Colombia Calling - The English Voice in Colombia

We are humbled to host Kenneth Kosik, professor of Neuroscience at UC Santa Barbara on this week's Colombia Calling podcast, the final for 2021.

Kenneth S. Kosik, M.D. is an American neurologist, author, researcher and professor in neuroscience at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Kosik provided much of the original data on the largest family in the world with a genetic form of Alzheimer's disease located in Antioquia, Colombia. And this is where our interest lies.

We discuss the "paisa mutation," which has appeared in Antioquia and certain genetic mutations which cause early onset Alzheimer's disease in the region and that have been traced all the way back to the Iberian peninsula and the year 1500!

This is a revealing and fascinating episode, one which we feel is fitting to end 2021.

Direct download: RCC_406.mp3
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On episode 405 of the Colombia Calling podcast, we explore the world of e-commerce in Colombia and talk to Sebastian Laurson of the start-up sex toy company, Secretos.

Dane Laurson is partner with five other immigrants to Colombia and between them, they are seeking to revolutionise the sex toy industry, removing the stigma from the business in peculiar nook and cranny stores in parts of Bogotá and making it accessible and confidential for the buyer.

We hear how they came to start this business, how the pandemic has been important for their growth, how they researched the business and where they go from here. In a frank and insightful conversation, we learn about e-commerce and start-ups in Colombia and indeed, the sex toy industry.

Check out their page:

Direct download: RCC_405.mp3
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Nadya Ortiz is Colombia's first woman chess grandmaster. Hailing from humble origins in Ibague, chess became a conduit for her success. By succeeding in the chess world, she won a scholarship to study at university in Texas, later another one to go to Purdue and then by virtue of her excellence in computer science now works for Apple in San Francisco.

We hear Nadya's story on episode 404 of the Colombia Calling podcast. As a woman from the provinces, playing an unpopular sport, she made it all happen for her. We discuss her life, politics in Colombia and much more in what is an inspirational story.

Direct download: RCC_404.mp3
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One of the goals of the Colombia Calling podcast is to reveal lesser or unknown stories from Colombia and this week on Episode 403, I feel we've really hit this one out of the park! We get to talk to Daniela Rocha and Daniel Velasquez, part of a team of filmmakers currently putting together a documentary entitled: Las Señoritas.

This is a special story as it highlights the work of a religious organization called USEMI (la Unión Seglar de Misioneras). This is a missionary group with a difference, it's revolutionary, it's staffed by single women and it was not designed to "drag the poor indigenous people from poverty and ignorance," but to understand local and original cultures, finding god within their beliefs.

We talk to Daniela and Daniel about the experiences of filming in the Sierra Nevada with the Arhuaco and Kogui people, hearing of the USEMI project which took place between the 1960s and 1980s before leaving the Sierra. It's unusual to hear about "revolutionary catholicism," and this makes for phenomenal listening.

The filmmakers are seeking contributions in this post-production phase, take a look here:

Direct download: RCC_403.mp3
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It's no secret that I've been looking for someone to discuss this on the podcast for some while, but finally, it's come together. Johanna Gomez is in the process of writing up her PhD thesis at the Goldsmiths University in London and her research has taken her deep into the Llanos of Colombia, where witchcraft is rife, to investigate this phenomenon, the rites and rituals and delve into a lesser known cultural practice found in this region and all over Colombia.

How much do you know about witchcraft, witchcraft in Colombia, witches and shamans and indeed, in the context of Colombia's armed conflict? A lot more, I hope, after this incredible conversation with Johanna Gomez.

Direct download: RCC_402.mp3
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President Duque's presence at the COP26 in Glasgow has generated the kind of headlines that he seeks but it's important to hear from the people on the ground and in the communities. One collection of communities very affected by illegal mining, deforestation, armed actors, displacements, coca cultivation and more are those along the Atrato River in the department of Choco on Colombia's pacific side.

We hear from three environmental professionals all en route to Glasgow. Maryuris Mosquera from the Atrato speaks via interpreter about the life and problems in her home territory and her role as a Guardian del Rio.

Viviana Gonzalez of the legal association Siembra discusses the legal implications of the Colombian Constitutional Court's decision in adopting an unprecedented ecocentric approach to human rights: the judges recognised Colombia’s Atrato River as a legal entity with environmental rights that need to be protected alongside the communities’ bio-cultural rights.


Alejandro Perez, a senior specialist in political and peace advocacy at SNPS/Caritas Colombiana, discusses the three key points that need to shared at COP26 regarding the issues in Colombia. 1. Protect Environmental and Social Leaders, 2. Show the relationship between the failure to act on the peace accord and deforestation. 3. Strengthen local communities.

Thank you to ABC Colombia, SNPS/Caritas, Guadianes del Rio, Siembra and the University of Glasgow for their help and participation of this important episode.

Direct download: RCC_401.mp3
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To all Colombianists out there, Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America needs no introduction. Offering some of the most insightful analysis on not only Colombia but other countries in the region, he is a go to person for journalists seeking out informed and level-headed opinions.

We hear from Isacson after this, his first visit to Colombia since quarantine restrictions have been lifted and in the company of Congressman Jim McGovern.

They travel to Sumapaz, Cali, Santander de Quilichao and Bogotá and Isacson provides us with a lowdown of his thoughts on how Colombia is evolving...or not.

Tune in to a fascainting Episode 400!

Direct download: RCC_400.mp3
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On episode 399 of the Colombia Calling podcast, we welcome back one of our consistently most popular guests, writer and academic Emma Louise Jay. You'll remember her from the "Downton Abbey with a machete," episode some years ago and also talking to us about her investigation into and writing on Colombian historic figure: José María Córdova and much more.

