In Venezuela, president Hugo Chavez, having lost most of his support among voters (and control of the legislature during last September's elections) has had the outgoing legislators (which he still controls) pass laws giving him dictatorial powers. These may not make it past the courts, but it shows what direction Chavez is committed to. His efforts to create a socialist empire in South America has ruined the Venezuelan economy, and now he risks civil war to keep his dream alive for a while longer. His main ally is Cuba, which provides expert advice (and some specialists) on how to set up and run a police state, stands ready to help anyway it can. Venezuelan cash is helping to keep the bankrupt Cuban socialism alive.
There are other problems. Chavez let the drug gangs use Venezuela to export their cocaine. But this led to an increase in crime in Venezuela (which is now a much more dangerous place than Colombia). In response to growing public anger at the skyrocketing crime rate, the drug gangs are also being shut down. Some of them, anyway. Probably the ones that could not pay the highest bribes.
January 1, 2011: FARC lost over 2,000 gunmen to the government amnesty program last year. Losses from all causes (death, arrest, desertion and sickness) totaled nearly 5,000. Recruiting has been more difficult, since there are more jobs available in a booming economy. With the drug gangs moving more of their operations south, to other countries, FARC is left with less income. Fewer gunmen, less cash and the security forces keep coming. Happy New Year.
The Colombian Army still considers FARC a formidable force. In 2010, 450 soldiers were killed and 2,000 wounded during the fighting. The FARC has fewer people, but are using more mines, roadside bombs and car bombs. This approach makes FARC even less popular, but the leftist rebels don't seem to care about their political goals at all anymore. FARC, and the smaller ELN, are facing extinction. Unless something fundamental changes, these leftist groups will be gone, or completely morphed into criminal gangs, within 5-10 years.
December 29, 2010: Police seized three cargo containers, carrying six tons of cocaine, that was headed for the United States. A ton of cocaine sells for about $2.1 million in the country of origin. But get it to a major market, like the United States, and it sells for about $35 million to distributors, and for $120 million to drug users. So this one police operation cost a drug cartel $13 million (in money already spent), and ten times that in lost profits.