Colombia: The Panic Room

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April 20, 2009: FARC continues to fall apart at both ends, with its high command infiltrated by government intelligence agencies, and the lower ranks demoralized and surrendering or deserting in growing numbers. The rescue of fifteen high value FARC hostages last year showed the world, and the FARC leadership, how much the government knew about the inner workings of FARC, especially how the senior FARC leaders communicated with subordinates.

The FARC leadership knows they are in trouble. FARC lost most of its seven most senior leaders last year. In many cases, laptop computers and other electronic files were captured as well. FARC seriously underestimated what the government could do with that stuff. Now the FARC high command is in a panic, and the FARC rank-and-file are even more demoralized. For the last few years, FARC has been losing hundreds of people a month to desertions (mostly) and casualties (including people getting too ill to continue because of the harsh life in the bush). FARC strength is down to 7,000, and falling, mainly because recruiting is becoming more difficult. A decade ago, FARC had nearly 20,000 gunmen on the payroll. The drug gangs are getting the best recruits these days, and the gangs are now starting to move against FARC, to reverse the process that, over the last decade, had enabled FARC to become a major factor in the drug business (by either pushing the drug gangs out, or forcing the gangs to pay “protection” money to the FARC). This process is tempting the more successful FARC commanders to just drop all the FARC political nonsense, and concentrate on being a drug gangster. When it comes to money and politics, most people view the latter as a means to obtain the former. But now the government is making major inroads on the drug gangs, taking down lots of leaders and grabbing more and more assets (cash, drugs, property.) But the leftist politics of the FARC makes them out of sync with most Colombians, and unable to gain much traction via elections. The FARC is in a panic, and they should be.

April 17, 2009: Three FARC members were extradited to the U.S. to be tried on terrorism charges. The three were arrested last year, off the Colombian coast, in a boat full of FARC uniforms and weapons. In northern Colombia, a bomb was set off near a police station, wounding nine soldiers and civilians.

April 16, 2009: In order to obtain some positive publicity, FARC will release their longest held (11 years) captive (an army corporal seized during a raid on a remote communications station.)

April 15, 2009: Several hundred police in the north captured major drug gang leader Daniel Rendon Herrera. Also known as “Don Mario,” he controlled a drug operation based along the Panamanian border. His gang is believed to have caused over 3,000 deaths in the last 18 months. Rendon Herrera had offered a $1,000 bounty for anyone who would kill a policeman. In response, the government offered a $2 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Rendon Herrera. Several people provided such information, and the reward will be divided among them. Rendon Herrera has gunmen throughout central Colombia, and it's expected that his subordinates will now fight it out for control. Rendon Herrera is being extradited to the United States for prosecution.

April 14, 2009: Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who has long supported leftist rebels in Colombia, has urged the largest such organization, FARC, to accept a four month ceasefire and negotiate a peace deal. Chavez sees FARC has being defeated in Colombia, and many survivors fleeing to Venezuela (where they have long enjoyed sanctuary). FARC is a growing problem in Venezuela, where thousands of them carry on like they can do whatever they want, even though they are in Venezuela, not Colombia. Chavez wants FARC to stop being fugitives, so they can leave Venezuela and go back to Colombia.

 

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