November 28, 2007: The
government shut down cooperation with Venezuela, in seeking a prisoner swap
with the FARC rebels (who want to exchange kidnapped celebrities for captured
rebels). The official reason for the break was Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez
contacting the head of the Colombian armed forces directly (as part of the
negotiations), despite agreeing to not do that sort of thing. Chavez promptly
denounced Colombian president Uribe for "interfering".
Even some of Chavez's allies
believe Chavez is out of control, and his own worst enemy. Uribe believes
Chavez is out to turn Colombia into a leftist dictatorship, and Chavez has
openly talked about doing that, while at the same time criticizing Colombian
leftist groups like FARC. Chavez is rich, powerful and unpredictable, and that
makes all Venezuela's neighbors nervous. Chavez is also corrupt, or at least he
tolerates a lot of corruption among his subordinates. That makes Venezuela even
more unpredictable, but very profitable for foreigners. Russian arms merchants
openly boast of doubling or tripling arms sales to the oil rich country, and
eventually unloading $10 billion worth of Russian weapons there. This will be
accomplished by paying generous "commissions" to the right Venezuelan
officials. This sort of thing has already happened, been exposed, and ignored.
No wonder the Russian arms sellers are so confident.
Despite being cut off by the
Colombian government, Chavez continues to negotiate, demanding that FARC prove
the 45 prominent kidnap victims they say they have, are still alive. But even
if Chavez cuts a deal (to release 500 FARC members from prison for the 45
kidnap victims), Colombia is not bound by it. Few expect Chavez to accomplish
anything, except garner more publicity for himself.
Ecuador and Colombia are
arguing over who is responsible for guarding their mutual border. Ecuador
believes that, because Colombian military operations are defeating FARC, and
driving rebels to seek refuge by setting up camps across border in Ecuador,
that Colombia should prevent this. Colombia insists that Ecuador guard its own
borders, or at least cooperate with Colombia in destroying FARC and the cocaine
gangs in the border region. Ecuador
currently has 13,000 soldiers and police guarding the Colombian border, and it
Throughout Colombia, the
security forces continue to battle FARC and other leftist groups, as well as
drug gangs. What keeps the war going is all the profits from the cocaine trade.
Hiring additional gunmen, and arming them, is just considered a cost of doing
business. The leftist groups are basically drug gangs now, although there are
minority factions within each group that want to get back to the original goal
of establishing a communist dictatorship in Colombia. That idea has been pushed
way into the background. Now it's all about making a buck and keeping the drug
game going. While lots of cash can solve many problems for a cocaine gang, the
increasing hostility of the Colombian population is proving to be a major
problem. As has happened elsewhere in the world, if the drug gangs become too
much of a social problem, the population they live among turns on them, and the
drug operations disappear. It could happen here.