Colombia Calling - The English Voice in Colombia

 In this week's episode, I reflect on four recent visits to the town of Capurgana on the Caribbean coast of the department of Choco. Capurgana is one of the jump-off points for migrants to begin the infamous and dangerous trek through the Darien jungle to Panama en route to their final destination of the United States.

In this episode, I relate my attempt to gain access to the migrant camp in Capurgana, my brief meeting with some members of the Clan del Golfo crime syndicate, finding two migrants from Togo and observing the arrival of people from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, China and Somalia.

Tune in for this and the Colombia News Brief reported by journalist Emily Hart.

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Direct download: RCC_496.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

This week, Emily Hart gets the inside story on the #NarcoFiles - a new investigation into The Global Criminal Order, the largest investigative project of its kind to originate in Latin America. She speaks to OCCRP’s Latin America Editor Nathan Jaccard, who has led and coordinated this project - right from its earliest seeds in the 2022 hack to the incredible flourishing of reporting we’ve seen this week, and which continues to emerge.

Last year, a group of 'hacktivists' known as Guacamaya infiltrated the Microsoft Exchange server, enabling them to hack the system of the Colombian Attorney General's Office, the entity in charge of investigating and prosecuting crimes in Colombia. Five terabytes in size, the leak contains more than 7 million emails, including exchanges between the Fiscalia and numerous embassies, law enforcement groups, and others. The documents in the leak reveal unique details about the inner workings of international criminal gangs as well as law enforcement efforts to dismantle them.

The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the Centro Latinoamericano de Investigación Periodística (CLIP), Vorágine, and Cerosetenta gained early access to the data, and then shared the leak with more than 40 other media outlets. Journalists from over 23 countries worked on the investigation.

Nathan will be giving us the who, what, and how of this story, as well as his insights into the new world of organised crime and cocaine trafficking revealed by this hack – from the changes in where cocaine is grown and produced to corruption of top officials in Suriname, as well as the narco-nexus between huge banana companies and Colombia’s political right wing, Israeli mafia in Colombia, links to the Odebrecht scandal and more – stories involving fruit, shark fins, and DEA Agents.

Emily will also be sharing with supporters and subscribers her top picks from the NarcoFiles reporting from a number of outlets, with translated versions - subscribe now to our Patreon to get access!

Direct download: RCC_495.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

Emily Hart takes us (way) back in time this week, to a very different Colombia - one well before the arrival of human beings… but in the process of looking back, we’ll also be looking forwards - to what the future on this planet might look like.

We have with us some of the team behind "Hace Tiempo" - an incredible book on Colombia’s paleontological past: Colombia’s leading palaeontologist, Carlos Jaramillo, Paleo-botanist at EAFIT University, Camila Martínez, and science communications specialist at Parque Explorer Luz Helena Oviedo.

This illustrated book - now in its second edition - is a paleontological journey through the country’s past, and winner of an Alejandro Ángel prize, one of the most important awards for scientists in Colombia. More than 30 Colombian palaeontologists, working all over the world, contributed to the book, which is available free online – – the physical version is for sale through the website of the Humboldt Institute, a key partner in its creation.

Colombia is enormously fossil-rich and with a huge variety of habitats past and present Understanding Colombia’s ancient flora and fauna is key to understanding the country’s incredible biodiversity today, which is the product of millions of years of evolution, but in the alarmingly short term, is threatened by climate change and the accelerating global extinction of species.

Uniquely, the project also gives readers in Colombia a paleontological resource which relates to the land around them. Rather than the well-known dinosaurs like T-Rex or triceratops, this book presents prehistoric animals peculiar to Colombia, like the 6-tonne giant sloth which lived here 50 million years ago, giant turtles the size of a cars, or the megalodon which roamed Colombia’s waters, the biggest shark to ever exist – bigger than a school bus.

The Titanoboa, meanwhile, was a vast snake weighing over a tonne, which roamed 60 million years ago in the then-tropical jungles of La Guajira, ancestor to the anaconda and the boa constrictor, its body was 13 metres long and – at a cross section - the size of a bicycle wheel. It is the largest snake ever to roam the earth. The Titanoboa was discovered by Carlos himself only a few years ago - after analysing tons of rocks extracted from the Cerrejón mines still active in La Guajira today.

The new and expanded edition of the book - just out - includes a new chapter on Perijasaurus Lapaz, a long-necked herbivorous Colombian dinosaur discovered in 2018 in the Serranía del Perijá. Its name pays homage both to where it was discovered and to the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC, hence lapaz - which allowed palaeontologists to explore that region for the first time in decades.

So today we'll be talking all about what Colombia looked like a very long time ago, what happened since, what fossil records can teach us about climate change, and whether humans are in fact, as Carlos will argue, the least successful species ever to live on Planet Earth.

Direct download: RCC_494.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT