Colombia: An Embarrassing Past


May 31, 2012: FARC these days is calling for peace, but on their own terms. That means release of convicted FARC members and amnesty for past crimes. That is not going to happen. FARC's battlefield setbacks in the last decade have forced the leftist rebels to become guerillas again. FARC no longer controls territory where they can operate openly. FARC now depends on terror attacks and theatrical media events to persuade people that FARC is a political movement, not a bunch of hired guns for drug gangs. Most of the terror is directed at the security forces but there are many civilian casualties, which defeats the efforts to improve the leftist rebel's popularity. Meanwhile, in numerous small operations, no longer considered newsworthy, the police and army commandoes continue to take apart FARC and the drug gangs. The daily list of patrols (to collect information) and raids (to destroy FARC and drug gang bases and facilities) is long and considered part of the national background noise. The growing number of captured FARC members, along with electronic and paper documents, is creating an often embarrassing number of government officials who have collaborated with FARC, or the drug gangs, in the past.

In neighboring Venezuela president Chavez is believed to be suffering terminal cancer and is not expected to survive to get re-elected. As a result of this, socialist strongman Hugo Chavez has seen his closest allies scrambling to prepare for life without Chavez. They are talking likes 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) if he doesn't die from cancer first. In an effort to avoid defeat, the Chavez supporters are spending a lot of borrowed money to pump up the economy. After the election these debts will drag down the economy even more. Chavez's form of socialism has ruined the economy, causing shortages of basic commodities, housing, and jobs. Crime has skyrocketed and even many of core Chavez supporters (the very poor) are unhappy.

May 30, 2012: A French reporter, held captive for 33 days by FARC, was released in a media event demanded by FARC as a condition of releasing their captive. The French reporter complained that his long captivity, while comfortable, was mainly due to the FARC need for favorable media coverage (as kidnappers willing to free their captive without ransom).

May 28, 2012: FARC finally released "proof of life" evidence that the French reporter they have been holding for a month was okay.

May 21, 2012: Near the Venezuelan border a large number of FARC gunmen ambushed an army patrol and killed twelve soldiers. The FARC then fled back to their base in Venezuela. This blatant use of a refuge across the border prompted Venezuela to send another 3,000 troops to the border area where the incident occurred. The troops were told to shut down any FARC bases and inhibit FARC from moving back and forth across the border. That's a difficult assignment. Colombia has a 2,000 kilometers long border with Venezuela that requires constant attention. The border is largely hilly forests.

May 15, 2012:  In the capital a bomb went off near the Interior Ministry, killing five and wounding 17. The target appears to have been a convoy carrying government officials, none of whom were killed. Elsewhere in the capital police detected and disabled a bomb outside police headquarters.




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