We are talking about Colombia in our second episode of “Global,” with the 30th President of Colombia, Andres Pastrana; Nick Miroff, Latin America Correspondent for the Washington Post; and IRI Resident Country Director for Colombia Gabriela Serrano. 

With every podcast, we include a behind-the-scenes blog with related media and some untold stories. If you missed our blog featuring our first episode on Russia you can find it HERE.

Colombia: “Global” Episode Two

Former President of Colombia Andres Pastrana talks about being kidnapped by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. What really happened?

I pieced together what happened and this is what I found out. John Jairo Velasquez, also known as “Popeye,” was the top hit man for Pablo Escobar in the ’80s. He kidnapped then-Bogota mayoral candidate Andres Pastrana in 1988. Pastrana, surviving the ordeal, went on to become the 30th president of Colombia, serving from 1998 to 2002.

At the time of his kidnapping, Pastrana was used as a bargaining chip to pressure the government. Not only was Pastrana a news anchor for a nationally-known show and a candidate in the Bogota mayoral race, but he was also the son of a past president, Misael Pastrana Borrero, who served from 1970 to 1974.

The story does not end there. President Pastrana and his kidnapper met again in 2012, when an imprisoned Velasquez apologized to Pastrana and his family.

“I ask you for forgiveness from the bottom of my heart,” he told Pastrana, “for what the Medellin cartel did, for risking your very important life.”

Popeye Velasquez spent 22 years in prison and was released in 2014.

The FARC is mentioned throughout the episode. Who are they?

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC is the acronym of their Spanish title) is Colombia’s largest terrorist group. They were founded in 1964 as the armed wing of the Communist Party. Inspired in part by Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Cuba, the FARC argued that the new Colombian government was taking land from small farmers and granting huge swaths of farmland to wealthy landowners.

What is coca?

Coca is any of the four cultivated plants in the family Erythroxylaceae, native to western South America. It resembles a blackthorn bush and has small flowers. Coca leaf extract was used in Coca-Cola products between 1885 until 1929, when cocaine was completely eliminated from the products.

Where can I find Gallup’s annual global end of year survey, which awarded Colombia a score of 85 percent “net happiness”?

You can find the poll HERE. According to the survey, 87 percent of Colombians polled said they were happy, and only two percent said they were unhappy, giving them a “net happiness score” of 85 percent — 20 points above the global average and nearly double the score of the United States.

Where can I read more about the peace deal?

On January 3, “Global” guest Nick Miroff wrote about the peace deal; you can find it HERE. You can also follow Nick on twitter at @NickMiroff.

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