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Beyond Bogota: Diary of a Drug War Journalist in Colombiaby Garry Leech
Synopses & Reviews
A firsthand account of Colombia’s turmoil by a journalist who was held captive by rebel guerrillas
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. Unlike other Western journalists, most of whom rarely leave Bogotá, Leech learns the truth about conflicts and the U.S. war on drugs directly from the source: farmers, male and female guerrillas, union organizers, indigenous communities, and many others.
Beyond Bogotá is built around the eleven hours that Leech was held captive by the FARC, Colombia’s largest leftist guerrilla group, in August of 2006. 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. This compelling account provides fresh insights into U.S. foreign policy, the role of the media, and the plight of everyday Colombians caught in the middle of a brutal war.
“In this remarkable saga, Garry Leech conveys brilliantly and with vivid insight the magical qualities of this rich and tortured land, and the struggles and torment of its people.” —Noam Chomsky
“An extraordinary portrait of grace under pressure—not only of the author himself, but of ordinary Colombians fighting for social justice.” —Forrest Hylton, author of Evil Hour in Colombia
“Garry Leech has seen more of Colombia than almost anyone, often at great personal risk. In Beyond Bogotá, a gripping and inspired book, he tells us what he saw and heard . . . Leech has created an essential volume for anyone who wants to understand Colombia's conflict, or indeed the U.S. role in Latin America." —Adam Isacson, Director of Programs, Center for International Policy (Washington DC)
“If you really want to know what life is like for rural Colombians who are living through the horrors of the country's brutal—and under-reported—internal conflict, read this book. Having reported from Colombia myself, I can vouch for Garry Leech's honesty—and bravery. This no-frills book grips you from first page to the last.” —Sue Branford, journalist, former Latin American analyst for BCC World Service and co-author of Chemical Warfare in Colombia: The Costs of Coca Fumigation
“Leech's Beyond Bogotá is critical to understanding the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ waged by the U.S. Government in Colombia . . . To hear the government line about U.S. involvement in Colombia, stay tuned to the establishment media. If you want the truth about the reality on the ground there, read this book.” —Dahr Jamail, author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq
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.
About the Author
Garry Leech is an independent journalist and editor of Colombia Journal. For the past eight years his work has primarily focused on the US war on drugs and Colombia's civil conflict. He is the author of several books including Crude Interventions: The United States, Oil and the New World (Dis)Order(Zed Books, 2006) and Killing Peace: Colombia's Conflict and the Failure of US Intervention (Inota, 2002). He also teaches international politics at Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia, Canada.
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