Bill Collier- Venezuela’s economy is in shambles. This means that the socialist quasi-dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro is in no position to conduct foreign advantures, including providing aid, such as arms and money, to the Fuerza Armada de Revolucion Colombia (FARC).
FARC has enjoyed the financial windfalls of drug trafficking, raking in over $2 million per day, and other forms of aid from communist Cuba and socialist Venenzuela. With an army of some 30,000 controlling 16,000 square miles (an area refered to as the “despeje”, FARC could rely on Venezuelan and Cuban technical, military, financial, and even military aid. Hugo Chavez, the deceased Venezuelan President, lobbied heavily to grant FARC legal standing under international law as a “belligerent”, but these efforts were rebuffed.
A failing Venezuelan economy, Peru’s rise as the major cocaine exporter (surpassing Colombia), and the falling price of oil coupled with aggresive Venezuelan military action have reduced FARC substantially. Currently it is estimated that only 8,000 fighters remain in FARC ranks, drug revenues may be down by 50%, Cuba is more interested in ending the conflict in Colombia in its bid for reapproachment with the West, and Venezuela is totally distracted by a crumbling economy.
Venezuela may be the key factor. While FARC has not always relied on Venezuela, since around 2000, Venezuela had become a key support for the Marxist guerilla army. Over its 50 year history, FARC has been able to maintain some form of external support, be it from the USSR or Cuba, but today FARC finds its message marginalized among many Colombians and, as its now primary patron’s economy is crumbling it has not yet found a new external partner.
Cuba brokered a peace deal with FARC and the Colombian government, a deal which critics say was made behind the back of the Colomiban people and which many fear gives too much ground to an organization that is rapidly coming undone. But from FARC’s perspective the deal is a far cry from what they wanted: their aim was to take control over all of Colombia. As it stands, they face a “normalization” that will leave them disarmed and open them up to local elections in which their Marxist political party may find it lacks popular support even in the despeje.
Venezuela is, at present, the key. Their failing economy prevents the government from taking action to help its ideological kin in Colombia. For instance, the Venezuelan regime is printing so much currency to cover its debt that it suffers a 64% rate of inflation and oil revenues have gone from 89 Billion dollars in 2005 to only 38 Billion projected for 2015. Not only is Venezuela suffering from a reduction of oil prices but it appears to be producing less oil, although sorting through officials figures one might easily be misled or confused. Exports of oil to the US peaked in 1998 at around 50,000 barrels a month and are now averaging around 23,000 barrels a month. This is expected to decline further.
Add to that the fact the Venezuelan government’s socialist policies have reduced domestic manufacturing and food production by as much as 50%, and it is obvious that Caracas cannot afford to sponsor FARC. Indeed, security forces are now too busy guarding against popular uprisings at home to worry over much about FARC’s shrinking forces.
Officially, since May of 2014, there is a cease fire in effect in Colombia, and no new reports of those kidnappings which made FARC so onerous in the eyes of many Colombians and Venezuelans have occured since then. Talks continue even as losing money and external support continues to weaken FARC from within. Domestic political pressure is coming to bear on the Colombian government to take a tougher line in negotiations. Meanwhile, Cuba is trying to salvage as much for FARC as it can but has essentially signalled that “final victory” for FARC has been officially abandoned by its external patrons.
The final demise of FARC is not guaranteed, this is not the firt time FARC has faced ruin, but many observers believe that its final end has never more likely than it is now, and this is fueled primarily by Venezuela’s apparent economic collapse. What this reveals about FARC is that the Marxist organization has always never been anything without the support of illegal drugs and foreign patrons.