Sunday, June 8, 2008

A brief history of Colombia Civil Conflict

I am copying all these articles related with the American hostages by FARC in Colombia.
vdebate reporter
Continuing a series of posts begun here. A very brief history of the Colombian civil conflict, South American narco-trafficking, the link between the two, and the U.S. role:
Since 1964, ideologically communist insurgents have fought a low to mid intensity asymmetrical campaign against the Colombian government. The largest insurgent groups are the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army, ELN). A third major insurgent group, the Movimiento 19 de Abril (19th of April Movement, M-19) demobilized into a political party in the early 90’s. In the mid 90’s, numerous semi-populist and eventually illegal anti-insurgent paramilitary groups coalesced under the loose banner of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-defense Forces of Colombia, AUC).
The overwhelming majority of the world’s cocaine demand, including approximately 350 Metric tons per year for the U.S., is supplied by the Andean Ridge region of South America; primarily Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. This concentration of cocaine production is largely a function of the agricultural needs of the coca plant combined with the extraordinary remoteness of the jungle covered mountain regions of these three countries. While coca production has shifted wildly from one country to another, the control of the final product has remained consistently in the hands of Colombians. Large, extremely powerful, politically connected, and extraordinarily violent Colombian cocaine syndicates formed during the 1970’s, including the well known Medellín and Cali cartels. During the height of his power, Medellín cartel head Pablo Escobar was elected to congress and was assessed to be one of the wealthiest individuals in the world. Part of the Cartels’ success came from a willingness to use terror tactics: the cartels assassinated presidential candidates, judges, elected officials, and hundreds of police. Eventually the cocaine cartels were decapitated and fragmented. While not entirely gone, they are no longer freely operating massive conglomerates in full control of the cocaine industry.
Throughout the history of Colombian cocaine production, the FARC and other insurgent groups have played a roll. The coca is grown and processed in remote areas frequently dominated by the insurgents. Although the relationship between the insurgents and the cartels was often strained and occasionally violent, the insurgents and the cartels developed a working relationship that involved an informal “taxation” of the coca in exchange for “protection,” both real and symbolic, of the fields, processing facilities, and convoys. With the drying up of Soviet funding for world wide communist governments and proxy insurgents, the FARC and others became dependent upon coca revenue, along with other fund raising methods, such as kidnapping for ransom. With the decapitation and reduction in power of the cartels in the 1990s, the FARC and others, including the paramilitary AUC, stepped in to fill an ever larger direct role in cocaine production, processing, and distribution. Today, the FARC is inextricably linked to cocaine production.
The United States has been a long term supporter of the Colombian government’s struggle against the communist insurgents. This support has ranged from direct combat assistance in the 1960s to largely financial, legal and advisory assistance in the 1990s. During that period, the U.S. walked a fine congressionally controlled line between direct support for counter narcotics and the taboo of involvement in foreign counter insurgency. This decade, largely as a result of expanded counter-terrorism policies approved in the wake of 9/11, U.S. policy shifted to allow military assistance, though not direct operational activity, to Colombia’s security forces fighting the various insurgent and paramilitary groups. The U.S. government recognizes the direct FARC and AUC link with drug trafficking.
It is probably appropriate to mention that no party in this long struggle is pure. While the insurgent forces have waged a cocaine, kidnapping, and extortion funded illegal civil war that has killed thousands, the government forces have a long history of corruption, collusion with the illegal paramilitaries, and human rights abuses. International pressure and the tying of U.S. assistance to a clean up in these areas has resulted in significant improvement. The AUC collusion has been removed as an institutional tie, though accusations of operational level ties remain. Human Rights grievances against national police and the Colombian military have dropped precipitously; though internationally watch dog groups still find much to fault in the Colombian forces. This series of posts is not intended to resolve those disputes, or even weigh in on who is right. These posts are about the hostages.
Which brings us to Marc, Keith, & Tom. Contracted by the US Department of Defense, they were conducting aerial reconnaissance support when their Cessna’s engine died, forcing them to crash land in the vicinity of a FARC patrol. We approach the fifth anniversary of their captivity. The FARC have suffered significant losses during the past 5 years, their numbers dropping, recruitment suffering, and influence waning. But they remain the largest insurgent force in the hemisphere, well armed, solidly funded, experienced, and lead by a cadre committed to continuing the conflict.
Prospects for a peaceful release are dim. While kidnapping for ransom is a common funding method for the insurgents, high profile and political prisoners tend to stay captive for years, and are sometimes executed. The FARC hold hundreds of Colombian national hostages, including Ingrid Betancourt, a presidential candidate captured in 2002, numerous elected officials, civil employees and police officers. The FARC have used their high profile captives as bargaining chips, putting forth various hostage exchange scenarios that would swap some FARC-held prisoners for hundreds of captured FARC members being held in Colombian prisons. On rare occasions, the FARC will make a good will gesture, as they did last week with the release of two long term hostages; Betancourt’s aid and a former Congresswoman, into the care of their perceived ideological sympathizer, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
As I said in the first post:Here is what I propose: In one month, on February 13th, on the fifth anniversary of their imprisonment, I would like to see every blogger and journalist with which we have the slightest influence post something about Marc, Keith, & Tom. Anything. Decry the drug war. Rail against the communist-based, narco-trafficking insurgents. Rage against Western imperialism in Latin America for all I care. Just remember Marc, Keith, & Tom. Express concern for their welfare, and hope for their freedom. Demonstrate to their families that they are not forgotten. Help spread the word. If you have a blog, mark the date, prepare a post. If you don’t, send an email to your favorite blog. I don’t care if anyone link’s to this post, I really don’t. Just get something posted. Let’s spread this far and wide. This is something that can cross nearly all ideological boundaries. I don’t know what good this can do, but I would like to think that it might elevate the issue in the minds of influential parties. Hostages have been released for lesser public relations reasons.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Why the FARC's defeat looks to be only a matter of time

LAS FARC are a terrorist group, they are drug dealers and kidnappers.
The Economist 29/05/2008
Colombia
Peace for Colombia?
May 29th 2008 BOGOTá
From The Economist print edition
Why the FARC's defeat looks to be only a matter of time
AFP
PRESIDENTS have come and gone over the past four decades in Colombia but one man remained constant. Pedro Antonio Marín, better known by the noms de guerre of Manuel Marulanda or “Tirofijo” (“Sureshot”), led his FARC guerrillas through army bombardments, bogus cease fires and failed peace talks, never giving up his quixotic and destructive campaign to turn a large South American democracy into a clone of the long-vanished Soviet Union.
Mr Marulanda's death was always going to be of moment for Colombia. In the event, it has almost certainly coincided with the FARC’s demise as a serious military threat to the state.
A FARC commander announced that Mr Marulanda died on March 26th of a heart attack. Army chiefs believe that he might have expired as a result of their bombardments. In the same month, two other members of the FARC’s seven-man secretariat were killed, Raúl Reyes by a bombing raid on his camp across the border in Ecuador and Iván Ríos by his own bodyguard.
Mr Marulanda will be replaced by Alfonso Cano (real name: Guillermo León Sáenz), the FARC's chief ideologue. But there are reasons to suppose that the guerrillas will never recover from their March setback
Mr Marulanda was the last link to the FARC’s origins as a peasant self-defence force against landowners, an offshoot of a rural civil war in the 1940s and 1950s between Liberals and Conservatives. A man of peasant cunning and stubbornness, he was said never to have visited any city larger than Neiva, of some 315,000 people. Later recruits were middle-class Marxist students, such as Mr Cano.
The FARC survived the end of the cold war, but at the cost of its ideological purity, by turning to drug-trafficking and kidnapping. Mr Marulanda was by the mid-1990s leading a force of 19,000 operating in large units, overwhelming army garrisons and threatening Bogotá, the capital. That prompted the government to open peace talks, abandoned after three years in which the FARC carried on kidnapping, bombing and recruiting.
Colombians turned in despair to Álvaro Uribe, their tough president since 2002. He has expanded the security forces by a third, to 270,000, including a core of 80,000 professional soldiers, some of them in mobile brigades and special forces. They are backed by a large helicopter fleet, Brazilian-made Super Tucano tactical bombers and American advice, especially in intercepting communications.
This build-up transformed the war, driving the FARC away from the towns. Recent changes of government strategy are now bearing fruit. These involve encouraging guerrilla desertions and targeting the leadership. The FARC are now losing more deserters than they are gaining new recruits, according to General Freddy Padilla de León, the armed-forces’ commander. “They are reduced militarily, isolated politically, have a reduced social base and we are cutting their finance [by acting against their drug business]. It’s impossible for them to return to the cities,” he says.
What has worried Colombian officials most has been signs that Venezuela has been helping the FARC. But Venezuela’s government is likely to be more circumspect after evidence of ties emerged from documents on Reyes’s computers.
So what future do the guerrillas have? Mr Cano is sometimes portrayed as a moderate, in contrast to Jorge Briceño (aka “Mono Jojoy”), the FARC’s military commander. But in a two-hour interview with The Economist in 2001, Mr Cano showed himself to be a rigid Marxist, unprepared to accept democracy. “Our struggle is to do away with the state as now it exists in Colombia,” he said. The FARC wanted power and would not demobilise in return for “houses, cars and scholarships” or a few seats in Congress.
Mr Cano’s first task will be to prevent the FARC from fragmenting into its constituent “fronts”. Constant army pressure means the fronts now find it hard to communicate with each other. Some, including Mr Cano’s in the centre-south, are on the run; others, such as that in Nariño, in the south-west, are still awash with drug money. Yet others rely on havens across the borders in Venezuela and Ecuador.
By maintaining the pressure, the government hopes to force the FARC into negotiations. Relations of hostages kidnapped by the guerrillas hope that the death of the obstinate Mr Marulanda will speed their release. Neither may happen soon. “Marulanda’s death is not the death of the FARC,” says Camilo Gómez, who negotiated for the government during the peace talks.
Since perhaps 9,000 guerrillas are still under arms, that is clearly true. But defeat looks only a matter of time.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Colombia crisis ends with accord

Colombia crisis ends with accord

SANTA DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (CNN) -- The presidents of Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador Friday signed a declaration to end a crisis sparked when Colombian troops killed a rebel leader and 21 others inside Ecuadoran territory.

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, left, and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Friday.

1 of 2 "With the promise not to ever again assault a brother country and the request for forgiveness [by Colombia], we can consider this very serious incident resolved," said Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa.

Correa, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe shook hands at the end of what had been a contentious meeting of the Rio Group of Latin American leaders.

In the accord, the leaders condemned Colombia's action and affirmed that no country has the right to violate the territory of another. Correa and Chavez also accepted Colombia's apology for the incident and accept that Uribe will not repeat it.

In a nod to Colombia's concerns, the declaration also committed all the countries to fight threats to national stability from "irregular or criminal groups," The Associated Press reported.

Steps were taken immediately to defuse tensions, AP reported. Colombia pledged not to seek genocide charges against Chavez at an international court, while Nicaragua said it would restore the diplomatic relations it severed with Colombia a day earlier, according to AP.

Chavez said trade with Colombia should "keep increasing," two days after saying he didn't want even "a grain of rice" from his neighbor, AP reported.

The goodwill gestures capped a summit in which Correa and left-leaning ally Chavez verbally pummeled Uribe, with Correa chiding him for "insolence" and urging him to "stop trying to justify the unjustifiable."

Uribe in turn called Correa a communist.

The diplomatic spat began Saturday when Colombian troops and police crossed into Ecuador and killed 22 people. The dead included Luis Edgar Devia Silva, known as "Raul Reyes," the second-in-command of the leadership council of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC in its Spanish acronym.

Reyes was the first member of the seven-member leadership council, known as general secretariat, to be killed by Colombia in the 44 years the rebel group has been fighting to overthrow the government.

Another member of FARC's leadership council -- Ivan Rios, the nom de guerre of Manuel de Jesus Munoz -- was killed by his chief of security in a separate incident, said a Colombian official, according to AP.

FARC is estimated to be holding at least 700 hostages in the jungles of Colombia and has been accused by the United States of being a terrorist organization.

Colombia had justified the attack by saying it was necessary to counter a threat to its national security.

The government said it seized laptops from the attacked rebel camp showing that Venezuela gave $300 million to the rebels and that senior Ecuadoran officials met with FARC rebels.

Ecuador and Venezuela denied the allegations, promptly condemned the raid and moved troops to their borders with Colombia.

"I have never done it and will never do it," Chavez said of the allegations he gave $300 million to the rebels, AP reported. "I could have sent a lot of rifles to the FARC. I will never do it because I want peace."

