The security forces continue to hammer FARC, ELN, and the drug gangs on a daily basis. The peace talks with FARC are proceeding and the negotiations are now concentrating on the details of how to handle FARCs relationship with the drug gangs as well as reparations for victims of the FARC conflict and FARC disarmament.
Next door Venezuelans are suffering more shortages of consumer goods, thanks to a government effort to crack down on high prices (caused by inflation and shortages of imported goods because of insufficient hard currency). The government is now seizing stores and selling off the inventory at lower prices. While this makes the government more popular for a while, the store goes out of business and there are fewer and fewer places where goods can be purchased. Inflation is currently over 50 percent and growing. The new president is even more ignorant of basic economics than his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Both men believed they could simply order the economy to do what the government wanted and ignore market forces. This never works and Chavez and Maduro never run out of others to blame for the shortages. The government fears that it will suffer heavy losses in local elections to be held on December 8th because of the continued economic problems.
November 12, 2013: The government revealed that a faction of FARC has been actively planning to assassinate former (2002-10) president Alvaro Uribe. The government was alerted to this plot when a bomb was discovered in a theater in Argentina where Uribe was to give a speech. The bomb was disabled and further investigation revealed that the bomb was planted by a FARC faction. The faction was identified and its leader now has a $700,000 price on his head. The government alerted Uribe but kept quiet about the investigation, so as not to upset the peace negotiations with FARC. Uribe has been a critic of the peace negotiations, warning that FARC has a track record of not keeping its word. Uribe is also much hated by FARC because he devised and implemented the strategy that has nearly destroyed FARC over the last decade and persuaded the leftist rebels to negotiate.
November 11, 2013: The ELN, the smaller leftist rebel group in Colombia, hailed the recent progress in government peace talks with FARC. But ELN also noted that after a year of negotiating only two of the five major issues had been settled by the government and FARC. ELN is signaling that if FARC does eventually make a deal, so will the smaller ELN.
November 8, 2013: Spanish police arrested the leader of a major Colombian drug gang. Cipriam Manuel Palencia Gonzalez, the leader of the Urabeno gang, was in Spain to set a new cocaine distribution system in Europe. Palencia had escaped from a Colombian jail in 2009 and was wanted for killing a policeman, as well as numerous other crimes. Colombian intelligence activities have been a key part of the successful fight against leftist rebels and the drug gangs. This has led to more arrests of leaders like this one in Spain. The rebel and gang leaders are no longer able to buy their way out of trouble because many are shipped off to the United States for prosecution by people who are largely immune to bribes and threats.
November 6, 2013: FARC agreed to government demands that the leftist rebels give up violence as a way to obtain their political goals. Instead the government has agreed to allow FARC to form political parties and run their own FARC candidates for political office. The biggest obstacle to a peace deal is amnesty, which FARC is demanding a lot of while the government and most Colombians are not inclined to be generous in this area.
November 4, 2013: ELN freed three oil workers they had kidnapped on September 10th. This was a good will gesture to encourage the government to start peace talks with the ELN.
November 1, 2013: During October FARC made about 25 attacks on coal, oil, and electricity production targets. Most of this was all about extortion efforts, getting the energy companies to pay to be spared further attacks. FARC has been suffering growing cash shortages over the last few years and has been desperate to raise money any way it can.
October 27, 2013: FARC released an American hiker they had seized on June 20th. The American was hiking through the rain forest on his way to Brazil when he came across some armed FARC men who seized him and accused him of being an American spy. The American had been in the U.S. Marine Corps, which made the FARC men even more suspicious. It turned out that the guy was just an adventurous sort of fellow who was hiking through the jungle to Brazil.