Colombia: Cuba Helps Out

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January24, 2007: A very successful tactic against the drug and rebel groups is to concentrate on their leadership. Arresting and extraditing these men to the U.S. has proved an excellent way to interrupt gang operations. In America, bribes are much less effective, the courts more reliable, and the prisons much more secure. But it appears even Cuba can be enlisted to help out. Three years ago, a cartel leader was stopped in a Cuban airport for using a false passport. The gangster is now being threatened with life imprisonment for traveling on false documents. Then again, this might just be a negotiating tactic, over how large a bribe will be needed to get the cartel leader out of Cuba.

January 21, 2007:On the Pacific coast, FARC bombed a police station, killing two cops and three civilians. This was the third attack in a week on the Pacific port city of Buenaventura. This port is a a major staging area for exported cocaine, and FARC wants to keep control.

January 19, 2007:The government is forming a special security force to go after former AUC members who have gone back to criminal activities. The former AUC men are particularly dangerous, because many of them had connections in the army and police, which were used to coordinate operations against leftist rebels (FARC and ELN). The AUC was basically a coalition of vigilante militias formed by land owners and middle class people in the countryside, to protect themselves from the leftist groups. Formerly an open secret, AUC members who have accepted the amnesty deal, now talk openly of their cooperation with the government in their battle with the leftists.

January 18, 2007:In the south, FARC and the Nestle Corporation (which is a major processor of milk from local dairymen) are locked in an extortion battle. FARC wants Nestle to pay "revolutionary taxes." Nestle has refused, and in the last week, FARC has destroyed two Nestle processing plants. In the last year, FARC has had to use more muscle to sustain its extortion operations, as more companies feel confident enough (in government security forces) to refuse to pay. But FARC appears determined to destroy Nestle operations in the area to make an example.

January 16, 2007:Acting on a tip, police raided three houses and discovered $54 million cash and gold. This was the cash reserve of a drug cartel. Because of constant surveillance by the police, it's difficult to get drug profits to an off-shore bank. So the gangs often hide it. Over the past few years, two other such caches ($39 million and $16 million) have been found. These caches are bad for the economy, as they take money out of circulation. The drug trade in general distorts the economy. For example, the drug gangs maintain large number of people as armed guards and security personnel, who produce nothing but protection for the drug production. The drug gangs have reproduced all the economic inefficiency of a communist police state, but sustained it with the high prices they get for their cocaine in North America and Europe.

 

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