The Crisis: Assassination and environment

Vice

If you’ve never lived them, it can be difficult to understand the unique power struggles to be found in other countries. We hear about civil wars, political rivalries, murder and strife in the news, but often global problems are exactly that. They’re dismissed or forgotten as we concentrate on issues closer to home.

With The Crisis, the team at VICE does a really laudable job of carefully drawing their audience into a particular place and time, before zooming out to demonstrate the unfortunate ubiquity of corruption — and the lesser discussed damage wrought by fossil fuel industries.

This podcast is intense, but excellent.

Also, three things worth noting. One, at times the subject matter will be unfamiliar to listeners, and the relationships may seem obscure. Quality reporting overcomes! Two, the documentary is available in English and Spanish. Yep. Pretty cool. Three, this is actually a smart attempt to create a discussion about broader environmental destruction under the guise of true crime. Clever…

The main setting for The Crisis is Colombia, and it begins with the brutal assassination of two working men — coal miners named, Valmore Locarno and Victor Orcasita — in the midst of the civil war. As active union members, in 2001 they were taken out by government paramilitaries, presumably suspicious of their links to leftwing insurgents.

As our trio of narrators, Sayre Quevedo, Ramón Campos and Agnes Walton, unravel this murder, we learn of rumors that their own employer, an Alabama-headquartered company called Drummond, may have lurked behind the attack, funding paramilitary assassins through covert payments. Soon the victim’s family have a plucky US lawyer on-side who plans to bring the case the trial in an American court, and we learn of other Drummond-backed political-snakery closer-to-home.

Our hosts lift the veil on an opaque world; one that sits at the intersection of government and corporate interests. Of course, there is murkiness and the podcast is punctuated with denials, but there are also confessionals that deliver a wonderful rawness. They act as a (truthful?) counterbalance, and though cases brought in the US ultimately failed, such dissenters will undoubtedly play a central role in the latest case being launched by the Colombian government.

In complement to solid reporting, the family members left in the wake of this 20-year murder add critical subjective detail, color and emotion. Their strength, resilience and stoicism in the face of a multi-national opponent is stirring. Now they — and we — must watch and wait, but in the meantime work like this is essential when it comes to emphasizing the need for global corporate responsibility.

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