Beyond Bogotaá: Diary of a Drug War Journalist in Colombia

Beyond Bogotaá: Diary of a Drug War Journalist in Colombia

Beyond Bogotaá: Diary of a Drug War Journalist in Colombia

Beyond Bogotaá: Diary of a Drug War Journalist in Colombia


Independent journalist Garry Leech has spent the last eight years working in the most remote and dangerous regions of Colombia, uncovering the unofficial stories of people living in conflict zones. Beyond Bogotá is framed around the eleven hours that Leech was held captive by the FARC, Colombia's largest leftist guerrilla group, in August of 2006. He recalls nearly thirty years of travel and work in Latin America while weaving in a historical context of the region and on-the-ground reporting with each passing hour of his detention.

More than $5 billion in U. S. aid over the past seven years has failed to end Colombia's civil conflict or reduce cocaine production. Leech finds that ordinary Colombians, not drug lords, have suffered the most and that peasants and indigenous peoples have been caught in the crossfire between the armed groups. Meanwhile, more than thirty Colombian journalists have been murdered over the last three decades, making Colombia one of the most dangerous countries in which to practice journalism. Consequently, the majority of the Western media rarely leave Bogotá to find the real story. Leech, however, learns the truth about the conflict and the U. S. war on drugs directly from the source: poor coca farmers whose fields and food crops have been sprayed with toxic aerial fumigations, female FARC guerrillas who see armed struggle as their only option, union organizers whose lives are threatened because they defend workers' rights, indigenous peoples whose communities have been forcibly displaced by the violence, and many others.

Leech also investigates the presence of multinational oil and mining companies in Colombia by gaining access to army bases where U. S. soldiers train Colombian troops to fight the guerrillas in resource-rich regions and by visiting local villages to learn what the foreign presence has meant for the vast majority of the population.

Drawing on unprecedented access to soldiers, guerrillas, paramilitaries, and peasants in conflict zones and cocaine-producing areas, Leech's documentary memoir is an epic tale of a journalist's search for meaning in the midst of violence and poverty, as well as a humanizing firsthand account that supplies fresh insights into U. S. foreign policy, the role of the media, and the plight of everyday Colombians caught in the midst of a brutal war.

From the Hardcover edition.


They order me to sit in a white plastic chair. One of the guerrillas remains behind to guard me while the other two rebels depart in a maroon Toyota SUV. My guard sits across from me in a similar white plastic chair and shows no interest in engaging me in conversation. He appears to be in his late fifties, with shoddy gray hair and a weather-beaten face that suggests he has endured many years of hard living. He is wearing a frayed red dress shirt and beige pants. A revolver in a leather holster is slung low on his right hip, giving him the appearance of a gunslinger in an old cowboy movie. Propped against the wall next to him, within easy reach, is a fully locked and loaded AK-47 assault rifle.

I'm sitting in a wooden shack on a remote farm. It has three rooms, each extending from the front to the rear of the small house. From my chair in the central room, which is open to the outside on both ends, I can see a middle-aged woman cooking in the outdoor kitchen behind the house and a teenage girl minding a small baby.

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