Front page story at the WSJ today:
Chávez Lets Colombia Rebels Wield Power Inside Venezuela
For years, President Chávez has denied giving refuge to the FARC and Colombia’s National Liberation Army, or ELN, both considered terrorist organizations by the U.S. and Europe. But as the Colombian military has stepped up pressure against rebels, the number of guerrillas using Venezuela as a safe haven has swelled, according to Colombian officials, intercepted e-mails and dozens of interviews on both sides of the border.
Colombian and U.S. officials say Venezuela’s military and police authorities turn a blind eye to guerrilla activity, and at times cooperate in areas including the trafficking of arms and cocaine. As these groups expand operations here, often in brutal competition with each other, Venezuela has suffered a sharp increase in kidnapping, drug trafficking and extortion.
The guerrillas’ presence in Venezuela could prolong Colombia’s decades-long civil conflict, and hamper U.S. and Colombian efforts to crack down on the drug trade that feeds the violence. The rebels could also prove to be a drain to Mr. Chávez’s political capital in Venezuela, where their activities are unpopular.
Let’s hope so. The FARC is involved in the drug trade, which can bring a lot of money to a lot of people, not just those in power:
Inside Venezuela, locals say the FARC and other rebel groups are unimpeded by local military and law enforcement, even as the groups often battle each other for influence along vast border territory. None of these residents wished to be identified.
The FARC also operates in Venezuela’s cities, far from the border. Marcela, a 23-year-old former guerrilla, says she spent the month of August 2006 in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela’s largest port, working with a FARC squad and a Venezuelan National Guard captain. Her job was to shadow a Citibank bank manager as a kidnap target.
This is a must-read article, which includes map of the region, and the text of a few FARC emails