“News of a kidnapping, no matter how painful, is not as irremediable as news of a murder, and Hernando breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank God.” he said, and then changed his tone:
“Okay. Don’t worry. We’ll see what we have to do.” (page 38)
In the winter of 1990, ten relatives of Colombian politicians, mostly women and mostly involved in journalism were abducted and held hostage by “The Extraditables” a group of drug traffickers seeking to put pressure on the Colombian government not to extradite them if caught. Extradition to the USA, was feared more than incarceration in Colombia because they knew they’d be imprisoned for the rest of their natural lives. A not unreasonable fear as Carlos Lehder, a Colombian drug baron, received a sentence of life plus 130 years when extradited. Chief player among the Extraditables was Pablo Escobar, chief of the notorious Medellin cartel. Escobar found the chief bargaining chips he could find were hostages.
“Easy money, a narcotic more harmful than the ill-named heroic drugs , was injected into the national culture. The idea prospered: The law is the greatest obstacle to happiness; it is a waste of time learning to read and write; you can live a better, more secure life as a criminal than as a law-abiding citizen…” (page 130)
This is not Gabriel García Márquez’s usual magic realism but a piece of investigative journalism. Marquez interviewed the released hostages and family members to put together their story and provide a snapshot of the dark days of 1990 and 1991 in Colombia. It is an interesting read but with so many hostages the story is somewhat fragmented. For me a better book about being a political hostage is Brian Keenan’s “An Evil Cradling” detailing his and John McCarthy’s time as hostages of Shi’ite militiamen in Lebanon.
My rating 3.5 out of 5