Colombia: Old School Gangsters Got The Blues


November 30,2008: As FARC and drug gangs are driven from large areas along the borders (that being the best place to grow coca, and export the refined cocaine to overseas markets), the government inherits a lot of old social and economic problems. These were suspended by the decades of FARC and drug gang rule, and that in turn created some new problems. Now the newly liberated populations are free to vote, demonstrate and protest, and many have legitimate reasons to do so. A lot of the problems have to do with real estate.  Indian tribes want their land rights back, farmers want title to the land they have long worked, business owners want their property (which owners had to leave behind when they fled to escape getting killed by the rebels or gangs) back. The government is having a hard time sorting all this out, especially while under pressure to get legitimate economic activity going in what was long lawless "bandit territory."

Meanwhile, leftist governments in Venezuela and Ecuador have provided refuge for FARC and the smaller ELN. Venezuela still talks about giving diplomatic recognition to these leftist rebels, but the Venezuelan people are tired of their leftist president Hugo Chavez and his increasingly expensive misrule. In last week's local elections, the opposition overcame attempts to rig the vote, and took control of 40 percent of the local governments. Venezuelans along the Colombian border are particularly upset with Chavez, who allows the Colombian leftists to take over. That means FARC checkpoints, and forcing local businesses to pay protection money (in effect, double taxation, since the government tax collectors are still around.) FARC is bad for local businesses. Many of which will shut down, or simply flee to escape the violence. This leaves the locals paying more for goods, and seeing their kids recruited into the gang life. The Venezuelans along the border have no illusions about where all this will lead, as they have heard all about it from the Colombians right across the border. These Venezuelans want their government to solve the problem, not become part of it. Chavez is running out of options, as the sharp decline in the price of oil this year has taken away the one tool he could depend on; cash.

November 28, 2008: In some two hundred towns and cities, hundreds of thousands of Colombians demonstrated against FARC and other kidnapping gangs. There was a time, not long ago, when threats of FARC violence would have prevented this sort of thing. But FARC, and the other leftist groups are on the run, having betrayed their populist rhetoric with drug dealing and old-school gangster behavior.


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