April 12, 2006: Things are not going well in Venezuela. The poor, who have expected so much for supporting president Chavez, have received little. Chavez is more concerned about buying himself a better international reputation, and internal security, than he is with economic reform. The people are unhappy about this. The bad mood expresses itself in many ways. One of them is xenophobia, and bad behavior towards foreigners. This extends to government officials and the military, who try even harder to be nasty to foreigners. During a recent port call in Venezuela by the 2,950 ton (fl) French Frigate Germinal, local authorities, including naval personnel, behaved so badly that the French Ambassador has reportedly lodged an official protest. When the unhappy Venezuelans aren't abusing foreigners, they go after each other. Incidents of violent crime, especially murders and kidnapping, are up. President Chavez is far more popular outside the country, than he is inside it.
April 11, 2006: The last of the 30,000 AUC rebels has handed in his weapons and accepted amnesty. The leftist rebels are furious at this, as the AUC surrender leaves the FARC and ELN taking all the heat for the bad behavior of the drug gangs. Many of the AUC members didn't leave the Dark Side, but went, singly, into drug and other criminal gangs. But the FARN and ELN, with their flair for publicity and longtime adherence to leftist social ideals, are now in the spotlight, and don't like it. The ELN is negotiating an AUC type surrender, but the FARC has, at best, a few small factions willing to talk surrender.
In eastern Colombia, several clashes with FARC left fifteen soldiers dead.
April 6, 2006: The suppression of crime, and rebel militias, has caused the economy to boom. Retail sales are up 9-10 percent a month from the previous year. The economy grew 5.1 percent last year, and is expected to grow 4.3 percent this year.
April 5, 2006: After five years of captivity, FARC released a German citizen without collecting a ransom. Normally, no money means the captive is killed, but in this case the Red Cross and Catholic Church were able to get the victim released. FARC was probably looking for a little good press as well.