March 30, 2009:
FARC is suffering greater losses because of more damage being done to their cocaine operations. In the last decade, this approach has contributed to FARC losing over half the 20,000 gunmen they once had. FARC has about 8,000 fighters currently, organized into 81 units (77 rural "fronts" and four urban militias), and it costs lots of money to meet the payroll and pay for groceries and ammo. FARC and ELN continue to lose ground inside Colombia, and are increasingly dependent on bases in Venezuela and Ecuador. The leftist governments in these two countries are willing to tolerate these bases, although they have to deny such support officially.
FARC has dropped its demand for a "liberated zone" before beginning to negotiate the release of more kidnap victims. Now FARC simply wants to get some of its senior people out of jail by trading kidnap victims, especially politicians and security forces personnel.
For the first time since 1999, the economy shrank .7 percent. This occurred in the last three months of 2008, as a result of the global recession. A year earlier, the economy (GDP) had grown 7 percent. The economy is still expected to grow in 2009, but only by about one percent for the entire year.
On the northeast coast, over two thousand Indians fled their villages this month, to avoid the fighting between FARC and the security forces.
FARC failed in an attempt to assassinate the Defense Minister. Ten FARC members dressed in police uniforms, but made an error in painting two motorcycles (as police vehicles) and were found out and arrested.
March 28, 2009: Five soldiers were killed while clearing a FARC minefield. The army and police take dozens of casualties each week, as they go after FARC and ELN base areas. These are often well defended. But as these base areas fall, they disrupt money raising operations that enable the leftist rebels to hang on to their personnel. Thus, each week, the leftist groups lose far more people to desertion.
March 27, 2009: A senior ELN commander, Javier Galvis Florez, was killed by police 120 kilometers west of the capital. ELN is about half the size of FARC, and more amenable to cutting a deal to surrender, disarm and become a political party.
March 21, 2009: FARC used explosives to block the Pan American highway connecting Colombia and Ecuador. This highway covers the length of South America. It will take about two weeks to repair the FARC damage.
March 18, 2009: In central Colombia, troops captured an underground FARC bunker complex, killing or capturing nearly 30 FARC gunmen. The cave and tunnel complex appeared to be the headquarters for one of the six top FARC commanders.
March 17, 2009: FARC released a Swedish engineer they had held for two years. FARC had demanded a $5 million ransom, but it's unknown if any of it was paid.