Colombia: Blood And Gold


February 20, 2011: The government believes the recent FARC release of six prisoners was a ploy to make it easier, and safer, for the leftist rebels to move a large headquarters, plus gaining some positive media spin for the "humanitarian gesture." As part of the prisoner release deal, FARC insisted that large areas of Central Colombia have all army and police activity shut down (so the rebels could move the captives into position to be picked up by Brazilian helicopters.) The government was also miffed that, during the week the six prisoners were released, several more people were taken by FARC.

In the north, illegal gold mining, and FARC operations (mainly extortion) thrive together. There are thousands of legal mines, which have become another battleground for the leftist rebels. With gold selling for over a thousand dollars an ounce, there's been a rush to the hills, with gangsters and leftist rebels coming right behind the miners.

The fighting continues to move to border areas, as drug gangs, and leftist rebels move across the border to Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador. But for most of the country, the crime rate is declining. Once the kidnapping capital of the world, that dubious distinction has moved to places like Mexico, where drug gangs are still full of fight.

Neighboring Venezuela has become more friendly of late. A major reason for this change is the collapsing Venezuelan economy. Despite all its oil income (a third of GDP), Venezuela was the only country in South America to suffer a decline in economic activity last year. The government is determined to establish some kind of socialist republic, and is driving out the middle class, and taking over private businesses to eliminate potential enemies. Anyone who protests is accused of being U.S. backed counter-revolutionaries. Spreading the revolution is now less of a priority than keeping the economy afloat. That will be increasingly difficult as more of the economy becomes state owned. Using Cuba and the defunct Soviet Union as an economic model is not likely to work. Out of need for essential imports, Venezuela is restoring economic links with Colombia. Venezuela is being more cooperative with its neighbors in going after cocaine smugglers, but it's obvious that Venezuela is still a hub for the movement of drugs.

February 16, 2011: FARC released the last of six prisoners it had kidnapped over the years. This was done as a gesture to help promote peace talks, and the possible release of FARC leaders from prison.

February 12, 2011: Troops captured a 32 meter (100 foot) drug smuggling submarine on a Pacific coast river near the Ecuador border. Last Summer, a similar sub was captured just across the border in Ecuador. Both subs were built to carry 7-8 tons of cocaine to North America.

February 11, 2011:  Police captured the head of finance for Erpac, the largest drug gang in eastern Colombia. Police had cornered and killed the head of Erpac two months ago.

February 10, 2011: In the north, a major gun battle between FARC and drug gang gunmen left at least fifteen dead. Years of government progress in clearing large areas of leftist rebels and drug gangs has eroded the cooperation between the rebels and gangsters, who are now competing for territory and income from drug smuggling.

February 6, 2011: One of the major oil pipelines was damaged by two bombs. The attacks were believed to be the work of FARC, but repairs were quickly made and exports were not interrupted.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close