Colombia: Follow The Money


May 20, 2007: As popular and successful as president Uribe is, the main reason for his success is proving to be a major political liability as well. It all began in the late 1990s, when the coalition of leftist rebels and drug gangs were dominating the countryside with thousands of gunmen financed by cocaine production and kidnapping. The rural business owners got no effective help from the government, so they formed their own militias, which soon coalesced as the AUC, an organization as lethal, and criminal, as the leftist FARC and ELN (and several even smaller groups). Uribes father, a rural businessman who was killed by FARC, was one of thousands of rural business leaders who fought back. But the process of disbanding the AUC included the militia leaders admitting to their crimes. This has made public the many connections between the government and the AUC, since both were fighting the drug gangs and leftist rebels. Most Colombians shrug and mutter, "whatever works." This attitude, however, is not accepted by foreign critics, who expect the rule of law under all circumstances. No matter what.

May 17, 2007: A police officer, captured by FARC eight years ago, got lucky and escaped from the jungle camp where he was held, and spent 17 days walking through the Amazonian jungle until he encountered an army patrol. The escaped policeman, Frank Pinchao, reported that he was held with many other captives, including three Americans, and a prominent woman politician, Ingrid Betancourt. As a result of the information, and media frenzy, provided by Pinchao, the government decided to order a more aggressive search for the captives. In the case of Betancourt, who is also a citizen of France, her family and the French government object to these new search efforts, which carry a risk for the captives, because they believe they will be able to convince the government to swap imprisoned FARC leaders for Betancourt. Many in the government object to this, as it rewards FARC, and encourages the rebels and drug gangs to kidnap prominent Colombians, for use as "Get Out Of Jail" cards.

May 14, 2007: The government believes they have dome some major damage to FARC, by capturing the man in charge of financial relations between FARC and the drug gangs. The arrest of Eduardo Hormanza Londono came about because of the earlier capture of computer records, that explained who Londono was, and why he was so important. Arrests like this are key to crippling the organizations, rather than just inflicting damage that can be easily repaired. The government has destroyed major drug organizations before, the trick is to do it quickly enough to stay ahead of the formation of new drug organizations formed to take up the slack. The U.S. and Colombian governments have developed tactics that go after the most valuable assets of the drug gangs. This has led to the seizure of billions of dollars worth of land, cash and other assets.


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