But, on this episode we have a more free-flowing conversation about Colombia, her move from Antioquia to Eastbourne UK, the current state of politics in Colombia, getting her dog from Colombia to the UK, the infamous UK Covid-19 redlist, environmental concerns and whether or not she's secretly a spy.

Colombia news from journalist Emily Hart.

Tune in!

Direct download: RCC_399.mp3
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On Episode 398 of the Colombia Calling podcast, we address a sadly overlooked topic and that of the human rights and environmental defenders in Colombia. It is a great honour to host Isabel Cristina Zuleta, praised by Amnesty International for her work with Ríos Vívos - Antioquia Movement, in defense of the territory, and of the affected communities in the area of ​​influence of the Hidroituango project, and Beto Coral, a Colombian activist in exile in the US for having named former president Alvaro Uribe as the head of the Aguilas Negras paramilitary group. Coral's father was part of the squad involved in hunting down Pablo Escobar and was later murdered by a corrupt policeman.

We hear their thoughts on the 2022 presidential elections in Colombia, how they became activists, what they campaign for and the threats on their lives.

News as always from journalist Emily Hart

Direct download: RCC_398.mp3
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Alexander Diamond joins the Colombia Calling podcast from Briceño, Antioquia to tell us about his research which has kept him in the rural Colombian town for 24 months so far.

Briceño is a so-called "peace laboratory," designated as a principal site for coca crop substitution after the signing of the peace accords between the government of President Santos and the FARC guerrillas in 2016.

Now, the location of a tug of war power struggle between dissident guerrillas and paramilitaries, for this area that has suffered so much, the future is in the balance.

Diamond shares the findings from his PhD research and some insights into the documentary he is making entitled: An Uncomfortable Peace.We discuss the violence, the neighbouring dam in the town of Ituango and more, check out his website

Direct download: RCC_397.mp3
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On Episode 396 of the Colombia Calling podcast, we get to discuss the disease of leishmaniasis in the context of the Colombian armed conflict and post conflict period with post doctoral fellow Lina Beatriz Pinto-Garcia.

Pinto Garcia's ethnographic monograph explores how the Colombian armed conflict and a vector-borne disease called cutaneous leishmaniasis are inextricably connected and mutually constitutive.

The stigmatization of the illness as “the guerrilla disease” or the "subversive disease," is reinforced by the state’s restriction on access to antileishmanial medicines, a measure that is commonly interpreted as a warfare strategy to affect insurgent groups.

Situated at the intersection between STS (Science and Technology Studies) and critical medical anthropology, her work draws on multi-sited field research conducted during the peace implementation period after the agreement reached by the Colombian government and FARC, the oldest and largest guerrilla organization in Latin America.

It engages not only with the stigmatization of leishmaniasis patients as guerrilla members and the exclusionary access to antileishmanial drugs but also with other closely related aspects that constitute the war-shaped experience of leishmaniasis in Colombia.

This work illuminates how leishmaniasis has been socially, discursively, and materially constructed as a disease of the war, and how the armed conflict is entangled with the realm of public health, medicine, and especially pharmaceutical drugs.

The problems associated with coca cultivation and leishmaniasis cannot be dissociated from cross-border events such as forced disappearance and the massive migration of Venezuelans who arrive in Colombia looking for survival alternatives, including coca production.

Tune in and hear about the Diseased Landscapes project

Direct download: RCC_396.mp3
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Hasta Siempre Colombia, Dr Paola Cubillos speaks to Colombia Calling.

Was Dr Paola Cubillos naive when she and her husband decided to gamble everything and return with their three children from Canada to Colombia? It was 2016 and the peace accord with the FARC guerrillas was all but signed, things appeared to be changing for Colombia and they wanted to be part of it.

The peace accord was signed not long after they arrived to live and work in Cali in southwestern Colombia. Then, the "No vote" was victorious in the referendum on the accords, there were the demonstrations in October 2019, Covid-19 in 2020 and then the strikes, protests and violence in the country in April and May 2021, and Cali, where they were living, was a particular flashpoint.

That was it. The family departed almost five years to the day that they arrived. On this, the fifth anniversary of the signing of the peace accords, we sit down with Dr Cubillos to discuss, from a Colombian's perspective, how the experiment of returning home was unsuccessful.

Tune in to Episode 395 of the Colombia Calling podcast for this and news from journalist Emily Hart.

Direct download: RCC_395.mp3
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An exhilarating travelogue for a new generation about a journey along Colombia’s Magdalena River, exploring life by the banks of a majestic river now at risk, and how a country recovers from conflict.

An American writer of Argentine, Syrian, and Iraqi Jewish descent, Jordan Salama tells the story of the Río Magdalena, nearly one thousand miles long, the heart of Colombia. This is Gabriel García Márquez’s territory—rumor has it Macondo was partly inspired by the port town of Mompox—as much as that of the Middle Eastern immigrants who run fabric stores by its banks.

Following the river from its source high in the Andes to its mouth on the Caribbean coast, journeying by boat, bus, and improvised motobalinera, Salama writes against stereotype and toward the rich lives of those he meets. Among them are a canoe builder, biologists who study invasive hippopotamuses, a Queens transplant managing a failing hotel, a jeweler practicing the art of silver filigree, and a traveling librarian whose donkeys, Alfa and Beto, haul books to rural children

Tune in for an enjoyable conversation with the author and buy his book!

Direct download: RCC_394.mp3
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Exactly 40 episodes ago in December 2020, freelance journalist in Colombia, Joshua Collins (@InvisiblesMuros) made his first appearance on the Colombia Calling podcast talking about the border region at Cucuta and with neighbouring Venezuela.

So much has happened since then and we've collaborated on projects from Cucuta for the New Humanitarian and the Globe and Mail reporting on the tragedy of the Venezuelan migrants crossing into Colombia and making the journey South all the way to Chile in search of work.

