This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS BOGOTA 012945
TAGS: PTER PINR PHUM KJUS CO OAS AUC SUBJECT: Guarded Optimism at First Year Anniversary of BCN Demobilization
REF: BOGOTA 12188
--------------------------------------------- ----------- "It's Working"-First Year Anniversary of BCN Demobilization --------------------------------------------- -----------
1. Just hours after the November 25 demobilization of AUC's Bananero Bloc combatants in Turbo, Antioquia Department (reftel), the first anniversary of the demobilization of the Cacique Nutibara Bloc (BCN) was celebrated in the department capital of Medellin. With banners emblazoned with the slogan "After a Year - it's Working", the cavernous Medellin convention hall filled with an audience of over 1000, including former BCN combatants and their families, public officials, civil society leaders, and representatives of foreign missions.
2. In a keynote speech, former BCN commander Diego Murrillo, one of the AUC's principal negotiators in talks with the GOC, described the difficult road traveled in the ongoing peace process. He told the crowd that former and current AUC combatants can "see a light of hope at the end of the tunnel that will bring us to join our families, reconcile with society, and search for political space.... From a position of legality [we will] contribute to the building of roads towards often mentioned but never well understood social justice."
3. Murillo accused critics of the peace process of refusing to accept the mechanisms of pardon and reconciliation. He was critical of their purported "wish to apply humanitarian fundamentalism," characterizing them as "trapped in offices in Europe.." He said they "fail to understand, not even with a glance, the dramatic realities of Colombia. A process of peace that does 'not have as a fundamental direction pardon and reconciliation is' not viable." Departing from his written remarks, he asked the GOC to be generous in its handling of the movement's leaders' legal status.
4. In his public remarks, Mayor of Medellin Sergio Fajardo admitted that a year earlier he had serious doubts about prospects for success of the AUC demobilization process. However, as a close observer of the process over the past year, he had become a believer. Linking the demobilization to reduced levels of violence, he noted that murders in the city had fallen by over 60% from the previous year. Yet he reminded the gathering that the problems of Medellin and Antioquia will not be solved only by demobilizing former combatants, but by dealing successfully with other forms of violence and offering Medellin's youth educational and employment opportunities that discourage them from joining criminal gangs or engaging in other types of crime.
5. The mood after the ceremony was genuinely positive, almost festive. Embassy officials spoke with several demobilized fighters, all of whom said they were happy to have returned to their families and reintegrated into society and "legality." Although they recognized that the road ahead is not easy, they emphasized that it is nevertheless better than the one left behind.