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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05BOGOTA4959
2005-05-24 20:12:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bogota
Cable title:  

INDIVIDUAL DESERTION PROGRAM CREATING CONCERN

Tags:   PHUM  PTER  SNAR  KJUS  PINR  CO 
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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 03 BOGOTA 004959 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/24/2015
TAGS: PHUM PTER SNAR KJUS PINR CO
SUBJECT: INDIVIDUAL DESERTION PROGRAM CREATING CONCERN

Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood for reasons
1.4 (b) and (d)

--------
Summary
--------



1. (C) Over 7,000 deserters from the illegal armed groups
have entered the GOC's reinsertion program since Uribe took
office. The Ministry of Defense controls the first phase of
reinsertion when deserters are debriefed for intelligence
purposes and given basic humanitarian assistance.
Intelligence provided by deserters has been used in an
estimated 40 percent of all security operations. The
Ministry of Interior and Justice manages the second phase, a
two-year program that provides housing, job training, health
care, and social services. The program has improved since
Uribe took office, but is under-funded and struggles to
provide even basic reinsertion services on a timely basis.
The majority of deserters are housed in Bogota. The Bogota
Mayor's office has expressed serious concern about weak
reinsertion services, heavy concentrations of deserters in a
few neighborhoods, retaliatory attacks against deserters who
provide intelligence, and a growing paramilitary presence in
southern Bogota. The Mayor's Office has created a
demobilization office to compliment and support the GOC's
reinsertion program. End summary.



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


Desertions Rising


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





2. (C) Since President Uribe took office, over 7,000 illegal
armed group members have deserted and entered the GOC's
reinsertion program (this is separate, but similar, from the
program for collectively demobilized paramilitaries).
Desertions have continued at a steady rate. In the first
four months of 2005, over 900 deserted, slightly more than
during the same period the year before. More than half of
the deserters are from the FARC, approximately 30 percent are
paramilitaries, 15 percent are from the ELN, and the rest are
from other minor groups. Antioquia Department produces the
most deserters, averaging about 30 each month. Since 2004,
the number of FARC deserters from Caqueta and Meta
Departments, where the military is conducting an offensive
against the guerrillas, has more than doubled to about 20
each month.



3. (C) The desertion program has two phases: after
deserting, individuals are turned over to the Ministry of
Defense, where they are given basic humanitarian assistance,
housing, and debriefed for intelligence purposes. After this
phase, which lasts about a month, they are enrolled in the
Ministry of Interior and Justice's (MOI/J) reinsertion
program, where they are given housing, job training,
employment opportunities, and a monthly stipend of
approximately USD 150. Most of the deserters are housed in
Bogota, but the GOC recently established shelters in
Medellin, Cali, and other major cities. During reinsertion,

the Prosecutor General's office verifies that the deserters
are not implicated in any serious crimes. If so, they are
pardoned under Law 782 for membership in an illegal armed
group and connected minor crimes. Those implicated in
unpardonable crimes (i.e., violent crimes or drug
trafficking) are processed under the normal criminal code.




4. (C) Funding is tight. The Embassy's Narcotics Affairs
Section provides technical support and some funding to the
Ministry of Defense's part of the program. The Dutch,
Swedish, and Japanese governments are giving limited support
to the MOI/J's program. The MOI/J's 2005 reinsertion budget
for both deserters and collective demobilizations is CP 71
billion (approximately USD 29.5 million) and the Defense
Ministry's desertion budget is CP 28 billion (approximately
USD 11.6 million). According to MOI/J reinsertion director
Juan David Angel, this leaves the GOC with enough funding to
cover basic reinsertion services but not enough for
employment generation projects.



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


Key Intelligence


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





5. (C) According to the Ministry of Defense, some 40 percent
of military operations have used intelligence provided by
deserters. For example, the seventh and tenth mobile
brigades in the Plan Patriota area of operations recently
dealt the FARC's first front a serious blow using deserters
as guides or informants. At least 15 first front members
were captured in the past few weeks.



