February 5, 2011: Mexico is sending counter-terror and counter-narcotics personnel to Colombia to obtain training from their more experienced Colombian counterparts. Mexico is impressed by Colombian success against the drug cartels and high crime rates. Much of this was accomplished with an effort called "Plan Colombia." Over the last decade, the $8 billion the U.S. put into Plan Colombia did not, as hoped, cut cocaine production in half. Colombia put nearly as much cash into the effort, and nearly all the personnel. It was a tough slog. At one point there was actually fifteen percent more coca acreage, and the four percent more cocaine being produced. But over the last few years, production declined, although often because the coca growing is moving to other countries. All this was because of the government regaining control over a third of the country that was previously "bandit country" (and dominated by leftist rebels like FARC, and their drug gang allies). Seizures of cocaine are up, as is the price in the U.S. and Europe, where most of it is exported to. The leftist rebels have lost more than half their strength, and armed men serving the drug gangs have gone from over 60,000 to less than 20,000. The Colombian security forces accomplished this by improving training and leadership, and expanding from 279,000 personnel, to nearly half a million. Crime rates are way down, and economic activity has rebounded. The main problem with Plan Colombia was that it expected too much success too soon. But it has succeeded, and continues to. Already, the drug gangs are moving their operations to other countries, like Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil. Colombia keeps up the pressure on the drug gangs and leftist rebels (FARC and ELN), because these groups continue to be a source of crime and economic disruption.
February 3, 2011: On the Venezuelan border, a car bomb went off near an army patrol, wounding 29 soldiers. FARC was suspected. FARC has had a hard time getting a bomb building and using campaign going. Too many civilians are willing to inform on bomb builders and users, and the proliferation of cell phones makes that easier.
February 2, 2011: In the southwest, soldiers discovered and disarmed a car bomb, apparently built by FARC for use against the army.
January 30, 2011: A navy patrol off the northwest coast, caught a speedboat trying to smuggle over a ton of cocaine to Panama (and thence on to North America.) A lot of the northwest coast is thinly populated, with jungle coming right down to the water. Drug smugglers thus have plenty of opportunity to hide small boats, and tons of cocaine, ready to try and run past the naval patrols near the Panamanian border. But it's not just speedboats. Costa Rican police recently arrested leaders of a smuggling gang that bribed and threatened fishermen working up and down the coast (as far south as Ecuador) to carry some drugs north, along with fish they caught.
January 21, 2011: ELN has released a sick hostage to the Red Cross. Dead hostages get no ransom, and releasing the dying prisoners garners some positive publicity. FARC does the same thing, but tends to drag out the process more to get as much media attention as possible.
In western Colombia, troops ran into several dozen FARC gunmen, killing six, and wounding or capturing over a dozen. Two soldiers were killed.