Colombia: April 18, 2002


The government has apparently decided to follow public opinion and go to war with the rebels. There are 17,000 FARC and 4,000 ELN leftist fighters, and 10,000 men in the AUC anti-leftist militias. The army has some 160,000 troops, and work with the 100,000 national police. The leftist rebels cannot take major populated areas; they don't have the manpower (or the popular support.) The right wing militias, which began as self-defense organizations in rural areas where the leftist rebels ran extortion rackets (and killed "class enemies"). But out in the bush, the leftist rebels have all that drug money and a fair amount of popular support (especially where being on the FARC payroll is a major source of employment.) The main thing the government has going for it is growing popular discontent with the drug gangs and rebels. This change in popular attitude could enable the leftist rebels to be defeated, but the defeat would probably not be total, and the lucrative drug trade would likely survive.




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