Colombia: Frontal Assault


April 13, 2012: Next door in Venezuela the socialist strongman Hugo Chavez is battling a reoccurrence of cancer and many of his aides are talking like their boss is not going to survive or, worse still, lose the October presidential election. Senior Chavez aides indicate they will not recognize anyone but Chavez as president, no matter what the election results. The head of the armed forces, who got his job because of his loyalty to Chavez, says he will not recognize anyone but Chavez after the election. Senior political officials working for Chavez make it clear that they will mobilize and arm their supporters to keep the revolution (that Chavez preaches) going even without Chavez. All this indicates a civil war is on the way. Chavez and his "revolutionary program" has trashed the economy and made many of his working class followers lose faith in him. Thus Chavez is likely to lose the election (or get called out for trying to rig the vote) or die from cancer.  

The drug gangs and their leftist allies (mainly FARC) continue to battle for control of parts of the Ecuador border. In order to keep operating many cocaine operations have moved to Ecuador, but the gangs and FARC still have business in Colombia. In fact, most of the recruiting is still in Colombia, where it is easier to get the right kind of gangsters or killers. Despite moving to Ecuador, the drug gangs and FARC are still very much Colombian organizations. Ecuador is trying to keep these violent criminals out but Ecuador is much less prepared to handle this than their Colombian counterparts. Nevertheless, there is less fighting in Ecuador, so there are about 100,000 Colombian refugees in Ecuador, only about half of them legal.

The leadership of FARC is in disarray and constantly on the run. The government intelligence efforts have improved to the point where most of the FARC senior leadership have been killed or captured, often several times over. The intel efforts have shifted to the subunits (called "Fronts" by the rebels). These outfits have, in many cases, turned into local criminal gangs, with only a thin veneer of leftist ideology left. The government offers cash rewards for information on the location of the Front base camps, which are out in the mountains. These camps are camouflaged to avoid air reconnaissance and contain underground bunkers to protect some of the people and equipment if there is an air or artillery attack. The government now uses a lot of 500 pound bombs, and perhaps some penetration models, and the bunkers are usually destroyed when the air attacks come. Even though most of the camps are moved every few years, dozens of Front members know the location and there are a growing number of FARC members who are captured or desert. The large cash rewards for this information also encourages people to let the security forces know where to bomb.

April 7, 2012: On the northwest Pacific coast a clash with FARC left six soldiers and three rebels dead.

April 2, 2012: FARC finally released the ten soldiers and policemen they had been holding for a long time (up to 14 years). This is largely a public relations gesture. For years FARC tried to persuade the government to release hundreds of jailed FARC members as a trade for these ten prisoners. The FARC leadership also noted that their kidnapping campaign, which had been a major source of income for decades, had made FARC hated among the general population. In the last decade better government security efforts greatly reduced the success of kidnappers, but FARC was still hated for the much fewer kidnappings still carried out. So FARC has officially renounced kidnapping. Some FARC members ignored that order or criminal gangs will often claim to be FARC, in an effort to terrify the family into paying a larger ransom. FARC is still holding several hundred civilians and trying to get ransoms for them. The government points out that FARC will continue to be seen as bad guys as long as they hold these prisoners. But the FARC factions that hold these people insist, to the FARC leadership, that the ransoms are needed to keep many FARC factions going, so the rebel leader won't crack down.

March 26, 2012: Acting on a tip, and intelligence follow up, 18 aircraft (fixed wing and helicopters) launched an attack on a FARC base camp in central Colombia (Vista Hermosa). The attack lasted a few minutes and killed 36 rebels and wounded many more. Soldiers and troops soon arrived and took five rebels alive and captured equipment and documents. A similar raid on the 22nd left 22 rebels dead and another camp demolished.





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