Gary Leech is a journalist who decided to travel into a territory controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC). He wished to inspect the Coca fields that had been fumigated by the Colombian army on the behest of the United States government, which provided at the time billions of dollars of military aid. He tells of the treatment he received in the hands of the FARC, the fears he had and what he discovered as the result of his investigation. He speaks of the hardships, both economical and physical, faced by the peasants who live in the most rural parts of Columbia. The human rights abuses that they face as a result on the war on narcotics.
Leech is able to do this only because of his first hand experience. He traveled to this lands and was held there as a captive of the FARC for eleven hours until they decided to give him permission to inspect the fumigated Coca fields he wanted to see. The book does a great job of bringing to life a region of the world where not many journalist visit and not many stories are heard from. Leech also writes about his experience as a prisoner of the Salvadorian army for eight days earlier in his life and the cruel treatment he and the other prisoners received. This serves as a great comparison to his time as a prisoner of the FARC.
Beyond Bogota: diary of a drug war journalist in Colombia is a great record of personal experience in an extremely dangerous area of the world. It provides examples and stories of the hardships that regular farmers are forced to face as well as providing a glimpse into the life of this region and its people, a region not many outsiders ever visit. The book also shows how the United States war on narcotics in Colombia has effected these regions and its people.
Photo by Scott Dalton Colombian child sitting in the middle of his family`s fumigated coca field. (Cannabisculture.com)
I chose this photo because it shows the destroyed crops as a result of the fumigation techniques that are used in Colombia. However, while the war on drugs is often used as the reason for such action, many consequences are not thought of. One such consequence are the children who go hungry because the family can longer provide for them since both their Coca and food crops are destroyed. Furthermore, many children suffer as a result of the fumigation since the airplanes release toxic chemicals indiscriminately, spraying homes and anything else that might be near the Coca fields. This can cause poisoning and serious illness in the residents because of the contact with the chemicals.