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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04BOGOTA2067
2004-02-27 20:20:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bogota
Cable title:  

AZNAR VISITS COLOMBIA

Tags:  PREL MASS PTER PGOV CO SP VE 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BOGOTA 002067 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/27/2014
TAGS: PREL MASS PTER PGOV CO SP VE
SUBJECT: AZNAR VISITS COLOMBIA


Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood. Reasons: 1.5 B & D.

----------
Solidarity
----------



1. (U) Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar came to Colombia
to express his solidarity with President Alvaro Uribe's fight
against terrorism and to underscore Spanish assistance to
Colombia. He also addressed a forum on Democracy and
Development in Latin America, organized by the International
Foundation for Freedom and chaired by Peruvian writer Mario
Vargas Llosa. During the two-day visit to Cartagena, Aznar
expressed support for President Uribe's Democratic Security
Strategy and noted that both countries were effectively
fighting terrorism. Aznar said he would urge the European
Union to place Colombia's National Liberation Army (ELN)
guerrillas on the EU's terrorist list.



--------------------------


Development Assistance


--------------------------





2. (U) Speaking from a 17th Century convent restored with
Spanish assistance, Aznar noted that Spain is Europe's top
donor to Colombia. At a joint press conference, Uribe
announced that Spain's Development Assistance Fund would
finance a USD 62 million electrification project along
Colombia's impoverished Pacific coast, along with other
development assistance. Aznar added that Colombia receives
more in micro-credit programs than any other country in Latin
America. Responding to a question about Spanish tourism in
Colombia, he reiterated the security theme, stating that
tourism would increase as terrorism is reduced.



--------------------------


Military Assistance and Sales


--------------------------





3. (U) Aznar and Uribe announced the donation of two Caza
aircraft to be used for military transport. The two turned
aside questions about the GOC Air Force's refusal to accept
an earlier offer of Mirage jets and the possible donation of
tanks. Subsequently, GOC MINDEF Jorge Uribe announced the
imminent purchase of approximately 40 used AMX-30 tanks from
Spain. The MINDEF said that the army would deploy the tanks
exclusively to fight internal narco-terrorism in the
non-border states of Bolivar, Cordoba, Sucre, Atlantico, and
Magdalena. Senator Rafael Pardo, a former MINDEF, was quick
to criticize the decision, arguing that the tanks were
inappropriate for fighting any internal or external enemy
other than Venezuela. He concluded that the purchase would
create new economic, political, and military problems without
solving existing ones.



--------------------------


Other Tough Questions


--------------------------





4. (U) Aznar responded vaguely to questions about
regularizing the status of undocumented Colombians in Spain.
When asked if a Spanish extradition order for Colombian
paramilitary commander Carlos Castano would derail the peace
process, Aznar noted that Spain had an independent judiciary.
He declined to discuss his post-presidency plans. Stating
that the reelection of Argentina's Menem, Peru's Fujimori,
Brazil's Cardozo, and potentially Venezuela's Hugo Chavez had
not turned out well, a reporter asked Uribe if a
constitutional change that would permit his reelection was
ethical. Uribe responded that reelection was a matter for
the congress and that constitutional matters were also a
matter of public opinion (Note: At 80 per cent, Uribe's
public approval is the highest in Latin America. End note).



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





5. (C) The tank purchase is "soft" in that the numbers still
range between 32 and 46 units. A Colombian military team is
currently inspecting the available used tanks in Spain. The
six million USD cost is merely the maximum funding available
and must also cover the training package and maintenance, and
possibly transport. Essentially, the cost per vehicle will
be so low as to be a virtual gift from Spain. The effective
use of a 36 ton tank, costly to maintain and unable to cross
many of Colombia's rural bridges, is not in road security,
but in engaging other tanks. Armored wheeled vehicles would
be a better option. The advantage of this deal may be more
to demonstrate military assistance from a European country
than for military advantage.
WOOD