Colombia: In A Cold Sweat


July 13, 2008: FARC is doing what damage control it can in the wake of the July 2nd liberation of 15 valuable prisoners. FARC quickly issued several cover stories. One claimed that some of their men had accepted a government bribe, another that the FARC force guarding the prisoners had deserted. What FARC did not want to admit, but was obvious to all, was that their organization had been infiltrated and played. In response to this, FARC invoked the specter of it all being an American plot, and giving U.S. Special Forces credit for the operation. FARC is particularly unhappy about a defeat at the hands of Colombian troops.

There's some truth to all of the FARC post-rescue propaganda. The government has spent millions of dollars on informants and convincing key FARC operatives to switch sides. Then again, FARC has spent even more on bribing and hiring government and military officials to look the other way, or work with them. The army has also been increasingly successful in getting FARC fighters to desert. There is an amnesty program, and these deserters are taken care of (money, jobs, training), because the army knows that word-of-mouth from content deserters will reach people still working for FARC, and thinking of walking away (a dangerous undertaking, as FARC tends to kill those it catches trying to desert).

The U.S. Army Special Forces do deserve some credit. For over two decades, the U.S. 7th Special Forces Group, which specializes in Latin America, has had training teams in Colombia. Thousands of Colombian troops have gone to U.S. Army schools for counter-insurgency and intelligence work. The U.S. troops have taught their Colombian counterparts what new techniques have worked in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Colombians get access to the latest American intelligence collection gear (either for their own use, or with American operators for the top-secret stuff). The Colombians have been good students, and the intelligence and special operations successes of the past six years have been all Colombian. That's what scares FARC the most.

July 12, 2008: Colombian drug gangs fear that they have been compromised to the same extent as FARC. Perhaps it's paranoia, but the arrest of so many key drug gangsters in the last year or two has led the remaining drug lords to suspect that the police have some special Yankee magic (electronic detection or eavesdropping gear) that is making them too vulnerable. Some of the drug lords are considering moving their operations out of Colombia. These guys are aware of the fact that, in the past, some nations have shut down nearly all drug operations in their country, and they see Colombia moving in that direction. Although the drug trade provides a living for millions of Colombians, the business is hated by the majority. Cocaine has brought too much violence, corruption and death. Most Colombians want it gone, and some drug gangs have already set up satellite operations in places like Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil.  

July 11, 2008: Venezuelan ranchers along the Colombian border, are complaining to their government about three FARC camps on the Venezuelan side of the border. The ranchers are not happy with the way FARC operates (stealing livestock and property, and extorting money from ranchers who complain.) The ranchers have used the Internet to get their message out, which is forcing the government to do something. Exactly what is not yet known.

July 9, 2008: The government is approaching FARC leaders and trying to initiate direct talks. For years, the government had been using two European mediators, but recently obtained intelligence showed that these mediators were actually working for FARC, and using their ability to travel from Europe to FARC hideouts in Colombia, to deliver cash and other goodies. The government believes that the July 2nd operation has scared many FARC leaders, who now realize how much the government has compromised FARC communications and security. This has long been suspected, as government operations over the last six years, and especially the last two years, has destroyed half the FARC manpower, and reduced territory controlled even more. The government is willing to make deals with local FARC dealers, even though some of them are basically gangsters now, making lots of money in the cocaine trade. But these guys still belong to FARC, which many just consider a self-defense alliance. These fellows have good reason to make deals. That's because, it's now obvious that the government counter-terrorism forces are even more effective than was previously thought. It's been revealed that the government, with the help of American Special Forces and CIA/NSA specialists, have been working for years to penetrate FARC communications, and not let FARC know about it. Many FARC leaders are scared, and the government wants to make the most of this.

July 7, 2008: Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, a long time friend of FARC, has urged his Colombian compatriots to free all their hostages, but to keep on fighting. FARC used to make lots of money kidnapping, but this was unpopular and successful anti-kidnapping operations have made it too risky in the last few years. Successful kidnappings are down over 80 percent, but FARC is holding on to hundreds of people whose families cannot raise the ransom. FARC also has dozens of politicians, police and military captives which it will not ransom, and is trying to trade for imprisoned FARC leaders. The government refuses to do this, and Castro, along with his leftist ally, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, are openly urging FARC to free all the hostages. Some FARC leaders see the wisdom in this, but many do not. The dispute isn't doing anything for FARC unity and effectiveness, and the government is making the most of that.

July 5, 2008: Police found and seized a ton of explosives outside the capital, and aborted what was apparently a FARC attempt to carry out a number of bombing attacks as "revenge" for the July 2nd operation that freed fifteen high profile captives.




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