Collins has been busy, such is the life of a freelancer, and he gives us the lowdown this week on his adventures and travel to the region of Catatumbo, one of Colombia's most important coca growing regions. Here he discovers various things but you'll have to tune in to hear more. We also discuss the protests in Cali, police brutality in Colombia, disappearances and finally his new project with other journalists:

Pirate Wire Serices

Direct download: RCC_393.mp3
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Adriaan Alsema of Colombia Reports says it was satire and the injured party from RCN Colombia claims that it was slander. You can decide for yourselves over the duration of this podcast which takes in the subject of Adriaan Alsema's legal difficulties in recent weeks and an overall look at the increase in harassment of journalists in Colombia.

Can a journalist in Colombia discuss corporate activity in criminal activity, asks Alsema of Colombia Reports? No stranger to controversy, Alsema takes this opportunity to present his side of various stories since the Colombian press has not wanted to cover it, preferring to only make reference to Diana P Camacho of RCN news.

Tune in

Direct download: RCC_392.mp3
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On episode 391 of the Colombia Calling podcast, we talk to the director and producer of a new and incredibly insightful and moving documentary entitled: La Casa de Mama Icha.

Decades earlier, Mama Icha moved to Philadelphia in the United States to help her daughter with the care of her grandchildren. However, she never lost sight of her hometown of Mompox, spending years sending money to build her dream house there. Now, at the end of her life, Mama Icha boards a plane and flies back to Colombia where she finds joy and heartbreak in her return to the place her heart never left.

On Episode 391 of the Colombia Calling podcast, we sit down and chat with the documentary's director Oscar Molina and producer Brenda Steinecke to explore the themes of identity, belonging and returning home from Philadephia to Mompox after 33 years away.

La Casa de Mama Icha gets its cinematic release in Colombia in selected CineColombia theatres on 2 September 2021 and will be shown on PBS in the US on 18 October, mark your diaries!

Direct download: RCC_391.mp3
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A great deal is made of the urban regeneration of Medellin's infamous Comuna 13, and for good reason, but now that there's a "been there, seen this, done that," attitude towards this success story, with tourists arriving in their droves to view the graffiti, ride on the escalators and marvel at the strength of a community in the face of such adversity, is it time to extend this policy of regeneration and hope beyond the frontiers of but one nighbourhood?

Exploring the issues which arise around such a concentrated focus has led to an intrepid group of Colombians and Europeans resident in Medellin to explore this imbalance. After 130 interviews, six months of investigation and consultations, the result is a new exhibition entitled: ContraMiradas - Narrativas de la Periferia Urbana.

Austrian urbanist, Manuel Oberlader, resident in Medellin, put together a team to address this contextual issue which may define the city and started exploring outer-lying and lesser know districts of Medellin and nearby Bello, Antioquia. What resulted has been an empowerment of said districts and their populations, such as those of La Cruz, Santo Domingo and Granizal. Locals from these barrios were taught photography, filmmaking and more and their stories are those which are now on display in the EPM Biblioteca in Medellin.

Our newscast journalist Emily Hart was also involved in the setup of this exhibition and therefore she joins myself and Oberlader in discussing the essence of the displays and what the team behind Contra Miradas was trying to achieve.

Come and visit as the exhbition runs from 17 August -30 October 2021.

Many of you are resident in Medellin or often passing through the city, please stop in and visit the exhibition to support this initiative.

Follow on Instagram:

Direct download: RCC_390.mp3
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There's a humanitarian crisis taking place at Panama's southern border and in northern Colombia where thousands of migrants ranging from countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and as far-flung as Congo, Syria and Nepal are lining up to cross the Darien Gap in the hope of some day reaching the United States of America.

On this week's Colombia Calling podcast, we have the honour of talking to Raul Lopez, project coordinator and Doctor Fabiola Pintado, both of Doctors Without Borders (Medicos sin Fronteras, Medecins sans Frontieres) at their location on the frontline in the town of Bajo Chiquito in Panama.

Lopez and Pintado speak to us about the awful state of the migrants emerging from the jungle after the 7-10 day trek of 60 miles through one of the world's most dangerous jungles. Women are raped, people are murdered, robbed, children washed away in turbulent rivers, people collapse from exhaustion are forced into being drugs mules and more. This is harrowing story of human suffering and is one which deserves to be widely heard.

Tune in and hear about an underreported tragedy at the Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama and the work of the MSF.

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It's no stretch of the imagination to agree with Glen Galindo's description of himself as a problem solver and educator as he has carved out quite the life for himself in serving Colombia from his home base in Colombian coffee zone's town of Chinchina, Caldas.

With Galindo's set up, you can launch your Colombia Experience by immersing yourself within the public school system as an assistant teacher where you can brush-up your Spanish and gain insight on what's it like to work as a teacher in Colombia; In the meantime, our team finds you long-term teaching contracts for your consideration,

In an upbeat conversation with Galindo, one cannot help but feel positive for the future in Colombia. Check out his websites:

Direct download: RCC_388.mp3
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On episode 387, we pick up where we left off in Episode 386 and continue to talk to our anonymous sources from La Primera Linea (front line) of protests in Colombia. Speaking to us from Cali and Popayan, these youths speak about the importance of education and voting, how police reform should occur and how the Colombian government could better spend aid money from international governments which all too often goes towards the purchase of lethal weaponry for the Colombian police.

We hear from Colombian Monica Hurtado in the US speaking on the importance of helping Colombia and Colombians from overseas and that the 5 to 10 million colombians resident outside of Colombia must register to vote in the 2022 presidential elections. MCI also discusses the difficulty of registering to vote.

With MCI and Michael we also hear both in English and in Spanish the letter to Colombia, written by German tourist turned activist Rebecca Sprößer, who was deported last week being accused of participating in acts of terrorism and vandalism during the protests in Cali.

Tune in!

