January 24, 2009:
In the southwest, FARC is turning more to extorting cash from businesses. No longer powerful enough to control large areas (and just "tax" companies), FARC must fall back on the methods used by common criminals. In the last few years, times have been hard for the leftist terrorists, and their manpower, increasingly unpaid and hotly pursued by the police, have deserted in droves. The remaining members have to scramble and be creative to stay in business. So throwing bombs at business, to coerce the payment of protection money, has become more common. The drug gangs are trying to help out by offering rewards of up to a thousand dollars for the killing of policemen.
The drug gangs, which often work closely with FARC, are also under assault, So far this year, there has been one large scale roundup of 25 members of a drug gang. However, the cocaine business, has proved too lucrative and entrenched to suffer the same kind of damage as the leftist rebel groups. While the AUC, a group almost as large as FARC (that arose to oppose the leftists), agreed to disband, many of the AUC members went back to the criminal life, often to replace drug gangs the government had put out of business. The cocaine trade is so lucrative that many Colombians seek to work in it for a few years and make enough money to set themselves up for life. Enough people actually carry this off, to encourage many more to try. Sort of like buying a lottery ticket, but at the risk of losing your life if your luck is very bad, instead of very good. FARC, on the other hand, is a lifelong commitment to radical socialism and the establishment of a leftist dictatorship in Colombia. Few people believe in that any more.
The decades of fighting have created 2.8 million internal refugees. As the army and police clear FARC, and other rebel groups, from large areas, the government has established special teams of officials to ensure that displaced people get their property back as they return. This includes homes, businesses and land (up to 4 million hectares, or 10 million acres). Often the rebels, or criminal gangs, have attempted to steal the abandoned property, and the government is making a big effort to prevent this.
Relations between Colombia and Venezuela are becoming difficult, as Venezuela continues to tolerate FARC setting up bases inside Venezuela, and operating in Colombia. The government in Venezuela denies this, but plenty of evidence keeps coming out of the border area, showing FARC living openly, especially on Indian reservations. The Venezuelan government has stopped openly supporting FARC, but the leftist rebels are being left alone by Venezuelan troops and police. Some of the FARC members go so far as to register as Colombian refugees, and UN officials go along with that.
January 16, 2009: FARC released ten kidnapping victims near the capital. The ten men were laborers, and no one could understand why they were taken a month ago, as the families of these men were poor, and unable to raise much money for ransoms. Apparently FARC leaders realized the mistake, and just cut the guys loose, rather than killing them (which is often how such errors are handled).
January 15, 2009: FARC attacked a police station on the Pacific coast with homemade rockets and mortars. The fire was inaccurate, and instead killed three children and wounded twelve civilians. This FARC attack was in the service of drug smuggling gangs who are trying to chase the police away from coastal areas, and stop interfering with the movement of large shipments of cocaine out of the country.
January 14, 2009: The U.S. has identified three members of FARC that live in Europe and represent the rebel organization in business (illegal drugs and weapons smuggling) dealings France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain and Australia. The declaration made it illegal for U.S. firms from doing business with these three, and freezes any assets the three might have in the U.S. Colombia is also trying to get foreign nations to investigate and prosecute these, and other members of FARCs "foreign commission" for the crimes they have been involved in. For decades, FARC has been celebrated by European leftists as progressive revolutionaries, not drug dealers.
January 13, 2009: Responding to a government reward and amnesty program, two FARC gunmen in central Colombia deserted with the two kidnapping victims they were holding (a 14 year old boy, being held for $2.2 million, and a 31 year old man being held for $450,000). The two hostages had been held for about a month, as they families tried to raise the cash to free them. FARC holds about 700 kidnapping victims, some for years, because FARC and the families cannot agree on how much money the family can actually raise for the ransom demanded.