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Venezuela has decided to close its border with Colombia for 72 hours in the latest measure to combat smuggling gangs.

According to President Nicolas Maduro, the “mafia” operating in border areas is causing huge damage to the economy.

Many items subsidized by Venezuela’s socialist government, including diesel and petrol, are sold at a huge profit over the border in Colombia.

On December 11, Nicolas Maduro announced that Venezuela’s highest denomination bank note, 100-bolivar, would be taken out of circulation.

He said the move would stop gangs hoarding the currency.

“Let’s destroy the mafia before the mafias destroy our country and our economy,” Nicolas Maduro said on national TV.venezuela-pulls-100-bolivares-notes

“This measure was inevitable, it was necessary,” he added.

“The mafias will go bust.”

Venezuela last closed most border crossings with Colombia in August 2015 and it was partially reopened a year later.

In 2015, Colombia complained that it had not been consulted or informed.

However, both sides eventually reached an agreement to cooperate on tackling crime and smuggling along the 1,370 miles border.

The measure caused huge disruption for the people who live and work in border cities.

This time, Nicolas Maduro said the border would be reopened after 72 hours, once the 100-bolivar notes ceased to be valid.

Venezuela’s central bank data suggests there are more than six billion 100-bolivar notes in circulation, making up almost half of all currency.

Venezuelans will then have 10 days to exchange the notes for coins and new, higher-value bills, but only at the Central Bank.

President Nicolas Maduro said the gangs held more than 300 billion bolivares worth of currency, most of it in 100-bolivar notes.

He said there were “entire warehouses full of 100-bolivar notes in the [Colombian cities of] Cucuta, Cartagena, Maicao and Buaramanga”.

On December 11, he said: “I have given the orders to close all land, maritime and air possibilities so those bills taken out can’t be returned and they’re stuck with their fraud abroad.”

Nicolas Maduro’s critics have predicted chaos and doubt that the facilities will be in place for people to exchange all their 100-bolivar notes.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles tweeted: “When ineptitude governs! Who would possibly think of doing something like this in December amid all our problems?”

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Venezuela and Colombia have reopened their common border after nearly a year.

Thousands of Venezuelans began crossing into Colombia in the early hours of August 13 to buy much-needed supplies. Long queues had formed before dawn.

Venezuela is facing a severe economic crisis, with shortages of many goods. It had closed the border with Colombia nearly a year ago on security grounds.

Five border crossings will remain open for 12 hours every day.Nicolas Maduro imposes visas for Americans

An agreement to reopen the border was announced on August 11 by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro.

The two leaders said that during the first stage only pedestrians would be allowed to cross.

“We are going to open the border gradually,” said Juan Manuel Santos.

The five main crossings along the 1,370 miles-border will be open daily from 08:00 to 20:00 local time.

The authorities expect the queues to disappear as people realize that the situation has been normalized.

President Nicolas Maduro ordered the border to be closed in August 2015 after former Colombian paramilitaries attacked a Venezuelan military patrol and wounded three soldiers.

Many Colombians were expelled, and bilateral trade has since fallen.

When border crossings were allowed briefly in July, nearly 200,000 Venezuelans poured across to stock up on items including cooking oil, sugar and rice.

Venezuela has suffered severe shortages for months as a result of the falling price of oil which is the country’s prime source of income.

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ashes have been laid to rest in the Colombian city of Cartagena.

The ashes of the late Nobel Prize winning novelist were flown home from Mexico where he had lived for years and where he died in 2014 at the age of 87.

A ceremony was held in the cloisters of Cartagena University, near Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s family home in the city.

The author is best known for his magic realist novels One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera.

A bronze bust of Gabriel Garcia Marquez was unveiled by the writer’s son Rodrigo Garcia Barcha in the center of the cloisters of the university as the centerpiece of the memorial.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was considered the finest writer of the Spanish language since Cervantes

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was considered the finest writer of the Spanish language since Cervantes

“It’s a day of joy mixed with sorrow,” the writer’s sister Aida Rosa Garcia Marquez told the French news agency AFP.

“But there is more joy than sorrow because to see a brother get to where Gabito reached can only bring joy.”

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born in the town of Aracataca near Colombia’s northern Caribbean coast and started working as a journalist in the late 1940s in Cartagena.

The writer had lived since the 1980s in Mexico but his family decided he should be buried in Cartagena where many of his family members were also interred.

“Cartagena is the city where the Garcia Marquez family is based. It is where my grandparents are buried,” said Gonzalo Garcia Barcha, one of the writer’s two sons, from France where he now lives in an interview with AFP.

“It seemed natural to us that his ashes should be there too.”

Gabriel Garcia Marquez had a love-hate relationship with Cartagena; the city appears in several of his novels often depicted as a decadent place full of conflict with a class-ridden and racist society.

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Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has announced the discovery of San Jose galleon’s wreck off the Colombian coast.

The San Jose galleon was a Spanish ship laden with treasure that was sunk by the British more than 300 years ago.

“Great news! We have found the San Jose galleon,” President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted.

The wreck was discovered near the port city of Cartagena.

It has been described as the holy grail of shipwrecks, as the ship was carrying one of the largest amounts of valuables ever to have been lost at sea.

The Colombian galleon said the cargo was worth at least $1 billion.San Jose galleon wreck found in Colombia

The San Jose was carrying gold, silver, gems and jewellery collected in the South American colonies to be shipped to Spain’s king to help finance his war of succession against the British when it was sunk in June 1708.

The vessel was attacked by a British warship just outside Cartagena.

Colombian officials would not reveal the precise location of the wreck, but Juan Manuel Santos said the find “constitutes one of the greatest – if not the biggest, as some say – discoveries of submerged patrimony in the history of mankind”.

The president also said that a museum would be built in Cartagena to house the ship’s treasures.

Ownership of the wreck has been the subject of a long-running legal row.

The Colombian government did not mention its long-running quarrel with US-based salvage company Sea Search Armada (SSA) over claims to the treasure.

A group now owned by SSA said in 1981 that it had located the area in which the ship sank.

SSA has been claiming billions of dollars for breach of contract from the Colombian government, but in 2011 an American court ruled that the galleon was the property of the Colombian state.

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A Colombian mother and her one-year-old son have been found alive five days after their plane crashed in the jungle of western Colombia.

A Colombian Air Force chief described their survival as “a miracle”.

Maria Nelly Murillo, 18, and her baby were found by rescuers near to where their small Cessna plane crashed in Choco province.

She had some injuries and burns while her baby appeared to be in good health.

The twin-engine Cessna plane, which was carrying fish and coconuts, had been flying from the town of Nuqui on the Pacific coast to Quibdo, the capital of Choco.

It disappeared from the radar of the civil aviation authorities 20 minutes into the flight.

When the pilot did not respond to any calls, officials knew something was wrong and dispatched a plane to search the area.

It took the search team two days until they finally spotted a white dot in the dense jungle, which turned out to be the remains of the Cessna.

The plane had crashed, for reasons not yet known, in the Alto Baudo region.

When the search team reached the Cessna, they found its pilot, Carlos Mario Ceballos, dead in the cockpit.Mother and baby survives Colombia jungle plane crash

There was no trace of Maria Nelly Murillo or her baby, Yudier Moreno, which the passenger list said had been on board.

According to Col. Hector Carrascal of the Colombian Air Force, rescuers took hope when they noticed that the cabin door was ajar.

“It could have opened on impact, but it could have been opened from the inside,” he said.

“But that’s when we started to worry. We didn’t have a clue what had happened to them: they could be lost in the jungle trying to survive or they could have died already.”

Then the rescuers found clues which led them to believe Maria Nelly Murillo and her baby could still be alive.

