Tourists to Bogota‘s La Candelaria district have been robbed by armed men inside their hostels on at least seven occasions in the past eight months, admit hotel owners. The violent nature of the robberies has escalated to the point that one American tourist was sexually assaulted with a gun.
The latest known and most gruesome incident took place last week when armed men seized a hostel and robbed eight guests of their valuables. One of the female guests to the hostel was sexually assaulted by the robbers.
I woke up to my friend who was standing at our door (we were the only two
in the room) and saying "please, take anything you want". The guys broke
the glass to our room and undid the lock, pushed ****** out of the way and
held a gun to his head. They rushed in and grabbed me and put a gun to my
head. They kept saying "shhhhh" and started going through all of our stuff.
When I looked over, they were tying my friend ****** up with shoelaces,
hands behind his back, feet together and then connected his feet to his
One of the guys took the gun and was shoving in my face and my neck while
the other one went through my purse. What I realized was they were stalling
to get the shoelaces to tie me up with one of my very own tennis shoes.
They flipped me face down on the bed and tied me up while touching my
breasts and kissing me. After they had my legs tied up one of them got
behind me and started sexually assaulting me with his hands and the gun. I
was certain they were about to rape me. But then it stopped and I heard my
friend start pleading for his life. I thought they were about to kill him.
It sounded like they put a pillow over his face because the noises coming
from him became muffled. After about 1 min he went silent and I thought for
sure he was dead. Then one of the guys got on the bed, straddled me and tied
something around my face, I thought he was about to suffocate me. (Turns out
they were just gagging me). I went into shock at this point so one of the
guys started smacking my face (split my inner lip) until I made a moaning
noise. I didn't know whether they were going to kidnap me, rape me, kill me
The story of the victim was confirmed by her travel partner, who was robbed of everything but his passport.
When the police finally arrived 15 to 20 minutes later the gunmen were long
gone. The police officers that did arrive were not too anxious to pursue the
suspects or to investigate the crime scene to look for clues. Also there were
no medical personnel to examine any of the guests of the hostel.
According to both these victims, police drove them to Bogota’s international airport without filing an official report on the robbery and the alleged sexual assault.
The victim of a second robbery that took place in the same district in December last year shared a copy of the police report filed on his robbery.
One hotel owner, a member of the association of hostels in La Candelaria who wished to remain anonymous, told Colombia Reports there have been seven armed robberies of hotels in the past eight months. Reports from other hotel owners vary from four to 12 violent robberies.
In most cases, the hostels were seized by a group of men armed with guns who robbed all guests of their valuables. In one case, a hotel owner was kidnapped while the robbers were going through the rooms and robbing the guests at gunpoint.
Four of the hotels and hostels in La Candelaria district consulted by Colombia Reports admitted to being a victim of armed robbery. Most hotels refused to be named, afraid of the financial consequences for their business or of being made scapegoats by authorities.
The anonymous association member stressed the fact that the crime wave is not localized in the the highly touristic La Candelaria, but that it is a city-wide problem.
The association member and other anonymous hostel owners said they have been stepping up security for the past several months since initial robberies began occurring in June 2010. Investments in private security forces and cameras are among some measures being taken by some of the hostels in the area.
According to the association member, the local government in La Candelaria has been unresponsive to requests from hostel owners to heighten security in the tourist zone, which according to the member, can attract 1,500 tourists daily during peak season.
Hostel owners said there has been more police presence in the last two to three months after they sought help from the authorities. Policemen are now required to make multiple rounds throughout a 24-hour cycle, as well as confirm their visit at each hostel by signing a ledger. The Metropolitan Police are training community police officials responsible for small territories in a newly adopted system given the name “cuadrante” by authorities.
Colombia Reports contacted the police precinct in La Candelaria, but they were unable to comment.
According to one hostel owner, some La Candelaria hostels have been robbed repeatedly because they are not taking the measures to secure their guests, making them easy targets for bandits.
Despite the most recent and most violent case, the hostel association member claims La Candelaria is improving. While attempting to save his neighborhood and livelihood from falling victim to armed bandits, the hostel owner said the tourist district has “already hit rock bottom; it’s going to go up.”