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The organizers of the competition, Citigroup, the Marketing Services Department of WSJ. Magazine and the Urban Land Institute, said Medellin was chosen for its modern transit system, environmental policies and its network of museum, schools, libraries and cultural centers that "enrich the community."
Colombian authorities welcomed the positive recognition for Medellin, which in the 1980s bore the dubious distinction of being the world's most violent large city, thanks to the carnage unleashed by notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar.
"Congratulations, Medellin, the most innovative city," President Juan Manuel Santos said on Twitter. "Innovation is more employment and investment."
Medellin's mayor, Anibal Gaviria, called the award "a reason for joy on the part of every one of the 2.5 million inhabitants of our city."
He went on to acknowledge the work begun in 2000 by then-Mayor Sergio Fajardo, credited as the initiator of Medellin's transformation.
"We managed to transform a brand that was associated with drug trafficking into a brand of innovation, which means that we know how to solve problems, we dare to change," Fajardo, now governor of the surrounding province of Antioquia, said Friday.