Check out these photos from our late-October visit to northwestern Colombia, at the threshold of the Darién Gap migration route.
Our photographer Sergio Ortiz Borbolla did a masterful job here. The kid in the dinosaur costume just guts me.
I just got back to Washington at mid-day today, after two weeks in Colombia. Before I left, I replaced my four-and-a-half year-old phone with a current model, because the old one’s port wasn’t always connecting to the cable and I didn’t want to find myself there with an unpowered phone.
The new phone isn’t much different than the old one, with one huge exception: the camera, which makes me seem like a much better photographer than I actually am.
Here are some images that are less work-related but just pretty cool. Presented in no particular order. Click on any to expand in a new window. (I’ve shared other photos from the trip in two earlier posts.)
Greetings from Bogotá. I’m here until tomorrow night, with 10 meetings on the schedule today and tomorrow.
This was day 13 of a 14-day research trip. I’ve slept in 10 different hotels in 9 places:
- Apartadó, Antioquia
- Necoclí, Antioquia
- Puerto Asís, Putumayo
- Orito, Putumayo
- La Hormiga, Putumayo
- Lago Agrio, Sucumbíos, Ecuador
- Ipiales, Nariño
- Pasto, Nariño
The purpose of this insane itinerary was to learn about the latest developments in migration through, and to, Colombia. I was able to visit the Colombia-Panama and Colombia-Ecuador border regions.
With two WOLA colleagues I was on the outskirts of the Darién Gap region straddling Colombia and Panama, through which nearly 500,000 migrants have passed so far this year. With longtime Colombian colleagues I also visited the border between Carchi, Ecuador and Nariño, Colombia, through which hundreds of Darién-bound migrants from dozens of countries pass each day.
While at the Colombia-Ecuador border I was also able to spend a few days in the department of Putumayo, which is where U.S.-backed military and police anti-drug operations began after the 2000 passage of the Clinton administration’s mammoth initial “Plan Colombia” aid package. Twenty-three years later, Putumayo remains a principal zone of coca and cocaine production, under the heavy influence of two feuding armed groups.
I need to go through my tens of thousands of words of notes just to come up with the number of meetings and conversations I’ve had since October 22. It’s more than 50. I’ve talked to people migrating, aid workers, international organizations, migrants associations, Indigenous groups, campesino groups, coca cultivators, mayors and other local officials, national government officials, U.S. diplomats, journalists, human rights defenders, police, scholars, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some sectors.
I’ve barely had time yet to process my notes, much less wrap my head around what I’ve seen and heard. But here are some photos from Putumayo, northern Ecuador, and Nariño. (I posted Darién-area photos about a week ago.)
I spent the past few days in and around Necoclí, Colombia, an area through which tens of thousands of migrants, from dozens of countries, pass. Here, they take boats across the Gulf of Urabá to the Darién region straddling Colombia and Panama, where they undergo a treacherous several-day journey through dense jungle.
Here are a few photos. I’m in another zone of Colombia now, as research continues, so there’s no time to write much yet. We had our photographer Sergio with us, who took much better photos than the ones here.
I’m not there now, I’m elsewhere. Lots to talk about soon, but way too busy right now for writing text…
Hello from Tegucigalpa. We’re just back from a couple of days in the Honduras-Nicaragua border zone, in the department of El Paraíso. An extraordinary number of migrants are passing through this zone right now, most of them after passing through the Darién Gap and Nicaragua.
Here are a few photos.
Waiting for documents
After passing through the Darién Gap, Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, some U.S.-bound migrants get stranded en route as they struggle to raise money to pay bus fares.
At the beginning of this century, Venezuela was one of Latin America’s wealthier countries. Back then, the idea of its citizens using an image of their flag to evoke pity in Honduras—the 2nd or 3rd poorest nation in the hemisphere—would’ve been ludicrous.
Great to see New Zealand’s The Beths, an indie-pop group at the height of their powers, at a sold-out 9:30 Club in Washington.
A much larger space than where I last saw them, in October 2018 at the Songbyrd Music Hall basement in Adams Morgan, which has since moved to a bigger and far better space. Here, my view of lead singer / guitarist Elizabeth Stokes was obscured by a post.
From El Salvador’s Gato Encerrado, reporting on the government’s encirclement of Soyapango, a poor San Salvador suburb, with 8,500 soldiers (about 1/3 of El Salvador’s military) and 1,500 police. The troops and cops are doing sweeps to arrest people whom they believe are gang members.
Translated caption of this photo, credited to Melissa Paises: “According to the human rights organization Cristosal, the majority of the more than 56,000 people detained under the emergency regime have been young men between the ages of 18 and 30, who were detained simply for their appearance or for living in stigmatized areas such as Soyapango.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has posted and shared, under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license, more than 65 photos of camera towers, aerostats, and other surveillance technologies deployed along the border. Some of this tech has “negative impacts for human rights or the civil liberties of those who live in the borderlands,” EFF notes.
Here’s one labeled “An extreme close-up shot of the lens of an Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT) camera on Coronado Peak, Cochise County, AZ”: