The stories behind this rapidly changing continent. Jonathan travels across Colombia and Venezuela, South America's Caribbean giants.
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'I'm on a journey through South America.
'In this programme, I'm on my way through Colombia and then to Venezuela.
'My purpose is to get behind the headlines
'and beyond the stereotypes -
'find out what these two countries are really like,
'from life on the range'...
This has about a one-in-a-thousand chance.
..'to fishing in the Caribbean'...
Wow, what a catch!
..'from the most dangerous slums'...
I'm with the police on patrol in a barrio
which is notorious for gang warfare.
..'to the toll exacted by terrorists.'
'But I also find happiness, hope and confidence'...
..'houses that cost a fortune'...
..'and inspiring leaders who are genuinely transforming the quality of life'...
This is basic democracy.
..'a guerrilla fighter who left the jungle
'and is now training to become a chef'...
..'an orchestra which exchanges violence for violins'...
THEY PLAY CLASSICAL MUSIC
..'and a guide who naturally knows it all.'
'One discovery after another.'
ORCHESTRA PLAYS STIRRING CODA
HELICOPTER ROTORS THRUM
I'm flying over a country which has become synonymous
with words like "kidnap", "murder", "terror" and "drugs",
the cocaine capital of the world,
much of which, until very recently,
was virtually a no-go area,
a country that you visited at your peril.
This is Colombia.
For decades, Colombia has been stricken by a civil war
which has devastated the nation. Only cocaine barons thrived.
'But over the last decade, after a merciless campaign by the government,
'Colombia has changed dramatically.
'There are still gangs. There's still terrorism.'
'But an economy that had virtually collapsed
'has started to thrive. Today, Colombia's growth rate is promising,
'almost five percent last year.'
I'm going to meet an estate agent.
-Hi, Jonathan. Welcome to Colombia.
It's nice to be here.
'Nancy Prieto used to sell property for the likes of Donald Trump
'in North America. She returned to Bogota six years ago
'to set up on her own account.'
Nancy, I notice when I open the window of the car,
it doesn't open all the way. It doesn't open...
Ah, no. It's impossible to go down...
-It's an armoured car?
-Yes. It's an armoured car.
The capital, Bogota, has yet to lose its murderous reputation.
But while Nancy wants to make fearful foreign clients feel safe,
the risk of kidnap or worse is, in fact, diminishing.
Combine this with a strong economic growth,
and you get a property boom.
And compared with the other countries in South America -
-This is the most expensive.
-More than Brazil and Chile?
-Yes, in South America.
-So you have a very good business.
Yes, it is a boon for me. Yes.
'This is one of the houses on Nancy's books.
'Designed by an eminent architect, it's on the market for 6 million.'
Nancy, I want you to treat me as a client.
-OK. Persuade me
I want to spend 6 million.
And look at this. It is a big space. It's very comfortable.
SHE SPEAKS SPANISH
'In Colombia's aggressively free economy,
'this mansion will probably be bought by a rich Colombian
'or a foreign tycoon lured here by tax breaks for big investors.'
I like to have the drapes. This isn't good for a study.
And what about the lighting at night?
'No wonder Nancy's happy. In less than a decade,
'house prices have gone up fourfold.
'But there is another Bogota.
'In a city with more than seven million inhabitants,
'half live below the poverty line,
'which in Colombia is less than seven dollars a day.'
But London tends to have rain that is not so torrential.
'To the poor, Enrique Penalosa is a hero.
'As mayor of the city a decade ago, he was an innovator,
'transforming daily life in much of Bogota.
'This year he's on the campaign trail once again.'
It's difficult for you to have a ride on a bike. They want to stop you all the time.
What was it like here before you started this whole project,
if you were a poor person living in this part of the city?
Well, in this part of the city, was horrible,
first of all because it used to flood.
There were not the pumping stations. Every time it rained,
it would flood, and there was no pavement.
Of course, in the city there were no bikeways.
'The former mayor is a visionary planner
'of international repute. His overriding priority
'has been transport, notably bikeways.'
What difference has it made to people's lives?
The bikeway not only protects the cyclist
but it raises the social status of the cyclist. It became a symbol
that shows that people on a bicycle were not inferior.
They were, er, citizens who have rights.
'Cycling is cheap, so the minimum wage goes much further.
