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.
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.
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.