Jonathan Dimbleby travels to South America to report on dramatic changes in one of the world's least understood continents
Dimbleby embarks on a 6000-mile journey through Brazil, the continent's largest country and home to 190 million people. Nowhere is evidence of the economic boom in South America more apparent, but Jonathan finds the road to riches is paved with dilemmas for both Brazil and the wider world. In the Amazon, architects and cattle ranchers are grappling with environmental tension. On the coast, descendants of runaway slaves are fighting the expansion of a satellite launch facility to protect their land. And in Rio, Jonathan joins the commander of a new police force as they seek to pacify the slums ruled by the law of the drug lords.
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.