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Cablegate: Human Rights Leaders Discuss Land, Afro-Colombian

VZCZCXYZ0004
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #3903/01 1512159
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 312159Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5787
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 7574
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 9038
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 5100
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 0348
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 5721
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 3976
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1464

UNCLAS BOGOTA 003903

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KJUS CO
SUBJECT: HUMAN RIGHTS LEADERS DISCUSS LAND, AFRO-COLOMBIAN
LEADERSHIP, AND GOC RELATIONS

REF: A. A) BOGOTA 3855
B. B) BOGOTA 3879
C. C) BOGOTA 3778

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. Human rights groups, including representatives of
indigenous and Afro-Colombian groups, addressed human rights,
Afro-Colombian, and indigenous rights issues at a May 25
lunch hosted by Polcouns. Justicia y Paz urged higher-level
GOC involvement in talks with human rights groups, and
respect for "humanitarian zones" from all armed actors
(including the Colombian Armed Forces). An Afro-Colombian
participant detailed how leadership problems, corruption,
racism, and lack of a clear social and political identity
create challenges for the Afro-Colombian community. The
human rights leaders, generally critical of the Uribe
Administration, admitted Uribe's popularity and attributed it
to his hard work and tough security policy. End summary.

2. At a May 25th lunch hosted by Polcouns, human rights
groups representatives discussed their relations with the
GOC, and raised specific human rights concerns. Participants
included:

--Sister Celia Naranjo of Justicia y Paz
--Lizardo Donico of Organizacion Nacional Indigena de
Colombia (ONIC)
--Gustavo Gallon of Comision Colombiana de Juristas (CCJ)
--Gustavo Lugo of the Moviemiento Nacional por los Derechos
Humanos de las Comunidades Afrocolombianas (CIMARRON)

----------------------
LAND REMAINS A CONCERN
----------------------

3. Donico and Lugo said indigenous and Afro-Colombian
communities have trouble working with the GOC's land titling
agency, INCODER, due to corruption and pressure by armed
groups. Naranjo cited the delays in returning land to the
dispossessed Afro-Colombian communities of Curvarado and
Jiguiamando as an example of the difficulties of working with
INCODER (reftel A). She said the paramilitary demobilization
has led to a drop in violence in Choco and other areas, but
cautioned that Afro-Colombians and indigenous communities
continue to be pressured by new criminal groups,
narcotraffickers and the FARC. She claimed commercial
interests, such as African Palm producers, frequently use
violence to force indigenous or Afro-Colombians to allow them
to operate on communal lands. Naranjo is working to get all
actors (including the Colombian Armed Forces) to respect
"humanitarian zones" where community members seek to escape
the violence. Donico said all armed groups should also agree
not to enter indigenous resguardos without permission. All
agreed illegal groups, as well as the Armed Forces, are
unlikely to accept such limits.

4. Donico and Lugo agreed good communication between
indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities is in place,
especially on land issues. Donico said it is sometimes
difficult to coordinate with Afro-Colombians, given the
numerous and diverseorganizations that represent its
interests. While the umbrella group ONIC represents 80
percent of indigenous organizations, no such equivalent
umbrella group exists in the Afro-Colombian community, he
said.

--------------------------------------------- --------
LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES IN THE AFRO-COLOMBIAN COMMUNITY
--------------------------------------------- --------

5. Lugo said the largest challenge facing the Afro-Colombian
community is building an Afro-Colombian identity in the face
of racism and economic hardship. Widespread factionalism and
weak ethnic identify makes it hard to develop a unified
social-political agenda. The process to choose local
community leaders -- and decision-making on resource
allocation -- is weak, unorganized, and sometimes corrupt.
Lugo said racism remains a serious problem in Colombian
society, and that not enough is done by the GOC for a
population that represents at least 10.5 percent of Colombia.
The recent GOC appointment of Paula Moreno as Minister of
Culture was political theater, he claimed.


----------------------
RELATIONS WITH THE GOC
----------------------

6. All the participants said they were in regular contact
with the GOC on human rights issues, but complained their
contacts lacks decision-making authority. Gallon said the
Vice President's Human Rights Office needs to address four
concerns: 1) the need for more resources from the
international community; 2) more GOC action to fight
impunity; 3) greater protection for at risk communities; and
4) completion of the National Plan for Human Rights. All
complained GOC officials at meetings on human rights or land
issues are too junior to make decisions, leaving the
communities with vague promises and few answers. Gallon
voiced concern over recent accusations by demobilized
paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso that Vice President
Santos had urged the paramilitaries to set up a presence in
Bogota. He said the accusation needs swift investigation by
the National Prosecutor's Office (Fiscalia), and suggested
Santos should recuse himself from human rights issues during
the investigation.

---------------------
URIBE'S FARC PROPOSAL
---------------------

7. Lugo said Afro-Colombian communities would accept less
justice for illegal armed actors and their supporters if such
benefits were accompanied by programs to address the
underlying causes of the conflict such as poverty and lack of
effective political representation. Still, he voiced
skepticism that President Uribe's recent proposals to release
FARC prisoners and provide reduced jail time for paramilitary
collaborators (refs B-C) would contribute to lasting peace.
He added that the M-19 demobilization process in 1991 and the
early stages of the Justice and Peace process did little to
address poverty and unemployment, which is why some ex-paras
are returning to crime.

-------------------
URIBE'S POPULARITY?
-------------------

8. Gallon, when pressed, admitted President Uribe remains
enormously popular with the Colombian public. He attributed
Uribe's popularity to: a public opinion backlash against the
FARC and desire for a hard-line security policy after
President Pastrana's failed FARC peace process; more
effective delivery of basic services to marginalized
populations; Uribe's constant outreach efforts; and Uribe's
public relations savvy. Gallon claimed Colombia's
"paramilitarization" had also led to apathy and acceptance of
Uribe's policies. Finally, he charged the GOC frequently
manipulated statistics, which created false perceptions of
progress.
Drucker

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