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Venezuela and FARC

Anyone photographed the FARC on the Venezuelan side of the border with Colombia or travelled with the Venezuelan military? Also looking for a fixer and accomodation (etc.) in Caracas.

by Allison Shelley at 2005-08-12 18:55:21 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) washington dc , United States | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Have you talked to Stephen Ferry? He might be able to help.
Maya

by Maya Alleruzzo | 13 Aug 2005 21:08 | | Report spam→
i asked a question similar to this recently and got absolutely no reply

so if you get some kind of answer id be interested to know too.

thanks

kenneth

by Kenneth Dickerman | 14 Aug 2005 11:08 | Chicago, Il, United States | | Report spam→
you could also try to contact the miami herald’s foreign desk and see if they can put you in touch with their caracas based writer. his name is stephen dudley, i think.

a

by Angel Valentin | 15 Aug 2005 04:08 | Miami, United States | | Report spam→
Thanks folks— very helpful.

David, I was afraid you’d say that. How safe is it to poke around the rivers out there? I’ve been told that it’s best to connect with the military to get in with the FARC (which I should have explained better in my original post). But sounds that would be hard to arrange within the next few weeks correct? (Our writer is flying down the 26th and I will follow a few days later).

Re: the fixer— we both speak Spanish, so what we really need is someone who is familiar with how things work there. Hooking up with a journalist based there sounds like a great idea. Any suggestions?

allison

by Allison Shelley | 15 Aug 2005 10:08 | washington dc, United States | | Report spam→
Re: FARC
I have not worked with them in Venezuala, but yes in Colombia. Was “detained” for a day (used as human shield) all under threat of kidnapping. When Local journalist showed up they got very interested in them, and ordered us to leave and kept the Colombians. My point is that they are much more leanient with foreign journalist (I know it sounds strange), so unless your local fixer/journalist has connections with FARC (very possible), it may be a liability, and a danger for them. I dunno, maybe they just like kidnapping Colombian journos and see Venezualans as sympathetic. But I dont think they care either way. On the other hand, don’t go by yourself. That’s asking to be kidnapped. I always traveled with at least two other people in Colombia’s red zones. Let someone know where you are as often as you can. While most foriegn jornalist have been released by FARC, ELN, some have not.
As far as the danger. Well, besides being kidnapped, the worst danger is being seen as sympathetic to one side, and being caught by the other, By the other, I mean the AUC, or what-ever the Paras are calling themselves these days. Don’ know how active the AUC has been inside Venezuela, but they shure have a history of posting up just inside the Colombian border, and they love to use river systems. And thats where the trouble lies, when the FARC and AUC are in proximity. The odds of getting stuck in a shootout are low however. Remember, this is not a war of combat, it is a war of intelligence and assinations. So be careful who you talk to and keep a low profile. I know this all sounds cloak and dagger, but that has been my and my collegues’ experience when dealing with the Colombian armed groups.
By the way, this trip sounds fun, good luck
EKH

by [former member] | 15 Aug 2005 13:08 | Oakland, United States | | Report spam→
Allison,

as far as how safe it is . . . ive been in the area with UNHCR but never went in search for FARC. The people I know who have done it did not think it was particularly dangerous, though it of course isn’t safe. But they werent too concerned about it. They had also previously worked with the FARC in Colombia.

Your best bet is to get in touch with people who have worked in Colombia to answer safety questions. As far as hooking up with the military . . . I’m not really sure how that would work . . . if you want interviews and pictures of the FARC you will not get them if you are with the Venezuelan military.

i can set you up with the journalists who fix here, though some of them are changing now. you may also want to contact reed lindsay . . . he is based in haiti, but strings for you guys from all over, including venezuela.

david

by David Rochkind | 15 Aug 2005 13:08 | Caracas, Venezuela | | Report spam→
Kenneth, if you wrote to me and I neglected to reply Im sorry. As far as I know, Ive responded to everyone whose written me in relation to working in colombia and environs. Shoot me a note if you still want to talk about it. Stephen

by [former member] | 16 Aug 2005 21:08 | bogota, Colombia | | Report spam→
Allison, Im not a lot of help either. The FARC, and the people in the venezuelan armed forces who are said to be helping them are surely not keen on publicizing the connection. Of course anything is possible, though I find it strange to imagine any venezuelan uniformed types helping you find the guerrilla. I would err on the side of caution when it comes to poking around, and I second what Eros wrote: there is a serious risk of getting a local in bad trouble by hiring/ asking someone to take you around. These areas are full of people doing intelligence for one side or the other, and the sighting of someone ferrying around some outsiders could turn out to be fatal for that person. (At the same time, anyone who could actually be useful in that regard will know the risks.) And be careful for your hides too, of course.

I have good friends in the newspaper in Cucuta, La Opinion, which is on the border with San Antonio de Tachira. There is considerable FARC presence in Catatumbo all along the border there. If you do go to Cucuta, you should speak with the director, Dr. Jose Eustorgio Colmenares, using my name, and also look for Carlos Patino and Gabriela Sierra, photographers. Also Patinos father, Efrain, is a freelance photographer who knows the lay of the land there as well as anybody. He might be open to be being hired to take you into the catatumbo region along the border.

