Colombia: Europeans Minding the Landmines

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December21, 2006: So far this year, the economy has grown about seven percent, the fastest growth in more than a decade. The increased economic growth is a side effect of the successful counter-terror operations against the various armed gangs that have, for decades, paralyzed economic growth. The drug and political gangs have been pushed back into rural parts of the country (especially the northeast, and along the Ecuadorian border.) This leaves the more populated areas, where most of the population is, to prosper. But the violence out in the bush continues, and threatens to move back into the urban zones.

December 19, 2006:Venezuela is adding at least 5,000 troops to those already guarding its 2,300 kilometer border with Colombia. While Venezuela supports leftist Colombian rebels, it is also concerned with the growth of banditry along the border. As Colombian rebels, like the FARC, are forced to seek refuge in Venezuela, they bring with them drug gangs (who supply the money that keeps FARC going) and other lowlifes who make a living along the edges of FARCs mayhem.

December 18, 2006:In an open letter to the president, signed by 15,000 ranchers and others living in the countryside, they admitted they sided with the AUC, and still support anyone who will protect them from leftist rebels like FARC. For decades, FARC supported themselves by imposing "revolutionary taxes" on ranchers and rural businessmen. It was an extortion racket, and those who did not pay, were killed or kidnapped. AUC arose as a vigilante defense force, when the government proved unable to deal with the leftist gangs. Although the AUC has largely disbanded, many of the "demobilized" members have gone off and formed similar vigilante groups, under different names.

December 14, 2006:More European relief groups are following, in the wake of army operations that clear out leftist rebels, to establish mine clearing operations. The leftists have adopted the use of landmines to protect their camps from the army, and control local civilian populations. The army has engineers to clear mines for attacks on FARC facilities, but leaves the clearing of mines around civilian targets (crop fields, villages) to civilian mine clearance organizations.

December 13, 2006:Ecuador is making a stink about aerial spraying of drug (coca) crops along the Ecuadorian border. This is mainly about anti-American grandstanding by Ecuadorian politicians. Venezuela supports Ecuador in opposing these attacks on the drug gangs.

 

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