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Cablegate: Goc to Facilitate New Farc Hostage Release

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #0683/01 0562133
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 252133Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1506
INFO RUEHSW/AMEMBASSY BERN PRIORITY 1410
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 8059
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0001
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ FEB 9249
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 5935
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID PRIORITY 0118
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 1287
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1218
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6575
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA PRIORITY 0173
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 000683

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/25/2018
TAGS: PREF PREL PTER PHUM OAS BR CU FR PM SP SZ
VZ, CO
SUBJECT: GOC TO FACILITATE NEW FARC HOSTAGE RELEASE,
REBUFFS FRENCH EFFORT TO SEEK RENEWED ROLE FOR VENEZUELA

Classified By: Political Counselor John S. Creamer.
Reasons 1.4 b and d.

-------
SUMMARY
-------
1. (C) President Uribe said the GOC will facilitate the
possible release of four more political hostages held by the
FARC, including allowing Venezuelan helicopters to use San
Jose de Guaviare airport. Peace Commissioner Restrepo told
us the February 21 meeting with Uribe and French FM Kouchner
was "cordial but frank." Uribe rebuffed three French
attempts to discuss a renewed Venezuelan role in facilitating
a humanitarian accord. Restrepo will meet secretly with the
French, Spaniards, and Swiss in Panama on February 26. The
Spanish are wary of the French and Swiss, and expect little
to come from the Panama meeting. END SUMMARY.

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GOC WILL FACILITATE NEW HOSTAGE RELEASE
---------------------------------------
2. (U) President Alvaro Uribe confirmed on February 23 that
the GOC has located the four political hostages set to be
released by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC), but added that the Colombian military would not
interfere with their release. Defense Minister Juan Manuel
Santos had previously announced that the GOC had located the
four--Gloria Polanco, Luis Eladio Perez, Orlando Beltran, and
Jorge Eduardo Gechem--south of San Jose de Guaviare, and near
where Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez de Perdomo were
released on January 10. Santos said Gechem was in "grave"
physical condition, and urged his immediate release.
Gechem's family announced they will travel to Caracas on
February 27 with Senator Piedad Cordoba in the expectation
that the FARC will release the four in the near future.

3. (C) Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo told us the
hostage recovery operation would likely follow the model used
in the FARC's release of Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez,
including the use of San Jose de Guaviare airport by
Venezuelan helicopters. The GOC would not try to impose new
conditions due to the intense domestic and international
interest in the four hostages' release. Santos told the
Ambassador he had publicly announced the GOC's knowledge of
the hostages' location to prevent the FARC from blaming
Colombian military operations for delaying the release or
from attributing Gechem's death to GOC obstructionism. On
February 25, Venezuelan Interior Minister Ramon Rodriguez
Chacin accused the GOC of carrying out "intense military
operations" that were complicating the FARC's plans for
release.

--------------------------------------------
TENSE GOC MEETING WITH FRENCH OVER VENEZUELA
--------------------------------------------
4. (C) Restrepo told us the February 21 meeting between
President Uribe and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner
was "cordial but frank." Kouchner proposed the creation of a
group of countries, including Venezuela, to facilitate a
humanitarian exchange. Uribe responded that this was not the
time to talk about Venezuela. Restrepo said Kouchner tried to
raise Venezuela two more times during the meeting, only to be
rebuffed by Uribe. In an interview with weekly news magazine
"Semana" published February 24, Kouchner said "Chavez is key
to liberation of the hostages . . . and we think President
Chavez has played a positive role up to now."

5. (C) Restrepo said Uribe pressed Kouchner on what France
might contribute to a humanitarian accord, as well as his
proposal to encircle the FARC unit holding the hostages and
to negotiate their release. Kouchner repeated French
skepticism about encirclement, but said France would
contribute economic support and would also accept some FARC
members as part of a negotiated solution.

----------------------------------
GOC TO MEET FRENCH, SPANISH, SWISS
----------------------------------
6. (C) Restrepo told us he will secretly meet with the three
European facilitators--France, Spain and Switzerland-- in
Panama on February 26 to discuss the way forward on
humanitarian negotiations. The GOC has authorized Swiss
representative Jean Pierre Gontard and French representative
Noel Saenz to meet the FARC. Uribe told Kouchner that after
such a FARC-Euro meeting, the GOC could consider a possible
role for Cuba, as well as Brazilian President Lula da Silva,
in support of the European effort.

7. (C) Separately, Spanish DCM in Bogota Pablo Gomez de Olea
confirmed the Panama meeting and predicted little would be
achieved due to lack of consensus among the three European
countries. Gomez said the French are increasingly desperate
to obtain the FARC's release of Ingrid Betancourt, see
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as key, and are prepared to
act without GOC authorization or knowledge. He said the
French would gladly pay the FARC in exchange for Betancourt's
freedom and would also agree to seek the FARC's removal from
the EU terrorism list. The problem is that the FARC does not
want money for Betancourt. Gomez added that the French have
put Spain in an increasingly difficult position by demanding
that Spain choose between supporting France or Colombia.

8. (C) Gomez told us the Swiss are more moderate than the
French, but are also capable of acting without GOC
authorization. The Swiss are not bound by the EU's terrorist
list, and allow a FARC representative to operate in
Switzerland. Gomez said Spain believes individual Latin
countries do not have the stature or credibility to play a
role in a humanitarian process. Still, Spain believes the
OAS could assume such a role under the right circumstances,
making it important to preserve OAS interest and credibility.

Brownfield

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