Cablegate: Scene Setter for the Visit of General Mccaffrey
DE RUEHBO #6899/01 2641828
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211828Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9053
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
UNCLAS BOGOTA 006899
FOR GENERAL (RET) BARRY MCCAFFREY FROM AMBASSADOR WILLIAM
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL MARR PTER CO
SUBJECT: SCENE SETTER FOR THE VISIT OF GENERAL MCCAFFREY
1. (SBU) President Uribe's "democratic security" policy has
hit the FARC and ELN hard over the past five years, with
security improving across the country. Colombians are free
to travel highways and confidence has skyrocketed,
translating into record economic growth. The paramilitary
peace process demobilized over 32,000 fighters, reducing
human rights violations and creating new space for leftist
political parties and civil society. The GOC is seeking U.S.
Congressional support for the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion
Agreement (CTPA) which President Uribe considers key to spur
economic growth, attract international investors, and boost
revenues to fund social programs and win the fight against
narco-terrorism. The U.S. Congress' reluctance to approve
the CTPA due to perceived human rights problems -- after
Colombia's years as an unflinching U.S. ally -- has
bewildered many Colombians, including Uribe.
2. (SBU) In January, the GOC presented a Plan Colombia
consolidation strategy that puts increased emphasis on
socio-economic development and territorial control. Linking
military and civilian efforts to consolidate GOC presence in
conflictive zones remains a challenge, and comes in an
environment of shrinking U.S. assistance. The release of the
three U.S. contractors captured by the FARC in February 2003,
the longest held U.S. hostages in the world, remains a top
priority. President Uribe recently accepted Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez's offer to act as an intermediary for a
possible "humanitarian exchange" of FARC-held hostages for
FARC prisoners in GOC jails. End Summary.
3. (SBU) President Uribe's "democratic security" policy has
seriously weakened the FARC and ELN over the past five years,
while the paramilitary peace process demobilized 32,000
fighters. The Colombian security forces experienced a 24
percent increase in manpower--rising from 295,000 to
390,000--and GOC efforts to boost training and equipment
translated into improved performance. Kidnappings have
fallen from 2800 in 2002 to 687 in 2006, and murders fell
from 29,000 to 17,000 during the same period. For the first
time in decades, citizens can freely travel the highways.
USG security assistance has also been critical in improving
logistics, mobility, planning, and intelligence capabilities.
Uribe's consistent 70 plus percent approval ratings a year
into his second term (which ends in 2010) reflect his
successful security policy.
4. (SBU) The FARC has failed in its efforts to mount a major
attack against Bogota and its environs since November 2003,
and increasingly operates in ever more remote areas. The
military now operates in the historic heartland of the FARC,
as well as in the main coca growing regions, and has killed
several major mid-level FARC commanders in recent months.
The GOC scored its most significant strike on the FARC
leadership in years, killing FARC 16th Front commander Tomas
Medina Cracas, aka "Negro Acacio" on September 1. Still,
landmines, disease, logistic issues, limited airlift,
distance, and difficult terrain hamper security operations.
Moreover, the FARC continues to attack isolated or smaller
military and civilian targets.
5. (SBU) The GOC recognizes the need for an integrated
military-civilian program to consolidate recent security
gains and establish lasting control over former conflict
zones. In 2005, it created the Center for Coordinated
Integral Action (CCAI), to link the delivery of social
services (health care, education, legal, etc.) and the
establishment of a civilian presence to military efforts.
Setting up civilian institutions in recently-secured areas
present important resource and logistical challenges, but are
be key to whether the GOC can win over local residents of
historically abandoned areas.
Colombian Congress and Local Elections
6. (U) The Colombian Congress passed the President's top
legislative priorities last year, including the critical
Colombia Trade Promotion Act (CTPA), and a vital bill
reforming federal and state revenue sharing. Legislators have
now focused on the October 28 local and departmental
elections, making significant legislative advances before
then unlikely. Public approval of Congress fell as a result
of the paramilitary political scandal that erupted in May,
and fifteen legislators have been jailed for alleged links to
the groups. Fifteen more remain under investigation for
alleged paramilitary ties.
7. (U) The GOC has mounted a substantial effort to prevent
the FARC, ELN and local criminal groups from influencing the
results of the October elections, but many human rights
groups remain concerned. The GOC has also invited a large
Organization of American States (OAS) electoral observation
mission to observe the electoral process, and we are
supporting a large domestic observation operation as well.
The FARC and other groups have killed 54 candidates to date,
but the elections are generally expected to be free and fair.
8. (SBU) The GOC has invested its substantial resources in
the fight against narcotrafficking. Eradication of coca and
poppy fields reached record levels in 2006. The GOC has
increased its manual eradication program, but understands it
cannot replace aerial spraying. Security forces seized a
near-record 203 metric tons of cocaine and coca base in 2006,
and destroyed a record 200 cocaine laboratories. We continue
to work with the GOC to determine how to transfer key tasks
as we anticipate that assistance from the U.S. will decline
substantially in the future. The GOC has approved over 500
extraditions to the United States, including 109 cases so far
Plan Colombia Next Steps
9. (SBU) In January, the GOC presented a Plan Colombia
consolidation strategy. The proposal contains a heightened
emphasis on social development, assigning new resources to
consolidate governance, promote human rights, and to help
displaced people, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.
