Colombia: Talk, Talk, Fight, Fight


November 6, 2012: Despite the peace talks, the war against leftist rebels (FARC and ELN) and their drug gang allies continues. Operations along the Ecuador, Venezuela, and Panama borders are particularly intense, as this is where much of the drug production and smuggling takes place. The leftist rebels and drug gangs suffer losses daily as security forces seek out and destroy bases and drug production sites. In most cases the leftist rebels flee the superior combat ability of the army. FARC used to be able to stand and fight but over the last few years it has used terrorist bombing attacks as their main means of fighting back. This has led to a decline in popular support.

The next round of peace talks with FARC takes place in Cuba on November 15th. This phase of the talks will get down to details over what FARC wants (some socialism, especially in terms of distributing farmland, amnesty, and other benefits for rebels) and what the government is willing to give to achieve peace. The rebels have suffered a string of defeats over the last decade and their armed strength has been reduced by more than half to 8,000. Meanwhile, decades of fighting has gained FARC nothing but has left over half a million dead and nearly four million people driven from their homes. Involvement with cocaine gangs in the 1990s provided the rebels with a lot of cash but also corrupted many of their members and greatly increased the amount of violence. Recruiting has become much more difficult and FARC has become more dependent on kidnapping and brainwashing teenagers (and younger children) to be fighters. This sort of thing has made FARC very unpopular in rural areas where the leftists used to enjoy popular support.

November 4, 2012: In Medellin police battled with a breakaway faction of a drug gang, leaving five dead and the faction’s leader under arrest.

In Venezuela troops seized a shipment of 1.4 tons of Colombian cocaine near the Colombian border. The drugs were hidden in a truck. Such seizures are rare and apparently someone was in trouble with the government, which profits greatly from allowing Venezuela to become a major export route for Colombian cocaine. Then again, the seizure may have been staged because the drugs, if they exist, will not be destroyed.

November 2, 2012: In the southwest a FARC man transporting a bomb to a nearby police station died when the device went off prematurely as he was passing through a park. A civilian and over 30 people were injured, most of them children.

November 1, 2012: In the north soldiers clashed with the ELN leaving three rebels dead.

October 29, 2012: In the southwest six policemen were killed when their vehicles were ambushed by FARC rebels.

October 26, 2012: In the north a drug gang member killed three people and wounded 22 (including himself) when he threw a grenade into a crowded market. This was part of an extortion effort, to get merchants to pay to avoid attacks like this. The local drug gang has seen its income sharply decline as police and soldiers shut down cocaine production in the area, but most of the gang members managed to get away. Rather than disband, the local drug gangs are seeking other sources of income. This has long been a problem.

October 22, 2012: Three separate clashes with FARC, all over the country, left nine soldiers and one rebel dead, as well as one rebel leader captured.

October 21, 2012: In Medellin police battled a drug gang, leaving two policemen and a civilian dead and resulting in four arrests.

October 20, 2012: In the south FARC attacked an army camp, killing five soldiers and wounding ten.

October 18, 2012: Peace talks with FARC began in Norway. This phase of the talks lasted only seven hours.




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