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Second Colombian rebel leader killed

Second Colombian rebel leader killed

CUCUTA, Colombia (CNN) -- As South American officials tried to ease tensions sparked by Colombia's killing of a rebel leader inside Ecuador, the Colombian army announced the death of another top militant Friday.

A cooler allegedly containing the hand of Ivan Rios is examined at a military base in Manizales.

1 of 3 Ivan Rios, whose real name was Manuel de Jesus Munoz, was one of six remaining members of the leadership council of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

"The FARC has suffered a new, major blow," Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said, according to The Associated Press.

Rios was killed by his own chief of security, who offered items including the rebel leader's severed right hand as proof of his death, the AP quoted Santos as saying.

On Saturday, Luis Edgar Devia Silva, known as Raul Reyes, was killed in a raid into Ecuador.

He was FARC's second-in-command -- and the first member of the leftist rebel group's general secretariat killed by Colombia in the 40 years that it has been fighting to overthrow the Colombian government.

Twenty-one other people were also killed in the attack.

The raid sparked protests from the left-leaning leaders of Ecuador, Venezuela and Nicaragua, all of whom cut diplomatic ties with Colombia, and Ecuador and Venezuela moved troops to their borders with Colombia.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Crisis in the Andes -

Colombia is doing the right thing.......... Thanks president Uribe.
vdebate reporter
Crisis in the Andes
THE WASHINGTON TIMES EDITORIAL
March 4, 2008
The death of a Colombian terrorist like Raul Reyes should be a moment ofrelief for the Western Hemisphere. The State Department had placed a $5million bounty on the head of this second-ranking member of theRevolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Western Hemisphere'sworst narco-terrorist organization.
Instead, Reyes' killing has tipped off an international crisis. Venezuela's sabre-rattling President Hugo Chavez has sent tanks and an estimated 6,000 troops to the Colombianborder, threatening war on the pretext that Colombia's March 1 raid tokill Reyes violated the sovereignty of neighboring Chavez ally Ecuador.
That is rich.Violate Ecuadorean sovereignty Colombia surely did: Bogota's airplanes soared into Ecuadorean airspace as helicopters parachuted troops acrossthe porous border to kill Reyes and 16 other FARC terrorists enjoyingsafe harbor in Ecuador.
But this follows years of Mr. Chavez and his Ecuadorean allies helping the FARC as it terrorizes Colombia withcross-border raids and kidnappings. We won't likely hear much aboutVenezuela's and Ecuador's long record of what amounts to proxy warfareagainst Colombia. Mr. Chavez is busily attempting to portray the strikeas unprovoked, when, in reality, both Ecuador and Venezuela have longrecords of covert and in some cases not-so-covert hostility via theirfriends the FARC. They, not Bogota, made this weekend's airstrikeinevitable.
The FARC, an internationally designated terrorist organization andnarco-trafficking syndicate, has terrorized Colombia for more than fourdecades. Its cafe bombings, abductions, airplane hijackings and pitchedassaults on Colombian cities have been responsible for tens of thousandsof deaths. Over the decades, the FARC has transformed itself from aclassic Latin American Communist insurgency into a major conduit ofinternational terrorism and contraband with ties to the Irish RepublicanArmy, Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations.
Lately, underthe skillful hand of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, much progress has been made against the FARC. Government assaults have shrunk the group'ssouthern jungle statelet with the help of more than $5 billion in U.S.military aid since 2000. Mr. Chavez detests this progress. If anything, Bogota had shown too much forebearance of its neighbors'FARC support.
That both Ecuador and Venezuela harbor the FARC as itassaults Colombian targets is not seriously disputed. Even so, last yearColombia allowed Mr. Chavez to attempt to mediate between the governmentand the terrorists (he failed).
Lately, Mr. Chavez has taken to theairwaves in a fruitless bid to legitimize the FARC with the argumentthat it is an "insurgent" group, not a terrorist organization. Tell thatto the families of the 119 civilians killed in the FARC's 2002 mortaringof a church, the three American missionaries murdered by FARC thugs in1999, or the victims of the FARC's indiscriminate gas-cylinder warfare.
Beleaguered Bogota's "crime" is simply to stop tolerating safe harborand terror-abettment. Mr. Chavez and his ally President Rafael Correa of Ecuador just watched the elimination of one of their primary means of harming Colombia.
No wonder the strongman of Caracas is upset.

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Allies of Terrorism

Allies of Terrorism
Editorial Washington Post
The presidents of Venezuela and Ecuador are revealed as backers of the criminals who fight Colombia's democracy.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

LAST SATURDAY, Colombia's armed forces struck a bold blow against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a group specializing in drug trafficking, abductions and massacres of civilians that has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and Europe. Raúl Reyes, a top commander, and some 20 followers were killed in a bombing of their jungle camp in Ecuador, a mile or two from the Colombian border. The attack was comparable to those the United States has recently carried out against al-Qaeda in lawless areas of Pakistan, and it showed how Colombia's democratic government may be finally gaining the upper hand over the murderous gangs that have tormented the country for decades.

Now this remarkable success has been overshadowed by the extraordinary reaction of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who has been revealed as an explicit supporter and possible financier of the FARC. Mr. Chávez openly mourned the death of Mr. Reyes and made a show of ordering Venezuelan troops to the border with Colombia while loudly warning that war was possible. He goaded his client, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa -- whose initial response to the raid was subdued -- into mimicking his reaction. He then partially closed the border with Colombia, a step that will merely worsen the food shortages that have emptied Venezuelan supermarket shelves.

It turns out that both Mr. Chávez and Mr. Correa may have had something to hide. Senior Colombian officials say a laptop recovered at the FARC camp contained evidence that Mr. Chávez had recently given the group $300 million and had financial links with the terrorists dating to his own failed coup against a previous Venezuelan government in 1992. Colombia said Mr. Correa's government had been negotiating with Mr. Reyes about replacing Ecuadorean military officers who might object to his use of the country as a base. In other words, both Mr. Correa and Mr. Chávez were backing an armed movement with an established record of terrorism and drug trafficking against the democratically elected government of their neighbor. No wonder Colombian President álvaro Uribe felt compelled to order the cross-border raid; he knows that his neighbors are providing a haven for the terrorists.

