Colombia: FARC Vows To Protect Hugo Chavez

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February 28, 2006: FARC has announced that it would go to the aid of Venezuela if the United States attacked Venezuela. President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is an old school leftist populist, who promises the poor an improved standard of living, and everyone protection from some real, or invented, external threat. FARC has long wanted to take over in Colombia and do what Chavez is doing. What Chavez is doing has been done many times before in South America. It never works, and the poor of Venezuela are already getting restless. Chavez keeps increasing the rhetoric, but the poor are still as poor as they have ever been. Venezuelans have noted that Colombia has enjoyed economic growth over the last few years, in step with setbacks to FARC and other rebel organizations. Chavez is not happy about getting open support from FARC, which is already asking for him to return the (and many other) favors.

February 27, 2006: In the southwest, FARC rebels burst into a town council meeting and killed eight of the town officials. These attacks are intended to terrorize local officials into cooperating with FARC, and not with army and police efforts to run FARC out of the area. FARC has become increasingly brutal as more and more local officials stand up to the rebel threats, and the army is able to force FARC out. The second largest leftist rebel group, ELN, is negotiating with the government, and FARC is expected to start coming apart as the pressure increases.

February 26, 2006: In the south, FARC gunmen shot up a bus, killing eight and wounding 13. This may have been part of a FARC extortion operation. Bus operators in many rural parts of the country are expected to pay the local FARC commander if they want their buses to travel the country roads unmolested.

February 25, 2006: Colombia now accounts for about 13 percent of the landmine injuries in the world. This is because FARC is increasingly using landmines to protect its rural camps, or terrorize civilians into supporting FARC.

February 22, 2006: FARC has again refused to negotiate a peace deal with the government, and vows to fight on. FARC is losing the fight, and some factions would like to negotiate. But the majority of FARC commanders, for ideological, personal (getting arrested for war crimes) or financial (losing all that illegal income) reasons, want to keep fighting.

February 21, 2006: The commander of the army, general Reinaldo Castellanos, has resigned because of a hazing scandal. New recruits were found to be treated with great brutality in some units and, although the army commander promptly punished the officers responsible, this sort of bad behavior developed while Castellanos was in command. Castellanos was considered largely responsible for recent army success against leftist rebels. But it is also believed that the army has depth, in terms of talent, at the top, and that a new commander would be able to carry on.

 

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