'But Penalosa also put public money
'into new libraries, parks and schools.'
And instead of new roads, he established a bendy-bus network
to compete with city-clogging cars.
I believe in a city where 80 percent of homes don't have cars.
What it shows is respect for human dignity.
Democracy's not just defined that people go vote.
The first article in every constitution says
that all citizens are equal before the law.
If that is true, for example, a bus with 100 passengers
has a right to 100 times more road space
than a car with one. This is basic democracy.
'You have to be wary of politicians promising a better tomorrow,
'especially when they're after your vote.
'But Penalosa does seem to be the real deal.'
Has life changed a lot since ten years ago?
MAN REPLYING IN SPANISH
'Fans they may be,
'but Bogota's voters are refreshingly free of deference.'
WOMAN SPEAKING SPANISH
I didn't expect that at all.
I was expecting we would see the route,
see what's been happening to the infrastructure.
We stop and people rush around, and the imploring looks on their face.
"Can he solve the problems we have now?" Some have been solved,
but there are a lot more. Oh...
I wouldn't want to be a politician here.
Bogota is something of a home from home.
It rains and it rains, which doesn't stop people making the most
of the city's newfound security and its nightlife.
When things were really bad here, when kidnappings were rife
and it was the murder capital of the world,
those who could afford to fled the country in their thousands.
They started to come back, and some came back
before it was really safe, determined to make a go of it.
And one of them is the guy who owns this restaurant here,
which is part of a chain which is now very, very successful.
This is the hot kitchen, the wok section.
-Right. So, when did you open this?
-This restaurant opened in 2003.
-And you've got how many now?
-Nine restaurants in Bogota.
We went up from 120 covers
to, like, 2,000 covers a day.
-Wow. From 120 to 2,000?
Ben Villegas' restaurants offer a gourmet feast
to Bogota's newly prosperous middle class...
..the best Asian food for £12 a head.
And instead of importing his ingredients,
he pays poor farmers to grow them locally -
good for the environment, good for jobs.
This is a project that they substitute cocaine cultivation
for green peppercorns.
Because they can make the money out of the peppercorns
-which rivals the money they would get from the coca?
'Ben belongs to a new generation
'helping to rebuild Colombia's broken society.
'He's helping run a charitable project
'which offers an escape from his country's endemic conflict.
'Once part of a guerrilla army of global notoriety,
'Nixon is training to be a chef.'
'Nixon is 23.
'He was wounded in a gun battle and captured by the army.'
Once you'd been captured, did you want to try and get back to FARC,
back to the guerrillas again?
What's your own ambition now?
To reach my next destination, I had to fly.
It was not only the rainy season,
but the longest and wettest in living memory.
A huge swathe of the country was under water.
This is Colombia's coffee country,
where, in these hills, they produced some of the very best in the world.
'Don Roja's farm is so remote that you can't get there by road,
'even in the dry weather. This is the only way up.
HE SPEAKS SPANISH
-Ah, the coffee bean.
'It has rained almost every day for a year.
'Climate change or not, this unprecedented deluge
'has devastated the harvest and caused a slew of avalanches.'
'And then, for me, an unexpected sight.
'A reminder that guerrillas are still at large
'on almost a third of Colombian territory.'
THEY CONVERSE IN SPANISH
The soldiers patrol this part of the valley
to protect it, and to prevent any possible incursion
from across the other side, which is in another department
and apparently slightly less secure than this is.
'What was once an ideological conflict between FARC
'and an equally murderous gang of paramilitaries
'has gradually degenerated into a crude struggle
'to run the cocaine traffic.' Gracias.
'Caught in their crossfire, some five million people
'have fled their homes -
'one in eight of the population.'
'Only Sudan now has more displaced people than Colombia.'
-MURMUR OF CONVERSATION
-How long have you been here?
And why did you move from there?
And what did it mean to your daily life?
'This region is renowned
'for producing some of the very best coffee in all Colombia,
'the third-largest exporter in the world.'
'Don Roja uses traditional methods
'to grow, dry and mill the beans'...
..'a process that has won an international reputation
'for the cooperative to which he belongs.
'The price of coffee globally is soaring,
'but this small farm still provides an extremely modest living
'for Don Roja and his family.
'Coffee-tasting is a ritual which his daughter Yemi explains with touching pride.'
HE INHALES APPRECIATIVELY
I think you should be in charge of sales.