Direct download: RCC_387.mp3
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The Primera Linea, as the front line of the youths in Colombia's protests during the paro nacional strike is known, have been labelled as terrorists and vandals by the police and President Ivan Duque. In what is a first for the Colombia Calling podcast, we host a bilingual episode where three members of the Primera Linea share with us the reasons as to why they are striking, what they are demanding of the government and the hopeful outcomes to these protests.

On this occasion, we are able to question them on the violence and the destruction of public and private property, how do they respond to accusations of damaging the economy and more and in turn they also share stories of friends killed, facing up to riot police tanks and more.

Tune in to an important episode and a continuation of our series on the Paro Nacional protests in Colombia and thank you to Michael and MCI in the US for translating the interventions of the three individuals that share their stories with us.

Direct download: RCC_386.mp3
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It's a great pleasure to have a true expert in their field on the Colombia Calling podcast and discussing one of the lesser known cultures in Colombia, that of the Raizal people of San Andres and Providencia. To most Colombians these Caribbean islands represent only a vacation escape but the truth is that there is so much more.

Sharika D. Crawford is associate professor of history at the United States Naval Academy and she joins us to talk about her extensive research on slave routes to the Caribbean from Africa, the culture and society of San Andres and Providencia and the issues facing these islands.

We also discuss her book: The Last Turtlemen of the Caribbean. Crawford describes the colonial Caribbean as an Atlantic commons where all could compete to control the region’s diverse peoples, lands, and waters and exploit the region’s raw materials. Focusing on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Crawford traces and connects the expansion and decline of turtle hunting to matters of race, labor, political and economic change, and the natural environment. Like the turtles they chased, the boundary-flouting laborers exposed the limits of states’ sovereignty for a time but ultimately they lost their livelihoods, having played a significant role in legislation delimiting maritime boundaries. Still, former turtlemen have found their deep knowledge valued today in efforts to protect sea turtles and recover the region’s ecological sustainability.

Direct download: RCC_385.mp3
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Many listeners have asked after the Colombia Calling news journalist and this week it's a pleasure to have the one and only Emily Hart with us here in Mompós to discuss her life and journalism here in Colombia.

Hart is a journalist and researcher from the UK with a strong background in politics and human rights and has been reporting on some fascinating topics here in Colombia. Her bylines have been featured in the Times, the Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph, Sky News and Pitchfork.

On Episode 384 of the Colombia Calling podcast, we have the opportunity to get to know Hart better, talk about her life as a journalist, the writing process, the hunt for articles and how she reported on the demolition of Pablo Escobar's building in Medellin, the ancient rock art in Chiribiquete, illegal armed groups enforcing a Covid-19 lockdown in Colombia and the "rainforest electro" music which is sweeping this region of the Americas.

Tune in to hear more and follow Hart on twitter: @emily_h_h

Direct download: RCC_384.mp3
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Many years ago we aired a podcast entitled: "How Corrupt is Colombia?" (Ep172) and unfortunately, the question is still all too timely today. In fact the issue of corruption here is perhaps more pertinent than ever in 2021 in a post Odebrecht era in Colombia, with the Char family in Barranquilla still making overtures about potentially launching a campaign for the presidential elections in 2022 and a seemingly endless slew of accusations levied at politicians on every side of the political spectrum.

On Episode 383 of the Colombia Calling podcast, Will Freeman, Ph.D. candidate in Politics at Princeton University shares his knowledge on the subject of corruption in Colombia and the region.

Freeman's research focuses on understanding how developing democracies strengthen the rule of law and fight corruption. His forthcoming dissertation is a study of the development of anti-corruption efforts in Colombia, Guatemala, and Peru and he spent much of his time doing fieldwork and investigations on the subject in Barranquilla, Colombia.

With Freeman, we discuss Odebrecht, the Char family, the Cartel de la Toga and further elements of regional corruption.

Tune in and also follow Freeman on Twitter: @WillGFreeman

Direct download: RCC_383.mp3
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Colombia a comedy of errors tells the story of all fifty million Colombians, examining the country’s history, people, culture, colombianomics and justice. The first edition of this satirical survival guide was a bestseller in Colombia from the first month of its release. This, the second edition, contains brand new and expanded chapters including: Dating, Beauty, A to B and Justice, which gives the book its name.

The book was written by British writer Victoria Kellaway and Colombian artist Sergio J. Lievano and reveals the secrets behind a nation that has drama and comedy seeped into its bloodstream. The pair study the country with an eye for detail that will surprise everyone, from the most knowledgeable reader to those who don’t have a clue about the country.

From my perspective, this new edition of Kellaway and Lievano's book is a timely update to remind us why we love Colombia and why we should continue to strive to improve her as well. It feels as if, this time around, both authors have decided to pull off the gloves and take a full swing at some of the more pressing issues of sexism, corruption and political indifference, but of course, with a sense of humour and empathy so as to keep the reader involved and interested.

There is an additional editorial maturity all these years later as well. Ideal for all of those out there wishing to learn a little more about our country but in a relaxed matter.

Can you imagine that we had the authors on the podcast, way back in our infancy in May 2014 on Episode 48!? That's 334 episodes ago, how times have changed!

Direct download: RCC_382.mp3
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Abducted, cheated and forced to fight in a war that wasn't theirs. Former child soldiers of the FARC recount one of the most shocking yet least known atrocities of Colombia´s civil war in this feature-length animated documentary entitled: "Operación Berlín: The children who fought war in Colombia."

Mathew Charles is a long-time journalist and investigator working in Colombia and covering some of the most difficult topics, embedding himself with the ELN guerrillas or the paramilitaries in order to get the story. This time, his subject is the stories of the the child recruits in the rank and file of the FARC and those that survived and those that tragically perished in a military attack known as "Operation Berlin."

