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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05BOGOTA10230
2005-11-01 13:28:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bogota
Cable title:  

FORMER PRESIDENT GAVIRIA HIGHLIGHTS PARAMILITARY

Tags:   PGOV  PTER  VE  CO  ELN  FARC 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BOGOTA 010230 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/28/2015
TAGS: PGOV PTER VE CO ELN FARC
SUBJECT: FORMER PRESIDENT GAVIRIA HIGHLIGHTS PARAMILITARY
INFLUENCE; SUGGESTS U.S. ESTABLISH CHANNEL TO CHAVEZ

Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood.
Reason: 1.4 (b,d)

-------
Summary
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1. (C) Former President Cesar Gaviria told Polcouns October
28 that paramilitaries are threatening and intimidating
Liberal Party candidates and office holders, and claimed
President Uribe's efforts to combat such activities are
conspicuous by their absence. The Liberal Party would
continue to campaign throughout the country despite
paramilitary threats. (Almost as if on cue, Uribe said the
same day that paramilitaries who interfered in the electoral
process would lose benefits under the Justice and Peace law.)
Gaviria said extradition is at the core of the current
GOC-paramilitary impasse and expressed surprise at the manner
in which Uribe was handling the issue. Gaviria predicted the
Liberals would increase their legislative representation in
March 2006 elections. He discounted the importance of an
upcoming Constitutional Court ruling on the Electoral
Guarantees law, and predicted that Uribe could win the
presidency in May on the first ballot. Gaviria suggested the
U.S. establish a private, confidential channel to Venezuelan
President Chavez, preferably a U.S. citizen close to
President Bush. In the alternative, Gaviria said OAS
Secretary General Insulza "would not be a bad choice," nor

SIPDIS
would a non-U.S. citizen who had the confidence of President
Bush. End summary.



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Paramilitaries Exerting Dangerous Influence in Campaigns


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2. (C) Gaviria said paramilitaries are threatening and
intimidating Liberal Party candidates and office holders,
especially in the Departments of Antioquia, Risaralda, and
Bolivar, as well as on the coast. In one case, Gaviria said
narcotics trafficker "Macaco" (who heads up the Central
Bolivar Bloc of paramilitaries, the most powerful yet to
demobilize) visited a town in Risaralda to ensure that
Macaco's brother became the next mayor. In similar ways, he
said, paramilitaries are telling Liberal Party candidates
that they are not welcome in certain areas and that the
paramilitaries have already selected the winning candidates.
The party has received information from confidential
informants about paramilitary intentions against party
candidates and from security detail observation of vehicles
following party officials. The party has filed complaints
with the police. Gaviria said Liberals would continue to
campaign throughout the country despite the risks because
there was no other option. (One of Gaviria's DAS security
detail said after the meeting that an AUC informant had told
of a specific AUC plan to attack Gaviria. Gaviria's security

detail has one armored vehicle for Gaviria's use.)



3. (C) Gaviria is worried about a violent election campaign
(though not as violent as the 1990s) in the wake of the
recent attack on Senator German Vargas Lleras, which Gaviria
believes is more likely to be the work of a
paramilitary/narcotics trafficker nexus than the work of the
FARC. The possibility of a violent campaign is increased
when the influence of regional mafias is taken into account,
he said. They also have interests to protect.



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Uribe Silent on Paras, Gaviria Says


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





4. (C) Gaviria said he did not understand why Uribe stayed
silent in the face of clear evidence of paramilitary
intimidation. "We don't know where he stands," he said. In
Gaviria's view, Uribe should at least state that
paramilitaries are not welcome in any political grouping that
purports to support the president, and make clear that he
rejects paramilitary support. His silence is troubling, in
Gaviria's view. Uribe's efforts with the paramilitaries have
focused too much on reconciliation and not enough on justice
and truth, he said. More generally, the Uribe
administration's effort to permit sentenced prisoners (from
the AUC and FARC) to benefit from the Justice and Peace law
was "absurd," Gaviria said.