It's very, very good.
THEY LAUGH AND CHATTER
'The region's coffee capital is the town of Genova.
'By chance, I arrived in time for a fiesta -
'the entire community strutting its stuff.
'Not very long ago, until they were driven out by the army,
'this was a guerrilla stronghold, the birthplace of FARC's first leader.'
LIVELY LATIN-STYLE MUSIC PLAYING
It is quite extraordinary to think that, ten years ago,
this would have been quite impossible.
People, as soon as it was dark, went home, locked their doors,
and didn't go out. They were much too frightened.
By road, the journey from Genova to Colombia's second city
is six hours.
'This is Medellin, a name that still sends a shiver down the spine,
'though by all accounts it's changed dramatically
'over the last few years.
This city was once the fiefdom of Pablo Escobar,
the world's most notorious drugs baron.
When he was killed in the early '90s, the FARC,
the guerrillas, moved in and controlled large parts of the city.
They were then driven out by the paramilitaries,
and about eight, nine, ten years ago,
the paramilitaries were disbanded, and in their place,
a large part of the city was given over to gangs.
And I'm here to see what it's really like now.
# Politic need votes...
-GUNFIRE SOUND EFFECT
-# Politic needs your mind
# Politic needs human beings
# Politic needs blood #
I'm meeting a guy called Camillo who happens to be an undertaker,
and he said I'd recognise him by his car,
-but I didn't expect this.
-Hi. How are you today?
-Very nice to meet you.
-What an amazing vehicle!
-Glad you like it.
-Can I get in?
-It's the first time I've travelled in a hearse.
Is this the only vintage car in your fleet?
-No. Actually, we have 24.
-24 of these?!
-The oldest is a 1938 Packard.
And do people like the thought of their loved ones going to their rest
-in one of these?
-Yes. It is becoming very popular.
'Too many of the corpses his firm has carried to the cemetery
'are of young men and women killed in violent gun battles.
'Camillo himself was nearly one of them.'
I almost got killed 20 years ago. I was shot nine times.
I was in a nightclub, sitting with some friends of mine,
and a group of gunmen came into the place,
and they shot everyone in there, and they shot me nine times.
I'm so lucky I survived.
'The gangsters shot 27 people.
'Camillo was only one of four to survive.'
The Colombian government and the Americans
-have the so-called Plan Colombia.
Billions have been spent on weapons, training,
attempts to eradicate the coca.
Has it worked?
If they keep on investing only on the military side of it,
it will never work,
because it's a business, and as long as there's people in the world
who buy drugs, there's going to be a supplier, all the time.
And that business makes a lot of money.
CHURCH BELLS TOLLING
The cemetery offers dreadful testimony
to the human price exacted by Colombia's drug wars.
-Lot of young men you see here.
There. He can't be - what,
-more than about...
-Probably he was a gangster.
I can tell by the clothes and how he wears.
And it's very common, especially in this cemetery.
With all that long history of killing and dying,
how do people now regard the fact of death,
the fact of the end?
Well, for some reason, people are trying to avoid rituals,
trying to stay away from funerals. So now, you see,
-the ritual is fading, actually.
-So a kind of denial?
And is that because... In significant measure,
is that because people have just seen too many people dying,
-too much violence?
-They have seen so many funerals,
so they are just fed up with that.
'Last June, an international commission
'led by Kofi Annan, the former US Secretary of State George Shultz
'and the former president of Colombia itself
'concluded that the global war on drugs can never be won,
'and that their use should no longer be a criminal offence.'
Maybe perspective gets distorted,
but when you are aware of the horror and misery
that's been perpetrated in this country
because of the cocaine habit of those in the West,
those millions of people, you have to wonder
whether there is not a better alternative,
that radical alternative. Why not say to those people
who want to stuff their noses with coke, "Well, do it."
It's no different than alcohol or cigarettes.
Immediately that would liberate the people of this country
from the grip of the drug barons,
and these graveyards then would not be filled
with people killed young through violence,
but with more of them simply dying in a natural way.
Most of those who die violently in Colombia are poor.
Many of them live in slums, the barrios
that hug the hillsides around big cities.
The barrios became no-go areas - isolated, lawless and dangerous.
But in Medellin, they're doing something about it.
