Colombia: The Fade


April 3, 2010:  The starkest sign of the decline of the drug gangs in Colombia is the percentage of the GDP the cocaine operations represent. Back in the late 1980s, it was about six percent of GDP. But now it is about one percent. Much of that is because, with the decline of violence and leftist rebels (FARC), the economy has boomed in the last decade (from $94 billion in 2000 to $240 billion last year). The leftist rebels and drug gangs don't have as much political or military clout, and are very much on the defensive. Thus FARC has come to depend more on terrorism (bombings and kidnappings) to try and maintain some power. But this is the strategy of someone on the decline, and only increases popular hatred of the leftist groups.

The huge number of FARC and drug gang documents (mainly electronic) captured in the last few years has exposed an extensive foreign support network for the leftist rebels and their drug gang allies. Most of these foreigners appear to be political activists who were attracted to FARC's use of violence to support a leftist revolution. This often led to helping FARC raise money and buy weapons and equipment. The government is trying to build criminal cases against the foreigners, and get local authorities to prosecute. The host nations are often reluctant to do this, because local leftist politicians block prosecution efforts.

FARC supporters have learned that the safest place to operate from is Venezuela. There, the government is enthusiastic about supporting leftist rebels in the region, and Colombia is of particular interest because of traditional national rivalries and the rapid decline of Colombian leftist rebels in the last decade. Venezuela denies all such support, no matter how much evidence piles up.

April 1, 2010:  FARC released the body of a captive police officer, as part of a PR campaign to get the government to exchange convicted terrorists for kidnap victims held by the leftist rebels. So far the government has refused to give into what it considers extortion. In the past week, FARC has released a captive cop they have held for twelve years. FARC still holds about twenty policemen and soldiers. There are another 50-60 kidnapping victims being held by FARC, other leftist rebels and criminal gangs. Most of these are being held for cash ransom.

March 25, 2010:  In the south, near the Ecuador border, FARC rebels tricked a 12 year old boy to carry a package to a police station. The package was a bomb, that went off before the boy reached the police, killing him'

March 24, 2010: In the Pacific coast city of Buenaventura, a FARC car bomb killed nine people.

March 23, 2010: In the northwest, gunmen entered a town and shot seven people (including three children) dead, then fled. Such mass killings have been common in Colombia for decades, usually to send a message (intimidate) or to take revenge.

March 20, 2010: In the northeast, troops captured the local FARC commander, the second time in two years that the top guy had been captured in this area. FARC leaders can no longer travel around as freely, and the army is increasingly able to show up where FARC does not expect them. Elsewhere in the north, FRAC kidnapped five oil workers, apparently for ransom. FARC needs the money more than anything else.





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