Cablegate: Scenesetter for Visit of Admiral Mullen, Cjcs


DE RUEHBO #0146/01 0111852
R 111852Z JAN 08




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) Post welcomes the January 16-18 visit of Admiral
Michael G. Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to
Bogota. Your delegation will visit Colombia in the midst of
a dramatic transformation, one in which U.S. assistance is
playing a powerful role. The Colombia of 2008 is far safer,
economically stronger, better governed and more democratic
than it has been in decades. Murder rates have declined 40
percent since 2002, and kidnapping rates have plummeted 76
percent. Murders of union members fell 70 percent during the
same period, and civil society and political parties enjoy
much greater political space. Increased security has led to
an economic boom that has reduced poverty by 20 percent since
2002. More than 40,000 combatants, mostly paramilitaries,
have laid down their arms and most are participating in GOC
reintegration programs.

2. (SBU) Still, Colombia remains a work in progress.
Consolidating recent gains and making further progress on
human rights, security, and poverty reduction represent the
greatest challenges for the remaining 2 1/2 years of the
Uribe Administration. Our continued commitment to Colombia
-- through Plan Colombia support and approval of the
U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Act (CTPA) -- will help lock in
Colombia's democratic security gains and contribute to a
Colombia that provides security and opportunity to all its
citizens. End Summary.

CTPA Solidifies Advances:
Investment, Poverty, and Security

3. (U) Improved security and President Alvaro Uribe's
economic reforms have spurred the economy. GDP growth
approached seven percent in 2007 after averaging more than
five percent annually since 2003. Colombia's trade volume
has grown more than 65 percent in the same period. The
United States remains Colombia's largest trade partner
(approximately 40 percent of exports and 26 percent of
imports), though Colombia's trade with Venezuela has soared
in the last two years and Colombia could shift to
agricultural imports from Canada and the European Union if
trade negotiations conclude in 2008. Colombia already
receives duty-free access for most of its exports to the U.S.
under the Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA), which expires
February 29, 2008, while U.S. exports to Colombia currently
face an average tariff of almost 20 percent. Investors from
around the world are increasingly investing in Colombia in
anticipation of the CTPA. In 2007, Foreign Direct Investment
(FDI) exceeded $7.5 billion, 350 percent greater than FDI in

4. (SBU) The Colombian Congress ratified the CTPA in 2007 by
a substantial margin, and it remains the Colombian
government's highest economic priority. Delays in U.S.
approval or rejection of the accord would serve as a severe
political and economic blow to Uribe and his policy of
strengthened ties with the United States. Analysts expect
the agreement to add between one and two percent annual GDP
growth to the local economy. This increased economic growth
is crucial to generating the formal sector employment
necessary for Uribe to meet his goal of reducing the poverty
rate from 45 percent to 35 percent by 2010. Trade-based
formal sector growth will also provide the GOC with
additional fiscal resources to shoulder a larger portion of
its security costs as USG Plan Colombia support decreases.
Democratic Security

5. (U) The establishment of greater Colombian government
territorial control and the paramilitary demobilization have
created the space for civil society and political parties to
operate more openly than ever before. The Government
maintains a police presence in all 1099 municipalities for
the first time in history. Increased security of roads and
highways have allowed for greater freedom of movement for
people and commerce. Local elections in October showcased
these gains with over 86,000 candidates participating. The
leftist Polo Democratico Party (PDA) won 1.2 million more

BOGOTA 00000146 002 OF 003

votes than in 2003 and its candidate won the key Bogota
mayoral race.

Labor Violence

6. (U) Labor violence and impunity remain major concerns,
but significant progress has been made. Since 2002, labor
unions report that murders of unionists for political reasons
or common crime fell more than 60%. A resident International
Labor Organization (ILO) representative arrived in Colombia
in January 2007 to help implement the tripartite agreement
committing the GOC to finance the ILO Special Technical
Cooperation program and to provide $1.5 million a year to the
Prosecutor General's Office (Fiscalia) to prosecute cases of
violence against trade unionists. The additional funding
enabled the Fiscalia to create a special sub-unit with nearly
100 prosecutors and investigators to investigate 187 priority
cases. Since 2001, the Fiscalia has resolved 56 cases of
labor violence, leading to 1)NB7QQJ has taken specific steps
to protect labor leaders and other vulnerable individuals.
In 2007, the Ministry of Interior and Justice's $34 million
Protection Program helped protect more than 6,900 human
rights activists, journalists, politicians, and other
threatened individuals, including 1,720 trade unionists. As
a result, the murder rate for unionists is now lower than
that for the general population.

