Colombia: December 29, 2001


Colombians are losing hope that there will be a negotiated peace with the leftist rebels who have been fighting the government for decades.  The socialist ideals of FARC and ELN have mutated into a warlord mentality, and Colombians are increasingly seeing the rebels as bandits who should be treated as such. This year, the rebels kidnapped over 2,500 people, and fighting between the rebels, the government and right wing anti-rebel militias left some 6,000 people dead. This is a level of violence several times greater than anything seen in the most crime ridden neighborhoods in American cities. The rebels have consistently lied and reneged on their agreements. There are some 21,000 armed activists (80 percent of these FARC), plus some 8,000 right wing militiamen actively fighting them. The 160,000 man army (and 100,000 national police) are largely defensive, trying to guard targets of rebel attacks. The army does have some 20,000 troops trained and organized for going after the rebels (and drug gangs that work with the rebels), and this force is being enlarged with US aid. The major question Colombia has to deal with in 2002 is whether to go to outright war with the rebels, or continue to try and negotiate. War would be extremely bloody, and no one is keen to increase the already high levels of violence. 


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