Colombia: You Can Check In, But You Can't Check Out


March 9, 2011: While the war against drug gangs and leftist rebels continues to reduce the number of hostile gunmen out there, and the rate of violence, there is still a lot killing going on in Colombia, and the entire region. The persistent violence in Colombia, and the region in general, is part of a larger trend. In short, Central America and South America have long had very high murder rates (currently 5-12 times higher than in the United States). Some cities are much worse. The murder rate of Caracas, the capital and largest city in Venezuela is 200 killed per year per 100,000 population. That's eight times the 24 per 100,000 rate in the capital of neighboring Colombia. This makes Caracas more violent than the worst hit (by drug gang violence) Mexican border city (Ciudad Juárez) where the murder rate is 193. The national rate for Venezuela is 67, that's four times the current rate in Iraq, and more than ten times the rate in the U.S. (5.4). It's also higher than the rate in Afghanistan, which has been running at about 24 dead per 100,000 population over the last few years. Compare that to the Western hemisphere in general, where the rate is about 8 per 100,000 people a year. That in turn is much higher than in Europe, where it is about 3-4. Middle Eastern nations have rates of between 5-10. Two years ago, the rate in Iraq was 26. That's not a lot higher than it was under Saddam (10-20 a year), but less than a third of what it was the year before.

The violence has been present for a long time, and people, and tourists, simply cope. Tourists are protected, because otherwise the foreigners, and their spending, would not visit. But for many areas, and neighborhoods, tourists, and locals, are advised to stay away. Colombia has reduced its murder rate sharply in the past decade, along with the crime rate in general. For a long time the most violence nation in the region, Colombia now trails most of its neighbors, especially Venezuela.

Colombia has complained to the UN that Nicaragua and Venezuela are openly supporting Libyan dictator Muamar Kaddafi, and this is simply another indication of how these two nations support rebel groups that seek to impose dictatorial rule on Colombia, and the region as a whole.

The increasing number of FARC documents being captured shows some disturbing trends. FARC, for example, is increasing its efforts to kill members who accept the government amnesty. While meant to intimidate those thinking of leaving FARC, the use of death squads against former members ties up key personnel. You have to use experienced people for these assassination teams, who are normally used to keep local politicians and businessmen in line (and paying "taxes"). But the number of FARC members deserting, either to accept the government amnesty (which comes with training, cash and other assistance), or just run away, is rapidly increasing. Some FARC units have had to disband, or be merged together because of the losses from government attacks and desertions.

March 7, 2011: FARC rebels kidnapped 23 oil workers at a oil facility 700 kilometers east of the capital. The security forces responded quickly, and by the next day, 22 of 23 of the victims had been rescued. Kidnapping has become a key source of income for FARC.

In Spain, three men were indicted for organizing cooperation between ETA (a Spanish separatist terror group) and FARC (the Colombian leftist rebels). One of the men, Arturo Cubillas, is a member of ETA and is currently living in Venezuela, where he has a government job and the Venezuelan government refuses to extradite him to Spain.

March 6, 2011: In the south, several hit-and-run attacks in residential areas by FARC rebels during the last few days has left five soldiers dead.

March 2, 2011: Police found another submersible boat, on a river near the Ecuador border. In the last 18 years, Colombian forces have captured or sunk 63 of these semi-submersible cocaine smuggling boats, in addition to two real submarines. Most of these captures and sinkings have taken place in the last few years.

February 24, 2011: An oil pipeline near the Venezuelan border was damaged with explosives. The pipeline was not moving oil at the time, because of maintenance. FARC was suspected of being behind the attack.






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