Colombia: Missile Magic


September 16, 2009: The U.S. and Colombia have quietly warned Venezuela that there would be severe repercussions if Venezuela supplied FARC with portable anti-aircraft weapons (namely, Russian missiles like the SA-7 or SA-14). Russia has also advised Venezuela not to let the missiles fall into the hands of rebel groups, as that is seen as a threat to all civil aviation, including Russian. FARC has been trying to obtain missiles on the black market, and the U.S. recently arrested a Syrian arms dealer offering FARC such missiles (via Iran backed Lebanese group Hezbollah). FARC believes the missiles, and landmines, are the wonder weapons that will enable the organization to survive the relentless attacks of the army and police. FARC is being forced into less profitable (for producing cocaine) territory in Ecuador and Venezuela. Moreover, FARC is a Colombian organization, and would have to take on local partners if they moved most cocaine operations across the borders.

Venezuela is headed for an economic crises as its oil industry becomes more politicized (employees are hired more for their loyalty to Chavez, than their ability to produce oil). Many of the more competent Venezuelan oil industry professionals (from blue collar to executives) are fleeing to Colombia, which now has a new supply of experienced, highly skilled, workers. Thus while Venezuelan production becomes less efficient, Colombian production becomes more so. It's not just the oil industry, but the Venezuelan middle and professional classes in general are fearful of getting trapped in what is becoming a police state. The peace and prosperity next door in Colombia is attracting thousands of the Venezuelan exiles.

Falling oil prices and extravagant plans by Venezuelan president Chavez have put the country in debt. Over $10 billion is owed to foreign suppliers (of everything from oil field equipment to food). So Chavez had to buy his latest batch of Russian weapons (a hundred tanks and several battalions of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles) on credit. The Russians supplied a $2.2 billion loan. The Venezuelans have already bought $4 billion worth of Russian arms, with cash.

Hundreds of rural villages in Colombia lie abandoned because of FARC landmines, planted there to keep soldiers and police away from nearby FARC bases or drug production facilities. Last year, the FARC leadership ordered all members to concentrate on buying or building more anti-personnel landmines, as it has proved the only way to stop the relentless advance of the security forces. The army still comes in by helicopter. While this destroys yet another FARC unit and base,  the landmines are still there. The security forces saw their casualties go up 15 percent this year, mainly became of the mines. The army has been training more mine clearing units, as hundreds of rural communities call for help, and clearing of FARC mines that threaten the viability of their communities.

September 14, 2009: Colombia and Ecuador have agreed to resume diplomatic relations, 18 months after Ecuador terminated them. This was because Colombian troops attacked a FARC camp just across the border in Ecuador and found embarrassing evidence that the terrorists were actively supported by the leftist government of Ecuador.

September 11, 2009: Near the Venezuelan border, FARC rebels used remotely controlled bombs attached to mules to attack government anti-drug workers destroying a coca (used to produce cocaine) crop. Two workers were killed by the donkey bombs.

September 5, 2009:  Police captured a FARC courier, who was carrying videos of ten police and soldiers the FARC were holding. The captives were shown wearing iron collars and chains.




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