This is not any old cable car. It was built as a public service,
the first in the world, and it's part of an extraordinary experiment
to try and solve a grave economic and social problem
in this city - extreme violence in the barrios up here.
Has this cable car made a difference to your lives?
The cable car is notably clean and cheap,
and, as you reach the barrio, you pass an impressive landmark -
a new cultural centre.
The barrio also offers a great view over the city.
'A tourist spot in the making, it provides a new opportunity
'for enterprising tour guides.'
Oh, buenos. Hola.
In English, goodbye. Hasta luego.
-Hasta luego. Bye-bye.
Santo Domingo has changed.
But the past is still very much alive in the present.
There's a mural here which tells the whole ghastly story,
a cartoon that says, "We must stop taking the lives
of so many of our innocent people."
And then, further down, "an end to sexual violence",
and above that, the landmines.
Apparently this country has more landmines than any other
except for Afghanistan. And then right here, the centrepiece,
a homage to the victims of the conflict in this commune,
the dove of peace, and the lives that have been lost
between 1992 and 2001.
And then, at the end here,
the continuing problems of the kidnappings.
"I was born free," she says.
And above that, the displaced people - three million, four million,
maybe five million people, and the whole thing is called
"a story that must never be repeated".
Unhappily, Santo Domingo is an exception.
Other barrios are still no-go areas, controlled by gangs and drugs.
'But here at least, the atmosphere is easy and calm.'
A splash of paint, new walkways, cafes and shops,
the building blocks of civic life.
And then there is music and dance.
THEY RAP IN SPANISH
The Crew Peligrosos in rehearsal -
20 breakdancers who are stars here in the barrio,
and downtown and abroad.
They're the ones who painted the mural,
and their leaders run dance workshops for schoolchildren as well.
LATIN-STYLE RAP MUSIC PLAYS
-THEY SHOUT AND CHEER
JONATHAN LAUGHS YOUNG MAN SPEAKS SPANISH
-I'm watching this...
-HE SPEAKS SPANISH
Tell me about this place.
LATIN-STYLE RAP MUSIC
THEY CHEER RAP MUSIC CONTINUES
Flow, flow, flow! Flow.
-I am far too brilliant,
-far too young, to be in your class.
-I... I must go.
It's progress, and it's impressive.
But Colombia is still violent. There are still killings,
and that won't stop until the drugs war is over.
As yet, there's little sign of that.
Over the Andes and across the border from Colombia is Venezuela.
'Like so much of South America,
'Venezuela is blessed with an entrancing landscape -
'and in this case, a landscape that conceals untold wealth.'
Its capital is Caracas,
where, once again, the best view is from the cable car.
If Colombia is defined by cocaine,
then, Venezuela is defined by oil -
unbelievable quantities of it,
the fifth-largest exporter in the world,
and reserves that rival anywhere else on the planet.
Caracas was once a cosmopolitan city
much favoured by European travellers.
An oil bonanza half a century ago led to rapid growth,
a magnate capital, in South America.
At first glance, Caracas still seems to be booming.
But the appearance is deceptive.
The slogan promises "socialism or death" -
on the face of it, a rather stark choice.
Politically, Venezuela is about one man - Hugo Chavez,
who was elected in 1998
and says that he wants to run again and again until 2030.
He's a man of extraordinary charisma,
a magnetic personality. He's funny, and he uses a rhetoric
that really reaches out to the masses.
LIVELY MUSIC PLAYS THEY SING IN SPANISH
'A rally of the faithful - public-sector workers,
'beneficiaries of what Chavez calls socialism for the 21st century.
'In the last few months, however,
'their leader has started to modify his rhetoric,
'talking less about socialism and more about success.
'Nonetheless, the United States is still in the firing line.'
THEY CHATTER AND SING
It's a measure of Chavez's political genius
that he can inspire his loyal followers
to come out here to protest against Yankee imperialism
at a moment's notice,
while at the same time, Venezuela's main trading partner
is...the United States.
By now, oil should have made Venezuela rich beyond compare.
Instead, the economy is sluggish, and the nation is crippled
by inflation at almost 30 percent.
'There are free schools, free universities, free hospitals
'and subsidised food for all, which have made a real difference
'to millions of people.
'But though there's greater equality than a decade ago,
'the government's own statistics show that quarter of the population
'still lives below the poverty line.'
