MEET AUTHOR MARIA MCFARLAND SÁNCHEZ-MORENO
for a reading and book signing featuring her book 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.
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MARIA’S COMMITMENT TO SOCIAL JUSTICE AND DRUG POLICY REFORM DATES FROM HER CHILDHOOD, WHICH SHE SPENT MOSTLY IN PERU. SHE WAS STRONGLY INFLUENCED BY HER EARLY WORK AT HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH RESEARCHING COLOMBIA, WHERE DRUG PROFITS FUELED MASSACRES AND OFFICIAL CORRUPTION.
DURING HER TENURE AT HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, MARIA LED A TEAM ADVOCATING AGAINST RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN POLICING, EXCESSIVE SENTENCING, AND UNFAIR DEPORTATION POLICIES THAT TEAR FAMILIES APART, ALL ISSUES CLOSELY INTERTWINED WITH THE UNITED STATES’ CRUEL AND IRRATIONAL APPROACH TO DRUGS. SHE ALSO PRESSED THE ORGANIZATION TO MORE DIRECTLY ADDRESS THE WAR ON DRUGS AS A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE. AS A RESULT, IN 2013 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH BECAME THE FIRST MAJOR INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION TO CALL FOR DECRIMINALIZATION OF THE PERSONAL USE AND POSSESSION OF DRUGS AND GLOBAL DRUG REFORM MORE BROADLY.