targeting U.S. development programs.”

Correa has frequently accused USAID of advancing U.S. interests in Ecuador by funding groups that supposedly undermine his administration and his larger political agenda in Latin America.

One recent target of Correa’s ire was César Ricaurte, director of Fundamedios, an Ecuadorian NGO that advocates freedom of speech and press in the country.

El Cuidadano, the government’s official news organ, has attacked Fundamedios and Ricaurte as “opponents of the Citizens’ Revolution” and claimed that the group’s work “lacks technical rigor, verification, and checking of sources.”

El Cuidadano has rejected allegations from Fundamedios that the government marginalizes journalists who criticize Correa on the grounds that the group receives funding from USAID.

The group most recently documented a police raid on the home of an Ecuadorian journalist who exposed corruption in the country’s oil sector.

Other international observers such as the Committee to Protect Journalists have leveled similar accusations regarding Ecuador’s disregard for press freedoms.

Quintana worries that USAID’s departure from Ecuador will hamper the type of oversight that groups like Fundamedios provide.

“Following in the footsteps of Cuba and Venezuela, [Correa] has been systematically repressing freedom of speech by criminalizing dissenting opinion,” Quintana said.

USAID also drew fire from the Correa administration by working with indigenous groups that protested the sale of oil rights in the Amazon.

Efforts by the Correa administration to shut down USAID-supported environmentalist NGOs representing indigenous groups have been rebuked even by strong supporters of Correa’s brand of Bolivarian socialism.

“These activists are … seeing something all too familiar: a state seemingly using its power to weaken dissent,” wrote Canadian socialist Naomi Klein in an open letter to Correa in 2009.

Correa has used USAID’s support for the groups to tar them as organs of the U.S. government working to undermine “internal state security” and “public peace.”

Bolivian president Evo Morales leveled similar accusations before expelling USAID from the country.

“The political climate in Ecuador and the rest of the anti-American contingent should be continuously monitored,” Quintana said.

“In light of the deterioration of Venezuela’s economy, ALBA member states will continue subversive actions against the U.S. in exchange for the friendly regimes of China and Iran.”

Correa recently attacked the “corrupt” Washington Free Beacon for a report that detailed the government’s ties to a company attempting to silence critics of the regime.

A subsequent attack by El Cuidadano did not dispute any of the Free Beacon’s actual reporting.

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