The president's revolution seems barely to touch the lives
of those two million citizens who live in the ever-growing barrios.
Caracas is at the top of an unenviable league table.
With over 17,000 homicides last year,
it's the murder capital of the world.
In this barrio, Ojo de Agua, the police patrol in force.
I'm with the police on patrol in a barrio
which is notorious for gang warfare and a very high rate of murder.
And they're coming through here, sweeping through,
seeing if they can find anyone who's got drugs,
who's got guns. The place is filled with guns
and filled with drugs.
It's also pretty dangerous for the police.
SHOUTING AND CHEERING
There is a history - I'm right, isn't there -
of the police being very brutal in this country.
The problem is knowing who is and who isn't a criminal.
THEY CONVERSE IN SPANISH
The police stop-and-search neglects the niceties.
SEVERAL VOICES PROTESTING
In this case, the couple was released without charge.
It looks pretty heavy-duty, mob-handed, pretty fierce.
But you have to remember that, in this area last year,
eight police officers were killed.
'Many of them died in these almost impossibly narrow alleyways,
'which are death-traps in a gun battle.'
'Commander Enrique Rodriguez, who runs this patch,
'is himself lucky to be alive.'
How many times?
-Seven time, yes.
'The commander is not a cardboard-cut-out cop.
'He seems genuinely to care about the predicament of the barrios.
'Though international statistics show
'that the proportion of those living in poverty
'has fallen sharply over the last decade,
'he is unconvinced.'
Poverty and gangs - it's a lethal combination.
What else to expect?
No jobs, no money,
It doesn't say much to me about the success
of socialism in the 21st century.
It was something of a relief to leave Caracas
for the space and grandeur of Venezuela's vast rural hinterland.
When Christopher Columbus reached Venezuela,
he said, "This is an earthly paradise."
And he was right.
This country is massively blessed with wildlife of all kinds,
plants, flowers, trees,
insects, birds, mammals.
It's a biodiversity, shared with much of South America,
that is of vital importance to the planet.
In Venezuela's case, that's because the topography and climate
ranges from the high Andes to the Amazonian rainforest
to the Caribbean, and that's where I'm heading now.
'Venezuela's Caribbean coastline runs for 1,700 miles.
'It's not only dazzling, but productive as well,
'which matters greatly to Dixon,
'a fisherman from the village of Chuao.'
As on so many other coasts,
the great industrial trawlers used to come in here
and literally scrape the bottom of all the fish in the sea,
with the result that fishermen here, like Dixon,
were virtually on the floor so far as their own business was concerned,
because there weren't any fish. And then Chavez, the president,
said, "Right, we're going to stop that,"
and he's actually banned all industrial fishing boats
from fishing inshore - with the approval of the United Nations.
Has the fishing for you got better recently?
Goodbye! Hasta luego!
'That may be a touch exaggerated,
'but these fishermen certainly do bless the president.
'Thanks to him, they've got new boats and gear worth 35,000,
'all bought with soft loans from the government -
'a largesse which, according to the critics,
'is often wasted on idlers.'
Chavez has spent a lot of money. Does it all go to the right people?
The fishermen of Chuao belong to a cooperative,
and they fish as a team, encircling the shoal,
their nets strung between the Chavez boats.
MAN SHOUTS IN SPANISH
It's a delicate operation. The fish often break free of the noose
and escape. Dixon went in to check progress.
What sort of catch?
A thousand kilos is worth, on average, 1,600,
a haul which they share out between them.
It's not a bad living.
No wonder the fishermen of Chuao are Chavistas to a man.
Wow, what a catch!
It's refreshing water, because the temperature here...
I don't know what it is. It's very hot and very humid,
so I'm up to my knees like a granddad, and it's wonderful.
'With subsidies bestowed like manna on this community,
'you might expect every voice to be as one.'
But at the beach cafe, there was a distinctly discordant note
from the boss, when I asked him about the president.
What do you... What do you think of Chavez?
Really? But this is a free country. You can say what you like.
You think if you speak freely... What will happen?
If you want to do good business and have your livelihood,
you have to be careful that you don't make unnecessary...
er, enemies, with those who have power or authority in the area?
-Senor, could I have something to eat? Pescado?
That is so interesting.
On the surface it's all easy, free. You can say what you like.
But in reality, you have to be just a little bit careful
if you want to get on.
