Book Review # 1: Beyond Bogota: Diary of a Drug War Journalist in Colombia By: Garry Leech Beyond Bogota represents a firsthand experience and witness into the corrupt and relentless drug war that has been and currently is taking place in Colombia. Author Garry Leech has the talent to expose and illustrate the often untold and rarely vocalized point-of-view of the war on drugs and terror that Colombians deal with daily.
Garry, is an independent journalist who has spent around 30 years traveling and 8 years residing in rural Colombian areas while researching the inter-workings of Colombian conflict zones as well as the countries connection and dependence on drugs and drug trafficking. As the story unfolds and the truths are reveled, as a reader you are able to feel Garry’s passion, dedication and love for what he does and why he does it.
Garry states in his Note from the Author that one of his main, and more personal motivations behind the creation of this book is “ I couldn’t stop thinking that id anything happened to me, either during that detention or at any other time in Colombia, I wouldn’t be around to explain to Owen [his son], when he grew up, what sort of work his father did. ” (Leech, ix) Though his son was a strong influence, other aspects also drove Garry to his decision of putting his thoughts into a book rather than articles and publications. I have selected those people and places that I hope will provide the reader with a relatively comprehensive portrayal of life in Colombia’s rural conflict zones. ” (Leech, x) And, as he had hopped, I fully believe that he has delivered an alternate and accurate representation of life with the voices of those that have been silenced by oppression and fear over the many years that this conflict has remained relentlessly. Garry tells his story and shares his past experiences as he spends 9 hours in a detention controlled by Colombian FARC guerrillas, all of which are full armed with AK-47 assault rifles.
In 2006, FARC, an acronym for Fuerzas Revolucionarias de Colombia, was recognized as Colombia’s largest leftist guerrilla group, as well being placed by United State on their International Terrorist Organization list since 1997(Leech. ) Through his courage and desire of truth, Garry voyages into territories that many do not dare to venture. He provides vivid detailed encounters and experiences that represent the failures and conflicts that were brought about from the $6 billion in aid money that was provided by the U. S. in hopes to reduce the drug flow from Colombia into the United States.
After reading this book, my personal perspective on many foreign related issues has changed. Beyond Bogota allowed for me to engage in an entirely new and unfamiliar approach to the way the United States deals with installments that occur abroad and in territories in which they view and deem threatening. His stories with out a doubt opened my eyes to the more than $5 billion in U. S. aid that has been spent over the past seven years and that has failed to end Colombia’s civil conflict or reduce cocaine production. According to his experience, the money and efforts that the United States has dedicated to Colombia, has hurt more than helped.
Leech depicts that ordinary, everyday Colombians, not drug lords, have suffered the most and that peasants and indigenous peoples have been caught in the crossfire between the armed groups that dominate throughout the land. Despite the media coverage that is displayed on TV and published in mainstream articles, Leech shows that Western medias rarely leave their comfort zone and infrequently venture out of the safe areas to experience the real Bogota; which is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a field journalist.
Leech shines light on issues that are not general covered, like the truth about the conflict and the U. S. war on drugs. He takes his information directly from the source, the people that are being affected the most; the poor coca farmers who’s non drug fields and food crops have been sprayed with toxic aerial fumigations, female and young FARC guerillas who see joining armed forces as the only means of existence and as the best option for their future. Leech, Garry M. Beyond Bogota: Diary of a Drug War Journalist in Colombia. Boston: Beacon, 2009. Print.