Cablegate: Colombians Reject Chavez' Proposals On Farc And
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UNCLAS BOGOTA 000191
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TAGS: PGOV PINR PREF PREL PTER VZ CO
SUBJECT: COLOMBIANS REJECT CHAVEZ' PROPOSALS ON FARC AND
RALLY AROUND GOC
REF: CARACAS 47
1. The GOC rejected President Chavez' January 10 statement
urging that the FARC and ELN be removed from international
lists of terrorist groups and receive "belligerent status"
from the international community. President Uribe later said
he would be willing to seek the FARC's removal from
international terrorism lists, but only after the group
ceased terrorist acts and showed its commitment to a real
peace process. Former-Presidents Pastrana and Gaviria, as
well the leftist Polo Democratico, supported the GOC stance.
The European Union, as well as individual European and Latin
countries, also ruled out Chavez' proposal. Meanwhile, on
January 14, the FARC kidnapped five Colombians and a
Norwegian in Choco. End summary.
Chavez' Proposal to Give FARC Belligerent Status
2. On January 10, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called on
the international community to give the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC) "belligerent status" and to remove
the group from international lists of terrorist
organizations (reftel). Chavez called the FARC and National
Liberation Army (ELN) "real Armies that occupy space in
Colombia." He added, "they have a political project, they
have a bolivarian project that is respected here." He
concluded, the FARC and ELN "are not terrorists." Chavez'
statements followed comments by Venezuelan Interior Minister
Ramon Rodriguez Chacin to FARC fighters during the January 10
recovery of hostages Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez de
Perdomo that, "we are very conscious of your struggle . . .
you can count on us."
3. Chavez expanded on his logic January 13, arguing that if
the GOC recognized the FARC as a belligerent, the group would
be required to reject kidnappings and terrorist acts against
civilians and accept the Geneva Conventions. Senator Piedad
Cordoba on January 14, called the FARC a "political reality"
and said she supported the Chavez proposal. Prior to Chavez'
comments, Cordoba had previously said she would travel to
Europe to lobby the EU to remove the FARC from its terrorism
GOC Calmly Rejects Proposal
4. The GOC immediately rejected Chavez' comments in a
communique issued January 11. The GOC called all illegal
groups in Colombia terrorists, and said it would not accept
belligerent status for the FARC or ELN or calls to lift the
groups' terrorist designations. Defense Minister Juan Manuel
Santos, who Chavez singled out for criticism in making his
FARC remarks, said, "Chavez has finally revealed himself."
The GOC's position has received support from the European
Union, as well as individual European and Latin governments.
5. Uribe said at the January 14 inauguration of Guatemalan
President Alvaro Colom in Guatemala City that he would be
willing to seek the FARC's removal from international
terrorism lists, but only after the group ceased all
terrorist activities and showed its commitment to a genuine
peace process. Uribe also used the opportunity to explain
the GOC's position to Colom, Mexican President Filipe
Calderon, and Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa.
Wide Support for GOC
6. Colombian political parties across the ideological
spectrum rejected Chavez's remarks and supported the GOC.
Former President Pastrana called Chavez' proposal "blackmail"
and offered to lobby the Europeans to oppose Chavez'
proposal. Former-President and opposition Liberal Party
leader Cesar Gaviria backed the GOC and said, "what we really
need is for Chavez to reject and condemn kidnapping."
Gaviria also insisted that Cordoba not defend the FARC or
seek the groups removal from terrorism lists. The Liberals
will call Cordoba to explain her position to the party the
week of January 20. Polo Democratico leader Carlos Gavira
condemned the FARC for its terrorist acts. Colombian print
and broadcast media labeled the Chavez statements
interference in Colombian internal affairs, and several
commentators urged the GOC to recall its ambassador to
7. Meanwhile, on January 14, the GOC reported that five
Colombians and one Norwegian (identified as Professor Alf
Onshuus Nino from the University of the Andes in Bogota) were
kidnapped by the FARC's 57th front in the Pacific-coast
Department of Choco.