Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Nazaruddin in Cartagena, Colombia

Yesterday, Indonesian media outlets were buzzing about the arrest of Muhammad Nazaruddin in Colombia. The fugitive is the former treasurer of Indonesia's ruling Democratic Party, led by current president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. He was named a suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for his role in a graft case related to construction of venues for the coming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Palembang, South Sumatra.

The Fake Passport (photo: Jakarta Globe)
The wanted man then fled to Singapore in May, just one day before he was to be banned from travelling. Later he traveled to Vietnam, Cambodia, Spain and then to the Dominican Republic before going to Colombia on July 24, where he was caught by Interpol. He was holding on to a fake passport going by the name of Muhammad Syarifuddin, who allegedly is his cousin.

There are many stories surrounding the politics behind, but what caught my attention was the city where he was arrested. Yes, Cartagena, Colombia, some 19000 kilometers across the Pacific from. The bizarre thing is that very few countries outside of ASEAN will allow visa-free entry for Indonesians like me. Often, the thumbprint of the person will be scanned again to ensure a match with the data they have from the passport, making unlawful entry using fake travel documents more difficult.

I did some googling out of curiousity, and it turns out that Indonesians can enter Colombia visa-free for 90 days! This is what I read from the Colombian embassy's website. A few neighbouring countries in Latin America (Peru, Chile) apparently also give this privilege to Indonesians. So, entry to Colombia will not be that problematic, even for a fugitive like Nazaruddin.

To be honest, I did not really expect those countries to accord such a privilege to my country. En route to Europe, I can't even exit the Dubai airport because I need a visa, while my buddies from Singapore could have the liberty to explore. Maybe I should dig up more and find out countries where I can just hop on a plane and visit.

Granted, Colombia is more famous for its drug lords and conflicts rather than tourism, but it will still be an interesting place to visit one day. Peru have more well-known attraction in their pre-Columbian cultural sites, as well as places like Macchu Picchu and the Nazca Lines. Latin America is definitely a place I would love to visit one day. For now, the travelling stays in my head, but hopefully I will make the journey someday!!

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