Colombia: Kinder And Gentler Killers Make Their Move


March 12, 2012: FARC is trying to rebrand itself as a less terrifying organization. This is the result of four years of disasters. These included the deaths of most of the senior leadership, the capture of embarrassing documents, and losing control over much territory in Colombia and adjacent countries. The government's war on the cocaine trade deprived FARC of much of it's income, and trying to make that up via more kidnapping was a PR disaster.

FARC is also losing its war with the security forces. FARC has been forced into smaller enclaves near the borders (mainly with Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela). The neighboring countries are hostile to FARC, if only because the leftist rebels are a bunch of armed foreigners who tend to steal and bully. FARC is down to its hard core and still able to fight. But the security forces are better armed and trained. With growing casualties among the FARC leadership, the government forces have a leadership edge as well. Many army and police commanders have been at this for over a decade now. This makes a big difference and the future for FARC is, to put it mildly, dim. But for many of the leftist gunmen, it is the only life they have ever known and this will keep FARC going even as the organization fades and fades.

President Hugo Chavez of neighboring Venezuela is returning this week from Cuba, where he went two weeks ago to have another cancerous tumor removed. It was thought that the cancer was in remission, but this unexpected need for surgery has upset Chavez's plans to win reelection in October and become president-for-life. Chavez sees himself as the leader of a leftist revolution in South America and the founder of socialist dictatorships throughout the region. That is not going so well because his economic policies have brought inflation, unemployment, and higher crime. Chavez also has a growing problem with senior military and government officials being bribed by drug gangs and no longer being as loyal to Venezuela or Chavez. The drug gangs are part of the growing crime wave, which Chavez is increasingly unable to pin on anyone but himself.

Chavez is pretty much a one man show, as he has vigorously struck down any of his associates that tried to gather some popular support. Thus if Chavez dies, his organization will most likely fragment and lose any hope of majority support. This will mean unpopular policies, like cheap oil and other cash assistance for Cuba will end. The Cubans are already preparing for that eventuality.

March 5, 2012: The smaller leftist rebel group, ELN, freed 11 oil workers it had kidnapped last month. No details on how much of a ransom was paid. While FARC has given up kidnapping, ELN has not and is increasingly concentrating on living off mining and oil operations in the back country. This is causing some mining and oil operations to shut down, at least until the government can do something about the crime rate. The government is changing the rules for mining operations, shutting down the illegal mines and bringing more law and order to an often outlaw industry.

March 3, 2012: In the northeast a roadside bomb killed two soldiers and a child. ELN rebels were believed responsible as they have been active in the area.

February 27, 2012: The navy is refurbishing its two elderly Type 209 submarines and buying two smaller second hand Type 206 subs from Germany. All four of these boats are needed partly to cope with new Russian subs being bought by Venezuela and also to provide another means to detect drug gang submarines and semi-submersible boats. The four German made subs all have powerful sonars which are being modified to make it easier to detect the drug gang vessels.

February 26, 2012: FARC, in a major PR move, said it would stop kidnapping and release all the captives it still holds.





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