Colombia: Chasing The Cash


August 1, 2008: Military intelligence is getting better at finding FARC camps. This is a combination of aerial reconnaissance, electronic eavesdropping and an informant network on the ground. This enables the air force to bomb the camps, quickly followed by ground troops swarming the ruins for more information, and maybe a prisoner or two. The government is getting better at finding these camps, and FARC has not come up new ideas to keep themselves hidden.

FARC leaders have refused an offer of exile, an offer the government thought would be attractive. The government offered a peace deal that allowed the FARC leaders to go to Europe, or whoever would have them. Actually, some of the FARC leaders are in favor of this option, at least that's what intelligence reveals. But most of the FARC leadership (several dozen men) want to stay. These are wealthy men, with millions of dollars overseas, but they are seeing their drug profits threatened by getting tagged as an international terrorist (and drug producing) organization. The FARC leaders have seen how these deals can eventually come apart as victims seek revenge, and get amnesties revoked. So the FARC brass are trusting in their guns, and opting for fighting to the death. And there's still plenty of money to be made, over $200 million a year for FARC.

July 31, 2008: In Europe, police are paying more attention to local FARC agents. In Spain, the chief FARC operative in Spain (who apparently looked after financial matters) was arrested. The Spanish operative belonged to an international charity (an NGO, or non-governmental organization) that actually served to help move FARCs money around. Colombian intelligence has penetrated this overseas FARC network, and is passing names, and crimes, to European police. Colombian intelligence is also letting police in neighboring nations know who FARC operatives are, and what they do. Successful police operations in Colombia are driving the drug trade to neighboring countries, so even Venezuela is arresting drug-related FARC operatives. While Venezuela feels ideologically connected to FARC, no one wants anything to do with the criminal sidelines (cocaine and kidnapping). Colombia always stands ready (with evidence and legal papers) to extradite these FARC minions, and, increasingly, the foreign nations are willing to get rid of these cocaine traffickers. The larger intelligence haul has also brought with it more action from the U.S. Treasury Department, that pursues the international banking and commercial connections of the drug gangs.

The nations trade surplus surged to $223 million for June, up from $90 million for the same month last year. The many defeats of FARC, and the other drug gangs, over the last six years, are most visible in the economic growth. One of the big problems with sustaining this growth is resettling the three million rural people who became refugees of the fighting against the drug gangs over the last few years. This involves dealing with the landmines that FARC, and other drug gangs, freely plant in territory they control.

The defeats FARC has suffered over the last few years has had consequences for the cocaine business. In short, Colombian cocaine now represents 54 percent of the world supply, versus 90 percent six years ago. In the first three months of this year, 74 tons of cocaine were seized. In the past six years, over 2.5 million acres of coca have been destroyed, mostly by aerial spraying. The drug gangs have come up with many ways to deal with this, but the most effective technique is to move the coca growing and cocaine production to an adjacent country.

July 25, 2008: FARC made a big deal of freeing eight kidnap victims to the UN. But the eight men had recently been grabbed while they were travelling on a northeastern river, and the rebels quickly discovered that their captives came from poor families and would never be able to pay any kind of ransom. FARC is desperate for money, since cocaine production is moving to adjacent countries, and the rebel base camps are being forced to move farther away from population centers. Thus there are fewer potential kidnap victims who can pay a decent ransom. FARC has lost half its people since president Uribe came to power, and it's mostly about money. If you can't meet the payroll, your gunmen wander away.




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