There's little chance that this will lead to conventional war, despite the bluster of Mr. Chávez. The more interesting question is how average citizens in Venezuela and Ecuador will react. The FARC is despised across the region for its criminality and brutality; many Venezuelans have been shocked to learn of Mr. Chávez's alliance with the group. According to Mr. Chávez's former defense minister, Raúl Baduel, the Venezuelan military is troubled by the saber-rattling at Colombia. In his zeal to divert attention from a rapidly worsening domestic economic situation and his defeat in a recent referendum, Mr. Chávez is growing increasingly reckless. The principal danger, however, may be to his own country and government.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Colombia Says Rebels Sought to Make Dirty Bomb

Colombia Says Rebels Sought to Make Dirty Bomb
By SIMON ROMERO
The New York Times


CARACAS, Venezuela — Colombia added a new accusation against the FARC rebel group on Tuesday, saying Colombian forces had found evidence that the rebels had been seeking the ingredients to make a radioactive dirty bomb.

The accusation, made by Colombia’s vice president, Francisco Santos, at a United Nations disarmament meeting in Geneva, represents a sharp verbal escalation surrounding the three-country dispute involving Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador. The quarrel began over the weekend when Colombian forces hunted down and killed a Colombian guerrilla leader on Ecuadorean soil.

Material found on a laptop computer recovered in that raid provided the basis for Mr. Santos’s accusations about a dirty bomb, a weapon that combines highly radioactive material with conventional explosives to disperse deadly dust that people would inhale.

“This shows that these terrorist groups, supported by the economic power provided by drug trafficking, constitute a grave threat not just to our country but to the entire Andean region and Latin America," Mr. Santos said in a statement that was posted in Spanish on the disarmament conference’s web site. The rebels were “negotiating to get radioactive material, the primary base for making dirty weapons of destruction and terrorism,” he said.

It was unclear from Mr. Santos’s statement whom the rebels were negotiating with.
Mr. Santos based his claim on information provided Monday in Bogotá by Colombia’s national police chief about a deal involving the FARC’s negotiations for 110 pounds of uranium.

The tension further escalated when President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia said Tuesday that he would file a complaint with the International Criminal Court against President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, accusing him of providing financial assistance to the FARC, which stands for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Colombia’s largest rebel group.

In another reaction to Colombia’s cross-border raid, Elías Jaua, Venezuela’s agriculture minister, said that Venezuela was planning to close its border with Colombia to halt commercial trade.

On Monday, Ecuador broke off diplomatic relations with Colombia, and Venezuela expelled Colombia’s ambassador and other diplomats.

The three countries have been swapping accusations of treachery and deceit in the dispute over the killing of the guerrilla leader, Raúl Reyes, by Colombian forces.
The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, in ordering the expulsion of the Colombian Embassy’s diplomatic personnel, said it was acting “in defense of the sovereignty of the fatherland and the dignity of the Venezuelan people.”

President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, who expelled Colombia’s ambassador over the weekend, went a step further on Monday by breaking off diplomatic relations. The move was not unexpected after his claim that Mr. Uribe of Colombia was lying about the nature of the raid.

Venezuela and Ecuador sent troops to the Colombian border on Sunday in response to Colombia’s military raid on the rebel encampment in the jungle about a mile inside Ecuador. Colombian forces killed 21 guerrillas in the FARC.

In addition to killing Mr. Reyes, Colombia said it had recovered his laptop computer. Its contents have since been at the center of several allegations.
At a news conference in Bogotá, Gen. Oscar Naranjo, Colombia’s police chief, accused Venezuela of channeling $300 million to the FARC, based on what he said was information obtained from Mr. Reyes’s computer.

General Naranjo also said computer documents showed financial support from the FARC for Mr. Chávez of Venezuela, going back to the time Mr. Chávez spent in prison after an unsuccessful coup attempt in Caracas in 1992.

“This implies more than cozying up, but an armed alliance between the FARC and the Venezuelan government,” General Naranjo said. Venezuela’s government, which sent tank units to its border with Colombia in a response to the Colombian raid, denied aiding the rebels. “We are used to the Colombian government’s lies,” Vice President Ramón Carrizales said.

General Naranjo displayed photographs and documents he said had been taken from Mr. Reyes’s computer, but the context of the information was unclear. Ecuador also rejected claims by Colombia of ties with the FARC, and sent 3,200 troops to Sucumbios, an Amazonian province near its border with Colombia where the attack on the FARC’s camp took place.

Mr. Correa, the Ecuadorean president, said the Colombian rebels had been killed in their sleep “in their pajamas,” and not in the heat of pursuit as Colombia’s security forces had said. Ecuadorean emergency officials recovered several wounded members of the FARC, transporting them to hospitals in Quito.

Faced with one of Latin America’s worst diplomatic crises in recent years, the Organization of American States said it would convene a meeting in Washington on Tuesday to try to prevent an escalation of the dispute between Colombia, a staunch Bush administration ally, and the leftist governments of Ecuador and Venezuela.
Even as Colombia’s government offered details on the FARC’s relations with Venezuela and Ecuador, Colombian officials said Monday that they would not send more troops to the borders with the two countries in response to the mobilizations ordered by Mr. Chávez and Mr. Correa.

Because of the FARC’s resilient history at the heart of Colombia’s war, it has had contact with insurgencies and governments throughout Latin America and beyond, including the United States, which classifies the FARC and other armed groups in Colombia as terrorists.

For instance, in 1998 a Clinton administration official, Philip T. Chicola, then the State Department’s director of Andean affairs, had a clandestine meeting with Mr. Reyes in Costa Rica in an effort to establish a way of communicating with the FARC during times of crisis.

The meeting was described in a diplomatic cable written by Mr. Chicola in January 1999 and declassified in 2004. Also present at the meeting was Mr. Reyes’s wife, Olga Marín, who is believed to be the daughter of the FARC’s top commander, Manuel Marulanda, and also reported to be present, and possibly wounded, in the raid on the jungle camp on Saturday.

The Bush administration on Monday reiterated its support for Colombia’s struggle against the FARC and cocaine trafficking, but called for a negotiated solution to the crisis.

“This, for us, is an issue between the governments of Colombia and Ecuador,” said Tom H. Casey, deputy spokesman at the State Department, in a briefing to reporters on Monday in Washington. “We believe it’s appropriate for them to work that out through diplomatic discussion.”

Still, what began over the weekend as an operation by Colombian forces in Ecuadorean territory has evolved into a wider regional matter. “Our view of this issue right now is that there is no doubt that there is a territorial violation and we condemn it,” said Celso Amorim, Brazil’s foreign minister, speaking to reporters in Brasília. “It raises insecurity problems in all countries of the region, mostly in the smaller ones.”