Coconut shells near the plane and a discarded flip flop in the jungle lifted their hopes.

They also found the baby’s birth certificate near a tree, which convinced them that Maria Nelly Murillo was trying to leave a trace of her path through the jungle.

Part of the search party scoured the jungle on foot while others flew over the area in a helicopter using a loudspeaker to shout Maria Nelly Murillo’s name and urge her to return to the crash site.

For two days their search yielded no results.

Finally, on June 24, they located Maria Nelly Murillo about 1600ft from the site of the crash in a ravine on the banks of a river.

“It’s a miracle. It is a very wild area and it was a catastrophic accident,” Col. Hector Carrascal said.

Of the baby, he said: “His mother’s spirit must have given him strength to survive.”

The mother and her baby were airlifted to a hospital in Quibdo.

Maria Nelly Murillo told medical staff that she had managed to open the cabin door and run into the jungle as fire was spreading in the cabin.

She then reportedly went back for her baby, at which time she sustained burns to her face, an arm and a leg.

Afraid the plane might explode, she walked into the jungle along the bank of a small river.

Details of how the woman survived are still sketchy, but local media said she came across a couple of indigenous people who helped her.

Maria Nelly Murillo was also able to drink coconut water from the coconuts the plane had been carrying, local media said.

She reportedly heard the calls over loudspeaker from the rescue helicopter which prompted her to make her way back to the crash site.

Maria Nelly Murillo is being treated for her injuries in hospital. Her baby son is said to be unharmed.

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A signed first edition of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude has been stolen in Colombia.

The book was being exhibited in a locked cabinet at the International Book Fair in Bogota.

The fair, which closes on May 4, is dedicated to Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who died last year at the age of 87.

The book is estimated to be worth $60,000 but its owner says for him its value is immeasurable.

It disappeared on Saturday afternoon from a locked cabinet at the Corferias exhibition centre in Bogota where it was being exhibited as part of the book fair.Gabriel Garcia Marquez book fair Bogota

The fair, one of the most important in Latin America, had at its theme Macondo, the fictional Colombian town where One Hundred Years of Solitude is set.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, was Colombia’s most famous and critically acclaimed author.

Following his death in Mexico in April 2014, first editions of his novels have risen in value.

Alvaro Castillo, who trades in rare books, said he purchased the 1967 first edition of One Hundred Years of Solitude in a bookshop in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, in 2006.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez later signed the copy and dedicated it to Alvaro Castillo with the words: “To Alvaro Castillo, the old-book seller, as yesterday and forever, your friend, Gabo.”

Alvaro Castillo would not say how much he paid for the copy or how much more it would be worth with the dedication, but stressed that to him it was priceless.

Police are reviewing video footage from the exhibition centre in the hope of discovering who may be behind the theft.

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Eleven people from Colombian tribe Wiwa have been killed by lightning during a religious ceremony in Sierra Nevada mountains.

Leaders from the Wiwa ethnic group were carrying out what was described as a spiritual harmonization ritual when they were struck.

Another 15 people were injured.

Survivors were rescued by the army and airlifted to hospitals in the Caribbean city of Santa Marta.

Eleven people from Colombian tribe Wiwa have been killed by lightning during a religious ceremony in Sierra Nevada mountains

Eleven people from Colombian tribe Wiwa have been killed by lightning during a religious ceremony in Sierra Nevada mountains

Most of the victims are being treated for second and third degree burns.

The accident happened on Sunday night near the town of Guachaca mountains.

Some 60 tribe members were gathering inside a thatched building used as a temple when it was hit by a lightning bolt, local media reported.

The building was burned to the ground.

President Juan Manuel Santos wrote on his Twitter account: “Our solidarity is with the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta indigenous community.”

The Colombian indigenous agency (ONIC) said it has been speaking to families to find ways of helping the community at this difficult time.

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A Colombian bus has caught fire near the city of Fundacion, killing at least 30 people, most of them believed to be children under 14.

