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Column 031708 Brewer

Monday, March 17, 2008

Colombia Looks to Dismantle FARC Guerrillas

By Jerry Brewer

Latin American revolutionaries – wake up and smell the coffee.

It may be a bitter taste, but there is an aggressive and unified
strategy of zero-tolerance on the way. The U.S. is no stranger to
this action and has contributed around US$5 billion over the last
seven years to the Colombian government for assistance and
training to aggressively locate and stop guerrilla insurgency and
narcotrafficking in Colombia. This a nominal sum considering
the U.S. has a US$60 billion yearly illicit drug demand.

Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe has boldly emerged as a no-
nonsense leader and continues to focus on defeating and
demobilizing terrorist groups in his homeland. Vigorous law
enforcement, intelligence, military, and economic measures
against terrorist insurgents is his mandate.

How successful has President Uribe's war on terror been?
Security forces have captured or killed numerous terrorists and
mid-level commanders; debriefed combatant deserters for
detailed information, and hence reduced the territory or area of
terrorist operations in Colombia. The Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC), the main narco-terrorist group, has
been reduced to around 9,000 soldiers; down from about
18,000 six years ago.

Colombia's successful and strategic initiatives have also
brought the homicide rate down 40 percent over the last five
years. Terror attacks against citizens were down 61 percent,
and kidnapping for ransom by 76 percent.

It certainly is no secret that the U.S. Military’s Southern
Command plays a strategic and proactive role in this highly
effective operation in Latin America. The keen intelligence focus
on these terrorists consists of tracking terrorist training, their
recruiting, fundraising, logistical support, and their pre-attack

Significant dollars are also offered as bounty for the capture of
terror leaders, and to encourage dissension among the ranks.
This unique strategy has also resulted in the ritual dismantling
of the al-Qaida leadership hierarchy.

The arrest recently in Thailand of notorious Russian arms
dealer Viktor Bout [41] is a textbook example of U.S.
commitment to the war on terror on all continents. Bout believed
he was dealing with the FARC who sought to purchase millions
of dollars in weapons.

President Uribe's frustrations have been what he describes as a
lack of support by Venezuela and Ecuador in the tracking and
capture of these terror insurgents. The recent incursion by
Colombia into Ecuador to kill around 25 guerrillas and capture
two high level commanders echoes Uribe's complaints about a
lack of cooperation from his neighbors.

President Uribe accused President Rafael Correa of Ecuador of
having ties to the FARC. A letter allegedly pulled from the
computer of a rebel leader killed showed that the FARC had
supported Correa during his 2006 presidential campaign. Too,
Colombia's national police chief stated that evidence from a
computer showed that the FARC had given Venezuela's
President Hugo Chavez $100 million pesos when he was a
jailed rebel leader. The computer apparently also revealed a
US$300 million contribution to the FARC from Chavez.

President Uribe stated that the "terrorists are always tipped off"
to raids that are planned by Colombian officials. Uribe did not
notify Correa of the operational plan into Ecuador; "I was sure
that the operation would have failed," Uribe said. This time it
didn't. Uribe gave his apologies to President Correa and
President Chavez after the belated news.

Venezuela has traditionally had close relations with the United
States. Declining cooperation on anti-drug and anti-terrorism
efforts by Venezuela under the Chavez administration has been
a major U.S. concern. The U.S. government states that
Venezuela has failed to adhere to its obligations under
international narcotics agreements. Venezuela is ranked as one
of the principal drug transit countries in this hemisphere.

President Uribe deserves much praise from his peace-loving
Latin American and world neighbors. His aggressive posture in
detecting, infiltrating, disrupting, and dismantling terrorists
groups and their support networks in his homeland, along with
solid U.S. cooperation, has been exemplary.

Transnational terrorism and organized crime constitute the
primary threats to U.S. interests in this hemisphere. Terrorists
must not be given the freedom to operate in ungoverned spaces
or conveniently ignored by government state-supported
regimes. Terrorists are a common threat to freedom and
transcend national borders, as well as exceed a nation's ability
to unilaterally address them effectively.

Jerry Brewer, the Vice President of Criminal Justice
International Associates, a global risk mitigation firm
headquartered in Miami, Florida, is a guest columnist with