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


Complaints


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





6. (C) The Bogota Mayor's office has voiced concerns about
the reinsertion program. Bogota has approximately 3,500
deserters and at least several hundred collective
demobilized. When immediate family members are included,
there are over 8,000. The vast majority of deserters are
housed in 75 shelters throughout the city. The collective
demobilized and a small number of demobilized live in private
residences. Publicly, Mayor Garzon has said the deserters
are a time bomb because they are not being given adequate
reinsertion benefits or sufficient incentives to remain out
of criminal life. Privately, Garzon's staff told poloffs
they had three principle concerns:

-- Poor MOI/J management: Garzon's staff asserted that the
MOI/J reinsertion program was struggling to provide
reinsertion benefits on a timely basis and did not have
funding to conduct employment generation projects (Juan David
Angel has acknowledged this). They expressed concern that
the program did not track or monitor the deserters except by
requiring them to report monthly to the reinsertion office to
receive their monthly stipend, and that the deserters were
returning to illicit activity undetected. At least 240
re-joined an illegal armed group in 2004. They also
expressed frustration with the MOI/J's failure to notify them
when collective demobilized were being placed in Bogota.

-- Heavy concentration in Bogota: the Mayor's office is
worried that concentrating thousands of deserters, primarily
in the neighborhood of Teusquillo, is a liability and does
not discourage deserters to break all ties to illegal armed
groups. They were pleased that the GOC had begun placing
deserters in other major cities such as Cali and Medellin and
said they were also urging the GOC to consult with them on
future locations of Bogota shelters so they could be more
evenly spread throughout the city.

-- Decree 2767: the GOC issued a decree detailing monetary
compensation for deserters who provide intelligence on
illegal armed groups. Although the Mayor's Office
acknowledged that deserters provide valuable intelligence,
they believe the decree will encourage too many to come
forward and cause retaliatory attacks. They claimed that
already there have been bomb threats against neighborhoods
where deserters are housed.



7. (C) To complement the MOI/J's reinsertion program and
improve coordination with the GOC, the Mayor's Office created
a demobilization office in March. The office's three
objectives are to (1) provide extra control and monitoring of
deserters, (2) assist children of demobilized, and (3)
provide assistance and monitoring after deserters depart the
two-year MOI/J program. Progress has been limited so far.
It has employed 60 demobilized as Transmilenio (the city's
public bus system) guides, chefs, and public health care
receptionists. It is training 50 more in office management
at a local university, but has been unable to get private
sector companies to hire them for mandatory internships. It
estimates the deserters have at least 500 children. Over 400
have been enrolled in free public education and the Mayor's
Office is working with the MOI/J to organize a day of public
services for the children.



8. (C) The Mayor's Office envisions its program to be
similar to the program run by Mayor Sergio Fajardo in
Medellin. However, they noted that Bogota faces different
challenges: the deserters are a more diverse group of rural
ex-guerrillas and urban ex-paramilitaries, are not natives of
Bogota, and face a constant threat of retaliation from their
former commanders.



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


Paramilitary Recruiting


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





9. (C) The Mayor's Office is alarmed at growing AUC
dominance in southern Bogota, especially the poverty-stricken
neighborhoods of Ciudad Bolivar, Suba, and Kennedy. They
said they had seen clear signs of paramilitary influence,
including AUC graffiti, reports of AUC roadblocks, and
recruiting efforts, especially among deserters. Murders in
the first three months of 2005 grew by eight percent compared
to the same period in 2004. According to the Mayor's Office
the majority of those murdered have been gang members,
prostitutes, drug addicts, and other delinquents the AUC
wishes to eliminate.



10. (C) They noted that Bogota does not have enough police
to prevent paramilitary incursions. Of the 14,000 police
officers serving in Bogota, only 7,000 were armed and
actively protecting citizens while the rest were in unarmed,
administrative, or private security positions. The Peace
Commissioner's Office and the National Police have pledged to
work closely with the Mayor's Office but claim that common
criminals rather than an organized AUC campaign are
responsible for the increases in violence.



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


Comment


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





11. (C) Deserters run significantly more risks than those
who collectively demobilize. They provide valuable
intelligence and face the constant threat of retaliation from
their illegal armed groups. The program has the potential to
remove as many, if not more, terrorists from the battlefield
than the AUC peace process.




WOOD