Venezuela is trying to gather international support for a proposal to give leftist rebels in Colombia international recognition and legalize rebel bases in Venezuela. The leftist rebels are currently considered international terrorists. This proposal is pitched as part of a peace deal with Colombia. Those rebel groups, particularly FARC, are continuing to fall apart inside Colombia. The only aspect of FARC that prospers is the work with the cocaine gangs. But the drug operations are also being forced out of the country, with a lot of cocaine now being shipped to foreign markets via Venezuela. Meanwhile, while the economy in Colombia prospers, Venezuela suffers from rising unemployment, crime rates and inflation, caused by government efforts to run the economy from the top. President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is obsessed with establishing a socialist empire in the region, and is not discouraged by the fact that his economic theories don't work (they never have, anywhere, but Chavez refuses to believe that.) Most Venezuelans now believe that Chavez and his economic theories are a failure. Chavez considers this treason, and is spending more of his dwindling resources on building a police state, complete with an armed militia loyal to him, not Venezuela. Chavez is trapped by his own impractical ideas and megalomania. It is feared that he will seek to go out in a blaze of glory, making war on Colombia, or on real or imagined internal enemies. Many Venezuelans fear that Chavez is on his way to establishing a full blown police state and taking control of everything. This could trigger a civil war. Meanwhile, any attempt to invade Colombia would be disastrous. Chavez has wrecked his armed forces, replacing trained officers with men selected primarily for their loyalty to Chavez. These commanders have been ordered to forget about traditional military thinking and adopt bizarre doctrines invented by Chavez. Even many of the officers promoted for their loyalty to Chavez, are having second thoughts about all this. To deal with this, Chavez is forming a large civilian militia, led by politicians loyal to him. Nicaragua and Cuba have pledged to provide Venezuela with military support if invaded by Colombia and the United States. This is what Chavez claims is going on, but he, Nicaragua and Cuba know it's all for show. The show goes on. Colombia and the U.S. deny they are planning to invade, and Chavez calls this part of a dastardly plot.
The years of peace in Colombia have led to record increases in oil production. It's up to 776,000 barrels a day, the highest it's been since 1999 and a 19 percent increase from the year before. Venezuela, with much larger oil reserves, produces about 2.3 million barrels a day, and this is declining because of mismanagement in the state controlled oil industry.
July 27, 2010: Venezuela has refused to check the locations of FARC camps on its side of the border, charging that Colombia should have quietly passed this information to them, to get the matter taken care of. But this has not worked in the past, and Colombia went public because of Venezuelan inaction. Venezuela says it has sent more troops to the border, but people living there have not seen any additional military operations. Colombia has refused to send any of its troops to the border, to confront a fictional Venezuelan buildup.
July 25, 2010: Venezuela threatened to halt oil shipments to the United States. This was more theater, as it was a meaningless threat.
July 22, 2010: President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has cut diplomatic relations with Colombia, in response to Colombian calls for an international investigation of claims that Venezuela is hosting Colombian gangsters and leftist rebels. Chavez considers such charges as false and just an excuse for the United States to invade. The UN called for dialogue.
July 16, 2010: Colombia went public with detailed evidence of Venezuela hosting Colombian gangsters and leftist rebels. Venezuela has ignored quiet, diplomatic efforts to resolve this problem. Now Colombia is calling for international organizations, like the UN or OAS (Organization of American States) to act. These camps are essential to the survival of the rebels and drug gangs. In Colombia, the government has an effective security force and the support of most Colombians in the war against the gangs (both political and drug related). Thus the gangs are under constant pressure in Colombia, a situation which has made it easier for the government to infiltrate the gangs with men and women who have secretly gone over to the government (for generous amnesty terms). The across-the-border camps allow the rebels to recuperate, train and sleep in peace. The cocaine gangs are moving their operations to neighboring countries, but this process will take years. In the meantime, Venezuela is a convenient way to smuggle the drugs to their North American and European markets. Venezuela isn't a safe haven for all drug gangsters. Venezuela has been arresting retired drug lords, especially those with multimillion dollar rewards on their heads, and sending them to the United States for trial.
July 14, 2010: Ecuador, reacting to Colombian evidence of drug gangs and leftist rebels establishing bases just across the border in Ecuador, announced that it had found and destroyed sixty such bases.
July 13, 2010: Ingrid Betancourt has withdrawn her lawsuit against the Colombian government (for over $7 million), because of nearly universal negative response to it. Betancourt claimed that the government did not do enough to prevent her from being kidnapped in 2002. That was despite the fact that is was widely known that she was repeatedly warned not to travel through FARC controlled territory, to a town run by a political ally. Before the army would let her convoy roll, she had to sign a document admitting she knew the risks and was ignoring warnings not to go. The public reaction to the lawsuit two weeks ago was, in Colombia, generally hostile. International observers were perplexed. Ingrid Betancourt belongs to one of the old, wealthy families (although her branch was not super rich, but they were smart and well educated), and she was educated mainly in France (where she married a Frenchman in 1983). At the urgings of her politically active mother, she returned to Colombia in the 1990s, and using her looks, personality and family connections, got elected to the legislature. This led to her running for president, and while doing that she was kidnapped in February, 2002. She had already sent her two teenage kids to New Zealand (where her ex-husband lived) because of the security risks. Many members of her family were living in exile for similar reasons. Last month, sh returned from France, where she is living now, to attend the anniversary celebrations (of her spectacular rescue) and file her lawsuit. This legal move trashed her public image and seemed to indicate that she was through as a Colombian political figure. She is still very popular in France, where she has dual citizenship because of her former husband.
July 12, 2010: The army found and raided a base used by the supreme leader of the FARC. The big guy was way, but twelve members of his large security detail were killed, and much equipment and documents were captured.