Colombia: Rebels Without a Clue

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February 15, 2008: Venezuela is increasingly becoming part of the wars within Colombia. Recently, the head of the largest Colombian drug cartel, Wilber Varela, was found shot dead in Venezuela. Varela has apparently taken refuge in Venezuela while his henchmen fought it out with rivals back in Colombia. At the same time, Venezuela is accusing Colombia of all sorts of evil plots. So Venezuela has put strict controls on their mutual border, and is threatening to halt oil shipments to the United States. All of this is the result of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's mismanagement of the economy, and resulting inflation and unemployment.

Colombian rebels are increasingly operating along the Venezuelan border, because they can safely establish camps across the border in Venezuela. But that has just brought more Colombian troops and police to the area, where they recently captured another senior FARC leader, Luz Dari Conde Rubio. She was the leader of the FARC unit that captured three Americans after their airplane crashed five years ago. Rubio was also head of a unit that smuggled cocaine out of the country. FARC has had three other senior leaders captured in the last year, and is trying to use some of its 700 kidnapping victims to trade for the release of these leaders. The government has refused these deals, but FARC is desperate. Recently there were over a hundred anti-FARC demonstrations, many outside Colombia, and the FARC leadership is eager to restore the groups status as a rebel, not a criminal, organization. That's hard to do, but FARC has offered to release three more kidnap victims. These gestures come at the same time that FARC is discovered using anti-personnel mines to protect its drug operations. These mines kill civilians as well as soldiers, and are the source of very bad publicity for the rebels. That also applies to continued kidnappings, and the forced recruitment of teenagers to fill the ranks of FARC combat units. It also doesn't help that the only two countries that still back FARC are Venezuela and Cuba. FARC is in a bad way as a leftist revolutionary organization, but is doing better as a drug gang with political pretensions. But in either guise, FARC is hurting. At this point it's mainly a matter of how many people FARC will take down with them as the organization is picked apart by the security forces and the population at large.

 

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