Colombia: Vote Or Die


November 2, 2011: FARC and other leftist rebels are being driven out of the cities, and those gunmen who do not desert, are moving to the Ecuadoran or Venezuelan border. Leftist rebels and the drug gangs are setting up operations just across the border, where local officials are easier to bribe or intimidate into looking the other way. But the battlefield is now largely in these border areas. The only exception is the growth in criminal gangs in the newly expanding gold mining areas.

November 1, 2011: Intelligence agency DAS was officially dissolved. The government decision two years ago, to disband the domestic intelligence agency (DAS) has been uncovering more illegal wiretapping and misuse of the agency for domestic political advantage. What precipitated this was yet another wiretapping scandal. DAS and the national police (and a few smaller agencies) have the authority to wiretap, and every few years there's a scandal when it is discovered that bribes (from criminals or businesses) or orders from some government official, have led to illegal wiretaps (of government officials, business rivals or whatever). There are resignations, promises not-to-let-it-happen-again, and the cycle repeats itself. The problem is the high level of corruption in the country. Wiretapping is a commodity that a lot of people will pay for, and the government employees who carry out the taps are not averse to taking a bribe for an illegal tap. But this time the decision was made to dismantle DAS and create new intel organizations. The 6,000 employees of DAS are being transferred to police organizations, some are being fired, and others are going to new, smaller (1,500 people altogether) intelligence, and counterintelligence, agencies that are being built from scratch. This will probably not eliminate the bribery scandals, but may delay the next one. The U.S. has suspended aid to DAS until the reorganization is complete.

October 30, 2011: National elections were held, with leftists doing better than they have in over a decade. This time around, 41 candidates were killed, twice the number killed during the 2007 campaign. The voters chose who will govern 1,102 towns and neighborhoods, as well as governors and local legislators. The violence is up because leftist rebels and criminal gangs are taking more interest in getting their people elected. There's also an increase in corruption, especially in the rural areas. It’s always been more lawless out there, with local strong men making their own rules, or trying to.  

October 29, 2011: Ten soldiers were killed while fighting FARC gunmen along border with Venezuela. FARC is trying to show it is still a credible force, encouraging voters to elect men known, or thought to, have good relations with FARC.

October 28, 2011:  Ten soldiers were killed while fighting FARC gunmen along border with Ecuador.






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