Sunday, December 06, 2009

Colombia and Venezuela: Close Enough But Not Too Far

The Center for International Policy's Just the Facts blog has a nice timeline of the recent conflicts between Colombia and Venezuela. I keep thinking that it would be so beneficial if the two countries could focus squarely on border problems. Of course, Hugo Chávez is focused primarily on Colombia's security agreement with the U.S. and how Alvaro Uribe and Barack Obama refused to provide any assurances to Colombia's neighbors about its details or implications. But even if the U.S. was not being given access to Colombian bases, the dysfunctional border would remain.

The border is violent, drug-ridden, lawless, and corrupt. It is therefore constantly contributing to souring relations. Some sort of bilateral effort to address concrete border issues could establish some level of confidence to deal with the broader diplomatic conflict. Instead, the two countries are moving apart. In October, Colombia's exports to Venezuela dropped 70%. Amazingly, China has replaced Venezuela as Colombia's second largest trading partner. Diversification of trading partners is fine, but it is unfortunate to have trade so disrupted between two large neighboring countries.


Vicente Duque 1:04 PM  

Colombia climbed out of what seemed like a bottomless pit of despair in 2002. But Uribe may be putting these gains at risk

Wall Street Journal
Uribe's Constitutional Challenge
The heroic Colombian president is putting his gains at risk by trying for a third term.

DECEMBER 6, 2009

Uribe's Constitutional Challenge

Some excerpts :

The difference between a modern republic of self-governance and the ersatz "democracy" of many underdeveloped countries is that the former is ruled by institutions, the latter by men.

So which does Colombian President Álvaro Uribe want for his country?

In a republic, institutional order is bound by a rule of law designed to protect the rights of individuals against each other and against the power of the state. Property rights, civil liberties and human progress all fare better when state actors, even those who are wildly popular, are constrained by institutional checks and balances.

For most of the past seven years Colombia has seemed to be inching ever closer to this higher ideal. Many aspects of daily life here have improved immensely since Mr. Uribe took office in August 2002. The rebirth of personal security and the professionalism of the military that is largely responsible for it are both products of Mr. Uribe's leadership.

Will the Colombian President push for a third term?
So too is the improved investment climate, and the fact that the state oil company can now make use of private capital. The state telecom company has been partially privatized. Teachers unions have had to accept some limitations on their generous pensions. Colombia has signed and ratified a free-trade agreement with the U.S. (yet to be ratified in Washington) and has begun to look to Asia for new trade, tax and investment treaties.

Having watched their country climb out of what seemed like a bottomless pit of despair in 2002, Colombians have had reason to believe that they were leaving the Latin American world of caudillo government. But now there is concern that Mr. Uribe's efforts to hang onto power by altering the constitution, so that he can run in the May presidential election for a third term, will undermine the gains the nation has made and jeopardize future progress.

The Future of Foreign Policies :

Vicente Duque

Vicente Duque 7:47 AM  

U.S. ambassador William Brownfield : "Colombia has been the most successful nation-building exercise by the United States in this century"

The Weekly Standard
The Colombian Miracle
How Alvaro Uribe with smart U.S. support turned the tide against drug lords and Marxist guerrillas.

by Max Boot and Richard Bennet
Max Boot is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD. Richard Bennet is a research associate in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
December 14, 2009, Volume 015, Issue 13

The Colombian Miracle

Some excerpts from a very long article :

Don't get us wrong. FARC still exists and it's still dangerous, but it has been pushed back to a few remote areas mainly near the borders with Ecuador and Venezuela, whose governments are friendly to the Marxist rebels. Its strength is down from 18,000 fighters a decade ago to fewer than 9,000 today. More and more of its cadres are deserting--3,027 last year, up from just 529 in 2002. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was not uncommon to see 100 or more FARC fighters attacking an army base or government building. Municipalities were overrun with disturbing frequency, and even crack army units suffered military defeats. Today it is rare to see even 10 fighters massing for a single attack, and their ability to carry out more spectacular raids has been all but eliminated.

Last year was a particularly bad one for the group. At the beginning of March, Raul Reyes, one of seven members of FARC's ruling secretariat, was killed in an attack by Colombian armed forces on his base inside Ecuador. That same month, another member of the secretariat, Ivan Rios, was killed by one of his own bodyguards, who cut off Rios's hand as proof of his deed so that he could collect a $2 million reward. March ended with the death, apparently of natural causes, of FARC's senior leader and co-founder, 80-year-old Manuel Marulanda. Less than two months later, one of FARC's best-known and most ruthless commanders, "Karina" (Nelly Avila Moreno), who led the forces in the vicinity of Medellín, surrendered. Her decision to stop fighting is part of a trend: Since 2004, the number of veteran fighters--those with more than 10 years of experience in the group--leaving the battlefield has increased by a factor of 10

The most spectacular event of 2008 occurred on July 2 when Colombian commandos disguised as guerrillas wearing Che Guevara T-shirts descended in a Russian-built helicopter into a FARC camp deep in the jungle. Pretending they were transferring hostages to another FARC facility, they took off with 15 kidnapping victims including three American contractors and former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt. Operation Jaque, carried out without a shot fired, has elevated the reputation of the Colombian armed forces to new heights.

Many more would join Dario in defecting were it not for the intimidation practiced by the FARC leadership and the support they receive from outside sources. "We can annihilate them while they are in our country," one National Police officer told us. "Unfortunately they seek refuge in other countries." FARC has found a particularly important sanctuary in Venezuela, where Hugo Chávez offers them not only bases and contacts with the outside world but also medical care, arms, intelligence, money, and other support. The Colombian armed forces are especially worried that, through Chávez's good graces, FARC may be acquiring portable antiaircraft missiles that could negate their helicopters.

The Future of Foreign Policies :

Vicente Duque

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