You can certainly illustrate how porous the border is from cucuta, as people are walking across the river, right under the authorities noses, moving contraband gasoline (and of course guns and cocaine) all the time. Its a scene which speaks to how uncontrolled the border is.

Drop me a note if you have any other questions.

Cheers, Stephen

by [former member] | 16 Aug 2005 21:08 | bogota, Colombia | | Report spam→
allison, please feel free to call me for anything you need while you are in venezuela. send me an email and ill get you the numbers of a few guys who can fix for you. just in case, my number, from caracas is (414)126-5851. at the very list lets grab a beer. let me know if there are any phone numbers, contacts etc etc etc you are looking for.

by David Rochkind | 17 Aug 2005 15:08 | Caracas, Venezuela | | Report spam→
Thank you all so much for the advice— we’re shaping our trip much differently now that we’re armed with these suggestions. In fact, per Stephen’s post, we are considering basing ourselves in San Antonio de Tachira/Cucuta for part of the trip.

David, I’ll drop you an email. But let’s definately connect in Caracas!

allison

by Allison Shelley | 17 Aug 2005 15:08 | washington dc, United States | | Report spam→
Allison, the casa blanca hotel in cucuta is your best best, I think. Nice pool. Good security and nicely remodelled after the ELN blew it up three years ago (shouldnt happen again.) Has internet. Not to walk around at night late. You can ask Carlos Patino or gabriela for the number of a guy named Janes, who would be a good driver, knows a lot, and needs work.

stephen

by [former member] | 17 Aug 2005 20:08 | bogota, Colombia | | Report spam→
Hi all. If any of you can spare advice for a starving student, I’m at Columbia University’s journalism grad school trying to put together a parachute memo on how to hypothetically cover the Colombian conflict. Any practical ground tips? Where to go (border,refugee camps, cities, Andean villages?), where to stay (hotels, hostels, etc.) and costs (per diem, equipment, etc.)? I’m hearing a lot of concerns about fixers. Anywhere to find a driver or a contact who’s plugged in down there? Cost? Are most of you just braving it without local guides? How do you get around the country (I’ve been to Bogota and Cali but mostly flew around within the country- are buses safe?)
On a less hypothetical note, I’m also looking for a story idea to cover as my Masters thesis. Looking for something a bit safer. Any good refugee camps worth a visit? Thanks for any help…

by William Wheeler | 04 Oct 2006 00:10 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
Have you ever tried to contact the FARC directyl through their website? I haven’t but…you might give it a try.

by [former member] | 04 Oct 2006 04:10 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
Myself, I would counsel against trying to contact the FARC via their website, because it is watched, and even if the colombian authorities didnt then decide to read all your email etc from then on, the FARC would assume they had and would not trust any line of communication with you after that. paranoia is currency of the realm.

beyond that Im not much help as to the farc as I havent been out with them for a while now. You need to be in colombia and begin with local tv and newspaper reporters in certain parts of the country. takes time, but there arent any short cuts as those people dont take kindly to unannounced visitors in areas they control.

stephen

by [former member] | 07 Oct 2006 17:10 | bogota, Colombia | | Report spam→
Hi Allison, glad to hear you are going on the road but please be very careful down there. You may want to try contacting Scott Dalton who lives in Bogota. He is a member here on LS. Like Stephen he knows the area very well and can give you very solid information on the region. Be safe and make some powerful photographs! Latin America deserves much more in depth and responsible coverage than we currently offer! Michael

by [former member] | 08 Oct 2006 15:10 | Washington DC, United States | | Report spam→
Hi.. I need help, There’s a black ops in FARC territory that I need a status on.. I have detail, but obviously cannot post… the embassy is giving me the run around.. thanks

by Jena | 23 Feb 2008 02:02 | california, United States | | Report spam→
Hi everybody…Allison maybe you can try to contact Kosuke Okahara is an LS member and has a really goodgood work about part of the Colombian conflict and i guess knows good about the ground work…have a good work…a good trip…and please get the Michael R. Chavez counsels!!

by [former member] | 01 Mar 2008 10:03 | Mulhouse, France | | Report spam→
will follow this thread, as well.

by [former member] | 03 Mar 2008 03:03 | Santiago, Chile | | Report spam→

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Participants

Allison Shelley, Photojournalist Allison Shelley
Photojournalist
Washington Dc , United States
Maya Alleruzzo, photo editor Maya Alleruzzo
photo editor
[undisclosed location].
Kenneth Dickerman, Photographer Kenneth Dickerman
Photographer
Nyc , United States
Angel Valentin, Photojournalist Angel Valentin
Photojournalist
Miami , United States
David Rochkind, Photographer David Rochkind
Photographer
Mexico City , Mexico
William Wheeler, William Wheeler
New York , United States
Jena, Jena
California , United States


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