September 12, 2011:
Despite horrendous losses in the last decade, the leftist FARC still has fight left in it. With about 8,000 armed men (down from 20,000 in the 1990s), FARC has established bases in neighboring countries (particularly Venezuela, but also Ecuador and Brazil) rearmed and reorganized. Aggressive use of landmines and terror to control civilian populations has slowed government efforts to eliminate FARC once and for all. But the government believes FARC can be crushed, and a new Defense Minister and a new general in charge of the armed forces have been given an additional $800 million to get it done, and get it done soon. Part of the solution is to halt FARC exploitation of the growing gold mining operations in Colombia. With a lot of the drug business gone, FARC has been able to replace that lost revenue with cash extorted from gold mining companies. The new military leaders have said they will keep up with enemy innovations (like bases across the border and seeking new victims to exploit.) Then there is the problem with criminal gangs and political rebel groups becoming indistinguishable. There has been a noticeable increase in criminal violence, especially in the countryside, this year and public opinion was demanding that something be done.
There is also the persistent problem of toxic politics. This has created over half a century of murderous mayhem in Colombia. The FARC, and the smaller ELN, are the most visible aspects of that. But even among those who have declared a willingness to participate in unarmed politics, there are frequent lapses. During the previous Uribe government, many legislators were found to be working for FARC (sometimes because they were corrupted, and often because they believed in the FARC vision of the country run by a communist dictatorship). Many other legal leftist organizations also had members who supported FARC and its violence. While most Colombians want peace, many have not yet decided on what kind of politics they want to prevail.
September 9, 2011: Four prominent government officials in Venezuela have been sanctioned by the U.S. government for secretly supplying weapons to leftist rebels (FARC) in Colombia.
September 1, 2011: In the last week, U.S. and Colombian police have arrested 56 people and shut down two drug smuggling operations. One outfit moved cocaine using ships and semisubmersible boats, while the other used a fleet of 21 aircraft (all seized) to move the drugs to Central America, Mexico and the United States. This kind of pressure has caused some cocaine gangs to smuggle a lot of drugs into Venezuela, where corrupt officials help get the stuff flown or shipped to Mexico via Cuba.