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In the eighties, a British adventure travel company offered multiweek treks through the Gap.But by the mid-nineties, the prevalence of armed groups led to a plague of kidnappings, disappearances, and murders that put an end to such trips. I turn around and see nothing but a wall of dark, unruly jungle, then I slump back into the bow of the canoe.Five days we’ve been out here, waiting for a group of foreigners to appear on this godforsaken smuggler’s route in the Darién Gap, and all we have to show for it is sunburn and trench foot. For centuries the lure of the unknown has attracted explorers, scientists, criminals, and other dubious characters to the Gap, a 10,000-square-mile rectangle of swamp, mountains, and rainforest that spans both sides of the border between Colombia and Panama.It later emerged that he was killed by a shot to the head. Fierce competition for massive drug profits has also fueled the rise of neo-paramilitary groups that terrorize the region with wanton killings and armed assaults. Los Urabeños, a vicious gang made up of ex-AUC members.
Also known as El Tapón (“the plug”), it can’t be bypassed on land.In 2000, two Brits, Tom Hart Dyke and Paul Winder, were taken hostage by FARC guerrillas while searching for rare orchids.They were held for nine months and threatened with execution before being released unharmed.During a three-month stint reporting in Bangladesh in 2013, I became familiar with its cutthroat political gangs and dismal working conditions.
Activists, journalists, and opposition members are often hacked to death in public. Rural laborers flock to hyper-crowded cities for work and find themselves locked in the bowels of unlicensed garment factories, toiling for 20 cents an hour.
It’s roughly 100 miles wide, stretching all the way from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean.