While the Colombian economy grows, Venezuela's stalls. While violence in Colombia continues its sharp decline, it grows in Venezuela. No wonder Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez talks of war with Colombia. It's a classic move, by a beleaguered despot. Chavez needs an external enemy to unite Venezuelans and distract them from more tangible, and much closer, problems.
Meanwhile, in Colombia, kidnappings are down 90 percent in the last seven years, and terrorist attacks are down over 80 percent. Homicides are down by half, as is the number of soldiers and policemen killed each year, and the number of leftist rebels still out there. Over 3,000 leftist rebels a year are deserting, and nearly as many are killed, captured or wounded by the security forces. FARC still has 9,000 armed followers, and smaller leftist groups have a few thousands. But turnover is high, as new recruits realize that the work is very dangerous, and the leftist groups are often not able to pay you on time, if at all. The allies of the leftists, the drug gangs, are moving their operations out of the country, despite Colombia having some of the best coca growing land on the planet.
As part of his effort to help FARC, Chavez is trying to shut down trade with Colombia and block movement across the border (except for the FARC fighters he allows to camp out in Venezuela). Every day, Venezuelan media announces new preparations for war with Colombia. This propaganda includes accusations that Colombia and the U.S. are preparing to invade Venezuela. There's no evidence of that on the Colombian side of the border, which is one reason Venezuela wants to close the border. Fewer Venezuelans coming back and reporting no Colombian military activity. Chavez announces each shipment of Russian weapons that arrives, and boasts of how this stuff will be used to stop the Colombians and Americans. The Venezuelan armed forces is in no shape to fight a war, especially against the combat hardened Colombians. It's all for show. But it's an expensive show, as Chavez has bought over $4 billion worth of Russian weapons in the last few years.
Chavez also has known FARC members working in his government, and ignores Colombian requests for their arrest and extradition. Chavez appears to be trying to unite South American leftists and attempt to create a larger socialist state. This is mainly political theater, and Chavez is running out of money to pay for it. But his material (sanctuary and supplies) support of FARC is a real problem for Colombia. When FARC is eventually destroyed throughout Colombia, there will still be FARC remnants operating out of Venezuelan bases.
December 4, 2009: Venezuelan troops destroyed another footbridge across the border, and took prisoner a Colombian soldier who wandered across the border.
December 3, 2009: Three FARC members were arrested and charged with participating in the kidnapping of three Americans (who were later freed by Colombian commandos.)