This operation is heralded by the Colombian military as one of its greatest successes in the long-running conflict with the FARC guerrillas and took place in late 2000 and early 2001. New information about the military operation and the nefarious actions of the FARC have been emerging due to the diligence and dogged investigations done by Charles and his team and is revealed in the documentary (available on July 7).

You can revisit an interview with Charles from 2018 here on the Colombia Calling podcast:

Direct download: RCC_381.mp3
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In the context of the on-going #paronacional protests in Colombia, it's time for the Colombia Calling podcast to take a look at another angle of what is going on in the streets, on the walls and all over the underpasses in the country. In short, during the unrest, which began on 28 April 2021, urban art, protest art and graffiti have proliferated to extend and spread the message of the youths' discontent with the status quo in Colombia.

This is our chance to chat to Jahir (Jay) Dimate of the Bogotá Graffiti Tour ( to discuss what is going on with reference to this genre of art, the cultural movement of graffiti and enjoy a conversation that this national strike is far from a: "left versus right debate."

About the Bogotá Graffiti Tour

Bogotá Graffiti Tour started in 2011 when a Aussie street artist and a Canadian graffiti writer decided they wanted to share Bogota’s unique, prolific urban art scene and help expose local artists to a wider international audience. The tour has changed a bit over the years, and it’s now considered one of the best things to do in Bogotá. The team (a group of artists and creative minds) get together just about every week to talk about graffiti, plan how to best help out artists’ projects, and to brainstorm the best ways to bring our own projects to life.

Direct download: RCC_380.mp3
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With the #ParoNacional still on-going in Colombia, we take on the subject of human rights and human rights law in the context of the situation here.

For some background on our expert guests, read on:

Maria Clara Galvis is a lawyer from the Externado University of Colombia. Professor Galvis has graduate studies in Compared Constitutional Law from the Universitá Degli Studi di Geneva. Since 2015, she has been a member of the United Nations Committee against Forced Disappearance and is currently its Vice President. Professor Galvis is also a researcher in the International Law at the Department of Constitutional Law of the Externado University of Colombia. She has been an advisor to the Procurator Delegate for Human Rights (1994-1995), the Attorney General's Office (1997-2000), the Attorney General's Office (2010-2011), assistant magistrate of the Superior Council of the Judiciary (2014-2015) and National Director of Promotion and Dissemination of Human Rights of the Ombudsman of Colombia (2016-2017). He has published academic articles and research on international human rights law, transitional justice, enforced disappearance, business, and human rights, women's rights, and the rights of indigenous peoples. See bio

Veronica Hinestroza is an independent senior consultant and advisor on international human rights law. Her primary focus is on the documentation and investigations of grave human rights violations, particularly torture and ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and arbitrary killings. She is a member of the Steering Committee developing a universal protocol for human rights-compliant, lawful and effective questioning for the United Nations. She was a member of the working group to update the Istanbul Protocol - the United Nation’s Manual for the effective investigation and documentation of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. During over 17 years spent promoting and supporting the development and implementation of IHRL and IHL standards at the national, regional and international levels, Verónica has worked for the World Organisation Against Torture, the German Agency for International Cooperation, the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (Latin America and East Timor), Impunity Watch, the World Bank, the International Centre for Transitional Justice, the Overseas Development Institute, Samusocial and the Externado de Colombia University.

And the subjects we cover in the podcast:

1.How can this unrest be put into context within Latin America (Chile, Nicaragua)?
2.What is going on in Colombia and from a human rights perspective, what is the situation regarding the paro nacional?
3.Police brutality and use of excessive force? As I see it, the paro nacional finds its roots as a social problem yet the authorities are treating it as an issue of “law and order,” does this contribute to the problem of human rights abuses?
4.Why is the government selling a different narrative to foreign governments and what are they trying to do?
5.Who is responsible? We need to discuss who is in charge and who is giving the orders to state forces…is this something which is a collective or individual responsibility. There are reports of disappearances, there are killings and potentially cases of torture in addition to cases of sexual violence…
6.With the issue of the False Positives and the figure: 6402 which is heavily featured in the marches as one of the protestors’ demands, “quien dio la orden,” Colombia is experiencing a very difficult moment in terms of its international reputation.
7.What do you both see as happening now, will there be any significant progress in terms of human rights in the short or long term and what can we expect from the visit of the CIDH arriving on 7 June?

Tags and Keywords: human rights colombia, human right, maria clara galvis, veronica hinestroza, paro nacional, strikes colombia, police brutality, conflict colombia

Direct download: RCC_379.mp3
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On this week's Colombia Calling podcast, we continue on our series relating to the on-going unrest surrounding the #ParoNacional protests in Colombia. With more than a month of daily nationwide demonstrations, Adriaan Alsema of Colombia Reports follows Elizabeth Dickinson (Crisis Group), Andres Bermudez ( and Sergio Guzman (Colombia Risk Analysis) in discussing an important angle to explain what is going on.

Alsema joins us to discuss the role and responsibility of the press in covering the marches and violence, the manipulation of the news and the worrying increase of censorship taking place, not to mention violence directed at members of the media...something which is becoming increasingly the norm.

UNESCO’s findings in a recent report: "Safety of Journalists Covering Protests – Preserving Freedom of the Press During Times of Civil Unrest," reveal a “wider upward trend” in the use of unlawful force by police and security forces, with more than 30 protests impeded by police and security forces last year alone. It details a wide range of abuses journalists face when covering protests, from harassment, intimidation and beatings, to being shot at with lethal or non-lethal ammunition, detention and abduction.

Direct download: RCC_378.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

It's an absolute pleasure to welcome Elizabeth Dickinson, Snr Analyst for Colombia at Crisis Group, back on the Colombia Calling podcast to explore more profoundly the unrest and the #paronacional in Colombia.

