Colombia: World War


September 1, 2007: FARC continues to take a beating, as troops and police keep clearing the rebels and their drug operations from areas on the Pacific Coast, and the borders with Ecuador, Venezuela and Panama. The drug gangs prefer rural border areas, because they can easily slip out of the country if the pressure is too intense. On the other side, bribes, and good behavior, are enough to assure a safe place to hide out. This makes life hard for the Colombians living near the border. The leftist rebels, especially FARC, supplement their drug income with kidnapping and extortion. Entire families are slaughtered if they refuse to make the payoffs. Such a massacre occurred recently on the Ecuador border, as a bloody example to other families. In some border regions, especially near Venezuela, there are battles between rival leftist rebel groups ELN and FARC. They, in turn, fight Venezuelan and Colombian troops and police. Security forces in Ecuador and Panama are more willing to make a deal, to keep the peace. Over a quarter of a million Colombians have recently fled across the border to Ecuador and Venezuela, because the violence is less intense on the other side. The more effective Colombian troops and police don't cross the border. Ecuador and Venezuela are not happy with, in effect, Colombia pushing FARC and ELN across the border and out of Colombia. The rebel groups don't want to leave their homeland, but increasingly, they are. Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez is trying to negotiate some kind of deal that will keep FARC out of Venezuela. To that end, he is trying to work out a prisoner exchange deal, that will get several dozen prominent FARC kidnap victims exchanged for a FARC safe haven within Colombia. Venezuela already provides FARC with a safe haven, but knows that this border sanctuary is turning into a criminal playground and cocaine factory. Already, Venezuela is being used for smuggling larger and larger amounts of cocaine out of Colombia.

Without much fanfare, Colombia has brought down the majority of major figures in the drug gangs. Naturally, these guys are replaced with up-and-coming gangsters. But the new guys are less experienced, and more vulnerable. The government has also been successful in cutting off a lot of the foreign gunrunners and technical experts the gangs have been using. For example, a former Israeli commando officer, who had trained drug gang members, was recently arrested in Russia, after Colombia had gotten an international arrest warrant issued.

The United States has been a big, if quiet, help in a lot of this police work. This is especially the case with the international cases. These require a lot of expertise in international law, and connections in places as far away as Russia. But the results have been spectacular, with Colombian drug lords finding that there's no place in the world to hide.


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