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Hostage Nation

This true story of the dramatic rescue of three captive Americans raises disturbing questions about the US war on drugs in Colombia.

By Carlo Wolff / August 12, 2010

Hostage Nation: Colombia’s Guerrilla Army and the Failed War on Drugs By Victoria Bruce and Karin Hayes, with Jorge Enrique Botero Knopf 336 pp., $26.95

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North American journalists Victoria Bruce and Karin Hayes allied with the insider they needed – the Colombian journalist Jorge Enrique Botero – to produce the gripping book Hostage Nation. This brave, deeply reported work makes a compelling argument for ending the drug wars that the United States continues to prosecute in Colombia, Mexico, and – for that matter – Afghanistan.

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The authors tack that argument onto the end of this compelling story about the interplay of economics and politics in Colombia, that country’s relationship with the United States, and the rescue of three US contractors held in captivity in Colombia for more than five years. Their depiction of the daring, persistence, and open-mindedness necessary to prevail over ineptitude at the top levels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Colombian government, and the Bush administration proves that political posturing, no matter the stripe, can prove fatal.

What makes “Hostage Nation” especially persuasive is input from Botero, a Bogota man who, like FARC leader Simon Trinidad, grew up on the right side of the tracks. However, where Trinidad became a neo-Marxist revolutionary, Botero became a reporter. His background enabled him to be the first to interview FARC captives Ingrid Betancourt (a failed Colombian presidential candidate), and Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves, and Thomas Howes (contractors whose Cessna plane crashed in the jungle of southern Colombia Feb. 13, 2003.) The story of those three Americans is the thread that ties “Hostage Nation” together.

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