We recorded this episode as Colombia hit an unenviable benchmark of 24 days of protests which began on April 28. What is going on, why and what can we expect in the coming months as we move into the presidential election cycle in 2022?

Showing complete clarity, Dickinson has been producing some of the most insightful interpretations of events in Colombia. There's an exasperation in the country and people are clamouring for social justice and security. Of course, the pandemic has exacerbated things, but when 84% of Colombia's youth are in favour of the national strike (Paro Nacional), something is definitely awry.

We discuss the violence in Cali, how the strike extends beyond the urban and into the rural, what to expect from the negotiations with the government of President Duque and where Colombia goes from here.

Expect an in-depth analysis of the 2016 peace accords in Colombia and the need for leadership and political courage from the country's politicians. Dickinson explains that it will impossible for the government to address the long list of grievances in Colombia, but empathy, accountability and a comprehension of the underlying issues in this nation would be a good place to start.

Tune in for an incredible conversation with one of the top analysts on Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_377.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

As the the nationwide paro nacional protests continue in Colombia, it's worth taking a moment to explore an incredibly important piece of news which has been buried by their blanket coverage in the press.

This week, on Episode 376 we speak to journalist and investigator Andres Bermudez ( about the recent admission by the FARC guerrillas that kidnapping was an official policy and not an "economic retention," as they previously had claimed.

This admission by the FARC secretariat before the Special Peace Jurisdiction/ Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz or JEP, is a landmark decision taken by the former guerrillas and we're waiting to see what the JEP draws up.

We explore this and more themes, including an update on the protests in Colombia with journalist Emily Hart in Medellin.

Direct download: RCC_376.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

These are troubling times in Colombia. This episode was recorded on Sunday 9 May during the 12th day of nationwide protests in Colombia. Sergio Guzman, Director of Colombia Risk Analysis joins us to provide a total overview of what has been going on here.

Guzman is recently returned from Cali where a great deal of the unrest has been taking place. We hear about what the situation felt like in Cali and the overall ambiance there. Then, Guzman provides us with a look at the situation in Colombia in the lead in to the strikes, what has gone on during the strikes and the government of President Ivan Duque's reactions and finally, what we might expect from a period of dialogue in the future.

This is a timely and important episode and worth listening to in order to understand the malaise in Colombia, the nation's youth who feel that there is no future for them here and the overall discontent which has been simmering for some time.

Check out Colombia Risk Analysis:

Direct download: RCC_375.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Joining us from Cali, Colombia is Heidi Paster Harf to explain to us a little about the phenomenon of "emerrging jews" in Colombia. To explain this, first let's put this into perspective: One of the most striking contemporary religious phenomena is the world-wide fascination with Judaism.

Traditionally, few non-Jews converted to the Jewish faith, but today millions of people throughout the world are converting to Judaism and are identifying as Jews or Israelites and Colombia is no exception.

This overall phenomenon constitutes a dramatic turning point in Jewish history, since traditionally non-Jews had little or no interest in joining the Jewish people. This new reality has many implications, as it is beginning to change the face of Jewish communities and at the same time sharpen the debate over the boundaries of the Jewish collectivity.

So, tune in to hear about this and here in Colombia, something I had no knowledge of before reading her Harf's article and seeing her photographs in the Washington Post recently.

Tags and Keywords: heidi paster harf, hiedi harf photographer, colombia calling, cali, emerging jews, emerging jews colombia, jews colombia, jews south america, richard mccoll, richard mccoll journalist, richard mccoll podcast, podcast colombia

Direct download: RCC_374.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Angela Sierra is a self-described bookish foodie chocoholic coffee lover, writing stories from and about Colombia and this where we begin on Episode 373 of the Colombia Calling podcast this week.

What are the relationships between Culture, Identity and Society? And where do these fit into a country as complex as Colombia? By addressing these issues and more, we enjoy an open and flowing dialogue about cultural clashes, appropriation and how to live in this land.

A little more about Angela:

"I was born in Colombia, in a city called Pereira, where you get a clear view of a volcano every morning, siestas are sacred and macaws let you know when it's time to turn off your computer and enjoy the sunset. But my family moved to the US when I was still in diapers, so I didn't remember my homeland growing up. Still, I ate arepas and Pop Tarts, feared the Boogie Man and La Llorona in equal measure and got presents from Santa and El Niño Dios.

We moved back to Colombia many years ago and I’ve lived here since, writing stories from and about this magical place."

Download the book Unbound wherever you prefer to get your books and check out Angela's website:

Direct download: RCC_373.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

On this week's Colombia Calling podcast, we have the pleasure of speaking to Damon O'Neill a Londoner based in Medellin and volunteering at the Ecoparque above Comuna 13 in the city.

A former trialist for West Ham and Tottenham football clubs, O'Neill brings his football talent to the city of Medellin and trains up children from Comuna 13 in his spare time.

But, there's more to this story, the idea is not only to train children in football but also to open up the area above Comuna 13 to tourists, both domestic and international. It's a natural escape with unrivalled views over the city, there's the option of excursions on horseback and visitors are able to enjoy freshwater pools in which to swim, places to eat, play volleyball and more.

However, despite bringing more tourism and visitors to the area, high above the well-travelled route of the Comuna 13 graffiti and Hip Hop tour, the aim is also to allow tourists to learn more about the infamous history of the area, such as what went on at La Escombrera.

Check out the Ecoparque on Instagram: @ecoparque13

Direct download: RCC_372.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

You may or may not have heard of journalist and documentary maker Andrew Gold, such is life, but I highly recommend his podcast: "On the Edge with Andrew Gold." Gold's podcast is one of my go-to shows for when I walk the dog during these trying pandemic times and it never fails to maintain my attention and awaken my curiosity.

What is little known perhaps is that Andrew Gold lived in Medellin for a while and has a "Colombia story" to share with us alongside with other anecdotes from his varied and always interesting career path.

