Cablegate: Deputy Secretary Negroponte's Meeting with Human


DE RUEHBO #3237/01 1292000
P 092000Z MAY 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) May 8, 2007, 0800, residence of Charge d'affaires,

2. (U) Participants:

United States

The Deputy Secretary
WHA A/S Thomas P. Shannon
CDA Milton K. Drucker
D staff assistant Mary Sue Conaway
Political Counselor John S. Creamer
D/polcouns Scott I. Hamilton (notetaker)


Mario Gomez, Fundacion Restrepo Barco
Gloria Flores, MINGA
Fernando Calado, IOM
Barbara Hintermann, ICRC
Olga Lucia Gomez, Fundacion Pais Libre


1. During a cordial May 8 breakfast meeting, representatives
of human rights NGOs and international organizations told the
Deputy Secretary Colombia's justice system was independent
but inefficient. It needed more investigators and
prosecutors to be effective. Fundacion Restrepo Barco's
Mario Gomez credited President Uribe's democratic security
policy and the Justice and Peace Law process (JPL) with sharp
reductions in violence, especially homicides. MINGA's Gloria
Flores urged the GOC to strengthen its protection program for
victims, witnesses, and other participants in the JPL
process. All agreed Colombia's displaced population, at
between two and three million, was a serious problem,
although the trend was down. The ICRC's Barbara Hintermann
cautioned displacement could grow because of more aggressive
military action against FARC and ELN terrorists. End summary.

Democratic Security

2. Mario Gomez said the results of President Uribe's
democratic security approach were strong: crimes were sharply
down across the country, especially homicides. The JPL
process, including former paramilitary demobilizations, had
revealed mass grave locations and clarified the facts
surrounding some major crimes. The police were now present
in all 1098 municipalities; five years ago 10 percent of
municipalities lacked a law enforcement presence. Several
years ago, 70 mayors had to flee their towns and govern from
a regional capital because of terrorist threats. The
increased police presence had allowed many of these officials
to return.

3. The International Organization for Migration's (IOM)
Calado said the GOC's challenge was to ensure communities
were not polarized by the return of former paramilitaries.
MINGA's Flores said the Constitutional Court decision
modifying the JPL had made a major contribution to truth in
Colombia by emphasizing the rights of victims and
conditioning ex-paramilitary JPL benefits on their truthful
testimony. Flores agreed violence was down, but said the GOC
needed to be more aggressive in dismantling ex-paramilitary
criminal structures to prevent the rise of new groups. She
noted that violence remained a grave problem in certain
areas, including the port city of Buenaventura, where illegal
armed groups struggled for criminal spoils. Criminal groups
with links to former paramilitaries or to the FARC were a
problem even in Bogota.

Land Dispossession

4. The NGO representatives told the Deputy Secretary land
dispossession was both a cause and a consequence of the
conflict. Gomez emphasized only 10 percent of Colombian land
was titled before the conflict. Most Colombian campesinos
did not possess title to the land they occupied, making
reparations for dispossession difficult. Flores said former
paramilitaries had stolen some six million hectares from
campesinos, with ex-paramilitary nominees now using the land
for agro-industrial projects and cattle ranching. She cited

Catatumbo in Norte del Santander department as especially
emblematic, where illegal armed groups used kidnapping of
family members to force sales of land. Most of the seizures
were in areas where land was valuable for economic or
strategic purposes.

5. Gomez disputed the size of the land seizures, but
conceded the difficulty in ensuring reparations. He said in
many cases poor campesinos were struggling against each other
for the same land, with neither having title as proof of
ownership. Calado said the judicial process was slow and
cumbersome. Gomez added that the GOC was looking at
compensating some dispossessed with alternative land parcels.
The National Reparations and Reconciliation Commission was
assessing the viability of alternative compensation schemes.

How Many Displaced?

6. Calado told Negroponte estimates of Colombia's displaced
population range from two to three million, depending on how
they are counted. Mario Gomez said the GOC number is closer
to 2 million, based on those who register with the government
and receive benefits. In Colombia's most recent census,
700,000 respondents claimed to be displaced, a number MINGA's
Flores discounted as too low. She noted social stigma and
fear of retaliation from armed groups encouraged people to
reject displaced status. Gomez said if all those
historically displaced are counted, the figure would be close
to three million. He said the number is alarming no matter
which total is used. Calado told Negroponte the GOC was in
the process of complying with a Constitutional Court judgment
that mandated higher GOC spending on displaced populations.

More Displacements on the Way?

7. The ICRC's Barbara Hintermann noted an increase in
"massive displacement" in the first two months of 2007,
especially in Arauca and Antioquia, and warned there could be
more to come. She said the Colombian military was entering
areas formerly occupied by the FARC or ELN, leading to combat
that generated displacement. She voiced concern that the
distinction between participants and non-participants in the
conflict was becoming blurred. Both GOC forces and
terrorists were pressuring civilians to cooperate, as well as
using civilian property and goods. The GOC should do more to
curb the activities of new criminal groups, groups that
further exacerbated displacement. MINGA's Flores said the
U.S. should evaluate Plan Colombia's effect on Putumayo
department, where she alleged elements of the Colombian
military had colluded with former paramilitaries. Flores
claimed remnants of the "Los Rastrojos" paramilitary group
remained in the department. FARC and ELN retaliation against
purported paramilitary collaborators was causing additional
population displacement, she said.

Justice System and Bottlenecks

8. Gomez said Colombia's justice system was independent but
inefficient. In the past, it would have been easy to find
"brutal indications of impunity," but there were signs of
progress. Calado said some 50 major ex-paramilitary leaders
were in jail and would be tried for their crimes under the
JPL process. The challenge was to help ensure the GOC had
adequate resources to meet its JPL obligations. This
required increased assistance to victims, and more forensic
investigators and prosecutors. Olga Gomez of the
anti-kidnapping group Fundacion Pais Libre said the
transition from the old inquisitorial criminal justice system
to the oral accusatory process had caused significant
problems. In some cases, witnesses feared to confront their
accusers. In others, prosecutions failed because lawyers and
judges did not understand the new system. She claimed only
20 kidnapping cases were prosecuted in 2005 due to
prosecutors' problems in implementing the oral system. In a
similar vein, Flores claimed 2,500 unionists had been killed
since the early 1990s, but few had been prosecuted for the

9. Flores argued there were a number of bottlenecks that
inhibited faster results. She asserted paramilitary
infiltration of the Prosecutor General's Office (Fiscalia)
was at its height under Prosecutor General Luis Camilo Osorio

(2001-2005), but criminal penetration remained a problem.
This caused cases to stall and allowed victims and witnesses
to be intimidated. She urged strengthened GOC protection
programs for victims, witnesses, and other participants in
the JPL process. Olga Gomez said increased Fiscalia
resources could help resolve cases quickly, but without such
resources the cases could drag on for up to 10 years.

10. Deputy Secretary Negroponte cleared this message.


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