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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04BOGOTA9686
2004-09-23 18:07:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bogota
Cable title:  

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN COLOMBIA

Tags:   PGOV  PHUM  SNAR  ECON  CO 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BOGOTA 009686 

SIPDIS

SOUTHCOM FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/23/2014
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SNAR ECON CO
SUBJECT: SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN COLOMBIA

Classified By: CDA Milton K. Drucker, Reasons: 1.4 B & D.



1. (U) The following are short capsule overviews of
significant political and human rights events in Colombia
during the week of September 13.



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


Meta Notables Murdered


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





2. (U) On September 14, the bullet-riddled bodies of former
El Dorado (Meta Department) Mayor and National Peace Prize
winner Euser Rondon Vargas, former Governor Carlos Javier
Sabogal, and ex-member of Congress Nubia Sanchez were found
in an abandoned car on the road between the cities of Briceno
and Zipaquira, Cundinamarca Department, near Bogota. All
three were members of the Colombia Team ("Equipo Colombia")
Party, which opposes current Meta Governor Edilberto Castro
Rincon. The deceased had challenged Castro's eligibility for
office and questioned overspending on a project to provide
school supplies to children. The three had left Bogota on
September 13 for an appointment in the town of Tocancipa.
Rondon told his bodyguards it was not necessary to accompany
him, because the meeting was with someone he trusted. There
are no leads in the case.



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



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


Academic Assassinated After Being Cleared by Fiscalia


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



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





3. (SBU) Critics of the Uribe Administration's Democratic
Security Policy have seized on the September 17 murder of
Professor Alfredo Correa by presumed paramilitaries as an
example of the dangers of using information from confidential
informants to arrest suspected guerrilla collaborators.
Correa was arrested by Department of Administrative Security
(DAS) agents on June 17 after reinserted guerrillas
identified him as a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia's (FARC) Caribbean Front. He was released in
early September after the Prosecutor General's Office
(Fiscalia) concluded there was insufficient evidence to
prosecute him. Human rights NGOs labeled Correa's arrest an
"arbitrary detention." The Colombia office of the United
Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) has
called for an investigation into his murder.



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


Indigenous March on Cali


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





4. (U) Over the course of four days, 60,000 indigenous
persons from Cauca, Narino and Putumayo Departments marched
44 miles from the town of Santander de Quilichao, Cauca
Department, to Cali, Valle del Cauca Department, to protest
violence perpetrated against indigenous communities by

illegal armed groups and alleged abuses by security forces.
The peaceful march also protested lack of indigenous
representation and participation in FTA negotiations.
President Uribe had asked the indigenous groups not to march
for security reasons and out of concerns about the potential
disruption of public order and traffic flow on a major
highway. Nonetheless, Uribe explicitly recognized the
indigenous groups' right to march peacefully, only insisting
on keeping the roads open. During the event, the roads
remained open and security forces acted with restraint.



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


High Profile Resignations


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





5. (SBU) Vice-Minister of Defense Andres Soto submitted his
letter of resignation on September 16, notifying the Minister
of Defense of his intent to leave his post by the end of
September. Soto's resignation comes as no surprise given his
reportedly deteriorating health, waning influence within the
Ministry, and speculation that his family's business ventures
represented a conflict of interest. Many observers had
predicted that Soto's departure would coincide with the UNGA
session, although it is unclear why he chose this
particularly time to resign. He will be replaced by Jorge
Mario Eastman, who has been senior adviser to outgoing OAS
Secretary General Cesar Gaviria for the past two years.

SIPDIS
Prior to working at the OAS, Eastman served in several posts
in the Pastrana Administration, including as liaison to the
National Liberation Army (ELN).



6. (U) The director of the National Statistics Department
(DANE), Cesar Caballero, resigned on September 16 after
claiming he had received -- and not for the first time --
inappropriate political pressure from the Office of the
President. DANE had recently released, to the GOC's apparent
displeasure, the results of its latest "Survey of
Victimization" in which only one-third of respondents in
Colombia's three largest cities (Bogota, Cali, Medellin) said
they felt more secure than a year ago, and two-thirds said
they would not report a crime because they did not believe
the police would respond. Editorialists fretted about the
effects on foreign investment of suggestions that GOC
statistics, including economic data, might be
politically-motivated.



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


GOC Seizes La Rebaja Drugstores


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





7. (C) On September 16, thousands of police, prosecutors,
and Government auditors took control of 442 "La Rebaja"
drugstore outlets in the GOC's largest seizure of suspected
drug trafficking assets. The GOC's Drug Control Office (DNE)
is now responsible for administering the chain of stores
still technically owned by the notorious Rodriguez Orejuela
family. The chain employs about 4,100 workers. Relatives of
the jailed Rodriguez Orejuela drug bosses failed to convince
the GOC that ownership of La Rebaja had passed to the firm's
employees. OFAC and US Customs agree that the Rodriguez
Orejuela family continues to control and use La Rebaja.
Thousands of the chain's employees demonstrated against the
GOC action, either out of fear for their jobs, or prompted by
their former employers. Seizure of the chain, however, did
not transfer ownership. That transfer can take place only
after a lengthy legal process.



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


Reelection Advancing


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





8. (SBU) Legislation to authorize presidential reelection
continues to grab headlines, as former presidents and pundits
debate the issue in public. Several senators plan to
introduce a separate bill to transform Colombia into a
parliamentary democracy, ostensibly after the next
presidential election (2006). Only two steps remain in the
legislative process for the reelection bill -- passage by the
House Constitutional Affairs Committee followed by the full
House. House passage is highly probable, in spite of attacks
on reelection by the likes of former President Andres
Pastrana. The Constitutional Court, which is composed of
justices generally unsympathetic to Uribe, will have to rule
on whether the Congressional action complied fully with every
aspect of the law. The Court may have the last word.
DRUCKER