Several collapsed banks, that thrived on a pyramid
scheme (offering over 100 percent interest on deposits) that bilked several
hundred thousand people, mainly in the southwest, has led to a week of street
protests, and revelations that the scammers were involved in handling drug
money as well. The government has dispatched more troops and bank examiners to
the region to restore order.
2008: Over the last eight years, the $6
billion the U.S. put into Plan Colombia did not, as hoped, cut cocaine
production in half. There's actually fifteen percent more coca acreage, and the
four percent more cocaine being produced. Increased acreage is the result of
the government regaining control over a third of the country that was
previously "bandit country" (and dominated by leftist rebels like
FARC, and their drug gang allies.) Seizures of cocaine are up, as is the price
in the U.S. and Europe, where most of it is exported to. The leftist rebels
have lost more than half their strength, and armed men serving the drug gangs
have gone from over 60,000 to less than 30,000. The Colombian security forces
accomplished this by improving training and leadership, and expanding from
279,000 personnel, to 415,000. Crime rates are way down, and economic activity
has rebounded. The main problem with Plan Colombia was that it expected too
much success too soon. But it has succeeded, and continues to. Already, the
drug gangs are moving their operations to other countries, like Venezuela,
Ecuador and Brazil.
2008: Spain has issued international arrest warrants for five Basque ETA
terrorists, who are believed to have fled to Cuba and Venezuela. The Spanish
authorities believe some of these men have helped train FARC assassins, and
advised FARC leaders on how to cope with counter-terrorism operations. ETA was
also accused of helping FARC establish a death squad in Europe, which would
kill Colombian diplomats and other officials who were visiting Europe (where
security would be less stringent than back in Colombia. ETA was also apparently
asked to provide mercenaries to assist these FARC death squads.
2008: Venezuela is building five military bases along the Colombian border, to
deal with the growing incursions by drug gangs and leftist rebels like FARC.
These groups bring with them more crime, especially kidnapping, and Venezuelans
along the border have been demanding some help. FARC is fleeing Colombia, to
escape increased military, police and financial pressure.
2008: Colombia and Mexico are cooperating in their efforts to destroy the
cocaine trade. Much of the cocaine headed for the U.S. passes through Mexico,
and that has produced drug gangs that kill lots of local police and bribe many government
officials. The Mexican government has called out the army, in the last year, to
battle the growing drug gang menace. This has led to thousands of deaths.
Colombia and Mexico are exchanging information on their gangs, the better to
identify key people to go after.
2008: Ecuador demanded that Colombia do something about a new Colombian drug
gang, the Aguilas Negras "Black Eagles." The group recently sent
twenty armed men 45 kilometers into Ecuador to kill someone. Because the Black
Eagles contain many members of the disbanded AUC (an anti-FARC drug gang), Ecuador
assumes the Black Eagles cooperate with the Colombian Army (as the AUC
sometimes did). But in Colombia, the "Black Eagles" are just
considered another drug gang.