And amid the Colombian accusations, Mr. Chávez remains at the center of the increasing tension, with his political opponents here criticizing his decision to mobilize troops and fighter jets in a show of Venezuelan force.

“If anyone has to protest, it is Ecuador’s government, as the military incident took place in Ecuadorean territory, not ours,” Teodoro Petkoff, the publisher of the newspaper Tal Cual, said in an editorial. “Venezuela has nothing to complain about.”

Jenny Carolina González contributed reporting from Bogotá, Colombia, and Uta Harnischfeger from Zurich.

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Saber-Rattling in South America

Saber-Rattling in South America
By Jens Glüsing in Rio de Janeiro


The governments of Ecuador and Venezuela have sent troops to their borders with Colombia. It's an angry response to a Colombian attack on FARC rebels in Ecuador on Saturday. Is war about to break out in South America?
AP

Ecuadorean soldiers heading for the border with Colombia on Monday.
Raúl Reyes, the bearded No. 2 of the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia, or FARC, was always a welcome guest in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito. He visited the city repeatedly to meet relatives and to recover from combat missions in his home country, Colombia.

He had especially close contact with the interior minister of Ecuador, Gustavo Larrea. "Larrea is interested in establishing official relations with FARC on behalf of President Rafael Correa," Reyes wrote in a letter to the "Secretariat," the top decision-making body of the guerrilla group.

That letter was reportedly stored on Reyes' laptop, which Colombian soldiers seized over the weekend after an air strike and ground assault on a FARC base camp in Ecuador. The operation killed 17 FARC fighters, including Reyes. The Colombian government celebrated the attack, which had doubtless been prepared with the help of American surveillance technology, as the "most severe blow against FARC since its inception."

It's true that Reyes' death is a major blow against FARC. The stocky rebel boss -- who wore a Rolex watch -- was the group's second most important leader, after their legendary commander Manuel Marulanda. He was also one of the most radical. He defended the kidnapping of politicians and other civilians as part of the group's combat strategy. He was also the main contact for journalists and the French government, which is desperately trying to secure the release of French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt (more...).

Reyes forged an international alliance which participated in FARC's high-publicity release of eight hostages in recent months. The group's most important partner was Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who ordered a minute of silence on television to honor Reyes. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a former leftist guerrilla himself, also outed himself as a "comrade" of the Colombian rebel leader on Sunday.

And now Rafael Correa, the populist left-wing president of Ecuador, can apparently also be counted among FARC's friends, if the data on Reyes' laptop are to be believed -- something Interior Minister Larrea denies.

Chávez Threatening War

Correa was quick to reject Colombia's apology for the military strike on its territory, and sent troops to the border with Colombia. He had evidently coordinated his response with his alter ego Chávez, who threatened to declare war on Colombia if it conducted a similar strike on Venezuelan soil. On his TV program "Aló Presidente," Chavez said he was dispatching tank units to the border and putting the air force on alert.

Colombia's strike was indeed a clear breach of Ecuador's sovereignty. The FARC camp was located in the Ecuadorian jungle, 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) from the border with Colombia. But Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has been warning Quito for years that FARC operates on Ecuadorian territory. The rebels have well-established camps in Ecuador, they smuggle large quantities of cocaine out of Colombia via Ecuador, and they probably held several of their hostages in Ecuador, at least for a time. That is according to former senator Luis Eladio Pérez, who was released by FARC last week. Simon Trinidad, one of FARC's most important commanders, was arrested in 2004 in Quito on the Boulevard Amazonas, the Ecuadorian capital's main shopping street.

If the information on Reyes' laptop is true, the guerrillas have such good contacts with Ecuador's government that they even had the audacity to ask Correa for a favor: they wanted him to withdraw soldiers and police who didn't like FARC from the border region and replace them with troops who were more favorably disposed to the guerrillas.

Is South America on the brink of war? Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez has announced that he will back his friend Correa "unconditionally." A little war might help Chávez distract his people from domestic problems. His opinion poll ratings have fallen to an all-time low. The poor used to back him unquestioningly, but many of them now blame him for supply shortages in this oil-rich economy. The people of Venezuela have to stand in line for milk, meat, eggs and other staple foods -- a result of Chávez' economic policy errors.

Analysts say many military commanders may refuse to obey Chávez if he actually declares war. The armed forces are unhappy with the gradual increase in political influence in their ranks. Venezuela is traditionally peaceful and has never waged a war against a neighbor. The country wouldn't stand much of a chance against battle-hardened Colombian troops, despite Venezuela's new Russian-made weapons and aircraft.

War Would Hurt Venezuela's Economy

Besides, Venezuela and Colombia depend on each other economically. Venezuela gets most of its food from Colombia, and without Colombian immigrant laborers the oil-dependent economy would face collapse. Whenever anything works in this laid-back Caribbean nation, it's usually thanks to a hard-working Colombian.

Nevertheless, one can't rule out the chance Chávez might hurl himself into a military adventure. He's a soldier, has a military mindset, and would probably love to enter the history books as a martyr.

It wouldn't be the first war in Latin American history. In 1995 a border dispute between Peru and Ecuador led to skirmishes between those two countries, and memories of the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina remain fresh.

It's now up to the big regional powers Mexico, Argentina and Brazil to defuse the situation. Brazil's President Luis Ignácio "Lula" da Silva in particular must prove that he's a suitable peacemaker in times of crisis. On Sunday there was intense telephone contact between the governments of Argentina and Brazil as Lula and Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner discussed how to respond. Mexican President Felipe Calderón has also offered to mediate.

Reyes' death may end up speeding up the resolution of the hostage crisis, contrary to initial fears. Reyes was regarded as a hardliner in the FARC Secretariat. Colombian experts have blamed his intransigence for FARC's refusal to agree to a prisoner exchange. Reyes may now be succeeded by Commander Ivan Márquez, who is seen as more ready to make concessions.

FARC released a communiqué on Sunday aimed at allaying the fears of hostages' relatives. Reyes' death won't affect the hostage negotiations, the statement said.

