BOGOTÁ, April 3 — The mayor of the Colombian city of Medellin has issued two decrees in a bid to crack down on sex tourism, after an American traveller was found with two underage girls in his hotel room.

Mayor Federico Gutierrez on Monday announced the measures to tackle “sexual exploitation” in Medellin, a former hotspot for drug violence that has become a coveted destination for tourists and expats.

The decrees ordered “the temporary suspension” of prostitution in and around four parks in the upmarket, touristy heart of the city, El Poblado. They also cut the opening hours at nightlife venues.

“Today this entire area is controlled by various criminal structures..., these are human trafficking networks. We must control and recover the area. These are exceptional measures,” said Gutierrez.

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The move comes after police found an American citizen, 36, with two girls, aged 12 and 13, in his luxury hotel room on the weekend.

He was later released and returned to the United States — but the case sparked outrage in Colombia.

“This American citizen should be behind bars and not back in his country. This depraved man’s identity is well known. He will not get away with it,” said the mayor.

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“We have hit rock bottom. We are going to protect our daughters, our teenagers. It’s sad to see how so many people think they can come to Medellin and do whatever they want.”

A tourism boom in the city — the birthplace of infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar — has brought with it a rise in prostitution, which is legal in Colombia and has led to a rise in sex tourism.

Medellin has also recently grappled with a spate of attacks on foreigners, who are often lured via dating apps before being drugged, robbed and sometimes killed.

The mayor’s office recorded the deaths of 32 foreigners in 2023, seven per cent more than the previous year. — AFP