March 16, 2010:
Venezuela agreed to work with Spain on counter-terrorism issues. This came after a Spanish judge demanded such cooperation. That was because 13 ETA and FARC members were recently arrested in Spain, while planning to murder visiting Colombian government officials. Captured documents indicated that Venezuela was providing an overseas refuge for ETA (a Spanish Basque separatist group that has used terror for several decades). What's happening here is that ETA is, like FARC, turning into gangsters. Four years ago ETA announced that they were, basically, shutting down. What they really meant was that they were getting out of the separatist terrorist business. Like many other terrorist organizations, the ETA has been evolving into a purely criminal operation. It's all about money. Terrorist organizations have expenses. Money is usually obtained by stealing it. In northern Spain's "Basque Country", businesses are frequently firebombed for refusing to pay "taxes" to the ETA. Some ETA operatives have gotten into drug smuggling, which is where the FARC connection came from. The ETA experience is similar to that of the Irish IRA, the Italian Mafia (which should have gone out of business over a century ago, when the modern state of Italy was established), as well as similar Albanian, Burmese, Indian and Sri Lankan outfits. With the war on terror, and increasing pressure on known terrorists, moving right along, many terrorists are officially, or unofficially, getting out of the terror business, and sticking to their criminal scams. Too much heat for terrorists, and actually less for common criminals, because of all the police manpower diverted to counter-terrorism work.
Venezuela is looking for ways to control the Internet access of its citizens. President Hugo Chavez used democracy and impressive rhetoric to get elected, and has since used his new powers to control the media and the political process so that he can manipulate the elections to stay in office indefinitely. It's a common scam in other parts of the World (Africa, Central Asia), but not so much in the Americas. Chavez had shut down dozens of opposition media (electronic and print), and now finds that his major media problem is the Internet. His Cuban security advisors have apparently already pointed out that Cuba controls the Internet largely via poverty. Few Cubans can afford Internet access, and Cuba has few electronic links to the world wide web.
As security forces grind down FARC, more leaders, and their laptops, are captured. This is how the government knows that FARC is moving more of its remaining operations to Venezuela, where it is safe from attack. More of the cocaine leaving the country is going across the border into Venezuela, where it can continue via Cuba and, using the ETA connections, to Europe. While ETA and FARC have to pay Chavez "rent" for this protection, the terrorist groups also do dirty work. So when you hear about "foreigners" killing "Chavez opponents," you know what's going on.
The Colombian drug gangs are trying to influence (with money and muscle) the upcoming (May) elections. But the biggest obstacle the drug gangs, and their leftist allies, face is that most Colombians are fed up with the decades of violence and lack of order and abundance of fear and poverty.
Colombians are reminded about the bad old days regularly, as the media covers the woes of people in areas where FARC has recently been driven out. Aside from the legal (property ownership, past crimes of residents) hassles, there are more practical ones, like rebuilding roads, bridges and clearing the landmines. This last job gets tricky when you go into the hills, where the new mine clearing machines can't operate. FARC tended to plant minefields that blocked (except for those who knew the secret safe path through) well used trails. Blocking these makes it more difficult for the locals to travel to nearby locations (like a village over the ridge). Kids, or even adults, are tempted to ignore the signs warning of mines, and the casualties continue to pile up.
FARC is losing its war, week by week. The drug gangs are moving operations to adjacent countries, and trying to reach accommodations with the government. That's why the May elections are so important. If the drug gangs can buy enough new legislators, they will have some relief from the relentless attacks of the police and military.