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Uribe seeks Chavez Charges at International Court

This is very serious, but Alvaro Uribe is right!!!!
vdebate reporter
Uribe Seeks Chavez Charges at International Court
By Joshua Goodman
March 4 (Bloomberg) -- Colombia's President
Alvaro Uribe said he'll seek charges at an international tribunal against Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez for sponsoring terrorism.
``I'll present to the International Criminal Court charges against
Hugo Chavez for financing and sponsoring genocide,'' said Uribe, on Caracol Radio, after a meeting with a former rebel-held hostage in Bogota.
Uribe also called on Colombia's neighbors to show solidarity with the country in its long-running conflict with the drug-funded guerrillas. The International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, was created in 2002 and both Colombia and Venezuela are signatories to it.
Colombia yesterday said it uncovered evidence on the laptop of slain rebel leader
Raul Reyes showing Venezuela had funneled at least $300 million to the FARC, as the rebel group is known.
The laptop was seized Saturday when Colombia's military crossed into Ecuador to kill Reyes, its biggest military triumph in four decades of guerrilla warfare.
General Oscar Naranjo, Colombia's police chief, said the computer files also indicated Ecuadorean Security Minister
Gustavo Larrea had been in contact with Reyes in a bid to get President Rafael Correa involved in the release of hostages held by the rebels to boost his political standing.
Chavez and Correa denied the allegations and in turn accused Uribe's government of acting on the orders of the U.S.
The Organization of American States will hold an emergency session today in Washington to discuss Colombia's violation of Ecuador's sovereignty.
Last Updated: March 4, 2008 10:09 EST

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia Seek Support In Crisis

Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia Seek Support In Crisis
By REUTERS
Published: March 3, 2008
Filed at 11:34 a.m. ET


SAN ANTONIO, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia all sought international backing on Monday in a crisis that raised the specter of war after Venezuela and Ecuador deployed troops to the Colombian border.

The crisis erupted after Colombia bombed and sent troops inside Ecuador in a weekend raid that killed a Colombian rebel leader in his jungle camp in a major blow to Latin America's oldest guerrilla insurgency.

Governments from France to Brazil sought to defuse the crisis in the Andes, where Washington ally Colombian President Alvaro Uribe faces left-wing leaders fiercely opposed to U.S. free-market proposals for the region.

Traffic was normal in San Antonio at the main border crossing point between Venezuela and Colombia and while Venezuela and Ecuador said they had reinforced their borders, there was no immediate sign of any mobilization.

Venezuela state TV offered blanket coverage of the crisis but it showed no images of tanks, planes or troops moving and no other media reported military movements in the border area.

Colombia said it would not send extra troops to its frontiers with Venezuela and Ecuador.

Bogota justified its operation on Monday by saying international law allows such actions against "terrorists" and accused Ecuador of permitting the Marxist FARC rebels to take refuge in its territory.

"We have never been a country for ventures either in politics or in military matters," Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos told a U.N. human rights commission in Geneva. "We have always been respectful of the principal of non-interference."

But Ecuador, a close ally of the larger, richer Venezuela, said Colombia deliberately violated its sovereignty and urged Latin American governments to pressure Bogota so that it does not repeat its "aggression."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is struggling to fix chronic food shortages in the OPEC nation, sent tanks to the border and threatened to counterattack with Russian-made jets should Colombia unleash a similar raid in Venezuela.

Chavez, who urged governments to side against Colombia, also closed his embassy in Bogota and fellow leftist Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa expelled Colombia's ambassador from Quito. Chavez and Correa both called conservative Uribe a liar.

With Chavez warning war could break out, there was immediate impact on the economies of the three Andean nations which share active trade ties.

Venezuelan and Ecuadorean debt and Colombia's currency all lost value on Monday, reflecting worries of increased risk in investing in the countries.

"It raises headline risks for all three countries significantly," Gianfranco Bertozzi of Lehman Brothers said.

NEIGHBORS SEEK TO DEFUSE CRISIS

Brazil, the region's diplomatic heavyweight, said it would seek to resolve the standoff, cautioning that the tensions were destabilizing regional ties.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet demanded Colombia explain to the region why its troops entered Ecuador.

"A situation of this nature without a doubt merits an explanation," she said. "The most important thing today is that we can avoid an escalation of this conflict."

France, which has worked to free rebel-held hostages, called for restraint on all sides and said the rebel's killing was bad news because he had been pivotal in freeing hostages.

Colombia, which apologized for the raid, sought to ease tensions.

Despite the leaders' passions and brinkmanship, as well as the risk of military missteps on the tense border, political analysts said a conflict was unlikely.

Chavez -- the leader of Andean leftists -- was more interested in firing up his base of support with rhetoric and can ill afford to lose food imports from Colombia, they added.

The opposition criticized Chavez for drawing Venezuela into a crisis over a raid that involved other nations.

"The odds of an escalation to a war-like conflict still seem modest, with so much at stake for all sides," Bertozzi said. "Tension should therefore dissipate in the coming days."

(Additional reporting by Antonio de la Jara in Santiago, Patrick Markey in Bogota and Raymond Colitt in Brasilia; Writing by Saul Hudson; Editing by Eric Beech)

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Colombian rebel leader killed in battle




Colombian rebel leader killed in battle
German Ecniso-Ancol / EPA


Troops chase guerrillas into Ecuador. Death of FARC's chief diplomat could shake up the group, analysts say.

By Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
March 2, 2008


BOGOTA, COLOMBIA -- The second-highest-ranking leader in Colombia's largest leftist guerrilla group was killed in a predawn firefight near the Ecuadorean border, the Colombian government announced Saturday morning.

Luis Edgar Devia Silva, better known by his alias Raul Reyes, was found dead early Saturday in a jungle camp in Ecuador after a battle erupted between rebels and Colombian armed forces in southern Putumayo state and continued on the Ecuadorean side of the border.

Reyes, 59, was second in the hierarchy of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and was the rebel group's principal spokesman and chief diplomat. He was one of 50 FARC leaders indicted in the United States on drug and terrorism charges in March 2006. The U.S. State Department had offered a $5-million reward for information leading to his arrest.

Analysts described the killing of Reyes, part of the seven-member FARC secretariat, as the most damaging blow yet struck by the government of President Alvaro Uribe in his five-year campaign to defeat the rebels.

"This is of enormous importance. Reyes was the public face of the FARC and the only one who had international contacts," former Foreign Minister Maria Emma Mejia told Colombian TV network Caracol. Former President Ernesto Samper told an RCN television reporter that Uribe's campaign is "showing results and this is an example." Seventeen other rebels and one Colombian soldier were killed in the battle.

Reyes was the FARC's chief negotiator with the Colombian government during the failed peace process between 1998 and 2002 and visited several foreign countries to muster support. Recently, Reyes led negotiations that resulted in the FARC releasing six political hostages to representatives of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, including four last week.

