Colombia

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

First of a three-part WLRN series, "Escape From Venezuela"

CÚCUTA, COLOMBIA | This is what the Venezuelan refugee crisis sounds like: the fists, knuckles and open palms of destitute – and above all hungry – Venezuelan migrants pounding on the metal gates of humanitarian relief stations here in the Colombian border city of Cúcuta.

Tim Padgett / WLRN News

The Venezuelan refugee crisis is overwhelming South American countries—especially Colombia.

 

Last Friday, the U.N. had to suspend a new food stamp program for Venezuelans in the Colombian border city of Cúcuta because the crowds were simply too large and chaotic.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

The Venezuelan refugee crisis is only worsening - and international aid raised so far to help hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans pouring into countries like Colombia is falling well short. As a result, the U.N. and other aid  groups are looking for new sources of funding.

Colombian authorities have arrested a former peace negotiator for the rebel group FARC on a warrant seeking his extradition to the U.S. on cocaine smuggling charges.

Seuxis Hernandez, also known by the alias Jesus Santrich, was taken into custody at his residence in the capital, Bogota, on an arrest warrant issued by the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York charging him with conspiracy to smuggle $15 million worth of cocaine into the U.S., according to an Interpol notice quoted by The Associated Press.

Fernando Vergara / AP via Miami Herald

At a warehouse near Miami International Airport, Adelys Ferro is unpacking boxes and making a checklist of donated medicines for Venezuelans.

On small peasant farms across Colombia, panela, or unrefined whole cane sugar, is grown, picked and processed entirely by hand. It constitutes the basic economy for hundreds of municipalities, and is second only to coffee in the number of people engaged in its production.

Colombia's former FARC guerrilla group is making its electoral debut as a recognized political party in congressional elections on Sunday.

The FARC became a political party in December 2016, after signing a peace deal with the Colombian government that ended 52 years of bloody civil conflict in which more than 200,000 people were killed and an estimated 8 million were displaced.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis is now a crisis in next-door Colombia. Thousands of Venezuelans are fleeing their country’s economic collapse each day, and pressure is mounting to help them. The diaspora here in South Florida is making an especially strong call.

Former Venezuelan Senator and opposition leader Pablo Medina just arrived in Miami after touring the Venezuelan-Colombian border. Some 600,000 Venezuelans now reside in Colombia, and thousands more keep coming by the day.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

South Florida has petal power. Just about all the flowers that enter the U.S. come through Miami, where they're the No. 1 import.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos suspended ongoing peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) on Monday, after the leftist rebel group killed several police officers in a series of bomb attacks over the weekend. It is the second time this month, negotiations between the government and the last remaining rebel group have been put on hold.

Rodrigo Londoño has been sentenced for taking people hostage, raiding an army base and recruiting children into his guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Now, the former rebel commander is running for Colombia's top office.

On Saturday, the 59-year-old former guerrilla leader waved at supporters from a stage set up outside a community center in Ciudad Bolívar, one of Bogotá's poorest neighborhoods. Amid tight security, a catchy campaign song and confetti blasts, he joined the race for the May 27 presidential election.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

This month, when you walk into a Colombian café in Kendall called La Candelaria, you’re met by música decembrina. December music. Meaning, Colombian Navidad or Christmas music. Old-time cumbia favorites like “El Año Viejo.”

Colombia says it has made the biggest drug bust in its history, after seizing 13.4 tons of cocaine at farms northwest of Medellin on Wednesday. The drugs are worth more than a third of a billion dollars, according to President Juan Manuel Santos.

Santos said the illegal merchandise, "valued at U.S. $360 million, belonged to the Clan of the Gulf and was seized in 4 collection centers in a radius of 6 km [3.7 miles], between the municipalities of Carepa and Chigorodó, Antioquia."

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP via Miami Herald

The official song commissioned for Pope Francis’ visit to Colombia this week is called “Let’s Take the First Step.” It concludes with a paso the 80-year-old pontiff probably isn’t too familiar with: the hip-hop beat called reggaeton.

Fernando Vergara / AP via Miami Herald

When Vice President Mike Pence toured Latin America last week – Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama – it was the Trump administration’s first visit to a region that's wondering if Trump has any interest in it besides building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

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