FARC is back on the attack because the government refuses to provide amnesty with the peace deal. The government doesn’t have much choice. Public opinion demands that all (or at least the most notorious) FARC killers and kidnappers be prosecuted and punished. FARC leadership refuses to accept this, despite the risk that the government could offer amnesty to some FARC leaders who will accept partial amnesty and then continuing attacks on the holdouts. This would weaken FARC and make it more likely that the holdouts would die violently, rather than serve some time in jail before going free. FARC is, for the moment, united behind their senior leadership (most of them high on the “must be prosecuted” list) that demands amnesty for all. FARC justifies resuming attacks by pointing out that FARC cannot be expected to turn into a political party if most of its leaders are prosecuted and imprisoned. Some FARC members suggest a “truth and reconciliation” commission as was used in 1990s South Africa. Noting this amnesty deadlock, the smaller ELN (about a third the size of FARC) has said it will only begin peace talks if they have assurances that there will be amnesty for all. Meanwhile ELN is still quite violent and is concentrating its attacks (and extortion efforts) on the oil industry and electricity producers.
In an effort to obtain amnesty FARC has announced it will keep attacking economic targets, especially oil pipelines, until the government yields. FARC admits that some of its pipeline attacks are done with the intention of polluting farmland and water supplies but that these actions have been forced on the leftist rebels by the government because of the refusal to offer amnesty as part of the peace deal. At this point the government believes a final peace deal with FARC won’t be done in time for the FARC to participate in the 2018 elections. The government is confident that FARC will eventually resume negotiations and a deal will be made on some form of amnesty. If not, public opinion backs continued military operations against FARC, until the leftist rebels are reduced to a few scattered bandit groups that can be handled by local police. FARC leaders apparently do not realize that they have lost most popular support they had decades ago and polluting water supplies is not going to change that.
Iran has agreed to provide a $500 million line of credit, which Venezuela needs to buy items (like food) it must import. Many Venezuelans doubt that most of that food will reach them. That’s because corruption among government officials has crippled efforts to deal with the growing smuggling problem. Corrupt officials allied with criminal gangs divert imported food so it can be smuggled into Colombia or Brazil and sold there. Price controls in Venezuela make food and other items much cheaper to buy than the market prices prevailing in neighboring countries. Smugglers point out that it is often more profitable to smuggle Venezuelan food into Colombia than to move Colombian cocaine into Venezuela. Government officials have also taken the lead in plundering government reserves of foreign currency. The biggest offenders in exploiting the official (far below the black market) exchange rate between dollars and the local currency are government officials. The shortages created by all this and the increased printing of Venezuelan currency have pushed inflation up to more than 500 percent a year. Thus since May the Venezuelan currency (the bolivar) has collapsed in value against the dollar (the most common foreign currency used in Venezuela). The black market rate for a dollar is now over 400 bolivars, way up from 2013 when it was under 30 bolivars. Before the socialist revolution of the 1999 inflation was about 20 percent and you could buy a dollar for six bolivars. The average inflation in neighboring countries in 1999 was under 15 percent. The official exchange rate is 6.5 bolivars per dollar but that is only available to government officials and well-connected businessmen.
The opposition is growing and is increasingly united in its efforts to replace the current government. The opposition is still relying on elections to do that. Elections on December 6th promise real change and polls indicate the unpopular government will lose. Recent opinion surveys show that only 30 percent of voters are willing to keep the current socialist government and that 80 percent disapprove of how the government is handling the economy. Public protests are getting more violent and if the government tries to rig the elections there could be open rebellion. The government is trying to suppress criticism via the Internet, arresting and prosecuting those who do so and can be identified. There is a lot more criticism on the Internet, especially about the corruption. The theft by government employees and their cronies (businesses and gangsters) has always been there, but has gotten worse and more noticeable as the economy crumbles. Many of the biggest offenders are government officials and they control the security forces and judges. The government continues to speak ominously about opponents (which is now the majority of Venezuelans) scheming to stage a coup. This justifies still more arrests and prosecutions. If the government tries to stay in power despite losing the elections that might be enough to trigger a civil war. Even radical supporters of the government, especially those with government jobs, agree that civil war benefits no one and are pressuring the government to do something effective against the corruption. But those leftist officials calling for an end to corruption are outnumbered by the officials who are involved in schemes that has made thousands of them very rich (over $200 billion “missing” so far). Much, if not most, of this money ends up outside for the day when the thieves will have to flee. A growing number of opposition supporters fear that the current government will try to use a rigged election to stay in power.
July 2, 2015: In Colombia two small, crudely made, bombs went off in the capital, wounding eight people. The targets appeared to be financial companies and no one has taken credit for the attacks. Some police suspect this may be part of an extortion effort by gangsters, which is becoming more common.
June 29, 2015: In the northeast (Putumayo province) FARC bombed another section of oil pipeline. There was little damage from spilled oil because this section of pipeline was out of service.
June 23, 2015: The attorney general revealed that his staff has compiled a list of over 500,000 crimes (including crimes against humanity and war crimes) committed by FARC members and charges will be brought on all of these. This is a very popular move which FARC is trying to halt by attacking economic targets.
June 22, 2015: In the northeast, near the Venezuelan border, FARC attacked soldiers guarding an oil pipeline and killed four and wounded six. Elsewhere in the area a UH-60 helicopter was destroyed when it set off a landmine while landing.
June 21, 2015: In the southwest (Narino province) FARC bombed another section of oil pipeline, causing a large oil spill that got into a river and temporarily contaminated the water supply for thousands of people downstream. FARC gunmen also stopped a tanker truck and dumped its cargo into a river to cut the water supply for the local population.
June 20, 2015: In the southwest (Narino) blew up several electricity transmission towers, leaving nearly 300,000 people without power. Further south, on the Ecuador border, troops disrupted a FARC effort to bomb another oil pipeline. Engineers disabled and removed 48 explosive devices attached to a major pipeline.
June 16, 2015: In the north (Norte de Santander) FARC blew up a section of an oil pipeline, temporarily polluting nearby water supplies. Meanwhile in the southwest (Caqueta) FARC ambushed an army patrol, killing four soldiers and wounding six.
June 15, 2015: In the east (Arauca) an army raid killed a senior FARC commander and one of his subordinates. Another FARC member was captured.
June 13, 2015: In the northwest (Antioquia) an army raid killed a senior ELN commander and wounded another ELN gunman.
June 12, 2015: In the southwest (Cauca province) FARC used a roadside bomb, near the Ecuador border, which killed two policemen and a civilian.
June 11, 2015: In the south (Caqueta) blew up several electricity transmission towers, leaving nearly 500,000 people without power.