May 6, 2009:
Kidnapping continues to decline, with 437 people taken last year, compared to 2,882 in 2002. That's an 85 percent drop in six years, and means Colombia is no longer the "kidnapping capital of the world". There have been problems finding out how many of the victims are still held. Current numbers range from 125 (after an examination of public records) to nearly 2,000 (estimate of an victim advocacy group). The lower number is the result of a careful examination of the records, and current activity of those believed still in captivity. Many commonly accepted facts do not survive close examination.
While Venezuela has recently arrested and returned to Colombia a wanted FARC member, Venezuela has also warned Colombia to not let its troops or police cross the border in hot pursuit of rebels or criminals (like cocaine smugglers). Most of the border area is rural and poorly policed. If Colombian security forces have to halt the pursuit at the border, the bad guys are safe inside Venezuela. This, however, has created problems for Venezuela. The lawless leftist rebels and drug gangs tend to be defiant with any authority, be it Colombian or Venezuelan. Complaints from those living near the border has led Venezuela to send more troops and police, but that has not done much to suppress the lawlessness. Efforts to reach understandings with FARC are sometimes successful, but the drug gangs tend to act more like gangsters. Then again, so do some of the FARC groups, and that's mainly because some FARC members alternate between being leftist rebels and cocaine cowboy type gangsters.
Off the north coast of South America, the Dutch West Indies (specifically the islands of Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire), are also operating areas for drug gangs and terrorists. Dutch police recently arrested 17 people on Curacao and found that these drug smugglers were working with Iran backed Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah to smuggle cocaine into Europe and the Middle East, and smuggle weapons into South America. Four of those arrested were from Lebanon, the rest were from Cuba, Colombia and Lebanon. Since Cuba is a tightly controlled police state, any drug smuggling must be done in cooperation with the secret police (which takes a share of the profits). Hezbollah has been involved in the drug trade for over a decade, and has shown up in South America for as long, usually involved in various illegal money making schemes (to support Islamic terrorism). Cuba has long tolerated drug smugglers, as long as they paid well. Venezuela wants the border violence to calm down, but does not want to go to war with fellow leftists in FARC. Ideally, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez would like to cooperate with FARC to establish a leftist government in Colombia. But FARC is more of a drug gang than a political movement these days, and that makes it hard to pretend that FARC is willing or able to make a political move in Colombia. Hezbollah is mainly in it for the money, but it is believed that Iran is using these activities to collect intelligence, and develop contacts that could be useful for operations against the United States.
April 28, 2009: Eight soldiers were killed during a clash with FARC rebels on the Venezuelan border.