December 2, 2009:
The situation in neighboring Venezuela is going from strange to foreboding. President Hugo Chavez has been unsuccessful in getting the voters to make him president for life, but he has used his presidential powers to replace thousands of key officials with people selected mainly for their loyalty to Hugo Chavez. Since the government controls so much of the economy (mainly because of the oil industry), this has had disastrous results. There are increasing power blackouts, and an increasing number of state employees are not getting paid, or paid on time. There are increasing shortages of consumer goods. There is growing unrest. But Chavez has other priorities. He has just about eliminated press freedoms in Venezuela and increased his cooperation with Colombian leftist rebels like FARC and ELN. Venezuelan army patrols along the Colombian border are now often accompanied by some of the leftist rebels. Meanwhile, Chavez continues to push his belief that the United States, using Colombia as a staging area, is preparing to invade Venezuela. Most South American politicians think Chavez is nuts, but are too polite (and politically astute) to criticize anyone who is badmouthing the "Colossus of the North." The U.S. has long been a favorite punching bag down south, and the usual suspect whenever anything goes wrong.
Venezuela refuses to talk directly with Colombia over the perceived threat from Colombia. Instead, Chavez points out that he expects to receive a shipment of 300 Russian armored vehicles soon, and that these will eventually (in a few months, at the earliest) be sent to the Colombian border. This has got regional diplomats concerned that Chavez may do something really foolish and trigger a border war with Colombia. This is a war Venezuela would lose, because Chavez has ruined his armed forces by dismissing any officers of dubious loyalty. The replacements were selected on the basis of loyalty, not military competence. Chavez has also ordered the armed forces reorganized, according to his own novel ideas on how the world should work.
The Colombian 8th Infantry Division has been moved to the Venezuelan border. Not in response to more Venezuelan saber rattling, but because the growing number of FARC camps across the border in Venezuela, which has led to an increase in FARC activity on the Colombian side of the frontier. Apparently FARC plans to use its growing number of Venezuelan bases to support a new offensive. FARC will wage guerilla war, using the Venezuelan bases as a sanctuary (where rebels can be trained, recuperate and receive supplies.) The Venezuelan army will keep Colombian troops away from the FARC camps. Venezuela denies any evidence to the contrary, and continues to insist that it's build up on the Colombian border is in preparation for the coming U.S.-Colombian invasion.
November 28, 2009: Army intelligence discovered the location of a FARC camp near Calamar, in the northeast. The air force confirmed the find, and bombed the base, killing at least seven rebels. Commandos moved in, took prisoners and recovered evidence. Operations like this occur several times a month, as FARC continues to lose territory it has held for decades.
November 21, 2009: In response to Venezuelan troops destroying two thirty year old bridges on the border, Colombia put its troops in the area on alert. This was mostly a gesture of concern for the locals, who see increasing Venezuelan military activity on the border as a real threat.
November 20, 2009: Venezuelan troops blew up two foot bridges crossing the border. The Venezuelans claimed that the bridges were used by smugglers, which is true, but the bridges also connected communities on both sides of the border for decades. In the south, FARC stopped a bus and killed six of the twenty passengers.