So here's a little about Andrew Gold to whet your appetite.

Gold is a journalist and TV presenter who speaks 5 languages & lived in 6 countries, producing docs on bizarre and controversial subcultures. He battled an abusive exorcist, duelled with the Crazy Baby Lady and hunted UFOs. The actor Viggo Mortensen made fun of him on live Argentine TV. After a joke went wrong, he became known in Argentina as The Last English Virgin. He represented England in beer-pong (also on live TV) and lost to a 12-year-old Panamanian girl.

Check out his podcast and website:

Direct download: RCC_371.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

It's not every day you hear of someone on a sports scholarship to a US university and then returning to Colombia to follow her passion of rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing birds of prey back into the wild. Well, that's Ana María Morales' story!

Morales' describes these incredible birds of prey as "raptors," and so to clarify: Raptors are birds of prey in the orders falconiformes and strigiformes. In English, that means eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, osprey, kites, and others, their main feature of a raptor is a hooked beak and long, sharp talons.

We discuss her experiences with Peregrine Falcons, Hawks, the Harpy Eagle and of course, how we need to work together with farmers to understand their predicament and those of the wildlife around them. This can be a tricky topic, but through talking, open dialogue and understanding, things can be achieved.

Tune in to an episode where the wildlife takes the front seat and we talk conservation, birding, birders, rescue and rehabilitation and how we can all help.

Check out

Direct download: RCC_370.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00pm EST

Renouned conflict photgrapher with experience in civil wars in El Salvador, Nicaragua, the genocide in Rwanda and so much more, Malcolm Linton, joins us once again on the Colombia Calling podcast to share some more of his stories from the field. His experiences in some of the most brutal conflict arenas, his desire to cover humanitarian causes and the first time he was shot....this and more on Episode 369.

Why has he returned to the Colombia Calling podcast? To share his experiences and also to talk about the new photography workshop he has designed and set up for three separate dates in picturesque Mompós, Colombia.

TALKING PHOTOS: Malcolm Linton’s Mompox Workshop

Starting at the end of May 2021, international photojournalist Malcolm Linton will be staging a monthly photography workshop in the Colombian colonial town of Mompox in collaboration with the Hotel San Rafael and La Casa Amarilla.

The workshop is for photographers — from amateurs to professionals — who want to express themselves more fully in their images. It will run for three full days, usually from Friday to Sunday, with a welcome dinner the night before it begins.

The workshop will be limited to 15 people at three different rates, depending on the amount of personal tuition from Malcolm that clients wish to receive. The first two sessions (late May, early July) will be in English, and future sessions will be in English or Spanish, depending on demand.

Sign up (Mompox Workshop)

Direct download: RCC_369.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

By all accounts 2020 looked set to be a record year for international tourism to Colombia. It's obviously old news now what happened and that the service industry has been battered by the Covid-19 pandemic...but what have travel agencies and hotels been doing during this time and how do they plan to create a motor for growth once again?

This week we talk to Bruce McLean, a New Zealander now resident in Viterbo in Colombia's coffee region to talk about his travel agency - - and how he has been preparing for post pandemic tourism in Colombia and how he sees the evolution of the industry here and as a whole.

Whether you’d like to explore the Amazon; travel through the spectacular coffee zone; discover the culture of Bogota and the beauty of Barichara; enjoy whale watching and untouched nature on the Pacific Coast; Enjoy an amazing experience with turtles laying eggs in the dead of night, and others hatching the following morning; Explore the Caribbean, Tayrona Park, Cartagena, and the Rosario Islands; travel into the Tatacoa desert and walk amongst pre-Colombian stone statues and tombs in San Agustin, or maybe you’d like to see rock paintings dating back 1000’s of years and swim with pink dolphins, Colombia has it all and so much more.

Direct download: RCC_368.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Sabrina Prioli first joined us on the Colombia Calling podcast in 2013 on Episode 23, now on Episode 367 and eight years later, we catch up with her in Zambia and chart her life and work from Colombia to Peru, South Sudan and then to her present location.

For more than ten years Prioli has worked in humanitarian projects in montoring and evaluation and is keen to share with us that there is very little if any psychosocial help for aid workers spending extended periods of time in conflict zones.

After a life-changing and horrific event in South Sudan which saw a local journalist executed at the hands of government forces, another colleague shot in the legs and several women subjected to multiple rapes, Prioli was in a dark place, understandably. Two years of intense therapy in Italy, a court case in Juba, South Sudan and a tenacity and with a positivity that defies reason, Prioli has started her own professional coaching.

Prioli is a certified professional Co-Active coach that helping Workers and NGOs to prevent burnout and develop leadership methods, so that people can feel empowered and bring humanitarian projects closer to their goals.

Tune in to hear an inspiring story of resilience and strength

Check out her website:

Direct download: RCC_367.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Children Change Colombia is the largest UK charity working exclusively in Colombia and we are honoured to have Executive Director Angela Maria Carreño on the show this week to explain their work on this the 30th anniversary of their founding.

CCC has been working with children and their families to challenge poverty, inequality, discrimination and violence in Colombia. Of course, it's far from plain sailing in Colombia and to this day, millions of Colombian children still face poverty, violence and exclusion from the opportunities presented by a changing society.

Children are at risk of forced displacement, sexual exploitation or recruitment into armed groups, they are denied education, a loving family or a place to play, CCC works to ensure that every child can claim their right to a safe and happy childhood and a fulfilling future.

Please sign up for the Children Change Colombia newsletter:
view the website:

Direct download: RCC_366.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Perhaps we don't think much about youth activism for the environment and climate change in Colombia all too much...Greta Thunberg dominates the international headlines, but awareness of a movement driven by the country's youth is becoming more apparent.