U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), who has been involved in back-channel efforts to persuade the FARC to release three U.S. defense contractor employees held since 2003, in a telephone interview declined to comment on how Reyes' death would affect those efforts.

"We sent a letter last week through our contacts to the FARC asking that the humanitarian releases continue and that we have a specific interest in the three Americans," said Delahunt, who met Reyes in 1999 in a peace mission to the Colombian jungle. "We're still waiting for a reply."

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro issued a statement Saturday evening criticizing the killing of Reyes as a "blow to the humanitarian accord process in Colombia. . . . It reveals once again the stubborn conduct of those who favor military options and armed conflict over a negotiated political settlement, without regard to the grave consequences."

Chavez later threatened Uribe with war if Colombian forces entered his country as they did Ecuador, according to Venezuelan news reports.

In a news conference Saturday, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said the fight began when Colombian aircraft, acting on a tip that Reyes was present, bombed a FARC encampment at a village called Granada around midnight Friday.

As troops closed in, they took fire from rebels about a mile away on the Ecuadorean side of the Putumayo River, which separates the two countries at that point.

After Colombian planes returned fire from their airspace, soldiers were ordered to cross into Ecuador to continue the fight. President Uribe, who was monitoring the operation, called Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa to inform him of the operation "as it was happening," a Colombian Defense Ministry spokesman said.

It was unclear from government statements whether Uribe had Correa's permission to send troops into Ecuador.

On a Saturday morning radio show in Quito, Ecuador's capital, Correa acknowledged receiving Uribe's call and said FARC rebels at times made incursions into his country. He made no comment on the Colombian troops' presence there.

The rebels use Ecuadorean territory for rest and recuperation and as refuge from army attacks. Correa is said by Colombian and U.S. authorities to be concerned about the FARC's presence and increased drug trafficking, much of which the rebels control.

In recent interviews, Colombian military sources have told The Times that Correa's government has been highly cooperative in anti-drug operations targeting the FARC in the common border area.

The Colombian government said that after recovering Reyes' body in the Ecuadorean village of Santa Rosa, which is within a mile of the initial attack, soldiers took it to the Colombian town of Puerto Asis. It was not clear on which side of the border Reyes was killed.

Reyes entered the FARC after working as a labor leader in the southeastern jungle state of Caqueta, where he organized employees of Nestle. In the 1990s, Reyes headed the FARC's so-called international front that kept offices in Mexico and Costa Rica.

Since taking office in 2002, Uribe has succeeded in retaking large swaths of territory from the FARC, which is principally based in the sparsely populated jungle regions in the southeastern part of Colombia. That success is due in large part to billions of dollars in U.S. military aid that has enabled him to expand and modernize Colombia's armed forces.

According to the U.S. State Department's annual report on drugs released Friday, Colombia's military last year apprehended or killed more than a dozen mid- to high-level FARC commanders. Among the dead were FARC 37th Front leader Gustavo Rueda Diaz, alias Martin Caballero, and 16th Front leader Tomas Medina Caracas, alias Negro Acacio.

But Reyes is the first member of the secretariat to be brought down.

Alfredo Rangel, director of the Security and Democracy Foundation, a Bogota-based think tank, said the killing delivered a blow to FARC morale and could presage big changes in the rebel group.

"Reyes led the radical faction of FARC leadership, so his death could lead to a recomposition in favor of a more practical and realistic side, in terms of making a humanitarian agreement" to release hundreds of hostages still in FARC custody, Rangel said.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Colombian rebels to release more hostages

CNN.- Leftist rebels in Colombia plan to release four hostages this week whom they have held for several years, senior officials in Venezuela and Colombia said.

Angela de Perez, wife of hostage Luis Eladio Perez, hugs Venezuelan official Ramon Rodriguez on Monday.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, plans to release the hostages Wednesday morning, Venezuelan Interior and Justice Minister Ramon Rodriguez said Monday. His comments were reported by the Bolivarian News Agency, which is based in Venezuela.

The four hostages are former Colombian legislators: former Sen. Luis Eladio Perez and former Reps. Gloria Polanco, Orlando Beltran and Jorge Gechem, The Associated Press reported.

In Colombia, Army Cmdr. Mario Montoya said his government has given all necessary security guarantees for the hostage handoff to take place. He said that no Colombian military operations will take place near where the hostages may be freed, according to a report on a Colombian government Web site.

The four former legislators are among an estimated 750 hostages the FARC has held, many for several years, in the jungles of Colombia.

The rebel force released two hostages last month in a deal brokered by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, whose left-wing political philosophy is not far from that of the FARC, a force that was organized in the 1960s as a Marxist army intent on overthrowing the Colombian government.

The United States, the European Union and Colombia call the FARC a terrorist organization. They have resisted calls from Venezuela to lift that label in light of last month's release of the two hostages: a former Colombian congresswoman and a former candidate for the vice presidency. They had been held for about six years.

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Days after the FARC released them amid widespread news coverage, the rebels kidnapped six tourists whose boat had come ashore on Colombia's Pacific Coast.

The Venezuelan government knows the coordinates where it plans to retrieve the four, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez and Montoya said that both of their governments have been coordinating with the International Committee of the Red Cross, which Rodriguez said will "ensure the hostages' health at the moment of their delivery."

The FARC has justified hostage-taking as a legitimate military tactic in a long-running and complex civil war that also has involved right-wing paramilitaries, government forces and drug traffickers.

Perhaps the highest-profile captive in FARC custody is Ingrid Betancourt, a French-Colombian citizen and former candidate for the Colombian presidency. She was kidnapped February 23, 2002, after she and a campaign manager ventured into rebel-held territory despite warnings from the Colombian military. The FARC released her campaign manager last month.

Three U.S. citizens have been in FARC custody for more than five years. They are defense contractors who fell into rebel hands after their plane went down during a drug-eradication flight in 2003

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Chavez to Colombia: FARC You

Chavez to Colombia: FARC You
By John R. Thomson
Monday, January 21, 2008


In the ongoing saga between Venezuelan despot President Hugo Chavez and Colombian democratic President Alvaro Uribe, Chavez for the moment appears to have the upper hand. He basks in the glow of – finally – securing the release of two female hostages from the narco-trafficking and kidnapping terrorist FARC [the Spanish abbreviation of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] organization.
However, analysts in Caracas and Bogota, the countries’ capitals, are betting Chavez has overplayed his hand and that Uribe will prevail not only against his Venezuelan nemesis but also in his war of attrition against Colombia’s guerrilla gangs.
Uribe ended 2007 with the powerful revelation that one reason FARC’s once bruited, oft delayed Christmas release of three hostages had not taken place was that Emmanuel – born in captivity – was in fact already in a Bogota foster home. Undoubtedly under great pressure from an embarrassed Chavez, the release of the two ladies, both prominent politicians and one Emmanuel’s mother, ultimately took place this past week.

