Colombia: The Police State Next Door


September20, 2008:  FARC rebels are increasingly basing themselves just across the border in Venezuela, Panama and Ecuador. The military is hammering the rebels, who have to cross borders to get some relief. So far this year, over 2,000 FARC members have deserted. Several thousand have been killed or wounded, and only about 6,000 are fit for duty. The cocaine growing and processing operations have been forced to disperse to more isolated rural areas. The manpower shortage has FARC using landmines to try and keep the troops away from the drug operations. But it's a losing proposition for FARC, as the military has a qualitative edge. The FARC nearly always loses on the ground, the air and the sea. Army troops are better trained, armed and led. FARC can no longer use one and two engine aircraft to move people and drugs around. The air force has a radar system that too often spots these aircraft and sends fighters to investigate. At sea, FARC has been forced to use semi-submersible boats. These are hard to spot, but with U.S. assistance, these semi-subs are being found, and cocaine shortages are showing up in North America and Europe.

The Colombian economy continues to boom, a direct result of FARC's decline. Businesses can freely operate in most of the country, with highways free of FARC roadblocks and kidnappers. In July, exports were up 44 percent over July 2007. This makes the Colombian government, and president Uribe, very popular. But Colombia is still a country at war, as it has been for nearly half a century. That is not likely to end soon.

Venezuela is increasingly becoming a police state. The government is expelling foreign critics, and jailing or harassing domestic ones. President Hugo Chavez's brand of nationalistic socialism is ruining the economy and antagonizing neighbors. Chavez is trying to use oil income to buy the support of enough of the population to keep himself in power.  Meanwhile, the United States has charged three senior Venezuelan officials with working for FARC, mainly in the area of money laundering, and arranging for FARC drugs to get smuggled through Venezuela. The U.S. has imposed sanctions on the three Venezuelans, restricting their access to the international financial system. The three men were also charged with trying to overthrow the Colombian government, as another way to aid FARC. Chavez took this personally, and the spat between the U.S. and Venezuela got nasty, with ambassadors being expelled.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close