Colombia and Venezuela
Three years ago, Colombian soldiers raided a FARC camp one mile across the Ecuadorian border. The soldiers killed at least 20 rebel fighters including senior commander Raul Reyes and sparked a major diplomatic crisis. Then last Tuesday, the International Institute of Strategic Studies released a book analyzing a trove of high-level documents seized after the attack. According to The New York Times, the book provides “an intricate history of collaboration with Venezuelan officials, who have asked [the FARC] to provide urban guerrilla training to pro-government cells [in Venezuela] and to assassinate political opponents of Venezuela’s president.”
Many of the documents have been seen previously. The Colombian government gradually leaked the files after the raid, and reports linking Venezuelan authorities with the FARC have circulated for years. FARC collaboration with pro-Chavez urban militias and autonomous Bolivarian militant groups was reported in the Colombian press in 2008. The Times report also notes the book makes no assertion anyone was assassinated by Venezuelan intelligence services through the FARC, or that President Hugo Chavez was even aware of the requests.
But what’s interesting, security analyst James Bosworth writes, “is the love-hate relationship that the FARC have with Chavez.” The Venezuelan leader loaned cash to Reyes in 2000 to purchase arms, and has assisted the FARC in establishing safe havens inside Venezuela. However, Chavez has confronted the FARC, arrested FARC members and even double-crossed the group’s operatives during a mission to transport uniforms across the country. “Now we know the FARC are rather annoyed and confused about the whole thing,” Bosworth writes.
Zetas gunmen killed Guatemalan businessman Haroldo Leon and three of his bodyguards over the weekend. Hours later on Sunday morning, Leon’s coconut ranch in Petan Department near the Mexican border was overrun. Twenty-nine people were killed. “This is the worst massacre we have seen in modern times,” police spokesman Donald Gonzalez said. Leon’s brother and suspected drug trafficker Juan Jose “Juancho” Leon, was killed by the Zetas in 2008, and Guatemalan media reports suspect Haroldo took over the business.
There are contradictory reports regarding how the killers arrived at the farm. Guatemalan National Civil Police director Jaime Leonel Otzin said some 200 gunmen arrived aboard buses. The army, however, said the gunmen traveled in several vehicles, probably a convoy of souped-up and heavily-armed pickup trucks and SUVs characteristic of the Zetas. The Guatemalan army’s 1st Infantry Brigade was mobilized to pursue the convoy to Mexico.
The monster was captured in 2010 by the Mexican army. It was formerly a dump truck. But the Zetas welded armored plates to it, transforming the machine into a bulletproof beast of doom called “El Monstruo.” Last month, in the war-torn town of Ciudad Mier across the border from Roma, Texas, the Mexican army seized a second machine: “El Monstruo 2011.” The second monster is bigger, more than twice as fast, and resembles a World War II German half-track. “So this seems like a bad thing,” tweeted Charles Homans.
According to the Blog Del Narco, more models of the Monster 2011 truck exist, “with a greater presence in the state of Tamaulipas.”
Meanwhile, the Mexican government is to deploy 500 more soldiers to the state of Tamaulipas, boosting the state’s deployed military force to 3,700. A firefight also erupted between Mexican marines and the Zetas on an island in the Falcon International Reservoir one week ago. The lake straddles the Texas-Tamaulipas border between Laredo and McAllen, Texas.