Surrenders of rebel fighters are
up seven percent over last year. For the year so far, 3,352 rebels have surrendered.
Some 88 percent were from FARC, the largest leftist rebel group in the country.
Most of the rest came from the second largest leftist rebel outfit, the ELN.
Since 2002, when offensive operations against the various rebel outfits began,
nearly 18,000 have surrendered. Many more have accepted disarmament and amnesty
deals. The political, social and ethnic violence that has afflicted the country
for over half a century, has left the landscape cluttered with dozens of
political and criminal gangs. In 2002, fed-up Colombians elected another
president (Uribe) who promised to clean it up, and this time the government
actually did the deed.
The army and
police have dozens of separate investigations going on to find and dismantle criminal
and rebel organizations. The larger (since 2002) and better trained security
forces have also made it more difficult for the gangsters and rebels to move
around. The police and army are now dismantling specific gang and rebel
operations. Many parts of the country no longer have a FARC presence (after
decades of the leftist group preying on the area). Similarly, many of the
criminal organizations that constitute the cocaine manufacturing and smuggling
business, are being identified and taken down. This has led to increased
economic growth, as large areas of the country were reopened for legitimate
business. While GDP is up only four percent this year (compared to 8 percent or
more for previous years), this is a result of the world-wide recession, which
is expected to be over within the year. All these changes have brought to light
many other social problems, that were concealed for decades. Rural poverty and
the plight of Indian tribes is now out in the open, and accessible to the
2008: FARC apologized for killing two rural health workers earlier this month.
The two were killed by a roadside bomb, that was intended for a vehicle
belonging to an anti-kidnapping force. The government is using this special unit
to find where FARC is holding hundreds of kidnapping victims, so they can be
freed. The anti-kidnapping unit has had a lot of success, and FARC wants to
stop it. But killing public health workers was a public relations disaster, so
FARC issued a rare apology.
2008: Venezuela said that it had destroyed 230 hidden air strips used by
cocaine smugglers. This confirms the extent to which Colombian drug gangs and
leftist rebels like FARC, have moved their operations across the border. How
these airstrips were destroyed was not described. The hard work in building
these airstrips is taking down jungle trees, and removing stumps and rocks so
you have several hundred meters of flat ground. You could "destroy"
the airstrip by dragging some of the original debris (logs and rocks) back onto
it, and digging some trenches. But this can easily be repaired. Venezuela has
been accused of tolerating, and even supporting, the drug gangs and leftist
2008: After three years of detective work, police finally arrested the guy who,
well, "invented" the semisubmersible boats used to move cocaine to
North America. The inventor, and builder, of these craft was a boat builder and
part time shrimper, Enrique Portocarrero, who came up with several design
innovations that made the low slung boat very difficult to detect with radar,
or by eye. The boats built by "Captain Nemo" (as he was known in the
drug trade) even defeated heat sensing devices by venting the boat engine
exhaust into the water under the boat. Portocarrero built about twenty of them,
and became a millionaire in the process. He bought five shrimp boats with the
proceeds, and worked that fleet of boats as a cover for his cocaine boat
building business. Police found two boats under construction in Portocarrero's
jungle boat yard. There are other boat yards like this, and one is found every
few months. But for years the police have sought the builder who actually came
up with the basic design of these boats. Now they have him.