And in this very complicated country,
which is so difficult to penetrate,
I think that's one of the key factors.
'Chuao is not only known for its fish.
'The surrounding jungle is no less precious and productive
'than the sea.'
This land all round here is famous for producing
what is said to be the very best cocoa in the whole world.
The cocoa bean in question is the Criollo,
and it's only found in this unique microclimate.
And because it produces chocolate to die for,
it costs four times as much as other, lesser cocoas.
This plantation is unique in the entire world.
This is a quality of cocoa
every fine chocolate-maker dreams of.
'Kai Rosenberg has spent the last 20 years
'recovering the original rootstock of the Criollo bean.
'It's been his passion. But his vision is now in tatters.
'His land and his house have been seized by the government.'
It's a truly Kafkaesque Venezuelan story.
Kai bought this land, has the property deeds.
He was given permission to grow the cocoa.
But it's on the national park, and so he grows on a little area,
and there's the wild jungle beyond that up into the mountains.
20 years on, suddenly the state says to him,
"You shouldn't be growing cocoa there. It's national park."
He says, "Well, actually, it's mine."
"You gave me the permission." No good.
He's told the land is confiscated. "You must leave."
What was your feeling about that?
Well, absolute disbelief,
because we fulfilled every condition to be protected by the government.
We have agricultural activity, we create employment,
we respect the environment.
My impression is that the state
systematically confiscates emblematic enterprises
because they cannot allow that good things come from the private sector.
'On another side of the mountain, another side of the cocoa story.
'In Chuao village, there's a cocoa cooperative.'
Like the fishing, it's been subsidised by the state.
-Few doubts about Chavez here.
SHE SINGS IN SPANISH
Can you tell me what your song was,
while you're preparing the cocoa bean?
And how many days do you have to leave it out here to dry?
Let's see whether I can. OK, so... I do it like that first?
SHE SPEAKS SPANISH
It is satisfying. I want to now get a perfect circle.
They look like stone sculptures, but in fact...
..this is pure cocoa bean.
-Shall I try it?
Mmm, it's immediate!
Rich, deep, dark... chocolate flavour,
with a slight bitterness.
What you would have to do with this is take the shell off,
put it in a very fancy box, and it's the best chocolate you could buy.
I believe you. I really do. Do you eat chocolate a lot?
Where do I go, Leila? Leila, tell me where to go.
'The story of cocoa in this community
'reflects the deep divisions provoked by Venezuela's president.
'One thriving cooperative, one dispossessed entrepreneur.'
'You are never far from the presence.
'The president permeates the life of the nation.
'And you are constantly reminded of how he does it.
'Just pull into a service station and see what you pay for.
'Yes - subsidised fuel.
'Petrol in Venezuela costs about two pence a litre.'
So, I'm full up. 39 and a half litres.
'That's about 55 pence to fill half a tank -
'the cheapest petrol in the world.'
I'm driving down into a region of Venezuela known as The Plains.
It's a vast area, roughly the size of Italy.
But for many Venezuelans, it contains the soul, the essence,
of the nation.
This is cattle country on the grand scale.
'The llaneros, real-deal cowboys,
'herd their animals from pasture to pasture
'on vast ranches in a wild land.'
For me it's very enjoyable doing this, but it's your job every day.
What's it like for you?
-That's kind of you.
But there's a lot of skill involved too,
because you have to get in exactly the right place.
THEY SHOUT AND WHISTLE
If they break through, they're gone.
'This way of life has barely changed for generations.
'The llaneros are tough.
'That great liberator of South America, Simon Bolivar,
'was in awe of them.
'They work on low wages for big landowners,
'but remain proudly independent,
'handing on their skills from father to son -
'but, er, not to me.'
OK. This has about a one-in-a-thousand chance.
I told you one in a thousand. It's actually one in ten thousand.
You get a flavour of a life.
You're not living the life, but you do get a real flavour,
because it's hot and it's humid, and you're doing this every day,
out there rounding up cattle. It is a very harsh life.
No wonder Simon Bolivar said that the llaneros,
the people here, were his bravest, toughest fighters,
as he drove the Spanish out.
I wouldn't have been much good.
Land reform is at the heart of the socialist revolution in Venezuela.
To this end, millions of acres have been forcibly expropriated -
ostensibly taking from the rich to give to the poor.
