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
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
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.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, January 18, 2008

Country report forecast - January 2008


Link below:

Country Report Forecast_2008

Outlook for 2008-09

• Mr Chávez's defeat in the December 2007 referendum on constitutional reform will give a boost to the beleaguered opposition. However, internal divisions and a lack of influence over policy remain significant challenges.
• The government will continue to use the state’s wealth of energy resources as leverage to deepen diplomatic and commercial relations with countries it considers "friendly" within and outside the region.
• The government is unlikely to move towards full state control of the economy, but concerns about further nationalisation will curb private-sector investment.
• The central government deficit is forecast to widen, as non-oil revenue falls, but the true fiscal position will be worse, as an increasing burden of expenditure will be placed on PDVSA and Fonden.
• Deficiencies in the policy environment and a stabilisation of fiscal revenue will combine to produce a deceleration of GDP growth in the forecast period.
• Assuming that oil prices remain high, the authorities are unlikely to devalue the bolívar until 2009. Sales of dollar-denominated assets will increase, but the gap between the premium and official exchange rates will remain large.

The political scene: Referendum defeat boosts opposition

On December 2nd, the electorate voted to reject a government-sponsored reform of the constitution, whichwould have significantly enhanced the powers of the president, Hugo Chávez (November 2007,
The political scene).
The vote was divided into two blocks, the first relating to changes proposed by Mr Chávez and the second to changes proposed by the National Assembly. The result was close; according to the official figures from the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE, the electoral authority), the first block was repudiated by 50.7% to 49.3%; the second was rejected by 51.1% to 48.9%. There were several hours of considerable tension before the CNE announced that with 87% of the ballots counted, the result was "irreversible". Mr Chávez conceded defeat, although there was speculation that this concession might have been wrung from a reluctant president by implicit or explicit threats from elements within the armed forces.
Mr Chávez's defeat can be attributed in large measure to the recent coalescing of a mass student-based opposition movement, combined with the open rebellion of former Chávez allies. A retired general and popular former minister of defence, Raúl Baduel, campaigned strongly against the constitutional changes and urged Venezuelans to come out in force to vote "no". A small party allied to Mr Chávez, Podemos, also rejected the proposed reforms. The relatively high rate of abstention (45%) also hurt the government's campaign, since many of those who stayed at home were Chávez supporters. This suggests that support for the president rests mostly on his social spending programmes and generally pro-poor policies, rather than on his socialist ideology. A deteriorating economic situation has also contributed to disillusionment with the government, with price and exchange controls generating shortages of basic goods and rampant inflation (see Economic policy). Outside the economic sphere, there is also growing disillusionment with failure to improve delivery of basic services, such as water and housing, to the poor, which is blamed in large part on corruption and mismanagement of the oil windfall.
This result is a major political and personal defeat for Mr Chávez, as it marks the first time that he has lost a national election since winning the presidency in 1998. Mr Chávez has insisted that his planned reforms have been delayed rather than abandoned. He could use his significant powers, including the ability to legislate by decree under the Ley Habilitante and complete dominance over the National Assembly, to push through some of the proposed changes.
However, given the lack of public support this could deepen divisions within his own ranks. Some of the proposed changes would still require a reform of the constitution via a petition by voters, which is unlikely. Much will depend on how the opposition positions itself over the coming months. The victory of the "no" campaign was evidence of the emergence of a "third pole" (as Ismael García, leader of Podemos, calls it), comprising those who have become disillusioned with Mr Chávez but are reluctant to join the ranks of the discredited and unpopular opposition parties. This could be a dangerous development for the president, who has been very successful in presenting his adversaries as belonging to pro-US camp. This places the opposition in a position to reap considerable gains in regional elections due in October, but this will require the traditional and new opposition elements to forge a workable alliance.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Venezuela Glance 2008

Venezuela Glance 2008

Check the following link. Chavez is going down.

Labels: ,