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06BOGOTA8946 2006-09-27 22:18:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bogota
Cable title:  

GOC SEEKING HUMANITARIAN EXCHANGE WITH THE FARC

Tags:   CO FR MARR PGOV PREL PTER SP SZ 
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1. (C) Summary: The GOC continues to explore the notion of
opening talks on a humanitarian exchange with the FARC.
President Uribe wants to take such a step, but has been
constrained by the FARC,s refusal to engage GOC
interlocutors. The GOC has reached out to the group through
longtime political operator Alvaro Leyva, the three
accompanying countries, the Catholic Church, and Colombian
left-wing journalist Carlos Lozano. In an effort to
jumpstart talks, Uribe initially approved on September 7 a
Leyva proposal that the GOC announce publicly its intent to
demobilize two municipalities. His advisors later dissuaded
him from doing so, arguing it would be a mistake without
first receiving a clear message from the FARC and without
clarifying the modalities of the proposed demilitarized area.
The FARC holds 60 hostages, including three U.S. citizens;
the GOC has over 500 FARC members in prison. End Summary

2. (U) The GOC is reaching out to the FARC through longtime
FARC contact Alvaro Leyva, the three accompanying countries
(Switzerland, Spain and France), leftwing journalist and
Communist Party official Carlos Lozano, and the Catholic
Church to try to start negotiations on a humanitarian accord.
The FARC has not responded to these overtures, and on
September 26 the group reportedly told Levya and Lozano via
e-mail that it was freezing contact with them. Still, the
FARC publicly reiterated its interest in an exchange, but
demanded the GOC demilitarize Pradera and Florida
municipalities (800 square kilometers as opposed to 42,000
square kilometers in the Pastrana despeje) in Cauca
Department for 45 days to allow talks to begin. The group
also insists that any exchange involve the release of 500
FARC fighters held by the GOC, as well as the return of
&Simon Trinidad8 and &Sonia8 from the United States. The
FARC has tried to pressure the GOC to accede to their demand,
releasing on September 24 a &proof of life8 video of 12
Cauca Department legislators who pleaded with the GOC to meet
the FARC,s conditions. The FARC kidnapped the legislators
in April 2002.

3. (C) Casa Narino Communications director Jorge Mario
Eastman told us September 13 President Uribe met September 7
with Leyva and initially agreed to his proposal that the GOC
publicly accept the FARC,s request to demilitarize the two
municipalities. Leyva argued this would jumpstart the talks.
The GOC was prepared to make the announcement on September 8,
when it was sidetracked by the controversy surrounding the
alleged military involvement (montaje) in bombing attempts in
Bogota (reftel). Eastman said Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos
Restrepo and other GOC officials exploited the delay to
convince Uribe to reconsider his decision, stressing that
Leyva had provided no evidence that the FARC would enter into
serious talks if the GOC took this step. It was difficult to
tell if Leyva was acting on his own or was transmitting a
FARC message. He said the Leyva proposal is on hold for the
moment, but reiterated that Uribe remains impatient to engage
the FARC.

4. (C) Spanish Embassy DCM Pablo de Olea Gomez told us
September 21 that the accompanying countries have not had
direct contact with the FARC. They have urged Restrepo to
arrange with the Colombian military to create the conditions
inside Colombia needed to enable the three to hold a
two-to-three day meeting with the FARC, but to no avail.
They intend to pursue the issue with Uribe. Gomez said
conditions are ripe for a humanitarian exchange, but stressed
the GOC must drop its efforts to link such discussions to the
start of broader peace talks. The timing is not right for
broader discussions; the FARC is only interested in an
exchange at this time. He predicted Uribe would eventually
drop his insistence that the talks be tied to broader
discussions due to pressure from the international community
and from the families of the FARC hostages. The FARC holds
approximately 60 hostages*including three U.S. citizens
seized by the FARC in February 2003.

5. (C) Colombian military intelligence told us September
21 that it had received orders to prepare an evaluation
package for the demilitarization of Pradera and Florida
municipalities. Still, Defense Minister Santos said publicly
September 25 that there is no GOC plan underway to
demilitarize the Pradera and Florida municipalities. He said
the FARC has not met the conditions set by the GOC for
starting humanitarian talks. Local media reported that the
FARC has boosted its presence in the two municipalities,
leading to increased combat. Approximately 90,000 people
live in the area.
WOOD