February 18, 2009:
FARC admitted killing 20 members of an Indian tribe in the southwest, claiming that dead were informers for the government. FARC considers itself a lawful combatant in a war, and thus entitled to summarily execute spies. The Awa Indians in question are opposed to the extortion and looting the FARC carry out in tribal territory, and work with the government to fight the FARC. Increasingly successful police and army operations have forced the FARC to the borders, where they can take refuge across the frontier if the pressure is too great. But the people living in the border areas are resisting, and the success of the government elsewhere encourages the border populations to fight back against FARC banditry and demands for support.
Meanwhile, FARC is trying to rehabilitate its reputation. The government, and the international community, now considers FARC a criminal organization and terrorists. That's pretty accurate, but FARC wants to be recognized as a legitimate political organization within Colombia. The government refuses to consider that, and will not even discuss exchanging FARCs hundreds of kidnapping victims for imprisoned FARC members. The government insists that FARC release its hostages. FARC can't really do that, because they need the ransom money to pay for the thousands of gunmen they still have on the payroll. But another reason why they can't release the oft-quoted "700 hostages" is because many, if not most, of them are probably dead. This grim revelation is emerging from debriefings of many FARC members who are accepting amnesty, and interrogation of captured FARC gunmen. It turns out that many FARC hostages are dying in captivity, and those deaths are never reported to the government or next of kin. Some FARC kidnapping gangs are simply murdering their hostages, when it becomes clear that no one can, or will, pay the ransom demanded. This is the next PR disaster FARC will have to deal with, followed by the one about FARC recruitment methods. FARC is enticing more children to join. They work cheap. FARC is also using more terror against its own personnel, to cut down on desertions. The final reality is that FARC is falling apart, turning into a collection of criminal gangs that share a name and little else. Drugs and extortion are the main sources of income. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is desperate to maintain FARC as a political player, in order to give him some influence in Colombia, but that is not working out so well.
February 17, 2009: In the south, police raided a FARC bomb factory, seizing over 500 pounds of explosives and several tons of bomb making materials. FARC is now trying to use terror bombings to back up its extortion activities. Bombs are also used against the army and police, usually in the form of roadside bombs aimed at police or army patrols.
February 16, 2009: In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez won a referendum to let him serve as president for life. This was the second attempt to get the measure passed. This time. Chavez redoubled his use of government power and money to convince, or coerce, people to vote in favor of the new constitution. This document, Chavez hopes, will turn the country into a socialist state, with him as the leader of the revolution he hopes will sweep the continent. But Chavez is basically running a big scam, a political Ponzi scheme. He has wrecked Venezuela's economy in order to buy the votes he needs, and blames all his problems on the U.S., or any other enemies he can invent. This sort of thing always ends badly, and is part of a cycle that gets repeated over and over in South America. Many Venezuelans understand this, but for the moment, they can only muster about 46 percent of the votes. When Chavez runs out of cash and credit, the opposition will have a majority, and one can only hope that the remaining Chavez supporters don't grab guns and head for the jungles.
February 5, 2009: FARC released the last politician they were holding captive. This is the end of a FARC campaign, begun nine years ago, to kidnap politicians and try to force the government to release imprisoned FARC members. It didn't work. FARC is still holding 22 military and police personnel.