Human Rights Record

8. (SBU) The Uribe Administration continues to make progress
on human rights cases involving military abuse or
collaboration with paramilitaries. All members of the
military and police receive mandatory human rights training.
In October 2006, Defense Minister Santos named the first
civilian -- and the first woman -- as director of the
Military Criminal Justice System. Santos has strongly backed
initiatives to address the problem of extrajudicial killings,
changing promotion criteria to favor demobilization of
illegal fighters and ordering military personnel to
facilitate civilian investigations of all combat deaths.
Human rights groups allege that security forces committed 955
extrajudicial killings over the last five years.

9. (U) The Fiscalia has also made advances in prosecuting
military personnel alleged to have committed human rights
abuses. In August, a court convicted three military
personnel for the murder of three unionists in Arauca in
2004. In November, the Fiscalia ordered the detention of Army
Captain Guillermo Gordillo for his participation in the
massacre of eight civilians near San Jose de Apartado in
February 2005. The Fiscalia has also set up a special
prosecutorial team to investigate cases of alleged
extrajudicial killings.

U.S. Assistance

10. (SBU) In January 2007 the Colombian government presented
a Plan Colombia "consolidation strategy" pledging a Colombian
investment of $78 billion through 2013. The proposal
emphasizes the importance of building social cohesion,
assigning substantial resources to help strengthen local
governance, protect human rights, and help displaced people,
Afro-Colombians, and indigenous. It also aims to reintegrate
45,000 demobilized ex-combatants and deserters and to promote
Colombia's licit exports. The Colombian government seeks
funding from the United States and European countries to
complement its own resources.

11. (SBU) Under Plan Colombia, the USG has provided more
than $5 billion in assistance, including $600 million in
economic and social assistance. USG security assistance
combats drug trafficking and terrorism through training,
equipment, and technical assistance. It also supports
Colombian military aviation, essential for all programs --
civilian or military -- outside Colombia's major cities.

BOGOTA 00000146 003 OF 003

U.S. social and economic aid focuses on alternative
development, displaced persons, human rights and democratic
institutions, and reintegration of demobilized fighters.

Drug Eradication and Interdiction

12. (SBU) Eradication of coca and poppy crops and
interdiction of cocaine and heroin reached near-record levels
in 2007. President Uribe supports greater manual
eradication, but understands that manual eradication cannot
replace aerial eradication without a sharp increase in
expenditures. He seeks a complementary approach using both
methods. In 2007, the National Police and military forces
seized almost 150 metric tons of cocaine and coca base, and
destroyed 200 cocaine laboratories. We continue to work with
the Colombian government to refine our eradication strategy
and determine how best to transfer key tasks from the USG to
the Colombian Government.


13. (SBU) Since taking office, President Uribe has approved
581 extraditions to the United States, including a record
number of 164 in 2007. Among those extradited in 2007 were 11
members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
and three members of the United Self Defense Forces of
Colombia (AUC).

Demobilization and Peace Process

14. (SBU) Over 32,000 former paramilitaries have demobilized
since 2002, and a further 13,000 have deserted from other
illegal armed groups (about one-half from the FARC). Police
estimate there are 23 emerging criminal groups with a
combined membership of 2300 persons. Reintegration programs
and targeted law enforcement are working to counter these
emerging groups. Under the Justice and Peace Law (JPL)
process, over 50 former paramilitary leaders have been
jailed, and many are confessing their participation in
violent crimes. To date, the JPL process has revealed the
location of the graves of almost 1200 paramilitary victims
and provided information on 3600 crimes. Over 80,000 victims
have registered under the JPL, and the GOC is working on
measures to provide reparations. The Supreme Court and the
Fiscalia -- with GOC support -- also continue to investigate
politicians with alleged paramilitary ties. So far, 52
Congressmen, 19 mayors and 11 governors have been implicated
in the scandal.

15. (SBU) The ELN has negotiated with the Colombian
government for over two years on a ceasefire agreement, but
ELN infighting and FARC pressure have prevented a deal. The
ELN continues to kidnap civilians to fund its operations, but
its military capability continues to decline. The FARC has
rebuffed GOC initiatives to engage in any meaningful peace
talks, and killed eleven state legislators that they had held
hostage in July 2007. The GOC authorized Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez to facilitate peace talks between the
Colombian government and the FARC and ELN in late 2007, but
subsequently suspended his role after Chavez intervened in
Colombia's internal politics.

U.S. Hostages

16. (SBU) The three U.S. contractors captured by the FARC in
February 2003 are the longest held U.S. hostages in the
world. A November 2007 video seized by the GOC showed
proof-of-life of the three Americans. Their safe release
remains a top priority. President Uribe has assured us that
any humanitarian exchange will include the U.S. hostages. On
January 10, the Colombian Government authorized the
International Committee of the Red Cross -- working with
Venezuela -- to recover FARC-held hostages Clara Rojas and
Consuelo Gonzalez de Perdomo.


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