Colombia: The Soul Mates

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December 28, 2011: Colombia is using diplomacy to entice a hostile leftist government in Venezuela to help weaken FARC. The leftist rebels have about half their forces operating along the 2,850 kilometers long Venezuelan border (most of the rest use the Panama or Ecuador borders). Over the past few years, things have been changing along the Venezuelan border as police on the Venezuelan side increase their pressure on the drug smugglers, and any leftist rebels that will not behave. The civilians on the Venezuelan side are in an uproar about the violence, and the government has to act, or face a popular uprising. The Venezuelan president and senior officials are sympathetic to the political goals of FARC (and the smaller ELN) but not the gangster methods the two organizations use inside Venezuela. FARC and ELN have tried to eliminate the bad behavior of their gunmen in Venezuela. But this is often not enough, because FARC and ELN are recognized as international outlaws (because of connections with drug gangs) and Venezuela has to limit official cooperation. So when Colombia has some firm evidence of FARC activity inside Venezuela, the Venezuelan government will act on it. But the Colombians never forget that the Venezuelan leadership and their FARC counterparts are soul mates.

December 27, 2011: Russia announced that its largest customer for weapons this year was Venezuela. Russia exports about $10 billion worth of weapons a year. Venezuela is believed to represent several billion dollars worth of that, mainly in the form of submarines and warplanes.

December 26, 2011: FARC said it would soon release six of the eleven policemen and soldiers it has been holding. Some of those to be released have been held for twelve years. FARC has long tried to trade their uniformed captives for hundreds of imprisoned FARC members but the government has always refused. Now, it appears that FARC wants to get some positive publicity from releasing these captives and avoid the embarrassment of military commandos finding and freeing the prisoners. This has happened several times in the past few years and FARC knows better than anyone how close the soldiers, and police, have come to finding the remaining uniformed captives.

The government released most (about 200) of the 286 members of an anti-leftist gang (Popular Anticommunist Revolutionary Army) that surrendered last week. Those let go had no criminal charges pending against them, although prosecutors believe they might be able to build a conspiracy case against fifty of those released.

Ecuador announced that it was sending 7,000 soldiers (18 percent of the army) and 3,000 police to the 590 kilometers long Colombian border, to help control the criminals (smugglers and drug gangs) and leftist rebels (FARC) who increasingly use the Ecuador side of the border as a refuge from Colombian security forces. This move to improve border security came after the presidents of Colombia and Ecuador met and worked out most of the disputes the two countries have. The leftist government of Ecuador had been tolerant of FARC activities on the border, but as more and more FARC gunmen moved into Ecuador, that tolerance evaporated and now Ecuador has agreed to help Colombia suppress all the illegal activities along their common border.

December 23, 2011: In central Colombia (160 kilometers southwest of the capital), oil from a leaking pipeline burst into flame near a residential area, killing 13 and injuring nearly a hundred. At first it was believed the work of oil thieves but further investigation revealed that recent rains had caused part of the pipeline to collapse, causing the leak that caused the explosion and fire.

December 12, 2011: Three joint task forces (army, navy, air force, and national police) are being formed to go after the middle management of FARC. The government and military intelligence efforts have revealed much about the key leaders in FARC, an organization of about 8,000 members that is held together by several hundred "cadres" (middle management). Take out these men (and a few women) and FARC starts to crumble. The replacement leaders won't be as experienced or effective and the downward spiral will accelerate.

December 10, 2011: Over the last few days the navy has seized 1.3 tons of cocaine near the Ecuadorian border.

 

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