July 28, 2006: FARC rebels are kidnapping ranchers across the border in Venezuela, and collecting big ransoms. This is odd, because FARC believes it has a deal with Venezuela. That is, as long as FARC behaves itself in Venezuela, FARC will be left alone. FARC needs the Venezuelan bases, because of increased army and police pressure in Colombia. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government seems to be ignoring the situation along the border, apparently because they consider the farmers and ranchers there as hostile to president Chavez and his "Bolivarian revolution." Thus FARC is being given a free ride, as long as government officials are not attacked.
July 26, 2006: FARC attacked a repair team, working on a damaged oil pipeline. Two workers and two soldiers were killed.
July 25, 2006: FARC released 12 of 13 medical workers they had kidnapped on the 21st. Military operations in the area, and fear of bad publicity, apparently caused the rebels to free most of their captives. The rebels are still holding a pharmacy technician.
July 24, 2006: Venezuela denied it had any direct link with FARC, despite open pledges of support for Venezuela, by FARC, in the event of an American invasion. Venezuelan officials have been caught working with FARC, and Venezuelan police have been conspicuously "hands off" when it comes to FARC.
July 23, 2006: FARC released nine environmental researchers it had kidnapped two days earlier in the northern mountains. Army operations in the area, plus the bad publicity from nabbing a bunch of scientists, apparently convinced the rebels to just let them go. There did not appear to have been any ransom negotiations.
July 21, 2006: In the south, FARC rebels kidnapped ten medical personnel who were delivering medical care to remote settlements along the Ecuador border.
While kidnapping and murder rates are down, Colombia is still a very dangerous place. The murder rate (people killed per 100,000 population) has fallen to about 20, which is still three times the rate in the United States. But that's a big drop from a year ago, when the rate in Colombia was about 80, the highest in the world.