2006-11-28 20:56:00
Embassy Bogota
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DE RUEHBO #0759/01 3322056
P 282056Z NOV 06
C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 010759 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/27/2016

Classified By: Political Counselor John S. Creamer
Reason: 1.4 (b,d)


C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 010759



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/27/2016

Classified By: Political Counselor John S. Creamer
Reason: 1.4 (b,d)


1. (C) Post welcomes the December 2-7 visit of Admiral
Stavridis, SOUTHCOM Commander, to Colombia. With U.S.
assistance, Colombia is fighting a war on four fronts --
FARC, ELN, paramilitaries, and drug traffickers -- with a mix
of political, military, and police measures. A multi-phased
offensive by the security forces has re-taken key territory
from the FARC, but the terrorist group remains active. Three
U.S. citizens have been held hostage by the FARC for nearly
four years; their safe recovery continues to be a top
priority. The GOC suspended outreach to the FARC on a
humanitarian exchange of hostages for imprisoned terrorists
after a FARC attack in Bogota in October. The paramilitary
peace process has led to the demobilization of over 30,000
terrorists and to revelations of paramilitary influence in
Colombia's Congress. Colombia's human rights record,
although imperfect, is improving. President Uribe was
reelected in May with 62 percent of the vote; we expect close
bilateral relations to continue. The Colombian economy
continues to improve. End Summary.

U.S. Assistance Key to Security Improvements

2. (SBU) USG security assistance is designed to combat the
interrelated threats of drug trafficking and terrorism, and
includes training, material aid, and guidance to
security forces and other institutions. President Uribe
considers U.S. assistance to be critical to the GOC,s
"Democratic Security" policy - aimed at establishing a
state presence throughout national territory - and views the
United States as Colombia,s most important ally.

-- Plan Patriota: The military's multi-phased campaign to
re-take areas dominated by the FARC is in its third year.
The first phase, which focused on securing Cundinamarca
Department surrounding Bogota, pushed the FARC back from the
capital and resulted in the deaths of at least five mid-level
FARC commanders. The second, more complex phase, is two

years old and is focused on the FARC's traditional stronghold
in southern Colombia. The operation has disrupted the FARC's
hold on the region, but sustainment of troops in this
isolated region is difficult. Infectious diseases -
especially leishmaniasis, a parasitic skin infection - and
landmines are the leading causes of military casualties.

-- The May presidential elections were the least violent in
recent history, and crime and violence have fallen sharply in
recent years. Despite the broad improvements in security,
however, the FARC continues to launch attacks on
infrastructure and isolated or smaller police and military
targets throughout the country, while avoiding direct
conflict with larger units. In October, the FARC exploded
car bombs at several military installations, and a FARC siege
of a rural police station left 17 police dead.

-- Center for Coordinated Integral Action: With U.S. support,
the GOC formed in 2005 an interagency center to facilitate
delivery of social services in seven areas that have
traditionally lacked state presence and been controlled by
illegal armed groups. The Center focuses on providing
immediate social services, including documentation and
medical care, and longer-term economic development projects.
More than 40,000 individuals have been enrolled in state
health care. Judges, investigators, and public defenders
have been placed in all 16 municipalities of the Plan
Patriota area. A public library was opened in early 2006 in
San Vicente del Caguan, which had long been dominated by the

-- Plan Colombia II: The GOC has provided Washington with a
draft proposal of Plan Colombia II. Most of the program
areas outlined continue the same goals the U.S. has
supported since Plan Colombia's inception in 2000. The
programs and projected costs of this next phase of the Plan
are under discussion by a U.S. interagency working group.

Regional Issues: Venezuela and Ecuador

3. (C) With president Uribe's reelection, we expect Colombia
to play a more active diplomatic role in the region. The GOC
is working to promote economic integration
and security cooperation in the Caribbean, Central America,
and the Andes. Still, its top priority remains its
relationship with its neighbors. Colombia wants to avoid
polarization in the Andes, and is committed to dialogue
rather than confrontation. The GOC is concerned about
Venezuela's arms build-up and has begun to divert needed
resources away from counter-drug and counter-terror
priorities. Uribe remains wary of Chavez's intentions in the
region, but prefers to manage the Chavez problem rather
than confront it directly.

