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Cablegate: Representative Blunt Meets with President Uribe

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UNCLAS BOGOTA 006400

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KJUS PGOV ETRD PREL PTER CO
SUBJECT: REPRESENTATIVE BLUNT MEETS WITH PRESIDENT URIBE


1. (SBU) Summary: President Uribe thanked Representative
Blunt for his support, and outlined GOC efforts to protect
union members, prosecute human rights violators, combat
emerging new criminal groups, and address Colombia's
socio-economic problems. Uribe explained that he had begun
to review the files of paramilitary leaders participating in
the peace process to determine if they continued to engage in
criminal activity. If he found they had violated their peace
process commitments, he would expel them from the process and
extradite them to the United State Representative Blunt
recognized the importance of U.S. aid *as well as approval
of the bilateral Free Trade Agreement* and said he was
working to build support in Congress for Plan Colombia and
the FTA. End Summary.

2. (U) U.S. Participants:

Representative Roy Blunt
Brian Diffell, Office of the Republican Whip
CDA Brian Nichols
POLCouns John Creamer

Colombian Participants:

President Alvaro Uribe
Ambassador Carolina Barco
Camilo Reyes, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs (MRE)
Sandra Suarez, High Commissioner for Trade
Patricia Cortes, North American Principal Desk Officer (MRE)


3. (SBU) Representative Roy Blunt called on President Alvaro
Uribe August 23. President Uribe said he had instructed GOC
officials to keep the U.S. Congress informed of the latest
developments on human rights, counternarcotics, and other key
issues. Blunt said GOC's progress in strengthening
Colombia's democratic institutions and creating democratic
space impressed him. The U.S. valued Colombia's cooperation
on security, intelligence, and counternarcotics. He
recognized the importance of continued U.S. aid *as well as
approval of the bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA)* and
said he was working with Representative Hastert and other
colleagues to build support for Plan Colombia and the FTA. A
U.S. rejection of the FTA would adversely impact U.S
relations with Latin America for years to come.

4. (SBU) Uribe said he has reviewed the files of ten
paramilitary leaders who appear to have engaged in ongoing
criminal activities despite their participation in the
demobilization and Justice and Peace law process. If he
found they violated their commitments under the peace
process, he would revoke his suspension of their extradition
requests and send them to the United States. Uribe noted
the overall recidivism rate of the 33,000 demobilized
paramilitaries was only 5%, but said this equaled over 1500
individuals. Many have joined new criminal groups. Uribe
said the GOC is combating these new bands, and GOC security
forces have killed or captured almost 1600.

5. (SBU) Uribe reviewed GOC progress in reducing violence
against trade unionists, noting the murder rate against
unionists is lower than the general homicide rate, but said
the GOC's goal is to be able to say we have &zero8 cases.
He said the Prosecutor General's Office has resolved 50 cases
of violence against unionists *resulting in 90 convictions*
and the GOC is protecting over 1500 unionists within the
Justice and Interior Ministry's protection program. Despite
tight budget constraints, the GOC has included funding in its
2008 for an additional 500 prosecutors and 1000 other
professionals for the Prosecutor General's Office. This will
strengthen the Prosecutor's capacity to resolve human rights
cases as well as to implement the Justice and Peace Law.

6. (SBU) Uribe said many union members were victims of
Colombia's history. In the 1960s and 1970s, the FARC and ELN
made a conscious effort to penetrate the union movement,
especially teachers, as part of their commitment to &all
forms of struggle.8 When paramilitary groups emerged, they
targeted unionists as alleged guerrilla collaborators. In
the last two years, many murders of unionists stemmed from
internecine conflict between the FARC and ELN in Arauca and
other departments. As shown by the July verdict in the
Drummond case in the United States, employers in Colombia
were not killing workers to weaken unions.

7. (SBU) Blunt praised the GOC's efforts to combat

narcotrafficking, noting the high cost paid in human lives.
Uribe said the Colombian army and police lost 597 members in
2006, with 377 killed so far this year. Another 1700 are
victims of mines who are undergoing rehabilitation in local
hospitals.

8. (SBU) Uribe underscored the GOC's commitment to addressing
Colombia's socio-economic problems, citing plans to expand
the coverage of the GOC's main anti-poverty program
*Families in Action* from 600,000 families to 1.5 million
families. Under this program, families receive monthly
stipends in exchange for ensuring their children receive
basic health care and attend school. He would meet with
local residents in Tumaco, a city on Colombia's troubled
Pacific Coast, on August 25 to announce plans to enroll more
residents in Families in Action and to relocate the local
hospital from a tsunami zone to a safer location. Uribe said
the GOC had appropriated $25 million to upgrade the city's
water supply, but lacked the funds to install a sewage
system.

9. (U) Representative Roy Blunt has not cleared this
message.
Nichols

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