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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
03BOGOTA3994 2003-05-06 00:07:00 SECRET Embassy Bogota
Cable title:  

FARC KILLS TWO HIGH PROFILE HOSTAGES

Tags:   PGOV PHUM PREL PTER CO 
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1. (S) ON MAY 5, THE FARC EXECUTED TWO HIGH PROFILE HOSTAGES-
ANTIOQUIA GOVERNOR GUILLERMO GAVIRIA AND FORMER DEFENSE
MINISTER AND PEACE ADVISER GILBERTO ECHEVERRI- IN AN AREA
NEAR URRAO, ANTIOQUIA DEPARTMENT. EIGHT SOLDIERS WHO THE
FARC ALSO HAD KIDNAPPED WERE KILLED AS WELL. SOURCES
INDICATE THAT THE MURDERS TOOK PLACE DURING AN ILL-FATED
RESCUE ATTEMPT BY A COLOMBIAN SPECIAL FORCES UNIT. THE FARC
DISCOVERED THE ATTEMPTED RESCUE AND A FIREFIGHT ENSUED.
DURING THIS ENCOUNTER, THE FARC ALLEGEDLY EXECUTED THE
PRISONERS WITH SHOTS TO THE HEAD.



2. (S) THE FARC RELEASED A STATEMENT THAT CONFIRMED THE
DEATHS OF GAVIRIA AND ECHEVERRI, ALONG WITH THE MILITARY
HOSTAGES, AND ATTRIBUTED THE FATALITIES TO A FAILED RESCUE
ATTEMPT ORCHESTRATED BY THE COLOMBIAN GOVERNMENT. GAVIRIA
AND ECHEVERRI HAD BEEN KIDNAPPED BY THE FARC ON APRIL 21,
2002 WHILE PARTICIPATING IN A PEACE MARCH IN CAICEDO,
ANTIOQUIA DEPARTMENT.

3.(U) THE 41-YEAR-OLD GAVIRIA, SON OF A PROMINENT MEDELLIN
FAMILY THAT OWNED THE INFLUENTIAL EL MUNDO NEWSPAPER, ENTERED
OFFICE AS GOVERNOR OF ANTIOQUIA IN JANUARY, 2001. HE WAS THE
SOLE CANDIDATE OF THE LIBERAL PARTY DURING THAT CAMPAIGN.
PREVIOUSLY, HE HAD WORKED AS DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL
INSTITUTE OF ROADS OF COLOMBIA FROM 1994 UNTIL 1999. HE
ATTENDED THE COLORADO SCHOOL OF MINES WHERE HE GRADUATED WITH
A DEGREE IN ENGINEERING AND MINING ADMINISTRATION.



4. (U) THE 69-YEAR-OLD ECHEVERRI, FORMER MINISTER OF DEFENSE
DURING THE SAMPER ADMINISTRATION, WORKED AS THE PEACE
COMMISSIONER FOR ANTIOQUIA. THE MEDELLIN NATIVE HAD HELD THE
GOVERNORSHIP OF ANTIOQUIA FROM 1990-91. FOLLOWING THIS, HE
REENTERED THE PRIVATE SECTOR AS PRESIDENT OF THE CELLULAR
TELEPHONE COMPANY, OCCEL.



5. (C) COMMENT: THE ASSASSINATION OF GAVIRIA AND ECHEVERRI,
BOTH POPULAR POLITICIANS, BY THE FARC WILL STUN COLOMBIANS.
GAVIRIA AND ECHEVERRI WERE THE FARC'S TWO MOST IMPORTANT
BARGAINING CHIPS WITH THE GOVERNMENT IN SECURING AN EXCHANGE
OF HOSTAGES FOR FARC PRISONERS. WE EXPECT THAT URIBE WILL
ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE BOTCHED RESCUE ATTEMPT. URIBE
WILL NOW FIND HIMSELF UNDER EVEN MORE INTENSE PRESSURE TO
NEGOTIATE A HOSTAGE EXCHANGE WITH THE FARC AND FOREGO FUTURE
RESCUE ATTEMPTS. URIBE WILL RESIST THIS PRESSURE TO
NEGOTIATE A HOSTAGE EXCHANGE; HOWEVER, HE MAY SHY AWAY FROM
APPROVING ANY RESCUE EFFORTS IN THE NEAR FUTURE. AS FOR THE
FARC, ITS TERRORIST INSTINCTS HAVE ONCE AGAIN FORFEITED ANY
SUCCESS AT GAINING SOME POSITIVE POLITICAL TRACTION ON THE
HOSTAGE ISSUE. EMBASSY IS CERTAIN THAT WE CAN DETERMINE THE
EXACT FACTS OF THE RESCUE IN A FEW DAYS, AND WE WILL ADVISE
THE DEPARTMENT AND OTHER AGENCIES. END COMMENT.


PATTERSON