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Colombia: A Cost Of Doing Business
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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 isn't enough.

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.

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