'In parallel, however,
'though Venezuela should easily feed itself,
'two thirds of the nation's food is now imported from abroad.'
You've heard about the farms that are being expropriated.
So what do you think will happen
if more and more of the land is expropriated in this way?
What will happen?
That seems to me to say so much about Venezuela -
apparent tranquillity on the surface,
seething underneath. Uncertainties, fears, resentments,
frustrations, no sense of what the future's going to be like.
And absolutely no feeling that there's any harmony.
Come on, then.
But you can find harmony, and in the most unlikely places -
for example in Guarenas, an impoverished township
Nor can any politician claim the credit
for a remarkable project for which Venezuela is renowned
across the world.
El Sistema was established in 1975,
its purpose to offer music as an alternative to violence and crime.
Today, the programme embraces 350,000 children
in a nationwide network of music schools.
Sujasis is a teacher at the Guarenas music school.
She began there as a young child playing the viola.
Has El Sistema made a difference to your life?
Sujasis teaches the very youngest children.
THEY PLAY "TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR"
Some of these little ones will go on to become fine musicians,
and all of them will benefit from the social harmonies created by El Sistema.
El Sistema is now envied and copied by those in other countries
who know the power of music to heal wounds and restore hope.
It's wonderful that everywhere there's something happening,
in all these rooms. It's a very energetic place, isn't it?
Yes, because here we have kids from maybe three years old,
till maybe 28 years old.
They study the whole day, the whole week. They have classes.
'Andres Gonzalez is the musical director.'
And also right now we have about 2,600 kids studying here.
-That's a lot! 2,600?
Are many of them from very poor backgrounds?
Yes, a lot of them.
Here they have the possibility to be someone important.
Do you feel that you're helping people escape the gangs, crime...
Yes. You know, there was a kid - maybe he was just nine years old,
-so he came with a gun.
-Bringing his gun with him?
Yes. And we say, "You know, you cannot bring the gun here."
"No, but this is my gun. I have to take it with me."
And, after maybe two month,
he just stopped bringing here the gun,
and, you know...
Because he felt he didn't... By that time he felt he didn't need
to have the gun in order to demonstrate that he was a big man.
And right now he's playing a lot.
ORCHESTRA TUNING UP
'Andres created this orchestra by bringing together the young
'from two hostile neighbourhoods - a remarkable achievement.'
THEY PLAY STIRRING CLASSICAL PIECE
'It is at once clear, as they rehearse Tchaikovsky's Serenade For Strings,
'that they play with all the panache
'of the world-famous Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra,
'which is itself a product of El Sistema.
'For me, this was a glorious moment'...
..'a vivid reminder of the talent, the energy and the humanity,
'which, whatever the challenges and tribulations,
'reverberate across this continent.'
Next week, the South American giant, Brazil.
THEY PLAY LIVELY CLASSICAL PIECE
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
On the second leg of his journey Jonathan travels across Colombia and Venezuela, South America's Caribbean giants, and discovers that they have strikingly divergent modern realities.
Colombia, for so long synonymous with drug wars, is also a country of hope, vibrancy and resilience. In Jonathan's search for the stories that define a country emerging from decades of violence, he cycles with a visionary mayor around the streets of Bogotá and visits six million dollar homes in the city's booming property market. He meets a reformed FARC fighter making his way in the high-end restaurants of the city and journeys to a remote coffee farm in the Andes.
In Medellín, the infamous fiefdom of Pablo Escobar, he comes face to face with the legacy of violence in the town cemetery, and ends his Colombian journey with a group of breakdancing kids, the new heroes of the notorious hillside slums.
In Venezuela, a country vastly rich in oil reserves and dominated by its socialist leader Hugo Chavez, Jonathan searches for a sense of the real Venezuela. On his journey he finds himself in the midst of a sea of red shirts at an anti-US, pro-Chavez rally; he joins a police patrol in a crime-ridden neighbourhood of Caracas; rides with cowboys on the plains; fishes with fishermen in a socialist cooperative; and tastes the world's finest chocolate bean. Along the way he discovers a polarised country where all is not always as it seems.
He ends his journey through Venezuela listening to the music of an inspirational youth orchestra drawn from two previously warring neighbourhoods. They are the product of Venezuela's extraordinary 'El Sistema', a programme that offers free classical music training and instruments to a quarter of a million young people from all backgrounds.