Colombia: October Surprise


August 13, 2012: In the southwest the security forces have been staging major operations against FARC and drug gang operations. The leftist rebels are hanging on to their border bases because if they lose here they have to flee the country they have been trying to gain control of for decades. Improved policing and declining popular support has prevented criminal activity (like kidnapping) from making up for lost drug income. It's been another bad year for drug gangs, with cocaine shipments down 25 percent in 2011, and down 70 percent since 2001. A lot of the production has fled to Bolivia and Peru.

FARC can't really just move to another country, since so many of their key people are still keen to overthrow the Colombian government. Some FARC leaders are openly calling for peace talks but doubt that an adequate amnesty deal can be obtained from the government. For one thing, a lot of the senior FARC men are also major operators in the cocaine trade and are wanted both for that and for murders and other violence carried out in the name of FARC (for the effort to establish a communist government in Venezuela).

Cocaine continues to flow through Venezuela despite occasional media events showing government action against the smugglers. The government goes through the motions of fighting the drug gangs during the media events but otherwise appears to be a partner with the cocaine operations. The government needs all the money it can get in order to win the October presidential elections. President Hugo Chavez has bet everything on his own brand of radical socialism. But inflation is running at 25 percent and kept in check only because of strict price controls on staple foods. Major businesses have been taken over and looted to provide cash. Venezuela used to have a thriving agriculture sector, but now 70 percent of food is imported. The oil revenue and money borrowed against future oil shipments is paying to keep up appearances until the elections. Chavez has taken over most of the media, so he has a shot at winning. After that comes economic and political collapse.

August 8, 2012: A major drug gang leader, Erickson Vargas Cardona, was captured on a farm outside Medellin. Cardona had a $660,000 price on his head and this is apparently going to the informer who alerted the police about the farm. Cardona became head of the Envigado gang after the previous boss was arrested in Venezuela last November.

August 4, 2012:  Venezuelan border guards arrested an American entering from Colombia and accused him of being part of a U.S. plot to destabilize Venezuela. The state-controlled media jumped on this story and won't let up.





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