Colombia: Equilibrium

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September 20, 2006: After decades of operating openly in rural areas, the leftist rebels and drug gangs are returning to their guerilla tactics. The army and air force are now able to find and destroy obvious manifestations of illegal power, so the rebels and gangsters have to hide more carefully. This has not stopped the drug business, but instead has created more work for the drug gangs. As the government destroys more coca crops and drug labs, more coca is planted and more labs (for refining the crop into cocaine) have to be built. It's all a cost of doing business. The rebels and gangs have put more effort into public relations and propaganda. They play up the suffering of coca farmers who have lost crops, or been killed during the fighting. The rebels will deliberately put farmers in the line of fire to produce dead bodies and photo-ops for the international media. Colombian journalists know better, and they often stay away lest they become another of the Colombian journalists murdered by the rebels and gangs for daring to report the truth.
The government has the troops and tactics to take down the rebels and gangs, but there is so much money coming in from the cocaine trade, that losses can easily, if sometimes expensively, replaced. Even in defeat, the drug gangs provide a lot of economic activity. But all that fighting has changed the political landscape. The government now controls over two-thirds of the population, and nearly all the urban areas (where about 70 percent of the population lives.) But that leaves some 80 percent of the land area either under rebel control, or no ones control. Taking back the countryside is a formidable task, which most of the population does not have unlimited patience for. The war is headed for a deadlock, with the government controlling most of the people, and the drug gangs controlling enough of the countryside to keep the cocaine flowing.

 

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