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There Are No Dead Here: A Story of Murder and Denial in Colombia

Colombia’s drug-fueled cycle of terror, corruption, and tragedy did not end with Pablo Escobar’s death in 1993. Just when Colombians were ready to move past the murderous legacy of the country’s cartels, a new, bloody chapter unfolded. In the late 1990s, right-wing paramilitary groups with close ties to the cocaine business carried out a violent expansion campaign, massacring, raping, and torturing thousands.

There Are No Dead Here is the harrowing story of three ordinary Colombians who risked everything to reveal the collusion between the new mafia and much of the country’s military and political establishment: Jesús María Valle, a human rights activist who was murdered for exposing a dark secret; Iván Velásquez, a quiet prosecutor who took up Valle’s cause and became an unlikely hero; and Ricardo Calderón, a dogged journalist who is still being targeted for his revelations. Their groundbreaking investigations landed a third of the country’s Congress in prison and fed new demands for justice and peace that Colombia’s leaders could not ignore.

Taking readers from the sweltering Medellín streets where criminal investigators were hunted by assassins, through the countryside where paramilitaries wiped out entire towns, and into the corridors of the presidential palace in Bogotá, There Are No Dead Here is an unforgettable portrait of the valiant men and women who dared to stand up to the tide of greed, rage, and bloodlust that threatened to engulf their country.

Published February 27, 2018.

 

PRAISE FOR THE BOOK

In her masterful work, Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno unravels the intrigue, politics, and history between Colombia’s government and its paramilitaries. Through her precise reporting and elegant prose, There Are No Dead Here paints a vivid and harrowing portrait of three brave individuals who, despite death threats and great risk to themselves and their families, expose some of their country’s darkest secrets. This book is a must for anyone fascinated by Colombia’s complex history.
— Melissa del Bosque, author of Bloodlines
This well-researched and beautifully told history explains how three civilians rewrote Colombian history.
— Booklist
A deeply informed account of Colombia’s decades long civil war and the many figures who profited from it... An admirable work of journalism in the interest of human rights.
— Kirkus Reviews
The horrific violence in Colombia during the 1990s and 2000s is made painfully palpable in this account of three men who risked their lives to make public the atrocities committed by paramilitary forces and the Colombian government.... A necessarily grim narrative about the effects of government corruption in Colombia, with rays of hope to be found in Calderón’s, Valle’s, and Velásquez’s impressive achievements against formidable odds.
— Publishers Weekly
A gripping and illuminating portrait of three far from ordinary Colombian whose courage, leadership, and perseverance continue to influence and inspire the fight for justice throughout Latin America. In a way, this story provides a roadmap of the hard, daring journey toward hope.
— Francisco Goldman, author of The Interior Circuit
Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno has woven together a remarkable tale about drugs, violence, greed, corruption and—far above all else—human courage. A deep knowledge of Colombia and the people who live there is threaded through every page of the story, yet the book’s relevance reaches far beyond that country’s borders.
— Monte Reel, author of The Last of the Tribe
Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno has written an important, gripping account of how three individuals heroically risked their lives to fight terror and corruption in their country. The violent dramas and acts of human bravery that are told in There Are No Dead Here unfold in Colombia, but also offer lucid insights into the fragility of civil society-and of rule of law-anywhere. At a time when the boundaries between tyranny and democracy, truth and falsehood, become increasingly opaque, McFarland’s book offers a narrative that is unerring in its moral clarity.
— Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life

Al images except the book cover are by Stephen Ferry. Cover image by Natalia Botero.