Colombia: Prospering During Wartime

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June 5, 2010: The presidential election process is not over, but during the first round, former defense minister (for current president Uribe)  Juan Manuel Santos has a commanding lead (47 percent) against two term Bogota Mayor Antanas Mockus (22 percent). Santos pledged to continue Uribe's policies (peace and prosperity), while Mockus was for clean and competent government (as he demonstrated in Bogota). Mockus had most of his support in urban areas, but rural Columbians, who still have to deal with FARC and drug gangs, believe that the war is not over yet. The final round of voting this year appears to favor Santos.

Mockus attracted a lot of votes because the economy (especially in urban areas) has been booming (it doubled in the last eight years, since Uribe took over), and people want clean and competent government to keep that prosperity going. Many countries in the region have corrupt and incompetent leadership, and are suffering economically as a result. But most Colombians still remember the bad-old-days (which still exist in many parts of the country), and are more concerned with crushing the remaining leftist rebels and drug gangs. Meanwhile, growing prosperity does bring problems. For example, rural refugees, trying to get their land back (after it was stolen and sold by leftist rebels or drug gangs), find the leaders of the refugee groups being murdered by those who stole their land. Politicians have more opportunities for corruption as there is more economic growth.

In Venezuela, the erratic and bizarre rule of Hugo Chavez continues to run the economy into the ground. This is causing more popular discontent, and Chavez is responding more and more as the leader of a police state government.

In the last week, fighting between FARC and ELN rebels in the northeast has left over twenty dead, at least half of them civilians caught in the crossfire. The two groups were fighting over control of a lucrative drug smuggling route into Venezuela.

May 26, 2010: In the northwest, police discovered 1,053 FARC landmines, that had been stockpiled for use disrupting the May 30th elections. In the last two decades, nearly 2,000 Colombians have been killed by landmines planted by leftist rebels and drug gangs. Some of those injured have been leftist rebels and drug gangsters, whose maps of the minefields are often crude and not very accurate. The bad guys injured in these incidents often get arrested when they seek medical care at a hospital (where doctors report all landmine injuries, so that the police can determine if the victim has stumbled on an unknown minefield). The government clears all minefields it finds out about.

May 23, 2010: In the south, nine marines died when a platoon of 36 was ambushed, after they found a FARC camp. Normally, FARC flees when one of their camps is about to be captured by security forces. But the leftist rebels will fight back if they see an opportunity.

May 22, 2010:  In Central Colombia, a soldier accidentally set off a hand grenade on an army base, leaving 24 soldiers wounded.

May 17, 2010: In the northeast, near the Venezuelan border, ten FARC gunmen were killed, and one captured. The Venezuelan border has become thick with leftist rebels since Venezuelan allowed these groups freedom of action on the Venezuelan side of the border.

May 16, 2010:  Brazil revealed that it has found a growing number of drug gang members, operating near the Venezuelan border, are also members of FARC. Brazil had long feared the FARC would move into Brazil, and now that seems to be happening. The government pledges to drive FARC out of Brazil.

May 15, 2010: On the Pacific coast, police seized a FARC camp and made eleven arrests. Weapons and documents were also seized.

 

 

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