Colombia: New Boss, Same As The Old Boss


August 11, 2010:  Venezuela has halted its warlike talk and announced a willingness to restore normal diplomatic and economic relations with Colombia. The cause is a newly elected president (Juan Manuel Santos) taking charge in Colombia. Venezuela has been threatening war with Colombia as a way to distract its population from growing economic distress. These problems were caused by leftist Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and his attempts to run the economy for his personal political benefit.

Meanwhile, Chavez insists that he is not allowing Colombian drug gangs and leftist rebels (especially FARC) to operate from Venezuelan sanctuaries. But there is a growing body of evidence that FARC and the drug gangs are there (despite Chavez sending more and more troops to the border, and their efforts to keep people away from whatever is happening there). Chavez is again publicly urging FARC to release all its kidnap victims and lay down its arms (as Uribe had convinced the anti-leftist militias to do). Chavez has talked like this before, and is doing it again, apparently just for the PR benefit, because the drug gangs and FARC do not pay any attention. Chavez is becoming an embarrassment for other leftist leaders in South America, but not to the extent that Chavez is openly criticized by fellow leftists.  

Former Colombian president Uribe is disliked by other South American leaders, who tend to be leftist and in favor of more state control of the economy. Uribe used a system more like what is found in the United States, and China. Most of Colombia was pacified during the eight years of Uribe's rule, and Colombians were allowed to go about their business. Crime and terrorist violence declined more than 50 percent in the last eight years, and the economy flourished, far surpassing such growth in neighboring countries. Even international tourism is up (17 percent in the last year) in Colombia. That's a sure sign that the rest of the world believes what is happening in Colombia, despite the paranoid fantasies of the leftist neighbors.

FARC and the cocaine gangs continue fleeing to neighboring countries, mainly Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru. But these leftist and criminal groups are now showing up in Central America as well. While the three neighboring nations are currently run by leftist government which are hospitable to FARC and other Colombian leftists, this is not the case in Central America (except for Nicaragua). The drug gangs are not welcome anywhere. However, the drug gangs have found leftist politicians easier to bribe than the current bunch of non-leftists in Colombia. The move into Central America is necessary for getting the drugs to their largest market (North America).

The war in Colombia goes on, but does not get much publicity outside of Colombia. That's because this war is more like a police, than a military, operation. OK, police ops with lots of SWAT and helicopters overhead. A major portion of the war against leftist rebels and drug gangs is intel operations, which of necessity are kept secret. Hundreds of American military and contractor personnel help with the intel effort, which locates the enemy, and monitors what the bad guys are up to. The actual movement of troops and police often ends up in the bad guys having already fled (by bribing the local cops or, more often, simply sensing that they had been located and that it was time to move), or meekly submitting to arrest. There's not a lot of fight left in the rebels and drug gangsters. They have been on the losing end of things for years. Many have simply become small groups of local criminals. Too small to call in the army or police counter-terror units, but too powerful for the local cops to easily wipe out. So in many rural areas, tourists (both Colombian and foreign) are warned to stay away, or keep close to major, and well guarded, resorts.

July 31, 2010:  FARC is calling for peace talks with newly installed president Juan Manuel Santos. FARC has been split by earlier government calls to negotiate a deal. It's believed that this latest announcement is mainly for PR purposes, and not serious.




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