4. (C) Colombia and Ecuador continue to grapple with the
FARC's presence in Ecuador, as well as the estimated 250,000
Colombians residing there. In late January, the Colombian
military entered Ecuadorian territory while pursuing the
FARC. The Government of Ecuador demanded an apology, which
the GOC provided, despite frustration with the lack of
Ecuadorian cooperation against the FARC. The apology eased
tensions, but GOC border incursions continue to generate
friction. Ecuador's international efforts to end aerial
eradication along the two countries' shared border led the
GOC to suspend spraying in January. The U.S. is concerned
about the suspension, which has led to an explosion in coca
cultivation along the border.

Internal Politics

5. (SBU) President Uribe is the first Colombian president to
be re-elected to a second, consecutive term in over 100
years. He was re-elected on May 28 with 62 percent of the
vote. A coalition of pro-Uribe parties won a collective
majority in the House and Senate on March 12; however, his
congressional coalition is fragile, and Uribe faces
challenges in securing support for tax and fiscal reform
proposals. Recent revelations of ties between Colombian
congressmen and paramilitaries affect all parties, but will
likely make it harder for Uribe to count on a solid
legislative majority.

Positive Economic Outlook

6. (U) Security gains have helped boost the Colombian
economy. In 2005, Colombia's gross domestic product (GDP)
grew 5.2 and inflation was 4.9 percent, the lowest rate in 50
years. The first quarter of 2006 also started off strong
with 5.2 percent growth. Unemployment has fallen from 18
percent in 2002 to a little more than 11 percent in May 2006.
Most of the major rating agencies upgraded Colombia to
investment grade in late 2005 and early 2006.

7. (SBU) The U.S. and Colombia signed a bilateral Free Trade
Agreement on November 22, 2006. The agreement will provide
stronger IP protection and give increased market access to
key U.S. industrial and agricultural exports. For Colombia,
the agreement creates a more attractive investment climate,
locks in ATPDEA benefits, boosts its sugar quota, and
addresses some of its concerns regarding U.S. sanitary and
phyto-sanitary regulations. The FTA must now be ratified by
the U.S. and Colombian Congresses.

Drug Eradication and Interdiction

8. (SBU) Interdiction operations in 2005 met or exceeded
2004's record seizures. GOC security forces destroyed 134
cocaine HCl processing laboratories in 2005 and seized
record amounts of processed cocaine (223 metric tons) and
coca base. As of August 1, 2006, the GOC had destroyed 92
HCl labs and seized over 85 metric tons of processed
cocaine and coca base.

9. (SBU) The GOC claims it manually eradicated 40,000
hectares of coca in 2006. Manual eradication is a high-cost,
high-risk program that combines illicit crop eradication with
job creation, and avoids the health and environmental
controversies surrounding aerial eradication. President
Uribe is a proponent of manual eradication. He launched an
ambitious program in January to manually eradicate coca in La
Macarena National Park. The U.S. supported this effort, but
FARC attacks killed 12 policemen and civilian eradicators in
February and March, and another 6 eradicators on August 1.
The GOC has set a goal of 50,000 hectares for 2007.

Development and Democracy Building

10. (U) Beyond counternarcotics and counter-terrorism
assistance, the U.S. also funds programs to promote good
governance, economic development, and humanitarian
assistance. Democratic Governance programs aim to improve
the transparency of the justice
system, assist the peace process, promote respect for human
rights, support democratic processes and foster efficiency
and accountability. The U.S. also funds to promote legal
alternative development through increased competitiveness,
improved local government infrastructure and management, and
a more favorable environment for investment and trade. We
support to nearly 2.5 million Colombians displaced by
internal violence, and also help children who have been
forced to serve as child combatants.

