With the growing evidence of Venezuela providing weapons and other support to leftist rebels and drug gangs in Colombia, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has launched a traditional propaganda campaign to drown out this embarrassing news. Chavez does this by claiming that Colombia is conspiring with the United States to invade Venezuela. This is pure fantasy, but plays well in South America, because local dictators and tyrants have long used the United States as the external enemy, to distract people from getting angry about problems closer to home. Chavez certainly has growing problems at home. Despite all the oil wealth he has access to, his popularity is declining. The promises of prosperity have proved false, and more people are realizing that the national wealth is being squandered in support of Chavez's dreams of establishing a socialist empire in Latin America.
Chavez has now threatened to spend more money on Russian weapons, including over a hundred new tanks (at $4 million each). Again, this is all for show. Chavez has ruined his armed forces by changing their training methods and replacing most of the competent officers. Chavez invented a new (and untried) form of warfare, which he forced his military to adopt. So while troops in neighboring Colombia become more expert in fighting, because they have been doing that, with increasing success, for several decades, Venezuelan troops wallow in revolutionary rhetoric, led by officers selected more for their loyalty to Chavez, than their competence.
As Chavez encounters more obstacles, he becomes more desperate. As his economic situation deteriorates, he has ordered more restrictions on media outlets he does not control. Chavez has armed civilians he believes he can trust, as a counterbalance to the military. But now he has second thoughts about that, because of his falling poll numbers. He fears that his "revolutionary militias" could rebel against him.
The leftist leader of Ecuador (Rafael Correa) is working from the same script as Chavez, but has not got the oil money to prop him up. It's believed that Correa is more dependent on the drug gangs, providing sanctuary and not interfering with drug smuggling activity. While insisting that FARC is not allowed to set up bases in Ecuador, Correa has his troops arrest some FARC members from time to time (and with great media coverage) to show that he is doing something about a problem he insists does not exist. Correa did the drug gangs a big favor by no longer allowing American reconnaissance aircraft (that monitor drug smuggling activity) from using Ecuadoran bases. Colombia has offered its bases for the U.S. aircraft to operate from. Leftist governments have condemned this as American warmongering and the first step in an American plan to invade the region.
Colombia has offered to return eleven Ecuadoran soldiers, who were arrested when caught inside Colombia. Ecuador says it's all a misunderstanding.
The new commander of FARC, who is apparently hiding out in Venezuela, has announced (via government controlled Venezuelan media) that he is willing to discuss discussing peace talks with Colombia.
August 7, 2009: In central Colombia, three soldiers, searching for a senior member of FARC, were ambushed and killed. FARC is not only under military and police pressure in most areas where it operates, but the government has improved its intelligence operations to the point where it can launch special operations to hunt specific senior FARC officials. This has proved very disruptive for the leftist rebels, making their leaders reluctant to meet face-to-face, or even communicate with radio or the Internet. Much communications are now via courier, which is slow, and also risky (the courier could get arrested.)