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Law of the Jungle: The Hunt for Colombian…
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Law of the Jungle: The Hunt for Colombian Guerrillas, American Hostages,…

by John Otis

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Really good book! Fascinating and well-written. Two specific faults mar it. No maps and lack of a bibliography. Still it is great story and highly recommended! ( )
  PCorrigan | Aug 12, 2013 |
This book is both an informative and entertaining read. It's a work of journalism, well researched, and built around the story of the kidnap of three US mercenaries by the FARC, the armed revolutionary left in Colombia. During the Americans' years (2003-2008) of being held hostage in the Amazon jungle together with other "high profile" political prisoners such as Ingrid Betancourt, the Colombian military and politicos were unable to either rescue the hostages or negotiate their release. The author has used a remarkable ancillary story during those years to propel his narrative: a group of Colombian soldiers uncovered a secret FARC stash of cash. They took the money and ran. This episode turns out to be extraordinarily revealing of Colombian society and adds to the author's capable explanations of the Colombian establishment's means and methods of dealing with their armed rebels.

What makes the writing wonderful is the author's constant eye for ironic detail, twists of events, and over the top characters among all parties. Sometimes I felt I was reading background for Doonesbury. His accounts are frequently based on personal interviews with the actors involved. The events described are often horrific--the cruelty toward prisoners, the casual homicides, the exploitation--and the author does not shirk from laying them bare. But this heaviness does not erase his sense of the ridiculous and the resulting humor. The mixture works well and reminds me of studying a painting of the human condition by Hieronymus Bosch.

The author is on the side of a fair political deal for the people of Colombia's future. He sees little to appreciate in Colombia's government or the rebels and has little time for pompous ideologues or narrow-minded fanatics of any stripe. America's war on/with drugs is seen as a thrashing demon in Colombia's fortunes.

The book is backed up with excellent research and notes, plus maps and an index. ( )
  Wheatland | Sep 23, 2011 |
Granted that having lived in Colombia for 16 years, including the years covered in this book, I still think people in a wider audience would be interested in reading this non-fiction book about the Colombian terrorism, the drug war, American hostages and the foibles of both the Colombian military and the FARC. If there weren't such a problem as greed this book wouldn't have taken place.

The book is a good read and the author made it easy to keep track of characters even though many had more than one moniker and I would be interested to read more work by him. ( )
  skf | Nov 23, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061671800, Hardcover)

“Truth be told, they were mostly in it for the money”

On February 13, 2003, a plane carrying three American military contractors on a recon patrol crash-landed in the jungle-covered mountains of Colombia. Within minutes, FARC guerrillas swarmed the wreckage and killed the American pilot and a Colombian crew member as they tried to escape. The survivors—Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell, and Thomas Howes—were marched at gunpoint into the rain forest. They would live in constant darkness under the jungle canopy as they faced starvation, fights with fellow hostages, and threats of execution—often with their necks shackled together.

The Colombian government sent 147 soldiers to rescue the Americans. Led by a bold yet corpulent lieutenant, the troops spent weeks subsisting on monkey meat and Amazon rodents as they chased the guerrillas deeper into the jungle. But then a soldier on a bathroom break stuck his machete into the ground and pulled out 20 million pesos, equaling $7,000. Pretty soon, the young, poor, and exhausted troops realized they had stumbled upon a buried rebel cache of $20 million. Within three days, the GIs burned through their newfound fortune, splurging on booze, sex, and flat-screen televisions. And though the money brought pleasure, for many of the soldiers it would end in criminal prosecution or even death by FARC hit men.

Law of the Jungle places the Colombian hostage story in its full context by exploring the inner workings of the FARC, the U.S.-backed war on drugs, and Colombia's efforts to free the rebel-held prisoners. John Otis, a veteran journalist on the Latin American beat, spins an edge-of-your-seat adventure narrative that offers a shocking cautionary tale about the pursuit of fortune in one of the world's most dangerous places.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:22 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"Truth be told, they were mostly in it for the money." On February 13, 2003, a plane carrying three American military contractors on a recon patrol crash-landed in the jungle-covered mountains of Colombia. Within minutes, FARC guerrillas swarmed the wreckage and killed the American pilot and a Colombian crew member as they tried to escape. The survivors--Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell, and Thomas Howes--were marched at gunpoint into the rain forest. For the next five years, they would live as hostages under the jungle canopy, facing starvation, fights with fellow hostages, and threats of execution. Veteran journalist Otis places the hostage story in its full context by exploring the inner workings of the FARC, the U.S.-backed war on drugs, and Colombia's efforts to free the rebel-held prisoners--offering a cautionary tale about the pursuit of fortune in one of the world's most dangerous places.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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