Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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The FARC's Cruel New Year's Hoax
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) perpetrated a cruel hoax both on their friends (Hugo Chavez et al) and the families of the victims they have kidnapped and held for years.

The FARC, a designated terrorist entity, is the oldest insurgent group in Latin America, and a significant force in the production and marketing of the majority of the cocaine on the streets of the United States and Europe. Because of this, its international reputation is tarnished, to say the least. Chavez was going to help fix all that with a grand humanitarian gesture.

While the U.S. has provided more than $1 billion the the past 10 years to Colombia to help curb drug trafficking, the FARC has grown, as has its budget and operational capabilities. Coca planting has not been significantly reduced, in part because the FARC has not been seriously rolled back.

Chavez, using his contacts and friendship with the FARC, a group that has long since lost its ideological moorings and become a functioning criminal enterprise, to arrange the the release of three hostages, including one child from the FARC.

Oliver Stone, the former president of Argentina, senior Bolivian officials and international representatives were all called to Caracas to witness the historic event of Chavez bringing the FARC to some form of respectability.

Not only did Chavez arrange for an all-star cast to meet the hostages, who were to be released onto Venezuelan helicopters, but he gave numerous assurances that the plan was on track.

Only it wasn't. It turns out the FARC may not even have the boy, who would be almost 4 years old in hand. The hopes of getting the hostages out soon have foundered. Chavez is badly humiliated by his friends, and the FARC's tattered reputation took another hit.

The FARC is currently holding some 750 hostages, including three American contract workers, and Ingrid Betancourt, a former presidential candidate. Some of those held are soldiers and policemen captured up to 10 years ago, and marched endlessly through the jungle to keep them from being liberated.

The current fiasco is typical FARC MO. They have never fulfilled the promises they have made to free hostages, end their worst human rights abuses, or deal with drug trafficking.

Instead, they have turned a group of Marxist rebels with some semblance of coherent ideology into a private army of some 17,000 combatants, controlling 40 percent of the national territory. They rely on kidnappings, the protection of coca fields and the production of cocaine to finance their increasingly well financed and sophisticated operations.

Little high-level attention is paid the the FARC, as attention is focused on Iraq, Afghanistan and a few other places. But the FARC, with its criminal connections, is a major threat both to Colombia, the Andean region, and the United States.

The latest fiasco, and the new round of heartbreak for the families whose hopes were raised, just highlights the limits of even sympathetic intervention on behalf of those who suffer from the FARC's senseless cruelty.

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