Colombia: The Grisly Grind


July 21, 2011: The war against FARC, other leftist rebels and the drug gangs, is intense, but scattered. The military conducts 30-50 operations (mostly patrols or raids) a day, using information collected by a network of informants, reconnaissance aircraft and electronic eavesdropping. Many of the patrols are mainly for collecting information. Trained by the Americans, the Colombian intelligence specialists use databases and special data mining and analysis software to pinpoint likely locations of gang or rebel targets. The police handle a lot of the drug gang raids and roundups, while the troops handle the more heavily armed leftist rebels. The American techniques were largely developed since September 11, 2001, for use in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Colombians have been very successful in adapting them to their needs. Colombian troops have become the most effective in South America, getting constant practice in operations against an armed and determined enemy. But the leftist rebels are melting away as the drug gangs continue to flee the country and the security forces keep coming, day after day.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has returned to Cuba for more cancer treatment. He apparently has a 50 percent chance of surviving another 18 months. That's pretty serious. Before he left he carried out the formal transfer of presidential power to the vice president (who is hardly known, having gotten the job mainly because the constitution calls for a VP). But the real successor is the elder Chavez brother; Adan. Chavez's political party has apparently been instructed to position Adan to run for president if Hugo is not able. Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez said he will run for a third six year term next year. He has also ordered his most loyal followers to form local "patrols" to insure peace, just in case. Chavez runs a one-man show in Venezuela, with no designated successor. His economic policies have ruined the economy, and his efforts to create a leftist dictatorship have made him increasingly unpopular. He has armed some of his followers, and it is feared that eventually this would lead to a civil war. This would be especially true if Chavez were dead or incapacitated. This is now a real possibility.

July 18, 2011: In the southwestern towns of Caldono, Toribio and Corinto, FARC carried out several bomb and shooting attacks, which killed six people, wounded over 70, and caused damage to about 500 buildings (most of them civilian residences). The target was military and police facilities, but most of the damage was to nearby civilian structures. FARC later released a statement criticizing the government for putting police and military facilities so close to civilians. FARC is taking a lot of heat, for civilian casualties and damage to civilian property, since the leftist rebels began attacking in urban areas several years ago. This is a terror campaign, but since it made FARC less popular instead of more feared, FARC is now trying to re-brand the terror campaign as one just directed at the military and police. This is not working, on several levels. But FARC is out of options, and terror attacks are one of the few things they can still do.

July 17, 2011: A police corruption investigation in the capital led to the dismissal of 25 policemen. The cops were accused of selling information to drug gangs.

July 15, 2011: The navy announced that they had seized another three drug smuggling submarines, at a hidden shipyard outside the northwestern town of Necoclí. Two of the subs were nearly complete, while a third was just begun.

July 14, 2011: A year after Juan Manuel Santos became president, his anti-corruption effort is showing the results of long investigations. The National Tax and Customs Agency announced the indictment of 17 employees for helping taxpayers to avoid paying nearly a billion dollars. Twelve of those indicted have been arrested.

July 10, 2011: In the southwest, an explosion outside a prison created a breach in the wall, and 18 prisoners escaped. Only one of them was a FARC member, so it is believed that this was a gang organized escape.

July 9, 2011: For the fourth time in five months, leftist rebels blew up a section of an oil pipeline. This interrupts oil movement to the coast for a few days until repairs can be made. Such attacks are way down this year, as last year there were 31 of them.

July 4, 2011: The government revealed that the army had raided a FARC camps recently, and found that the leader of FARC had been using it, and had left a day earlier. Over the last decade, the FARC leadership has had to adopt a nomadic lifestyle. The only way to avoid being found by the military was to constantly move, not staying in any place for more than a few days.




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