and ELN continues to lose its war on the ground. As the crime rate
continues to fall, and the economy to grow, popular support for the leftist
rebels declines. With that comes lower morale in the rebel ranks. The
increasing number of rebel desertions doesn't get much attention, except in
cases like a recent one where a female FARC rebel hijacked a single engine
aircraft, and forced the pilot to fly from FARC controlled area to a military
airbase, where she surrendered and was enrolled in the amnesty program. In
response, FARC is putting more effort into diplomacy, and efforts to bribe
government and military officials. FARC believes it has an ally in Venezuelan
president Hugo Chavez who, like FARC, wants Latin America run by socialist
dictatorships. Chavez is trying to persuade Colombia to grant FARC a sanctuary
in southeastern Colombia, and exchange kidnapping victims for imprisoned FARC
leaders, and without any restrictions on the activities of the released FARC
convicts. The government is willing to do a swap, but only if the released FARC
officials agree to abandon their life of crime. Chavez has his work cut out for
him, especially since most Colombians see him as a grandstanding maniac.
One of FARC's major
defeats gets little attention, and draws little blood. This is the government
extradition program. Senior drug gang and FARC leaders are not being tried in
Colombia, where threats and bribes can thwart justice, but are sent to the
U.S., where there are drug charges pending against them. FARC cash and guns
cannot reach the American justice system. This made getting caught a much more
serious matter. And a lot more FARC leaders are getting caught. That, plus the
extradition power (achieved only after a major political struggle within
Colombia), has encouraged more FARC leaders to negotiate surrender and
participation in the amnesty program. So far this year, 105 Colombians have
been extradited to the United States for trial. The more FARC and drug gang
leaders the government has in custody, the more information the police have on
who is who and where thing are in FARC and the drug cartels.
The lower crime rate can
be seen in the reduction of political violence. National elections are being
held in a month, and so far, leftist rebels and drug gangs have killed 69
people (including 27 candidates) in attempts to intimidate voters and candidates.
During the last elections, four years ago, there were a third more casualties.
The gangs are taking a lot more casualties, and are not even trying in many
parts of the country.