Cast your mind back to the 11 November demonstrations when Colombians of all sectors of society and of all age groups flooded the streets with their list of demands for the government. Amongst the throng of people, Colombia's younger generations were present and fighting their corner with regards to climate change and the environment. The atmosphere was one of hope for the future.

This week we speak to Juan Jose Guzman, co director of the foundation Pacto X El Clima (, an entity set up to give a voice to Latin America's youth. It's inspiring to hear of the organization and how activism in Latin America differs from that in Europe or the US. Of course, we have to also take into account the danger associated with activism of this type in the region.

And finally, Guzman provides us with his perspectives for the future in Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_365.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Buenaventura is one of the major ports on the continent, accounting for nearly 60% of all Colombian sea imports and exports. However, due to its strategic position, the city's economy has been hampered by gang-related activity fighting over control of the port, making it among the most impoverished cities in Colombia with an unemployment rate of roughly 88% for a population of around 400 thousand.

And now, Buenaventura is in the news once again in Colombia, and for all the wrong reasons.

Following on from her first appearance on the Colombia Calling podcast on Ep334 (The Problem with the Coastal Cities of Colombia's Pacific). US academic Shauna Gillooly graciously agreed to return to provide us with a background as to what is going on in Buenaventura.

Tune in to hear about an overlooked and under reported news story from Colombia in which powerful economic interests lead to the displacement and suffering of traditional communities.

Direct download: RCC_364.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Eddie White Jr has courted some controversy here in Colombia, not least with his casual observation and caricatures of "the girls of Medellin." We sit down for a conversation about his art, the long term goal of producing a book and indeed, to hear his side of the story surrounding "that" Medellin image.

In what is a friendly and frank conversation, we learn of White's love for Colombia and his admiration of the people here. His desire is to promote the country and show the wonders and exoticism here through his observational pop art.

Hear artist Eddie White Jr's story and check out his artwork on Instagram.

Direct download: RCC_363.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

It will come as no surprise to many that mining is one of the most polluting and destructive industries in the world and in South America this extractive industry has been a root cause for so many different but cross-cutting problems. It’s vital we support frontline communities to defend their land, water and culture; biodiversity, and the global climate and so on this episode of the Colombia Calling podcast, we discuss these issues in relation to Colombia with Tom Gatehouse, writer and researcher for the Latin America Bureau.

Gatehouse is currently writing, "The Heart of Our Earth: Community Resistance to Mining in Latin America," which is due to be published in the Spring of 2022.

Mining has grown exponentially in Latin America in the last three decades. Massive new mining projects have had major socioenvironmental effects, including pollution, appropriation and contamination of water supplies, division and co-optation of communities, and in some cases their forced relocation.

Communities are learning how to resist and some have successfully challenged government and company claims that large-scale mining projects can be safe, sustainable, and socially beneficial.

Tune in to this informative episode.

Direct download: RCC_362.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

The Sudaca craft beer company is a business idea born out of an experience in the city of Leeds in Britain when one of the team worked and learned the brewing trade there before returning home to Bogotá. Now, this team has introduced a selection of quality craft beers to the Colombian capital.

It was a great pleasure to be contacted by Rafael Vargas of the Cerveceria Sudaca, located in Bogotá's hip art district of San Felipe, known for off-beat galleries, graffiti and now craft beer, to talk about their work, their brew and the future.

And, showing the kind of classy guys they are at the Sudaca, Vargas sent over some bottles of the IPA and Stout that they produce at the brewery. So, let's say that this episode has been sponsored by Sudaca, check them out

Direct download: RCC_361.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

I wanted to call Episode 360 of the Colombia Calling podcast, "the Roast of Richard McColl," but it really became, "a conversation with Alba Torres, or "How Alba manages to put up with this annoying, moody and difficult Englishman!"

You asked for it folks and we have delivered, here is the long awaited episode in which Alba Torres, to whom I have the immense honour of being married, gives you the lowdown of the cultural differences, the difficulties in working together and how we ended up opening not one ( but two ( hotels in Mompós, Colombia.

We enjoy an open and frank conversation punctuated with some - not all - of the questions you the listeners sent in for us to answer. Thank you again to all of those of you that participated.


Direct download: RCC_360.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

It's a great pleasure to welcome back Alvaro Torres, the CEO and director of Khiron Life Sciences (Ep344) on the podcast and accompanying him this time is a new member of the board of the company, Juan Carlos Echeverry, former Minister of the Economy in Colombia during the presidency of President Juan Manuel Santos.

This time around we discuss the evolution of the medicinal cannabis industry during the pandemia, Colombia's economic recovery, legalization of illicit products and finally, whether Juan Carlos Echeverry plans to run for the Presidency in the elections in Colombia in 2022.

Direct download: RCC_359.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST

Years of campaigning for women’s rights and against domestic violence have paid off and other countries in the region could now follow suit, we discuss the ruling on abortion in Argentina and how this may cause a ripple effect as far as Colombia. This week's guest is British freelancer journalist Amy Booth who has been covering events in Argentina closely. Check out Booth's website:

It's a controversial topic, but perhaps it's time for there to be a more open discussion in the region regarding this issue? Hear the details from Argentina and let us know what you think and how Colombia might react, if at all?

Direct download: RCC_358.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST

Picking up where he left off exactly a year ago in Ep306, mountain trekking guide Gabriel Torres reports back in to the Colombia Calling podcast to inform us that his project to map many of the ancient trails in Santander has moved forward significantly. With the support of the French NGO Tetraktys a new project entitled is coming into fruition.

Gabriel Torres in joined on Ep357 with Gwenn Prevot of the NGO to talk to us about the importance of the region of Santander for hiking in Colombia, local sustainable tourism within communities and how to appeal to both a Colombian and international market.

There's also the chance for you to win a competition and make your mark on this region, please tune in to find out more!

Direct download: RCC_357.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST