A deeply informed account of Colombia’s decadeslong civil war and the many figures who profited from it.
The title of this journalistic account by Peruvian-American activist/writer Sánchez-Moreno, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, is richly ironic. The civil war has led to countless deaths, as it pitted rival figures within the government and military against rightist paramilitaries, leftist guerrillas, and the drug cartels—but also produced strange alliances among them. As the author writes, “the war between the government and [revolutionary group] FARC certainly had ideological roots, but after forty years it had become much murkier.” Not that things were ever quite clear under the cartel’s terror campaign under Pablo Escobar, but one thing was certain: Colombia was a dangerous place to be, and if things are now much improved, there are plenty of ghosts around. At the heart of this story, among other atrocities, is a 1997 massacre of suspected guerrillas by paramilitaries, the investigation of which revealed how interlocked the players were and explained why the Colombian government had been so slow to intervene, even as Colombians were being raped, mutilated, and murdered by the thousands. The president of the nation was also implicated. Among Sánchez-Moreno’s crusading heroes, those who brought all this to light, are a government prosecutor and a reporter drawn into the story by a leak from a police intelligence agent, even as other agents “had put together lists of trade unionists and activists and passed those along to paramilitaries.” The story winds and unwinds, and although it sometimes staggers under its own weight, the author manages to keep all the threads together. In the end, readers are perhaps more numbed than surprised by how much corruption was revealed in the course of the investigations—though relieved as well that at least some remedies have been effected.
An admirable work of journalism in the interest of human rights.