January 28, 2013: FARC has returned to attacks on rural economic targets (mainly oil and mining, as well as electricity transmission lines). These rural industries generate over 15 percent of the GDP. FARC hopes to force the government to make concessions in the peace talks, or at least obtain more money by offering to halt attacks in return for some cash. In the last year FARC has increased these attacks more than four times compared to the previous year. While the ultimate FARC goal is to establish a communist dictatorship in Colombia, it is also seeking land reform and reversing illegal land thefts of the past few decades. This is a popular issue in rural Colombia and one the government might agree to. With that victory, FARC might be persuaded to become a political party and establish its dictatorship via elections, as happened in Venezuela. That would not be popular in Colombia, where most people note that since the “revolutionary government” arrived a decade ago Venezuela has acquired the highest crime rate in the region and a declining economy.
FARC is apparently preparing for long-time survival, as the cocaine business is being driven out of the country. For three decades FARC has financed its rebel army by working for the drug cartels. That income has been declining over the last decade and is being replaced by extortion, illegal lumbering and gold mining, as well as kidnapping. That last item is making a comeback. A decade ago Colombia was the kidnapping capital of the world. But since then public and police pressure has made it much harder to carry out a lot of kidnappings. FARC needs the money badly and is trying to revive kidnapping as a revenue stream while continuing to expand its extortion activities.
Neighboring Venezuela has become one of the most violent countries in the world. Last year the murder rate was 73 per 100,000 people, up from 48 in 2011. In the capital the rate was 122 for 2012. At the moment Venezuela has a murder rate that is more than twice what it is in Colombia (which was long the murder capital of the Americas). The murder rate in the Western hemisphere (about 8 per 100,000 people a year) was much higher than in Europe, where it has long been between 3 and 4. Middle Eastern nations have likewise varied between 5 and 10. The United States is often regarded, at least by Europeans, as a wild, gun happy place. But the national murder rate has been declining for two decades and is currently about 4.8 per 100,000. There are other parts of the world that are more violent. Iraq had a murder rate of 26 at the height of the Sunni terrorist campaign in 2008, now it’s less than a tenth of that. Under Saddam the murder rate was 10-20 a year. In Africa, especially Congo, Sudan, and South Africa, you find rates as high as 30 or more.
The chaos in Venezuela is all the result of president Hugo Chavez’s efforts to maintain sufficient popular support to keep getting reelected (with the help of some vote rigging). Chavez has corrupted the security forces by replacing competent commanders with those he believed to be more loyal (even if they were also more corrupt). The resulting crime wave has made Chavez unpopular but he has used the substantial oil revenue to pay off those who will help him and his crew remain in power.
January 26, 2013: Another round of peace negotiations with FARC ended with no agreement. Talks will resume on the 31st.
January 25, 2013: In the east FARC kidnapped two policemen. No ransom demand has been made or offers to trade the captives for something.
January 21, 2013: In the north FARC used a bomb to damage tracks of a railroad that moved coal from a major mining complex.
January 20, 2013: FARC ended its unilateral ceasefire. FARC had hoped the government would also agree to a ceasefire and give FARC an opportunity to rebuild its shattered forces. The government knew this and kept going after FARC. Attacks by the leftist rebels were down during the ceasefire, apparently because FARC units were ordered, where possible, to stay in their rural camps for training and improving their facilities. The army police kept coming after FARC and those rebels that were caught had to fight back. At least 34 rebels were killed during the two month ceasefire.
Near the Ecuador border FARC destroyed several parts of oil pipelines (that carried 4-5 percent of national oil production) with explosives.
January 18, 2013: In a town 150 kilometers south of the capital police raided a FARC bomb workshop and seized 250 kg (550 pounds) of explosives and other bomb components, as well as plans for attacks on a police academy and an army base.
In the north 20-30 ELN rebels kidnapped five gold mine workers (two Canadians, two Peruvians, and a Colombian) and are holding them for ransom. Government troops quickly picked up the trail and captured two of the kidnappers.
January 16, 2013: In response to FARC calls for constitutional changes, the government offered to put any peace deal to a national vote. FARC is not happy with this because even the leftist rebels are aware of the widespread hatred they have earned throughout the country. The FARC might win some local elections but nationwide they are losers.
January 8, 2013: In the north ELN used explosives to damage an oil pipeline (that carried seven percent of national oil production). This pipeline had been repaired and restored to service two days earlier, after another attack last week. ELN will halt such attacks if the oil companies pay protection money, but the government has outlawed this and prosecutes companies caught going along with these extortion demands.
January 3, 2013: In the north ELN used explosives to damage an oil pipeline (that carried seven percent of national oil production). It took three days to repair the damage.
January 1, 2013: In the northwest air force bombers hit a FARC camp and killed at least 13 of the leftist rebels there.
December 31, 2012: On the Pacific coast a FARC man threw a grenade at a police station, wounding four civilians and two policemen.
December 30, 2012: Colombia has, for the first time, produced a million barrels in a single day. The average for 2012 was about 941,000 barrels a day, and that is expected to increase by three percent in 2013. That assumes that FARC and ELN attacks will be kept under control.