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Cablegate: Cjcs Admiral Mullen's January 17 Meeting With

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DE RUEHBO #0337/01 0281705
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P 281705Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1118
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S E C R E T BOGOTA 000337

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/23/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER MARR MOPS VZ AR BH BR CI CS
CU, ES, HO, MX, NU, PM, PA, PE, UY, CO
SUBJECT: CJCS ADMIRAL MULLEN'S JANUARY 17 MEETING WITH
PRESIDENT URIBE

Classified By: Ambassador William R. Brownfield
Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d)

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

1. (S) President Uribe's overwhelming concern during a
January 17 meeting with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
(CJCS) Admiral Michael Mullen, was Hugo Chavez' aggressive
remarks and proposal to grant belligerent status to the FARC.
Uribe insisted the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) must keep their
terrorist designation, and the USG and GOC should work
together to convince Latin American countries that Chavez'
approach would harm Colombia and regional democracy. Uribe
said Chavez has committed to bring down Uribe and his
government by using the FARC as his militia inside Colombia.
The GOC's current plan of action on hostages consists of
locating them, securing areas near the hostage groups, and
calling on the International Committee of the Red Cross
(ICRC) to negotiate their release. Uribe would authorize
Colombian forces to cross into Venezuela to arrest FARC
leaders and bring them to justice in Colombia. End Summary.


2. (U) Participants

UNITED STATES

CJCS Admiral Michael Mullen
Ambassador William Brownfield
CJCS/EA CAPT James Foggo
Defense Attach COL Mark Wilkins (notetaker)

COLOMBIA

President Alvaro Uribe
Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos
Armed Forces Commander General Freddy Padilla
MFA U.S. and Canada Desk Officer Patricia Cortes


-------------------------------
Uribe Obsessed By Chavez Blasts
-------------------------------

3. (C) President Alvaro Uribe arrived late to the meeting,
directly from a discussion with his cabinet on how to respond
to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez' latest inflammatory
remarks, and the show of solidarity by the Venezuelan
Congress on granting "belligerent" status to the FARC. It
was clear that he was still focused on Chavez and the GOC
response.

-------------------------
GOC Progress, USG Support
-------------------------

4. (C) Uribe thanked the United States for its continued
support, stressing its decisiveness in helping Colombia pull
back from the brink of becoming a failed state. While much
work remains, Colombia has made great progress against
terrorists and the GOC feels certain they can win this
battle. Uribe attributed a great portion of the credit for
Colombia's success to the permanent assistance of the USG and

its armed forces. Chairman Mullen reaffirmed the strength of
the bilateral relationship and assured Uribe of continuing
USG commitment to defeating our common adversaries. He
admired Colombians' determination and leadership. The
Colombian military had transformed itself remarkably and
performed the highest calling possible -- returning Colombia
to its citizens.

---------------------------
Chavez' Endorsement of FARC
---------------------------

5. (C) Turning to Venezuela, Uribe said his neighbor's
actions cause Colombia great difficulty. The FARC and ELN
must keep their terrorist designation, Uribe insisted, and
there should be negative consequences for any country
granting them belligerent status. It was important to
counter and challenge Chavez' rhetoric, especially on this
point. When France and Mexico granted that status to the
Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN) rebels in El Salvador
in 1981, Uribe commented, they fought an unelected and brutal
dictatorship. By contrast, the FARC waged war on a duly
elected democracy, they had no public support, and they
financed themselves through narcotrafficking and extortion.

6. (S) Asked by the Chairman how much help Chavez gave the
FARC, Uribe replied that Chavez has a five to seven year plan
to advance his Bolivarian agenda in Colombia. He has created
popular militias inside Venezuela (apart from the Armed
Forces) to sustain his revolution. The GOC believes Chavez
thinks he could use the FARC as his militia inside Colombia
to combat its democratic government. Chavez remains
committed to bring down both Uribe and his government, as the
primary obstacles to his Bolivarian expansionist dreams.
With no clear Colombian presidential successor, a well
financed candidate favoring Chavez might find space in 2010.
The best counter to Chavez, in Uribe's view, remains action
-- including use of the military.

----------------
Regional Support
----------------

7. (S) Uribe urged the GOC and USG to work together to
convince Latin American countries that Chavez' approach to
the FARC was wrong and would harm Colombia and regional
democracy. The USG, he said, ought to lead a public campaign
against Venezuela and counter Chavez' progress through
preferential oil offers. The U.S. and Mexico, supported by
Honduras, Panama, Belize, and Costa Rica (especially Oscar
Arias in the latter) were natural leaders to counter Chavez.
Even Cuba, which felt Chavez had crossed into dangerous
territory, has exercised a restraining influence. When the
GOC asked the Cuban government their views on Chavez' call to
roll back the FARC's terrorist designation, the Cubans stated
that it was "a difficult proposal."

8. (S) Uribe saw mixed loyalties among other Latin American
countries. Only Nicaragua had supported Chavez' FARC
proposal. Argentina remains difficult, since Venezuela
bought Argentine bonds and Chavez made campaign contributions
to the new President. Paraguay, in the midst of an election
cycle, is uncertain though the front-runner supports Chavez.
Uruguay, a possible ally, is sitting on the fence. Brazil
remains friendly with Colombia, but prefers neutrality lest
it offend anyone. In Peru, President Alan Garcia concurs

with the United States and would follow its lead. Chile
remains a good friend to Colombia and its cause.

-----------------
Hostages and HVTs
-----------------

9. (S) Uribe listed rescue of hostages held by the FARC as
one of his main goals for 2008. He outlined a plan whereby
the military would establish a "cordon sanitaire" around
areas where hostages were held. Then the GOC would
temporarily open the area to outside interlocutors such as
the ICRC to offer an international medical mission and
conduct negotiations. Under this umbrella, the GOC would
focus on the 44 hostages the FARC had identified as
"exchangeable." Chairman Mullen assured USG support for
GOC's efforts, but he cautioned that the USG wanted the
hostages returned alive. Uribe responded with his conviction
that the FARC would not kill hostages at this stage. The
best course of action, he advocated, remains to locate the
hostages, secure the positions, and then call in the ICRC to
negotiate their release.

10. (S) Uribe said the GOC also placed a priority on high
value targets and that they had achieved great results in
late 2007. Finally, he said he was prepared to authorize
Colombian forces to cross into Venezuela, arrest FARC
leaders, and bring them to justice in Colombia.

11. (U) CJCS Admiral Mullen cleared this cable.


Brownfield

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