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Extradition is Point of Contention


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





5. (C) Gaviria believes that extradition is the crux of the
current difficulty that Uribe is facing with the
paramilitaries and expressed surprise that Uribe has failed
to manage the matter more effectively. Gaviria asserted the
GOC, through Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo, had
made private commitments on extradition to certain
paramilitary leaders and is now facing their fear and
distrust. The paramilitaries worry about extradition above
all else. In Gaviria's view, Uribe's lack of transparency on
extradition has caused the current tensions. He said if
Uribe was going to promise not to extradite certain leaders,
he should have obtained a much better deal from the
paramilitaries than that embodied in the Justice and Peace
law.



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



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


Uribe Could Win on First Ballot; Law No Impediment


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



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





6. (C) Gaviria predicted Uribe could win the presidency on
the first ballot in May 2006 but noted that his likely voter
poll numbers are falling. The Liberals would not win but
would make it a contest. Horacio Serpa was the most likely
Liberal standard bearer against Uribe, but Rafael Pardo and
Rodrigo Rivera should not be discounted. The Constitutional
Court's ruling on the Electoral Guarantees law (expected
November 11) would be no impediment to Uribe running again,
in Gaviria's opinion. The Court has made its basic
constitutional ruling and the Court's view of the guarantees
law cannot change that. It would be helpful to have a
clearer sense of the limitations on public officials getting
involved in political campaigns, and of the allocation of
media time, but such issues pale when considered next to the
dangers of campaigning in the face of paramilitary threats,
he said.



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Liberals Expect to Increase Legislative Seats


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





7. (C) The Liberal Party should be able to increase its
Senate representation from 20 to between 25 and 30 seats in
March elections (out of 102), according to Gaviria. (Note:
Liberal Party identification is somewhat murky, as
allegiances are prone to shift. Gaviria's figure of 20
Liberal Senators seems high. End note.) Liberal Party
workers are motivated and energetic, more so than the
backbone of other parties. A combined Liberal/Polo
Democratico legislative bloc would have a good chance of
exceeding a combined Uribista/Conservative party grouping, he
suggested.



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


U.S. Should Establish Channel to Chavez


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





8. (C) In response to a question about Venezuela, Gaviria
suggested that the U.S. open a private, confidential channel
to Chavez. The best candidate to serve in this position
would be a U.S. citizen close to President Bush. Other
possibilities included OAS Secretary General Insulza ("he
would not be bad") or other non-U.S. citizens, as long as
such a person had reasonably strong access to the White
House. From Gaviria's perspective, Chavez is more measured
in his actions than many give him credit for and has a strong
sense of how far he can go; he will not cross certain lines.
His rhetoric is more important to him than concrete
achievements. Chavez has to know that he is essentially
talking directly to the White House when he deals with a U.S.
emissary.



9. (C) Gaviria said Chavez might try to influence Colombian
politics but he would not be successful. "No-one would dare
take his money," he suggested. He said it was more likely
that Chavez was already trying to influence elections in
countries such as Bolivia and Ecuador.



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FARC and ELN


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





10. (C) Gaviria said the FARC was likely to commit terrorist
attacks during the electoral campaign "because that is what
they do." However, the FARC has never been a factor in
Colombian electoral campaigns and this time would be no
different. The ELN peace process is worth the effort,
Gaviria said, but it appears to lack the necessary political
will to be successful, especially on the part of Uribe, who
(like Samper and Pastrana) started the process late in his
term.

Comment


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





11. (C) Gaviria remains one of the most adroit partisan
political leaders in Colombia. Uribe and Gaviria exchanged
views on paramilitary influence in recent days. Uribe said
October 28 that paramilitaries should respect democracy, and
warned that those who interfered in the political process
would lose benefits under the Justice and Peace law.
Gaviria, in an interview published October 29, repeated his
criticisms of Uribe on this subject and called for action,
not words, to ensure a fair campaign environment.

WOOD