Colombia Calling - The English Voice in Colombia

Imagine starting your first business venture from a huge wooden treehouse, nestled on a wild island off the coast of the Colombian Pacific.

Linsey Rankin left Australia to travel, arrived in Colombia in 2013. After working in tourism, education, and health, she set about creating a business model that would allow her to be creatively independent, establish a tribe and give back positively…Prana Pacifico was born.

In April 2017 Prana Pacifico offered its first yoga retreat, and since then, the operation has continued to grow and evolve. In this interview, Linsey shares with us her journey to becoming a yogipreneur and building a supportive community of like-minded people.

But, Rankin’s adventures are far from over.

Based on her time on Colombia’s pacific coast, she has published a recipe book entitled simply: “A Taste of Paradise.” And if this wasn’t enough, she’s moving to Chile, to the town of Pichilimeu, to open a restaurant.

Follow her blog:

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This week, Emily Hart is setting out into the Wild West of cryptocurrencies here in Colombia and beyond.

Is cryptocurrency the future of finance in Latin America? Is it safe? Is it just another way for rich people to hide their wealth from the tax man? Or for criminals to launder income? Or could it be a way for people to take banking into their own hands, a way for all of us to take control from a global system of banking we have so little say in?

To explain all of that, we have on the show today Mat Di Salvo, Colombia-based correspondent covering crypto since 2019 for Decrypt, and two experts from Global Financial Integrity, a Washington DC-based think tank focused on illicit financial flows, corruption, and money laundering. Claudia Helms is the Director of the Latin America and Caribbean Program at GFI, having worked at the Organization of American States; And formerly at the UN, Claudia Marcela Hernández works as Policy Analyst for Central America in Global Financial Integrity.

By early 2020, the region had 15.8% of the total volume of bitcoins worldwide, and it has grown exponentially since then. Last year, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina were in the top 20 for global adoption – Colombia was 32nd in the world. Venezuela was 40th.

Looking at crypto in any country requires a close look at the context, unique in every case: this region is turning to digital and virtual currencies for many different reasons, using it to send remittances, invest, and save – especially important in countries that have unstable governments, high inflation, or low levels of trust in institutions.

Here in Latin America, levels of poverty and informal employment might create barriers to usage, while technological and educational gaps create unique challenges for users, especially when a new digital revolution of cryptocurrencies and virtual assets arrives without adequate regulation, government oversight, or consumer awareness – particularly around scams and security. This is why GFI started - a set of resources around crypto in Latin America designed for users and policy-makers alike.

Basically, regulation of cryptocurrencies in the region does not adequately match its current usage and adoption. Colombia has yet to adopt legal framework, despite a growing number of users, but there is movement around this issue and various institutions have released commentary on it, and President Gustavo Petro has expressed interest in encouraging crypto usage - and mining - in the country.

Thanks to the anonymous nature of this universe, it’s difficult to get accurate data on exactly who is using crypto and what for, and though it’s certainly not only criminals using these currencies and assets, they have high potential for money laundering and channelling illicit flows of money, from stolen funds and fraud to payments for illegal goods and funding of terrorist groups.

We’ll be talking about the opportunities and risks associated with cryptocurrencies, how their form and use are evolving, plus how (and why) cryptocurrencies can and should be regulated.

The Colombia Briefing is also reported by Emily Hart – to get it direct to your inbox or email, you can subscribe to the Colombia Briefing via her Substack or subscribe to the podcast’s Patreon.

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On this week's Colombia Calling podcast we speak to Sara Tufano, the author of "Colombia: unaherida que no cierra," (Planeta, 2023) and a former member of the Clandestine Colombian Communist Party. After surviving some periods in conflict in Colombia as a member of the FARC guerrillas, she now dedicates her life to academia.

Sara Tufano is a sociologist specializing in the Colombian conflict and the history of peace processes. She holds a B.A. in Human and Social Sciences from the University of Paris VII and a M.Sc. in Sociology from the University of São Paulo. She is currently an opinion columnist for the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.

The Colombia Briefing is reported by Emily Hart.

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This week, Emily Hart speaks to Andrea González Duarte about Mi Barrio, Mi Sueño - the women’s empowerment project she founded in La Honda, a neighbourhood in the hills of Medellín.

Andrea was born here in Colombia, then was adopted and grew up in the Netherlands, moving back here with a degree in social work many years later. The project began with barrio boxing – boxing classes for girls and women in the neighbourhood. With a background in sports education, Andrea knows well how sports - and particularly boxing - can serve as a means of teaching self-defence, of connecting with one’s own body after trauma.

Through social and emotional skills training, the group nurtures a safe space for girls and women to freely express their thoughts and emotions – with participants of all ages, from small children up to grandmothers. Over the last four years, the project has expanded to educational and economic empowerment, with their own community centre, regular extracurricular lessons and an artisanal social enterprise run by single mothers, along with workshops about adolescence, gender, rights, and other skills like entrepreneurship.

The safe space of the community centre is just a physical manifestation of that idea – the afternoon classes provide somewhere for young people to spend the afternoon after school, and the social links and the skills they gain and share build resilience and self-esteem.

Emily and Andrea discuss the project, its evolution, and its philosophy, following Emily's visit to La Honda this week - she was really struck by the brilliant simplicity of what has been created, as well as the intricate social fabrics which these projects work to weave and strengthen within the community – we're really excited to share Andrea's ideas and experiences - especially with International Women's Day being this week.

To find out more about Mi Barrio, Mi Sueño, check out and on instagram

Your headlines reported this week by Grace Brennan.

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