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John Otis

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DARIEN JUNGLE, Colombia – For centuries, jungle-covered mountains, swamps and poisonous snakes scared people away from the Darién Gap, the dense rainforest separating North and South America. It's still the only spot where the Pan-American Highway, that runs from Alaska all the way to the tip of South America, dissolves into mud.

But thanks to the large numbers of migrants trying to get to the United States, the Darién Gap is no longer a no man's land.

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MESETAS, Colombia — I'm with a small group of tourists preparing to rappel down a 150-foot canyon next to a waterfall in southern Colombia. It's scary, but we're in good hands, with guides intimately familiar with this jungle terrain.

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BOGOTA, Colombia — The arrest in Haiti of more than a dozen former Colombian soldiers in connection with Wednesday's assassination of President Jovenel Moïse initially provoked shock and shame in Colombia and calls for swift justice.

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BOGOTÁ, Colombia — While marching in nationwide demonstrations this week, Pablo Mora wore a face mask to protect himself from the coronavirus. But every so often, the retired security guard took it off and blew a whistle to voice his disgust with Colombia's government.

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Two factors have led to protests in Colombia. The U.S. ally at the top of South America faces spiking COVID deaths amid very little vaccine. And the government is planning to raise taxes. John Otis reports on the public response.

Colombian President Iván Duque has won praise from the Biden administration, the United Nations and Pope Francis for his decision last month to provide temporary legal status to undocumented migrants from neighboring Venezuela. But according to Duque, what's been lacking from the international community is money to pay for a crisis that's similar in scope to the outflow of Syrian refugees in the 2010s.

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More than 5 million Venezuelans left their country because of political and economic crises over the last six years. Some South American neighboring countries are telling them not to come, but not Colombia. John Otis reports on its open-door policy.

BOGOTA, Colombia — Since fleeing Venezuela three years ago to escape a socialist dictatorship and the country's worst-ever economic collapse, Isaias Bello has lived in legal limbo.

If you send a bouquet of roses for Valentine's Day, chances are they were grown in Colombia. It remains the No. 1 supplier of flowers to the U.S. even though the coronavirus pandemic at one point threatened to wilt the industry.

"It's been a roller coaster," said José Restrepo, co-owner and general manager of the Ayurá flower farm, located just north of Bogotá in the Andean mountain town of Tocancipá.

Editor's note: This story includes details some readers may find disturbing.

At a shelter for Venezuelan migrants in the Colombian border town of Villa del Rosario, Alondra Castillo pulls back her blouse to reveal black-and-blue welts on her arms and shoulders.

Castillo, 23, explains that she and about 80 other Venezuelans were crossing into Colombia last month on a clandestine trail controlled by drug smugglers. But it was night, and she and her 2-year-old son became separated from the group.

Just three days after crossing the border into Colombia to escape food shortages, joblessness and authoritarian rule in Venezuela, Alexander González says he's shocked by the xenophobia of his adopted homeland.

"Colombians treat Venezuelans badly," says González, 19, as he takes a breather in the Colombian town of Pamplona before setting off on foot for the capital of Bogotá. "They practically spit in our faces."

The campaign to remove Confederate statues and other symbols of white supremacy in the United States is resonating in Latin America, where protesters have destroyed monuments to European colonizers who brutalized Indigenous populations.

The latest target was a statue of Sebastián de Belalcázar, a Spanish conquistador. He founded the Colombian cities of Popayán and Cali in 1537, while leading a military campaign that killed and enslaved of thousands of Misak Indigenous people.

Venezuela's worst economic meltdown in history has had a huge impact on neighboring Colombia, where hospitals, schools and welfare agencies are dealing with 2 million Venezuelan refugees. But the crisis has produced at least one silver lining for Colombia: the curtailing of gasoline smuggling.

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