Colombia: FARC On The Run From Itself


May 21,2008: Leftist leaders of FARC and Venezuela both have major credibility and performance problems. FARC is falling apart, at least according to captured gunmen and surrendering FARC leaders. In Venezuela, even the poor, who believed leftist Higo Chavez and elected him president, are disenchanted with all the rhetoric, and lack of performance. They are still poor, while Chavez spends all the oil money on making himself a regional hero. That includes giving FARC several hundred million dollars. FARC needs the money because it can't meet its payroll (for gunmen and corrupt government officials). Using terror to instill discipline no longer works as well as it used to. Those who don't get paid, don't perform. In some cases, FARC gunmen have turned on their leaders, killing them for a government reward. This has caused an increasing number of these FARC commanders to surrender or flee the country. Out in the bush, there's this growing feeling that there's no future in FARC.

May 18, 2008: The most senior women in FARC, Nelly Avila Moreno, surrendered after two weeks of negotiations. She feared that some of her subordinates were plotting to kill her for the reward (nearly $2 million) the government had on her head. Another FARC commander, Ivan Rios, was murdered two months ago by his chief of security for that reason. The killer recently collected over two million dollars in reward money. Moreno confirmed that FARC was falling apart. The constant pressure from the police and army had destroyed many of the money making activities (drugs and kidnapping, in particular), and it had become too dangerous for senior FARC commanders, like Moreno, to travel long distances to meet with the most senior FARC leaders. She had not been able to meet with them for two years, and was pretty much left to her own devices and ordered to hang on. Venezuela was seen as a potential savior, but Venezuelan leftists are in trouble now as well, and Moreno felt surrender was the only solution. She was faced with high levels of desertion, and subordinates who were tired of always being on the run from the security forces. Food was a problem, and too many of the rural population were now willing to tell the police when they had seen FARC personnel. A decade ago, FARC had nearly 18,000 fighters under arms. Now, fewer than 8,000 gunmen are out there, and many are inclined to surrender to the government, or just run away. In the last year alone, FARC lost over 4,000 people (38 percent were killed, the rest deserted or were captured). This is more than double the losses of 2006. Recruiting is more difficult, largely because FARC is no longer cool, or very safe. The FARC deserters come home and bad-mouth the organization, making it less likely that anyone from that area will join up. FARC has been having a hard time meeting the payroll, which also hurts hiring. Now that killing FARC commanders for the reward has become a popular goal for FARC members, the organization is going to have even more problems keeping it together.

May 15, 2008: Interpol (the international police organization) completed its examination of the three Toshiba laptops, two external hard drives and several memory sticks captured from a FARC camp in Ecuador last March. Interpol concluded that the data had not been tampered with. Venezuela blasted this announcement as another U.S. plot to quash the Bolivarian revolution. For most people in Colombia, the Interpol announcement was expected, as it seemed only natural that FARC and Chavez should support each other. Both are in trouble, and could complement each other. Chavez has oil revenue, and FARC has combat experience and terrorist muscle to help keep Chavez in power. As far as anyone knows, the deal for Venezuela to supply FARC with over $300 million, is still on. Venezuela is still allowing FARC gunmen to set up camp just across the border from Colombia, and use Venezuelan military facilities.

May 14, 2008: Fifteen former AUC rebel commanders have been extradited to the U.S. for prosecution on drug charges. The fifteen had continued to run their drug gangs, some from prison (where the amnesty deal had them serving short sentences. When the AUC finally disbanded two years, taking some 30,000 anti-leftist militiamen out of action, about ten percent reneged and returned to their lucrative part of the drug business. Leftist FARC and ELN have refused to surrender, and are now being picked apart by the army and police. The country finally grew tired of half a century of leftist violence, and turned on the rebels, who are now running for cover.

May 8, 2008: A former army officer, who took a bribe to murder ten anti-drug police, was sentenced to 54 years in prison. Several of his associates were also given long sentences. The criminal gangs that hired these officers tried to bribe the prosecutor, but were foiled. This trial was a big deal, because it showed that corrupt military and judicial officials were not beyond the law.


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