Colombia: Bad Boys And Indians

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October 14, 2011: In the last decade, criminal activity has been greatly reduced, but not eliminated. In the last year, there have been 282 kidnappings, compared to 2,882 in 2002. But 282 is still a lot, and there are still many armed anti-social groups out there. The coalition of drug gangs and leftist rebels (mainly FARC and ELN) are being forced out of the country, or destroyed, by constant police and military action. Many of these guys are seeking new criminal activities that are not under so much pressure. Illegal gold mining is a favorite, as is smuggling and extortion. The criminal gangs go where the military and police presence is lightest. Too many men who spent some time as outlaws acquired bad habits they can never get rid of. Colombia is still a very violent place. It's not just that the police cannot suppress all of the violence; but that the courts often let criminals and killers go free (because of threats, bribes or overwork.)

Most of the violence is along the southern border and the eastern one with Venezuela. But people in "pacified" areas are demanding some attention be paid to all the bad guys that have gone from leftist rebellion and drug production to being local thugs.

As the army pushes the drug gangs and leftist groups out of the country, the fighting has moved to rural areas where most of the locals are Indian tribes. Unlike North America, where large numbers of Europeans and Africans arrived to occupy the country, there was far less migration to South America, and there were a lot more Indians already there. Thus there are many more pre-European invasion groups in South America, and in rural areas there are often Indian tribes that have been there for centuries, living with some modern technology, and usually Christian, but otherwise as they have always been. But now all these gunmen are wandering around, killing and stealing. The soldiers and police come in to drive the bad guys out, but the Indians are often caught in the crossfire. This sort of thing is often ignored by most Colombians, who have, like most urban dwellers in South America, long been disdainful of the rural Indian tribes.

October 10, 2011: Two clashes with FARC left 11 rebels and seven soldiers dead.

October 8, 2011: Near the Venezuelan border, troops clashed with ELN rebels, killing five of them. There has been a lot more activity along the border in the last two weeks because some FARC rebels kidnapped a ten year old girl. This became a big media event, and the government ordered the security forces to find and rescue the girl. The big search has caused many of the other outlaws along the border to run for cover. Some have not run fast enough.

 

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