Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The FARC business inside Venezuela increasingly revealed

Chavez must start regretting a little bit his praise words toward the FARC. This is only resulting in an increased scrutiny of the FARC activities inside Venezuela by the press. And the Chavez administration is not looking good at all. In fact, in his latest article Juan Forero barely stops himself from accusing chavismo to be collaborating deliberately with the FARC business inside Venezuela. It must have been difficult for him to stop as we even have a "smoking gun" of sorts through the confessions of FARC deserters. This is in fact the most complete and researched article that I have seen so far from the foreign press about the specific activities of the FARC, even more remarkable that Juan Forero used to be a chavez supporter and that by writing such an article he endangers his position inside Colombia where he is based. Either that or inside Colombia the FARC is in such trouble that people are starting again to write and report about the FARC terror.

So, which are these activities inside Venezuela? Kidnapping for money (Forero does not mention drug trafficking, but that is OK, his article is damning enough as it is).

Which are the modalities? Direct kidnapping or kidnapping threats by FARC or ELN groups, and also the local mob kidnapping people that are thought to be at least worth half a million bucks to "resell" them to the FARC.

Which are the practical aspects? Kidnapping of course, with people held often for years. Even when they die in captivity, kidnappers still try to collect a ransom pretending they are alive. But there is also a very extended system of "vacuna" vaccine, where you are obliged to pay a certain sum every year if you do not want you or your relatives to be kidnapped at some point.

What does the chavista government do to prevent? Nothing. In fact it is busy diminishing the statistics, minimizing the numbers, trying to make links with the mob only, going as far as to pretend that the FARC has nothing to do when it is public and notorious that the FARC has been at it for years. And if it is not the FARC that is directly involved, the leaders seem all to be graduates from the FARC or ELN universities.

Does the government of Chavez participates? All seems to indicate that yes, it does so and actively. We have the kind words of Interior Minister Rodriguez Chacin to the FARC guerrilla that released Hernandez and Rojas early January. But we also have many testimonies form ex FARC. The Venezuelan Nazional Guard and other "security" offices such as the DISIP are deeply infiltrated and some of its components collaborate extensively with the kidnappers to facilitate information on the potential victims. This is even seen these days in non FARC related crimes such as the regular ransom activities observed in Caracas where quite often police from the Metropolitana are involved.

Which are the results? Staggering. Kidnapping went up from 44 the year Chavez reached power to 232 in 2006 and 382 last year, government numbers! Private numbers are much higher as many victims are very aware that the authorities are not only of no help but usually make things worse. In addition this has disrupted the agricultural production of one of the most productive areas of the country, Tachira and Sur del Lago since of course it is much easier to monitor the "wealth" of agricultural producers and to kidnap them while the travel through the country side to check on their fields. The food shortages that we are suffering are due in part to that situation.

Is there anything new in Forero's article? No, nothing. All has been said beofre, Forero just had to put it all together. But he has the merit of research, of talking to the victims and of exposing himself as a target for which he deserves praise. We must thank him for this because inside Venezuela it is becoming more difficult to speak abotu those things. Journalists now know that talking about such issues will result in an automatic tax income audit at the very least, to real threat of body harm, to even exile. Yesterday again, the legislative body chamber of the Carabobo state was wrecked by disgruntled supporters of the Governor Acosta Carles with journalists trying to film the event crudely aggressed. So you can imagine what happens when these journalists try to cover matters such as drugs or kidnapping....

Any political repercussions? Forero duly notes that the FARC link is not helping at all the popularity of Chavez. As the kidnapping industry expands, the bitterness of the victims and of the people who know about them increases. To which I can add that it is becoming clear to all that if the state security does not fight such abominable crime, it will fight even less petty crime that is the scourge of all of us. The recent pictures of the hordes of people trying to get food in Tachira are also contributing to slowly but surely illustrate to people how the government blind eye approach to the problem is affecting even their access to food. No wonder Chavez went straight to the confrontation with Exxon, even if through that unnecessary fight he wrecks the economy once and for all. After all, Chavez has made a career to hide a scandal with a new one, bigger if possible. But that is how thugs operate, no?

-The end-

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