The cracks in the Chavez – FARC peace façade are already appearing: less than 72 hours following the two ladies’ release, FARC gunmen kidnapped six others from a beach on Colombia’s Pacific coast.

At the same time, Chavez’s plea for FARC and ELN, the two leading guerrilla groups, to no longer be called “terrorists” but belligerent combatants was rejected out of hand, not just in Bogota and Washington but also by the European Union, indicating how low the once romanticized revolutionary “freedom fighters” have fallen.
Leftist Colombian political figures are separating themselves from Chavez’s attempt to legitimize the FARC. Carlos Gaviria, head of the far left Polo Democratico party, as well as Senator Gustavo Petro, a Polo Democratico leader and close friend of Chavez, have both deplored the Venezuelan’s call to end the guerrillas’ terrorist designation.

All sides are holding Afro-Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba accountable for her ardent support of Chavez and, implicitly, the FARC. A prime factor: several weeks ago, more than five million citizens marched in the streets of the country’s main cities, demanding that the kidnapping stop and those held be released.

The Chavez-FARC alliance is not new. The FARC has enjoyed safe haven basing rights in the western jungles bordering Colombia for its troops and safe houses in Caracas for its leaders for many years. More recently, Venezuelan authorities have enabled some 300 tons annually of Colombian cocaine through the country for re-export to Europe and the U.S. – a highly profitable arrangement for both FARC and Chavez.
As important, there are strong indications that significant amounts of Russian arms purchased by Venezuela are being transshipped to FARC camps for use in their “liberation movement”.

Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe seeks to implement a multi-faceted effort to free more hostages and to strengthen his country’s anti-guerrilla position:

Surprisingly, Uribe has acquiesced in Hugo Chavez serving as a clearly biased “mediator” in hostage relief efforts. With more than 700 hostages, results to date are miniscule, but every release or escape is widely welcomed by the Colombian people, whatever the reason.

A strong government effort to win over guerrillas has been spectacularly successful, especially with the ELN, the second most powerful terror organization. Inducements to lay down their arms include cash as well as technical training programs sponsored by America’s Plan Colombia.

Simultaneously, Colombian military efforts to eliminate guerrilla leaders and encampments are steadily progressing.

Critical to the Colombian strategy is approval by the U.S. Congress of the pending free trade agreement. To date, Democrats and their labor union allies have offered multiple excuses for holding the agreement hostage [big labor has committed to spending $200 million in support of Democrats during the 2008 election cycle].
In an effort to offset the pull of American labor bosses, Colombia has shown several Congressional delegations the results of the Uribe administration’s ongoing efforts to curb violence, quell the narcotics trade and curtail what have always been minimal human rights abuses.

Unfortunately, the latest group of Washington travelers ended their visit with a carefully balanced pair of utterances. Representative James McGovern [D-Massachusetts] earned positive points by demurring from Chavez’s call for Colombia’s guerrilla groups to be legitimized as belligerents.

However, Rep. George Miller [D-California], chairman of the House Education & Labor Committee, said it was not an appropriate time to take up the free trade agreement, because of “new realities” facing the U.S. economy, including rising unemployment and recession fears. Sadly, Miller ignored the economy-strengthening fact that the FTA allows more than 90 percent of American products and services duty free status, which combined with the undervalued dollar provides significant export growth potential. This was the Democrats’ fifth rationale for refusing to take up the bilateral trade deal since its agreement by both parties in late 2006.

Such a position is extraordinarily frustrating to Colombians in and out of government, because very few of the country’s existing and prospective exports – key among them coffee and fresh flowers – prove a threat to U.S. producers. That said, encouraging legitimate agricultural exports is a strong means of discouraging farmers from cultivating the coca plant, the source of 90 percent of the world’s cocaine.

Given a little help from its friend to the north, Colombia has a very good chance of achieving the Uribe government’s ambitious plans. Despite Hugo Chavez’s current coup in the freeing of two FARC hostages, it can be hoped that truly bipartisan Congressional consideration of the free trade agreement will result in its passage, to the benefit of both countries and a particular boon to efforts to stabilize Colombia.

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Friday, January 4, 2008

STONE STONED


Oliver Stone has just declared, in his way back to Caracas after the Colombian hostage fiasco, that "Chavez is a great man" and Uribe is "the guilty party, a fraud".

He can say all he wants, but public opinion can already see the truth in the wall. The FARC did not deliver the hostages, the clowns recruited by Chavez went home with their tails within their legs and Stone could not film one foot related to the hostages.
Who is right? Stone is a proven Castro's ass-kisser. He wants to be an Ahmadinejad's ass-kisser and, of course, he is now a Chavez's ass kisser. He surely made millions but he lacks one thing: dignity. I would like to ask him:

Do you know that there are many political prisoners in Venezuela, in spite of the "pardon"recently issued by the clown?

Do you know that Venezuela has a murder rate twice as large as Iraq's?

Do you know that Chavez has received about $600 billion during his tenure and that he has almost nothing to show for it?

Do you know that the United Nations has disclaimed Chavez's pretensions to have eliminated iliteracy in the country. Do you know that Venezuela had a 93% literacy rate before Chavez came into power?

Do you know that Chavez's relatives are a bunch of thieves?

Do you know that there is not one single prisoner for corruption during Chavez' s tenure, when corruption has been at the highest historical level in Venezuela?

Do you know that there is no sugar, no milk, no sardines, no chickens in the Venezuelan markets?

Do you know that companies that do business with the Chavez's government are often owned by Chavez's friends and relatives?

Do you know that the acquisition of Argentinean bonds enriched illegally the bankers friends of Chavez and some of Chavez's bureaucrats?

Do you know that the parallel market rate of the Bolivar is three times higher than the official rate?

Do you know that Chavez has bought about $8 billion in weapons although this money was desperately needed by the Venezuelan poor?

I could go on and on but, Mr.Stone, but the questions above will suffice. What are you looking for in Venezuela? A stable supply of cocaine?
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