Colombia: Leftist Rebels Go Total Gangster


February 4, 2012: The remnants of the leftist FARC rebels are surviving by working closer with all sorts of common criminals and the gangs that specialize in cocaine production and smuggling. FARC is doing a lot less political violence, and many recent recruits think they are just joining a criminal gang and know nothing about the leftist politics that has sustained FARC for decades. In most parts of the country the government is hurting the FARC/gangster coalitions. One area where the bad guys are keeping it together is the southwest, and the government has sent several thousand additional soldiers and police to the area in an effort to cripple the leftist and criminal gangs operating there.

Last year, some 3,000 gangsters were arrested and only 13 percent of them were former members of the anti-leftist militias that disarmed six years ago. Some 30,000 of those anti-FARC fighters took the amnesty but some returned to crime. The same pattern is being seen with FARC but it is also happening before these gunmen even accept an amnesty. For the security forces, all the illegal armed groups are equally attractive targets. The population is fed up with any kind of organized crime.

One of the most effective weapons against the gangs is information. The government has intelligence units using electronic devices and skilled analysts to track down FARC/gang bases and leaders. The criminals have more to worry from the intel teams because having your bases found means they will soon be raided by army or police commandos.

After of month of making promises, FARC backed away from releasing six of the eleven policemen and soldiers it has been holding. Some of those to be released have been held for twelve years. FARC has long tried to trade their uniformed captives for hundreds of imprisoned FARC members but the government has always refused. It appeared FARC wanted to get some positive publicity from releasing the captives and avoid the embarrassment of military commandos finding and freeing the prisoners. This has happened several times in the past few years, and FARC knows better than anyone how close the soldiers and police have come to finding the remaining uniformed captives.  But now FARC leaders either think that they have got their prisoners in a secure place or that the offer was just a bluff to try and convince the government to change its policy on releasing imprisoned FARC men and gangsters. FARC, and the drug gangs, would also like to get extradition (of gang leaders to the U.S. for trial) outlawed, as bribery and intimidation can be used to free these men if they are tried in Colombia. But the extradition program has been too successful and popular to be outlawed again (as it was for six years in the 1990s, in an attempt to placate FARC).

Among the many things found on the laptops of killed or captured FARC leaders over the last few years has been evidence of the personal wealth acquired. FARC leaders have taken ownership of a lot of property, hiding it under the names of friends or family. FARC leader Manuel Marulanda was found to be the owner of at least 57 farms, most along the Venezuelan borders. These properties were worth over $5 million. Their former owners were either dead or driven into exile. Marulanda was the founder of FARC and died four years ago. Most of his successors have been killed, and apparently had also acquired great wealth, but kept it a secret.

It's been revealed that Colombia has quietly bought at least half a dozen Israeli Hermes 900 UAVs. This UAV is similar in size (and appearance) to the American Predator (both weighing 1.1 tons) but the Israeli vehicle is built mainly for endurance. The Hermes 900 can stay in the air for 36 hours, cruising at 125 kilometers an hour. Colombia has a 2,000 kilometers long border with Venezuela that requires constant attention. The border is largely hilly forests.

February 2, 2012:  In the southwest, FARC attacked a police station with improvised mortars, killing six.

February 1, 2012: In the southwest, in the port of Tumaco, FARC attacked a police station with a bomb, killing nine.

January 26, 2012: For the last few days, a military operation in the central Colombia province of Guaviare found and destroyed 17 labs for turning coca paste into cocaine. Some 14 tons of raw materials and chemicals were seized. Some 3,000 hectares (7,500 acres) of coca crops were taken out of production.

January 20, 2012: In the south, FARC men attacked a mountain top radar station for several hours. One of the police guards was killed and the attack was repelled. But the radar was damaged and put out of action. This was apparently the aim of the attack. The radar was used for commercial air traffic control, as well as monitoring illegal flights by drug smugglers and other criminals. It will take several months to fix the radar.

In the north, FARC used explosives to destroy part of an oil pipeline.




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