Watergirl and the Colombian Paramilitaries

The time I stumbled into a human trafficking operation

Colombian Paramilitaries near Aguachica (photo courtesy of http://ojosparalapaz-colombia.blogspot.com)

An Unofficial Stop in the Road

Around hour six, the driver pulled into the parking lot of a two-story house alongside the road. Standing guard in front of the house was a young kid wearing body armor with a shotgun strapped to his back. He sported a baseball hat that read “Private Security”.

Arriving on the outskirts of Aguachica

After eight long hours we stopped at a small roadside restaurant on the outskirts of Aguachica. I desperately needed to stretch my legs and escape the stale air of the van. Everyone piled out except for David, who looked a bit concerned.

a particularly picturesque shot of the beautiful city of Aguachica

The Paracos

The Paracos are one of three forces battling to control the illegal paths across the Venezuelan border. Right now those paths are a gold mine for the force that controls them. Thousands of Venezuelans smuggle food, medicine, consumer goods and contraband daily out of Colombia, and pay a “toll” for doing so.

Welcome to Aguachica

When we arrived I hurriedly removed our bags from the roof of the van as David asked the driver about hotels nearby. I hid my cameras in my backpack. Obviously, being identified as journalists writing about the border would be incredibly dangerous. Only one photo exists of our time in Aguachica, a snapshot David took on the sly using his phone.

The author removing his baggage in Aguachica, Colombia

A reporter on immigration and world affairs, based in Cucuta, Colombia. Bylines at Al Jazeera, Caracas Chronicles, New Humanitarian and more

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