Colombia: Aftermath


October 23, 2010: The return of law and order in many rural parts of Colombia is not universally welcome. In addition to the FARC, gold miners were not happy to see government control return. That's because the government has health and safety standards for mining, and FARC does not. In the last two months, 48 of nearly 600 mining operations in the country were shut. The government is seeking to legalize many of these mines, as they provide jobs. But some of the mines are run by outlaws, so the investigations can get interesting, and sometimes violent. Many of the mines are for gold, and FARC has found that one item that could easily be traded for needed weapons, supplies and cooperation.

As troops and police round up more FARC and ELN rebels, and their records, more mysteries are revealed. For example, there was the arms smuggling operation run by a renegade Ecuadorian bishop. This was busted up seven years ago, but now it's been discovered that the rogue state of Zimbabwe was the source of many of the weapons. An arms firm owned by the Zimbabwean Army provided the weapons for FARC and other outlaw groups.

As police reestablish control over more of the country, they establish informant networks to monitor criminal activity. This puts leftist rebel groups at more risk, and that is resulting in more rebel leaders getting arrested. This includes senior leaders. In the last week, two members of the FARC high command, Margot Silva and Toribio Saavedra, were picked up in a southern town. For decades, FARC leaders could move freely through much of the country because police were absent, or weak. FARC is having a hard time adapting to the changes in the last decade, with more police everywhere, and more civilians willing to provide information about FARC movements. Cell phones have been a big help with this, and with government control comes cell phone service. The phones are very popular, expect with the FARC members who get picked up because of a cell phone call. In the last five years, cell phone service has spread to most of the country.

The crackdown has extended to the United States and Europe. In Spain, a cocaine distribution and money laundering network is being taken down, with 52 arrests so far. Some of those jailed were Colombians, but most were locals, lured by the money, and imagined glamour of working with leftist rebels like FARC. The group now being rounded up in Spain is one of several that have distributed over a billion dollars worth of drugs in Europe. The Spanish group had distributed over a quarter of a billion dollars worth of drugs.

In the last eight years, amnesty programs have led to 50,000 rebels surrendering. Most of them took the education courses and got jobs, but 20 percent or more of those taking amnesty slipped back into criminal activity. This brought the amnesty program a lot of criticism. But the fact is that the majority of those taking amnesty were disarmed and returned to a lawful way of life. The rebels who returned to criminal activities are often those who had already abandoned the political cause the leftist, and anti-leftist, rebel groups espoused, and embraced the purely criminal (usually drug related) aspects that have come to dominate.

October 15, 2010: In the southwest, two people were killed by terrorists tossing grenades while passing on a motorcycle. This attack was believed to be drug related.  On the Venezuelan border, a bicycle bomb went off, injuring seven people. This attack was traced back to FARC, who are trying to terrorize people along the border into keeping quiet. While the attacks are against troops and police, FARC does not try to avoid civilian casualties.




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