Tracking the FARC in the Ecuadoran Jungle

Hats off to Joshua Paltrow for two WaPo pieces describing six days trekking through the Ecuadoran rainforest with an Ecuadoran Army patrol in search of FARC guerillas along the Colombian border. I spent some time in the Ecuadoran rainforest, but unlike Paltrow (who was advised by an Ecuadoran colonel, “Don’t worry about the snakes. Worry about the guerrillas.”), all I had to worry about was the jungle. And the soldier Paltrow cites pretty much sums it up:

“The jungle is beautiful,” one soldier remarked. “But everything bites.”

Another thing that resonated for me was the soldier, a rainforest Indian, who serves as the patrol’s de facto guide. When I was in the jungle in 1996, just after a violent outbreak of the longstanding Ecuador-Peru border dispute, I heard a lot of stories from my Shuar hosts about Ecuadoran units composed of jungle natives running circles around Peruvian troops that were unfamiliar with the terrain and whose equipment was poorly adapted for jungle fighting. It’s a reminder that foreign interventions are always an “away game,” with all the disadvantages that entails.

Mainly, though, I just wanted to flag some great reporting of the sort that, due to shrinking budgets for foreign desks, is getting rarer these days.