The children were returning from an event at an evangelical Christian church near Fundacion, about 465 miles north of Bogota, close to the Caribbean coast.

It is not known why the fire started, but Colombian media said the bus may have been used for smuggling petrol

It is not known why the fire started, but Colombian media said the bus may have been used for smuggling petrol

It is not known why the blaze started, but local media said the bus may have been used for smuggling petrol.

A local police spokesman, Colonel Adan Leon, said 18 people had been found alive at the scene of the accident.

But he warned that the number of deaths could rise.

Colombian media reported that some local residents complained that the firefighters had not responded quickly enough to the tragedy.

Pictures on local media websites showed the charred, smoking frame of the burned bus.

President Juan Manuel Santos said he would visit the city soon.

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Public memorials to Nobel prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who died on Thursday in Mexico City aged 87, are being hold in Mexico and Colombia.

The presidents of Colombia and Mexico are due to attend a formal ceremony with funeral cortege in Mexico City, where Garcia Marquez lived for decades.

At the same time residents in his home town of Aracataca in northern Colombia will hold a symbolic funeral.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was considered the finest writer of the Spanish language since Cervantes.

The author was cremated at a private family ceremony in Mexico City last week.

A funeral cortege is taking Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ashes from his house to the historic centre of Mexican City for the memorial ceremony.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was considered the finest writer of the Spanish language since Cervantes

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was considered the finest writer of the Spanish language since Cervantes (photo EPA)

The event in the majestic Palace of Fine Arts will be attended by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, his Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto and the author’s wife, Mercedes Barcha, and sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo.

Thousands of members of the public who are mourning his loss will also say goodbye to Gabriel Garcia Marquez at the cultural venue, which is where Mexico pays tribute to its late artistic icons.

It has been adorned with yellow flowers, the author’s favorite, and a string quartet will perform music by the Hungarian Bela Bartok, among other composers.

In Colombia, residents are holding a ceremony of their own in his birth place of Aracataca, the inspiration for Macondo, the setting for his 1967 seminal masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude, which sold millions of copies around the world.

On Tuesday, the Colombian government will hold a formal ceremony at the main cathedral in the capital Bogota, which will be televised.

Then on Wednesday, Colombians will have readings of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel No One Writes to the Colonel in hundreds of libraries, parks and universities across the country.

There may be an element of disappointment in Colombia that the first main event to commemorate Gabriel Garcia Marquez is taking place in Mexico rather than his country of origin.

But rather than a diplomatic spat, it simply reflects the degree to which both countries – indeed all Latin Americans – considered Gabriel Garcia Marquez to be their own.

One solution being posited is that Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ashes be divided between Mexico and Colombia, but his family has not yet revealed its wishes.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez fled Colombia in 1981 after learning that the country’s military wanted to question him over links to left-wing guerrillas.

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At least ten inmates died and 42 others were injured in a fire at Modelo prison in the Colombian city of Barranquilla, police say.

Some inmates with slight injuries have now been released from hospitals in the city, but at least 15 are still being treated for the severe burns they suffered or for the smoke they inhaled.

The fire broke out Monday night, apparently when several inmates in Cellblock B of Modelo jail set mattresses on fire during a clash between rival gangs, following an inspection carried out by Inpec guards.

At least ten inmates died and 42 others were injured in a fire at Modelo prison in the Colombian city of Barranquilla

At least ten inmates died and 42 others were injured in a fire at Modelo prison in the Colombian city of Barranquilla

It took seven fire engines to extinguish the 39ft flames.

The director of the Colombian prison system, General Saul Torres, told local radio that a fight broke out after guards carried out a search of the cell block during which drugs, mobile phones and weapons were confiscated.

Saul Torres said that the guards fired tear gas to break up the fight, at which point the fire started.

Barranquilla authorities slammed the overcrowding at the Modelo jail, where close to 1,200 prisoners are held, triple the facility’s capacity for 400 inmates.

