Saturday, March 08, 2008

America's Dangerous New Proxy War In South America

These days Washington views everything through a prism of terrorism it seems. And Washington's views on the latest and most dangerous new military tensions between Colombia, Equador and Venezuela certainly reflect this view from Washington that every conflict can be resolved by bombing away opposition movements.

In South America on March 1, Colombia launched a successful military attack within Equadorian territory to attack a guerrilla camp and kill the international spokesman, Paul Reyes, of the leftist Marxist organization, FARC, which has created serious tensions between neighboring Venezuela as well angering Equador. Certainly FARC is far from a saintly organization by any means, which has financed itself through kidnappings, drug dealing and even Human Rights Watch has condemned the sexual abuse of young girls involved in this guerilla movement by some leaders of the organization who have misused their power. As much as 30% of the 15,000 estimated fighters involved with this guerrilla organization may be under 18 years of age. Children over the age of 11 are considered to be of age to become fighters in this organization with many child soldiers. Many in Colombia are drawn to this organization as a way out of poverty rather than really drawn to the Marxist revolutionary philosophy.

It is an easy mistake for Washington to want to compare FARC to a terrorist organization such as Al Qaeda. However the cycle of poverty in Colombia as well as the lure of easy drug money seem to draw many young followers to this military outgrowth of the Columbian Communist Party. However the attack to kill the international spokesman of the organization, Paul Reyes, has ended any good efforts for the government of Colombia to work out some cease-fire or peace settlement terms with this organization. Reyes has met with the NYSE head Paul Grasso, and members of the Clinton State Department before in some attempts to bring this organization to peaceful terms.

Washington has a strong military client state stake in Colombia, providing $600 million each year in military aid to the government. Yet this government in Columbia must really resolve the serious issues of extreme poverty that influence so many to join an organization such as FARC or involvement in the drug trade. Simply bombing away opposition groups such as FARC or killing the leadership who are at least willing to take part in some peace talks is really no solution.

Colombia is unfortunately a major supplier of illegal drugs to the U.S. And it certainly serves the interests of the U.S. to put a stop to this terrible epidemic. However, a proxy war by Wahington against an organization such as FARC really does little to raise up the economy of Colombia and replace the dangerous drug trade and poverty with viable new economic opportunities. The terrible poverty in Colombia and the related problems associated with it really require a far more intelligent answer than simply attempting to bomb away poverty.

On so many levels FARC is hardly any good organization by any measurable means, however it represents the social and political frustrations of many in Colombia. Any organization that takes hostages for ransom money to finance itself or deals in drugs to finance operations cannot be admired on any level. Even many leftist leaders in Columbia are completely disgusted with FARC taking hostages for ransom. But FARC continues to represent the serious social problems within Colombia. Colombia needs to resolve many social problems and Washington must be careful not to provoke a wider new war in South America that could represent further dangerous disruptions for oil from the region. A war in South America is the last thing the troubled world oil markets need right now.