Caught in the Storm of War: Memoirs of a War Reporter
For nearly 60 years, Colombia’s security forces have fought “the guerrillas,” one of the country’s greatest evils, in the Colombian jungles. Taking place in remote wooded areas, in cities, and in the areas one of the most important products for the Colombian economy – coffee – is cultivated, the war against these rebel groups has captured the attention of media outlets from all over the world.
Newspapers, radio, television and new forms of technology all strove to provide comprehensive and accurate information on key events affecting public safety, the conflict, the concept of near-constant war, drug trafficking and the proliferation of violent groups, including the paramilitaries, common criminals and the drug traffickers, all of which have left an indelible mark on the spirit of the Colombian people.
During this time, Adriana Aristizabal, a war journalist, covered the struggle for nearly a decade. She witnessed some of the most striking events in the Colombian conflict, sacrificed her own safety in pursuit of the truth, and found herself in unlikely and impossible to predict situations.
During the fighting on the Ecuadorian border, where Colombian army troops were trying to establish order while terrorist and paramilitary forces fought for dominance over coca plantations and laboratories; in cities on the Venezuelan border, where youth vanished without a trace and massacres and targeted killings were common; in the demilitarized zone of San Vicente del Caguan, where former president Andres Pastrana conducted a failed peace process; in the Andes Mountains, where the first mass kidnapping in Colombian history, known as the “pesca milagrosa,” or “miraculous catch,” took place – in all four corners of the country, exclusive news needed to be covered, and in the competition among media channels, war journalists were considered some of the most seasoned agents.
The human element in these stories, about everything from international operations to ambushes, is embodied by the often-overlooked victims. Though frequently a footnote in these scenarios, they witnessed all the contradictions of war, felt the great weight of responsibility and lived with the imminent danger.
CAUGHT IN THE STORM OF WAR is a voice in the hail of bullets, rushing past one another on their way to a final, lethal, destination. This voice rises, calling out for compassion for those anonymous individuals who lost their lives, a heavy cost in a complex and overwhelming reality. More than 84 journalists were killed over more than 20 years there, highlighting the risk and sacrifice that our reporters, journalists, broadcasters and editors lived with in Colombia, a country with one of the highest murder rates for journalists in the world.
The massacres of hundreds of people in hopeless places such as Bojaya - Choco, near Colombia’s Pacific coast; the story of the last days of the targeted victims, pursued by armed groups; the famous tale of finding an underground bank controlled by the FARC, where they were counterfeiting hundreds of millions of dollars; from magical realism to first-person accounts, from the mystery to the fear surrounding this persecution, these 21 chapters take us down a path where the mines, bombs and machine guns ring incessantly until the end and a sensitive woman raising a school-age child alone risks everything to achieve her goal of spreading the truth. Despite the bloody battle discussed day after day, despite the touch of death at her door, despite the constant and heavy threat of being kidnapped, her pursuit of truth persevered in an almost religious manner, causing her to risk everything – even her own life.