About 200 police and a hundred guards have surrounded the jail to prevent any inmates from escaping.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has rejected proposed mediation by Rev Jesse Jackson over FARC rebel-held hostage.

Juan Manuel Santos said only the Red Cross would be allowed to be involved, because he did not want “a media spectacle”.

Jesse Jackson had agreed to go to Colombia next week to seek the release of former US marine Kevin Scott Sutay, held by leftist FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) rebels since June.

The FARC say they want to free Kevin Scott Sutay to boost peace talks.

During a visit to Cuba on Saturday, Rev Jesse Jackson had agreed to mediate, following a FARC statement saying his “experience and probity” would speed up the process of freeing Kevin Scott Sutay, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.

However, President Juan Manuel Santos reacted quickly, writing on Twitter: “Only the Red Cross will be allowed to facilitate the release of the North American kidnapped by the FARC. We won’t allow a media spectacle.”

Rev Jesse Jackson had agreed to go to Colombia next week to seek the release of former US marine Kevin Scott Sutay, held by leftist FARC rebels since June

Rev Jesse Jackson had agreed to go to Colombia next week to seek the release of former US marine Kevin Scott Sutay, held by leftist FARC rebels since June

Earlier this month, during a visit to Colombia, Jesse Jackson had called on Colombia’s largest rebel group to release Kevin Scott Sutay.

The left-wing rebels responded by releasing a statement on Saturday inviting the civil rights leader to participate in the negotiations over the ex-soldiers’ release.

Hours later, Jesse Jackson accepted the invitation in Cuba, where he had met rebel leaders who are in Havana for peace talks with the Colombian government, as a service “to Kevin Scott, his family and our nation.”

“We have made contact with the State Department urging them to contact as quickly as possible the nearest of kin of Kevin Scott because his release is imminent,” he said.

In their statement, the FARC say they have not yet released Kevin Scott because the government has not “fulfilled the minimum conditions required” for freeing him.

Earlier this week, the left-wing rebels had requested the involvement of former Senator Piedad Cordoba in the release process, but President Juan Manuel Santos also dismissed this to avoid a “media spectacle”.

As a result, on Friday Piedad Cordoba sent a letter to the FARC declining to participate.

The freeing of Kevin Scott would “contribute to a positive mood” in the continuing peace talks with the Colombian government in Cuba, the FARC says.

So far, officially there has been agreement on only one of six points on the agenda – land reform.

Five decades of internal conflict in Colombia have led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.

Colombia has decided to deploy troops in the capital, Bogota, following violent protests in support of a strike by small-scale farmers.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said the troops were needed “to assure normality”.

Clashes with police broke out after thousands of people took to the streets in support of the farmers. At least two people have died.

Farmers say government policies are driving them into bankruptcy.

“Last night, I ordered the militarization of Bogota and I will do the same today in any municipality or area that needs the presence of our soldiers,” Juan Manuel Santos said in a televised address after an overnight cabinet meeting.

“It’s unacceptable that the actions of a few impact the lives of the majority.”

He did not say how many troops would be called in.

Colombia has deployed troops in Bogota following violent protests in support of small-scale farmers strike

Colombia has deployed troops in Bogota following violent protests in support of small-scale farmers strike

President Juan Manuel Santos had earlier described the protests as “valid”, but urged demonstrators to keep them peaceful.

Clashes broke out on Thursday afternoon after tens of thousands of people marched peacefully in support of a 10-day protest by small-scale farmers.

Correspondents said masked youths threw stones and bricks and fought riot police who responded with tear gas and water cannon.

The two deaths occurred overnight in the western districts of Suba and Engativa, although the circumstances are not yet clear, Bogota security chief Alfonso Jaramillo said.

Interior Minister Fernando Carrillo said that those who had resorted to violence were “vandals, not farmers”.

The protests have united potato growers and milk producers with teachers, health workers and students – and negotiations with the government remain deadlocked.