It also aims to further reintegrate 42,000 demobilized
ex-combatants and deserters.
10. (U) USAID receives approximately $130 million a year
which funds programs in four key strategic area: alternative
development and economic policy reform; justice reform, human
rights and governance; demobilization and reintegration of
illegal armed groups and assistance to internally displaced
persons. Alternative development receives approximately $70
million a year, with spending on internally displaced person
accounting for an additional $30 million. Colombia has
between 2 and 3 million displaced persons, including
Afro-Colombians and other vulnerable populations.
Positive Economic Outlook
11. (U) Improved security has helped to boost the Colombian
economy. 2006 GDP growth was 6.8 percent, while growth in
the first half of 2007 has averaged 7.5 percent. The United
States remains Colombia's largest trade partner
(approximately 40 percent of exports and 28 percent of
imports). Colombian exports to the U.S. have grown USD 1
billion per year since the renewal and expansion of the
Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA), a unilateral trade
preference program, in late 2002. U.S. exports to Colombia
increased approximately USD 2 billion during that period.
12. (SBU) The CTPA remains the GOC's highest economic
priority. The Colombian Congress approved the CTPA in June
and has since begun deliberations on the modification
protocol. Uribe and Colombians are increasingly bewildered
that the U.S. Congress has not considered or passed the CTPA
in light of what they see as Colombia's unflinching
friendship over the past five years. Some (including Vice
President Francisco Santos) have mentioned to the media that
Colombia may have to review it relations with the United
States if the CTPA does not pass. The U.S. Congress has
extended trade preferences for Colombian exporters under the
ATPA through February 2008.
13. (U) Trade unionists continue to fall victim to violence,
but the number killed fell by over 60 percent from 2001-2006.
This drop reflects the GOC's overall success in reducing
violence (homicides fell by over 40 percent during the same
period), as well as increased funding for special protection
programs for unionists, human rights activists, journalists,
and other threatened groups. The GOC also created a special
unit to investigate and prosecute cases of labor violence,
the sub-unit has successfully prosecuted 20 "priority" cases
to date. Still, human rights groups seek to condition U.S.
congressional approval of the CPTA on further GOC progress in
prosecuting cases of violence against unionists.
Military Justice and Improved Human Rights Record
14. (SBU) The GOC continues to make slow progress on human
rights cases involving military abuse or collaboration with
paramilitaries. Minister of Defense Santos has identified
military justice reform as a top priority; in October, he
named the first civilian -- and the first woman -- as
Director of the Military Criminal Justice System. Human
rights training is mandatory for all members of the military
and police. In June 2007, the GOC set up a senior-level
commission to develop policies to reduce extrajudicial
killings and to support ongoing investigation of alleged
killings. In its annual 2006 report, the UN High Commission
on Human Rights voiced concern that allegations of
extrajudicial killings by Colombian security forces rose from
145 in 2005 to 178 in 2006.
15. (SBU) Over 32,000 former paramilitaries have demobilized
since 2002, and a further 11,000 have deserted from all
illegal armed groups (about half from the FARC). FARC
desertions increased significantly in 2007. The GOC has
developed a reintegration program to meet the demobilized
needs -- the largest such reintegration program ever
attempted. A small percentage of renegade paramilitaries
have joined new criminal groups,largely dedicated to drug
trafficking, racketeering, and other crimes.
16. (SBU) The Justice and Peace Law process for the
ex-paramilitaries -- which provides reduced 5-8 year
sentences for paramilitaries guilty of human rights abuses in
exchange for truth and reparations -- is exposing the full
extent of paramilitary penetration of Colombian society and
politics. It has helped solve over 200 murders and led to
the exhumation of over 800 bodies of paramilitary victims.
17. (SBU) The military and the FARC have decimated the
National Liberation Army (ELN), causing many of its fronts to
increase narcotrafficking activities. The GOC and ELN spent
two years negotiating in Cuba without success. Talks stalled
largely because the ELN overestimates its leverage, insisting
on substantive political reforms unacceptable to the GOC.
The GOC-ELN talks recently moved to Venezuela, and the GOC
agreed to have President Chavez facilitate the talks.
18. (SBU) The FARC has refused to engage in meaningful peace
talks, and killed eleven state legislators it had held
hostage for five years. President Uribe accepted an offer by
Chavez to act as an intermediary to facilitate a possible
"humanitarian exchange" of 45 "political" hostages held by
the FARC for FARC prisoners in Colombian jails. Still,
Uribe said he would not accept the FARC's demand for a
demilitarized zone as a prerequisite for talks, nor would he
allow freed FARC prisoners to return to the FARC's ranks.
Chavez and a FARC official have tentatively scheduled a
meeting in Venezuela on October 8. Another intermediary,
Senator Piedad Cordoba, is seeking a meeting in the United
States with FARC members "Simon Trinidad" and "Sonia"
(convicted in the United States of terrorism and drug
charges, respectively). The USG is considering the request.
19. (SBU) The three U.S. contractors captured by the FARC in
February 2003 remain the longest held U.S. hostages in the
world. Their safe release remains a top U.S. priority, and
we continually revise our diplomatic and military options for
freeing the hostages. The GOC continues to provide full
assistance, and President Uribe has assured us the U.S.
hostages will be included in any humanitarian exchange.