Colombia: FARC Is Burning At Both Ends


July 3, 2008: FARC is falling apart at both ends, with its high command infiltrated by government intelligence agencies, and the lower ranks demoralized and surrendering or deserting in growing numbers. The recent rescue of fifteen high value FARC hostages showed the world, and the FARC leadership, how much the government knew about the inner workings of FARC, especially how the senior FARC leaders communicated with subordinates. It's not like the FARC leadership couldn't see this coming. FARC has lost three of its seven most senior leaders so far this year, in many cases laptop computers and other electronic files were captured. FARC seriously underestimated what the government could do with this stuff. Now the FARC high command is in a panic, and the FARC rank-and-file are even more demoralized. For the last few months, FARC has been losing over 500 people a month to desertions (mostly) and casualties (including people getting too ill to continue because of the harsh life in the bush). FARC strength is down to 8,000, and falling, mainly because recruiting is becoming difficult. A decade ago, FARC has nearly 20,000 gunmen on the payroll. The drug gangs are getting the best recruits these days, and the gangs are now starting to move against FARC, to reverse the process that, over the last decade, had enabled FARC to become a major factor in the drug business (by either pushing the drug gangs out, or forcing the gangs to pay "protection" money to the FARC. This process is tempting the more successful FARC commanders to just drop all the FARC political nonsense, and concentrate on being a drug gangster. When it comes to money and politics, most people view the latter as a means to obtain the former.

July 2, 2008: The army pulled off a spectacular commando operation that resulted in the release of fifteen prominent hostages (including three Americans and former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt) and capture of several mid-level FARC leaders. The operation was based on using captured documents, and interrogations of recently captured or surrendered FARC members, to successfully send a false order, allegedly from the new FARC commander, for the FARC unit holding the fifteen hostages, to march them to a nearby NGO (non-governmental organization) operation, and  board helicopters that would carry the hostages to the new location. Once in the air, the FARC guards were disarmed by the commandos (posing as FARC operatives) and arrested. The shocked hostages were then told that they had been rescued. This will become one of the textbook examples of how to carry out a high-risk, big payoff type operations.

June 27, 2008: Unable to oust their archenemy from office via the ballot box, president Uribe's political foes have apparently gotten to the Supreme Court judges. Bribing politicians and judges is an old problem in this part of the world, and it is often used as a way to get opponents removed from the political scene. The latest attempt against Uribe is the Supreme Court declaring his 2006 re-election illegal. Uribe called for a referendum on the matter, or a new election. While Uribe has a 70 percent approval rating with the voters, he is less popular with most politicians. Uribes crackdown on FARC and the drug gangs has cost a lot of politicians and judges a lot of money. Uribe's successes have also been embarrassing for public officials who have been around for a while, and have long complained that "nothing could be done."

June 24, 2008: Resumption of diplomatic ties with Ecuador has been put off. Ecuador's leftist president was caught supporting the FARC earlier this year, when Colombian troops raided a FARC camp just across the border in Ecuador. Laptops with very incriminating email and documents were captured, but Ecuador president Rafael Correa vacillated between apologies and new pledges to bring down the non-leftist government in Colombia. Correa has serious economic and political problems at home, so bad-mouthing Colombia provides a useful distraction. Colombia is not sure Correa has really stopped providing aid to FARC, and is willing to risk loss of trade ($1.5 billion a year in exports to Ecuador, about half as much in imports) with its neighbor until the matter is resolved.




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