Colombia: Divide And Conquer


July 23, 2008: In the last six years, it's become very unhip to be an outlaw. FARC, and similar organized criminal groups have lost over 60,000 members in that time, mainly to amnesty programs (as well as capture, desertion, death from disease/accident or getting killed by security forces or rival gangs). Several major groups, like the AUC, are completely gone. FARC, despite energetic recruiting efforts, is down to seven or eight thousand gunmen, and many of them are of dubious loyalty. The FARC leadership has taken lots of casualties too, at all levels. At the top, you still have a bunch of fanatic communists, who promise to keep up the struggle for world domination. But at the bottom you are a larger proportion of drug gangsters pretending to be social revolutionaries. The government recently made a determined attempt to open up peace negotiations with FARC. The top rebel leadership was not interested. But lower down the food chain, as has more frequently been the case over the last few years, there was some interest.

FARC is organized into several dozen "Fronts."  Two decades ago, the number of fronts peaked at over 40. In the last six years, at least a dozen fronts have been completely destroyed, or forced to become just another drug gang. The fronts are assigned a geographical territory, with many of the members living in villages or towns. Increasingly, police pressure has driven most of the FARC gunmen from urban homes to jungle camps. That's bad for morale, especially when the air force finds the camp and the army commando battalions raid them.

The government, because of a large haul of FARC documents captured this year, now know that neighboring countries, like Venezuela and Ecuador, are close allies with FARC, and more intent on helping FARC take over Colombia, than in brokering a peace deal. Many Europeans who have been involved in the "peace process" are now known to be pro-FARC, and just using false neutrality to get in and out of Colombia. The result of all these revelations is that FARC is more isolated than ever. FARC is also headed for its own internal civil war. The more mercenary factions chafe at leadership demands for sharing the wealth and helping out the weaker fronts. The growing power of the security forces has made it more difficult for FARC leaders, or enforcers, to travel around the country. So rebellious fronts can get away with their wayward attitudes. Government electronic intelligence knows a lot of the details of all this, probably more so than the FARC high command. Thus a campaign of divide and conquer is being followed, and the remaining fronts are being picked apart one by one.

July 22, 2008: Colombia and Brazil have agreed to improve border security. Their 1,600 kilometers of border are heavily used by smugglers and outlaw groups like FARC. While Brazil is run by a leftist government, it is not seeking world revolution. The activist antics of leftist leaders from Venezuela and Ecuador are seen by Brazilians as expensive, and counterproductive, theater. Colombia is seen as a more reliable and valuable neighbor, even though the government is very anti-leftist.

July 20, 2008: Over a million Colombians attended rallies across the countries to protest FARC's continued use of kidnapping. FARC seems unable to stem the decline of its popularity. Two decades ago, it was FARC that could get hundreds of thousands of supporters out on the streets to demonstrate. Now the protesters are calling for the demise of FARC, and continued FARC kidnappings are keeping the hate alive. Government records, dating back 12 years,  show about 700 kidnapping victims who have never been released (most often because the family didn't have the money demanded). Many of these hostages have probably since died in jungle hideouts, or been killed by their captors. But about a third of them, who were grabbed in the last few years, are probably still alive. The demonstrators want the remaining hostages freed.


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