Friday, April 27, 2012

Colombia: US Tourist, 49, Shot, Killed in Hostel in Medellín

According to the daily, El Colombiano, US tourist Denis Ian Levy, 49, was shot and killed at a Medellín hostel, El Tamarindo, shortly after midnight yesterday (April 26) in the city's El Poblado section.

COMMENT: It needs to be emphasized that there are conflicting accounts of exactly how Levy came to be shot and killed, but reportedly the American was using an Internet terminal in the hostel's reception area when two women and a man entered the hotel and demanded Levy's watch.

Unfortunately, Colombia is not a country where crime victims regularly resist assailants, yet Levy nevertheless resisted the assailants, who turned out to be armed. When he began to scream, one of the trio shot Levy twice with a handgun, killing him instantly.

It should be clarified that the assailants also apparently had entered the hostel with the express purpose of robbing the establishment, but were diverted when they saw Levy's expensive watch. 

It is always tragic to see a traveler unnecessarily injured or killed in a situation that is avoidable. Most of our regular readers are well aware of my countless urgings to travelers NOT to resist a violent crime, largely because NO property is worth losing one's life over.

Additionally, Colombia can be a very violent country, particularly for those that make bad choices. The reality is that most criminal carry guns and are prepared to summarily use them without hesitation.

There are many places around the world where hostels are appropriate for foreign travelers, yet Medellín, unfortunately, is not one of them.

I often tell participants in my "Safe Foreign Travel" workshops that hostels are a good, inexpensive choice in many parts of the world, but I would generally discourage the use of hostels in Latin America, where violent crime with the use of guns is a frequent occurrence.

I would urge foreign travelers in Colombia to stay in the most secure hotels they can find that are within their financial means. That being said, I don't mean cutting corners on accommodations so you can live well otherwise, as your safe well-being is directly related to the security level of where you stay. To be clear, a US$12-a-night hostel does not translate into "secure" accommodations.

I also strongly recommend that all foreign travelers register with their appropriate foreign ministry, so that the local embassy or consulate knows where you are staying.