Medellin, Colombia, the one-time murder capital of the world, is rapidly becoming a haven for U.S. retirees seeking refuge in a city where the weather is always warm, people are friendly and healthcare options far surpass those offered in the United States.
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“People still think that Medellin is the murder capital of the world, but it’s not,” former Coral Springs, Florida, high school teacher Cindy Crawford Thomas, who has moved with her husband to the one-time home base of notorious drug cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar, told The Miami Herald.
According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, the Thomases are far from alone. In 2017, 6,704 retirement checks were being sent to Colombia, marking an 85 percent increase from 2010. More checks head to Colombia than to any other Latin American country except for Mexico.
There are even more expatriates heading to Colombia who are still too young to receive Social Security, and still others continue to have checks deposited in U.S. bank accounts, so the number of people heading to Colombia is even higher than the Social Security’s figures are showing.
The new Medellin is a far different place than it was during Escobar’s days, when his cartel used it as their headquarters. At that time in the 1990s, the city had the highest murder rate in the world. It peaked in 1995 at 225 homicides per 100,000 people.
But now, the homicide rate has dropped to about 20 per 100,000 people, putting it below the U.S. cities of St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans and Detroit.
In addition, the hospitals in Colombia rank at 22nd among 190 countries, above the United States in 37th place and Canada in 33rd, according to a World Health Organization report from 2000, and permanent residents can be insured through a low-cost state-run healthcare system.
Colombia remains a violent place in certain areas, however, and continues to be the world’s top producer of cocaine.
Also, the cost of living remains high, and Medellin is not for everyone, warns Brad Hinkelman, the founder of Casacol, a property development company catering to retirees.
“We have people who come to our office who are not suited for living here,” he told The Herald. “They think they are going to live off of their Social Security and live in the Taj Mahal, and we have to kind of bring them down.”