April 13, 2023

South America Briefing April 2023

For the international traveller planning to visit South America, they need to be aware of some relatively significant issues facing any visitor. On a positive note, with the exception of Chile, the continent is generally free of any significant covid entry restriction. However, other challenges remain. 

The first quarter of the year has been turbulent with political unrest a constant feature in Peru and Brazil and in most countries, there has been a significant increase in crime rates and gang related violence. Below is a quick round up, by country, of some of the issues any visitor needs to be aware of. 

Argentina.  Inflation, yes that age old curse of Argentina, is back with vengeance! In early March 2023, the rate of inflation rose to over 100% in some areas. Whilst this means for the foreign visitor that his or her own $, € or perhaps £ will go further, they need to be aware that crime rates have risen and makes doing business more volatile. After a long hot summer, Autumn has arrived but also be aware that the cases of Dengue Fever are on the rise especially in Santa Fe Province.  

Bolivia.  Since early March 2023, there has been a significant increase of cases of Dengue Fever. The latter is caused by the day biting Aedes mosquitos. The most successful preventative measure is not to be bitten and therefore insect repellent with 50% DEET is highly recommended. 

Travel to Peru via the Puno area has been disrupted by unrest on the other side of the border. Although quieter than Peru, local protests are relatively common including spontaneous road-blocks and demonstrations around key infrastructure sites.  

Brazil.  Well, it’s certainly calmer than at the end of last year.  The ousting of President Bolsonaro in the October elections heralded the return of Lulu del Silva as President in January 2023. There was a period of deep unrest as disgruntled Bolsonaro supporters stormed the Congress building in Brasilia and then Bolsonaro fled to Florida. Whilst he has since returned, the general political situation has certainly stabilised.  

January and February saw significant flooding in the Sao Paulo area. The rains have now moved to the far north.  The threat of crime remains significantly above European levels.    

Chile.  As always, the most significant risk is from earthquakes, so any visitor needs to be aware. As mentioned above, as of early April 2023, Chile has reintroduced the need for foreign arrivals to present a negative PCR test. There has been some political unrest but not on a serious level.   

Colombia.  The country has long emerged from the nightmare of last 30 years of paramilitary activity, although the ELN grouping still pose a threat the security forces and some elements of FARC have yet to decide if they sit in the political or para-military box. For the visitor, crime is still an issue, many gap year students continued to be mugged as they are seen as easy targets, so crime avoidance is the key in Bogota, Cali, Medellin and in the northern coast cities and towns. The annual rainy season has also arrived and will last for some months.      

Ecuador.  Like Peru, the safety and security situation has taken as turned for the worse. Since 2021, gang warfare has been on the rise, most notably in the Guayaquil area and to a lesser extent this trend has continued throughout the country.  Zone 8, in which Guayaquil sit, is current subject to a State of Emergency, but across the country inter-gang violence has risen as has general crime leading to a rapid increase in gun ownership by the wider population.       

Peru.  The impeachment of President Castillo in December 2023 led to mass protests from both sides of the political divide resulting in Peruvian government declaring a state of emergency. The situation has now calmed down, Macchu Picchu has reopened, and the emergency measures have been relaxed in a number of districts including Arequipa and Cusco. The area around Puno has witnessed the worst of the disturbances and remains very much under marshal law. The tourist trade is recovering, however, the country will remain in a state of political hiatus for some time. 

Uruguay.  Aside from a rise in the cases of Dengue Fever, the country continues to be as low risk destination. Visitors are required to prove they have covid insurance.  

Venezuela. The country remains a high-risk destination with a dysfunctional civil society, rampant inflation and an authoritarian quasi dictatorship. President Maduro clings to power with few international friends apart from other repressive regimes (China, Iran & Russia). The FCDO continues to advise against all but essential travel. 

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