Improved Human Rights Record

11. (SBU) The Uribe Administration continues to make
progress on human rights cases involving military abuse or
collaboration with paramilitaries. We continually
emphasize the importance of creating a legal system that
delivers credible, timely results. On June 10, Uribe
announced a proposal to ensure civilians investigate and
review all criminal cases against military defendants to
ensure transparency in human rights cases. Human rights
training is mandatory for all members of the military and
police. Less than two percent of human rights violations are
attributable to government security forces, according to GOC
statistics. Homicides fell by 16 percent - to the lowest
level in 18 years - kidnappings by 62 percent, and forced
displacements by 27 percent in 2005. The GOC has a difficult
but active dialogue with human rights groups, the United
Nations, and foreign governments.


12. (SBU) President Uribe is a strong supporter of the
U.S.-Colombia extradition relationship. Since taking office,
he has approved more than 390 extraditions to the
United States. President Uribe has approved but suspended
the extradition of four AUC leaders to ensure their continued
cooperation in the AUC demobilization process.

Demobilization and Peace Process

13. (SBU) The GOC began negotiations with the United
Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) in 2002. The AUC
demobilization process began in November 2003 and ended in
August 2006. A total of 31,638 paramilitaries demobilized.
In addition, over 12,000 individual members of the FARC, ELN
and AUC have deserted and entered the government's
reinsertion program since 2002 -- over 50 percent of these
deserters were members of the FARC.

14. (SBU) The reinsertion program has limited funding and
some logistical problems, but is slowly improving. Colombia
has requested U.S. aid for the demobilization and reinsertion
process. In FY06, Congress approved up to USD 20 million in
demobilization assistance, subject to certification. The USG
has demarched numerous allies, with some success, to
financially support these processes.

15. (SBU) In July 2005, President Uribe signed the Law of
Justice and Peace, which governs demobilization for
ex-paramilitaries who have committed human rights abuses.
The Law offers demobilized terrorists who have committed
human rights abuses a five- to eight-year alternate sentence,
followed by a two-and-a-half to four-year parole period, but
only if they fully demobilize, turn over all illicit assets,
release all hostages and child soldiers, make a complete
confession of their crimes, and make reparations (actual or
symbolic) to victims. Individuals or groups organized for
the sole purpose of drug trafficking or illicit enrichment
are not eligible for reduced sentences; only crimes committed
during membership in the illegal armed group are covered.
Rigorous implementation of the law is key to ensuring peace
and justice in Colombia.

16. (SBU) On November 17, Uribe strongly supported recent
Supreme Court actions against Colombian Congressmen allegedly
associated with paramilitary crimes, and said the State had
to proceed with "more severity" when public figures were
accused of violating the law. He emphasized Colombia needed
to be free of guerrilla and paramilitary influence, and said
democratic institutions must govern.

17. (SBU) The Mission to Support the Peace Process in
Colombia (MAPP/OAS) has identified 22 groups of former
demobilized paramilitaries who are involved in criminal
activities. It estimated there were a total of 3,000
criminal group members, among them common criminals,
narcotraffickers, paramilitaries who never demobilized, and
former demobilized paramilitaries. The percentage of the
former demobilized paramilitaries participating was still
small, but former mid-level commanders were instrumental in
forming some groups.

18. (SBU) The National Liberation Army (ELN) began
preliminary discussions with the GOC in Cuba in December 2005
aimed at laying the groundwork for peace talks. The parties
intend to begin substantive talks in December.

U.S. Hostages

19. (SBU) The three U.S. contractors captured by the FARC in
February 2003 are the longest held U.S. hostages in the
world. Their safe release continues to be a top priority.
The Colombians are providing full assistance. Uribe has
assured us that the U.S. hostages will be included in any
humanitarian exchange, but in October he suspended GOC
outreach for such talks after the FARC exploded a bomb at a
military facility in Bogota. Uribe stressed the GOC would be
willing to resume efforts to discuss this issue with the
FARC, but only if the group ceased terrorist actions.