Simon Reeve is on a journey around Colombia, one of the most spectacular countries in the world, which for 50 years has been gripped by a brutal civil war. This one off documentary airs on Sunday 16 April at 9.00pm on BBC Two.
Simon starts his journey on the tropical Rosario islands to explore the murky history of Colombia’s drugs barons, visiting the nearby port city of Cartagena, where a historic peace deal was signed by the government and the guerrilla army FARC, bringing an end to the long war.
The war has killed over 200,000 and displaced seven million people. In the capital city Bogota he visits victims of the war – women who survive by singing for donations of clothes and shoes.
Deep in the jungle Simon confronts Mauricio Jaramillo, known as El Medico, one of the leaders of FARC, and confronts him about the many atrocities committed by the group. He asks him if they will keep their promise to lay down their arms and what will happen if the peace process fails.
But even if the country’s main guerrilla group does enter mainstream politics, the country still faces a huge array of problems that will need to be overcome, if peace is to succeed.
Simon travels south to the Pacific coast city of Buenaventura to find out more about the other players in the conflict: the fearsome far-right paramilitaries. These groups were formed by land owners to confront the left-wing guerrillas and have now morphed into powerful criminal gangs, funded by the ever present cocaine trade. As the FARC abandon the countryside, there is fear that these groups will only grow in power. Simon joins a mission with the Colombian army that tackle illegal gold mining – another lucrative source of income.
Despite the formidable challenges, Simon finds hope for the future in the notorious city of Medellin – once home to Pablo Escobar’s notorious cartel. Simon meets the former Mayor to find out how the city has been transformed from the ‘most dangerous city on earth’ to one of Colombia’s liveliest and most creative.
Finally, Simon’s journey takes him to the most rural areas of Colombia, where he meets the farmers battling for a different future – one not fueled by the global demand for drugs. They are seeking support from the government to stop farming coca, the plant form of cocaine, and to grow legal crops. With land ownership, poverty and drugs at the heart of Colombia’s problems, it is in the countryside that the country’s future will be decided.
Pictured is Simon Reeve in FARC camp with FARC fighter Cesar
Colombia with Simon Reeve airs on Sunday 16 April 2017 from 9.00pm-10.00pm on BBC Two.