Colombia: Spinning Extortion

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March 20, 2007: As more parts of the country come under government control again, ugly details of life under outlaw rule are surfacing. Now the major media knows, what people in the bush knew for a long time; that the big companies paid off one group of rebels, to protect them from others. Usually, it was the AUC that was "hired" to protect corporate operations from leftist rebels. But sometimes one group of leftist rebels would take money to keep another bunch of leftists, or even the AUC, out. At other times, it was simply an extortion racket. The lawless nature of life in the rebel controlled zones also makes good reading, and journalists are having a grand time reporting on "government death squads." The leftist rebels are better at keeping their secrets, and better at developing fans among the journalists. This is particularly effective in Europe, where FARC and ELN fund raisers can still get away with representing their organizations are selfless freedom fighters, not the money grubbing killers they really are. FARC is particularly keen on burnishing this reputation in Europe, because the war back home is not going too well. After years of defeats, FARC leaders are looking for places that will accept leftist rebels as refugees, or retirees.

March 17, 2007: Drug gangs and leftist rebels continue to battle each other for lucrative territories related to the drug trade. The Pacific coast ports are particularly valuable now, for getting cocaine out of the country, and most of the violence in ports like Buenaventura is about drugs, not politics.

March 14, 2007: Demonstrating the dangers of doing business in some rural parts of Colombia, FARC rebels captured nine geologists in the northwest. The company that sent in the geologists either did not pay off FARC, or paid off the wrong faction. The army will attempt to clear the area, where the geologists were searching for gold deposits, of FARC camps. The army and police are systematically taking out FARC and ELN camps, and breaking up the groups of gunmen that live in them. It's a time-consuming process, but it is steadily taking apart both rebel organizations.

 

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