Protesters in other parts of the country have also been blocking roads and disrupting food supplies to major cities and towns.

On Wednesday the government announced measures – including better prices for agricultural products and more access to loans – to ease the pressure on farmers.

The government also promised more protection from products imported at lower prices from countries with free-trade agreements with Colombia.

But the small-scale farmers have so far rejected the government’s offer.

They say that free trade agreements with the EU and the US, which have recently come into force, are flooding the market with agricultural products at prices they are unable to match.

They also complain that rising fuel and production costs have turned small-scale farming into a loss-making business.

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The annual report by the Norwegian Refugee Council suggests almost 29 million people lived in internal displacement in 2012, with 6.5 million newly displaced just in the past year.

For the fourth year running, Colombia has the highest number of internally displaced people on the list.

Globally, the total number of displaced people has risen, with the conflict in Syria blamed for much of the spike.

A third of all internally displaced are in sub-Saharan Africa, the report says.

The annual report by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) suggests internal displacement – in which people flee from violence without crossing their country’s borders – will continue to accelerate unless permanent solutions to conflicts are found.

IDMC Director Kate Halff says that governments are “responsible for finding long-term solutions for their displaced citizens”.

For the fourth year running, Colombia has the highest number of internally displaced people, according to the IDMC annual report for 2012

For the fourth year running, Colombia has the highest number of internally displaced people, according to the IDMC annual report for 2012

The report says that Colombia, with its estimated 4.9 to 5.5 million internally displaced people tops the global list.

It estimates that Colombia’s internal armed conflict forced around 230,000 people to flee their homes in 2012.

However, the report says that the figure is provisional, as the government did not publish official figures for the past year.

It also notes that the figure fails to include those people displaced as a result of violence carried out by criminal and drug-trafficking gangs.

That violence, however, has been on the up, with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos recognizing the rise of the criminal gangs as one of the main threats facing the country.

On Sunday, police figures suggested that Colombia’s largest criminal gang, Los Urabenos, now has more members than the left-wing rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN).

Both the Colombian Red Cross and the IDMC have warned that the victims of criminal gangs in Colombia do not receive the same official recognition as those victimized by the Farc or ELN rebel groups.

Police say the Urabenos have more than 2,000 members and operate in major cities such as Medellin, as well as rural areas, where they engage in drug and arms trafficking and extortion.

Colombia has suffered from almost five decades of civil conflict with both left-wing guerrilla groups and right-wing paramilitaries fighting each other, and the security forces.

Negotiators representing the government and the Farc rebel group are currently holding peace negotiations in Cuba in an attempt to end the conflict.

The government has also launched a restitution programme aimed at returning land stolen as part of the conflict to its rightful owners.

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Carlos Rodriguez, the Honduran ambassador to Colombia, has been sacked after a wild Christmas party at the embassy in Bogota.

Ambassador Carlos Rodriguez has been told to resign “to safeguard relations with Colombia”, the Honduran Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

An investigation has begun into reports that two prostitutes had been invited to the party on December 20.

The two women have been accused of stealing laptop computers and mobile phones from the embassy.

An inquiry committee has been set up in Honduras, while in Colombia the authorities are trying to identify the two sex workers.

Carlos Rodriguez, the Honduran ambassador to Colombia, has been sacked after a wild Christmas party at the embassy in Bogota

Carlos Rodriguez, the Honduran ambassador to Colombia, has been sacked after a wild Christmas party at the embassy in Bogota

An employee close to Carlos Rodriguez has been accused of organizing the party and hiring the prostitutes.

An embassy vehicle was reportedly used to bring them into the building.

It is not clear whether the ambassador was present.

US secret service agents were involved in a similar scandal last year, ahead of an official visit by President Barack Obama to Colombia.

They were sent home and disciplined in April 2012 after being accused of taking prostitutes to their hotel rooms on the eve of the Summit of the Americas in the city of Cartagena.

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