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Cablegate: President Uribe Appoints Former Farc Hostage As

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #1218/01 0512240
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 202240Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2849
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 7416
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 8703
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ FEB 8533
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 4771
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 5423

UNCLAS BOGOTA 001218

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PTER PHUM PINR CO
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT URIBE APPOINTS FORMER FARC HOSTAGE AS
FOREIGN MINISTER

REF: BOGOTA 1169

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

1. On February 19, President Alvaro Uribe appointed Fernando
Araujo Perdomo to replace Maria Consuelo Araujo (no relation)
as Colombia's Foreign Minister. Fernando Araujo escaped from
6 years of FARC custody on December 31, 2006. Uribe said he
appointed Araujo because he was a symbol of Colombians'
suffering from generations of FARC violence. End summary.

--------------------------------------------- ------
Uribe Names Former FARC Hostage as Foreign Minister
--------------------------------------------- ------

2. On February 19, President Uribe appointed Fernando Araujo
Perdomo as Colombia's new Foreign Minister. Araujo replaced
Maria Consuelo Araujo (no relation), who resigned following
allegations of her family's alleged links to paramilitary
activities (reftel). On December 31, 2006, Fernando Araujo
took advantage of a Colombian military assault on his FARC
captors to escape after 6 years of being held as a FARC
hostage in brutal jungle conditions. His survival after a
five-day trek in the jungle, composure when meeting the
press, and remarkable memory for detail made him an instant
celebrity.

3. Uribe said he selected Araujo in part because he
symbolized the "national tragedy" of violence that Colombians
had suffered for generations. The international community
would now have a more balanced view of Colombia's challenges
and efforts to overcome them. Uribe claimed the appointment
was already paying off, drawing attention to the grim reality
of conflict with the FARC.

------------------------------------------
Announcement Surprises Media, Commentators
------------------------------------------

4. Uribe's announcement caught media commentators off guard,
with most praising Araujo's intelligence and low key style.
Leading daily El Tiempo said Araujo was eloquent and capable,
and characterized him as a victim of the violence that had
overwhelmed the country. Influential weekly magazine Semana
said Araujo had passed from "hell to glory" in two months
since he escaped from the FARC.

-----------------------
Araujo Vows Quick Study
-----------------------

5. In his first meetings with the press, Araujo acknowledged
he lacked a foreign affairs background as well as detailed
knowledge of recent international developments. Still, he
said he was a quick study and would make every effort to
promote Colombia's positive image in the world. He
identified obtaining U.S. congressional approval of the
bilateral free trade agreement and a continued strong U.S.
assistance package as top priorities.

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Bio Note
--------

6. Araujo, 51, was born in Cartagena. His family are
prominent industrialists in the city. Araujo earned his
civil engineering degree from Javeriana University in Bogota,
and served as a professor of civil engineering at the Jorge
Tadeo Lozano University in Bogota and the University of
Cartagena. Araujo served in several capacities in Cartagena
public administration and ran unsuccessfully for mayor. He
is a Conservative and a close friend of former president
Andres Pastrana, who appointed Araujo as Minister for
Development in August 1998. One year later, Araujo resigned
following murky accusations that as a company director in
1996 he was associated with a fraudulent land deal involving
the Cartagena City Council. He was arrested in 2000,
released on bail, and absolved of criminal responsibility in
2003.

7. The FARC kidnapped Araujo in December 2000. His escape
on New Year's Eve captivated Colombians. Araujo told of the
appalling conditions he endured in the jungle and of how he
maintained his physical fitness with daily exercises for 6
years in anticipation of an escape opportunity. Araujo's
memory was almost encyclopedic in recounting the number of

steps from camp to camp, and he recalled dates and events
with remarkable precision. Araujo's initial press
conferences showed a gaunt and obviously undernourished
hostage, but one whose mental strength and confidence were
equally clear.

8. Araujo's son Luis Ernesto Araujo is a diplomat assigned
to the Colombian Embassy in Washington, D.C. We understand
he will be his father's private secretary in the Ministry.
Araujo's second wife, Monica Aljure, remarried several years
after Araujo was taken by the FARC. We expect Araujo to
continue to promote close relations with the U.S. He does
not speak English.
DRUCKER

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