Search

 

Cablegate: Scenesetter for February 29-March 2 Visit Of

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #0736/01 0590016
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 280016Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1565
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
INFO RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO PRIORITY 8416

UNCLAS BOGOTA 000736

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

MEXICO FOR SECRETARY GUTIERREZ

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD EFIN PGOV EAID CO
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR FEBRUARY 29-MARCH 2 VISIT OF
COMMERCE SECRETARY GUTIERREZ, SBA ADMINISTRATOR PRESTON AND
CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION TO COLOMBIA

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

1. (U) Your visit comes as Colombia experiences a dramatic
transformation, fostered by targeted U.S. assistance.
Colombia finds itself safer, economically stronger, better
governed and more democratic than it has been in decades.
Rates of murder,
kidnapping, and violence nationwide, including against union
members, have fallen dramatically. Increased security has
led
to an economic boom that has reduced poverty by 20 percent
since 2002, lowered unemployment 25 percent, and attracted
record levels of investment. More than 40,000 combatants,
mostly paramilitaries, have laid down their arms and are
participating in GOC reintegration programs. Desertions among
the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) increased
in 2007.

2. (SBU) Nevertheless, Colombia remains a work in progress.
Consolidating recent gains and making further advances on
human rights, security, and poverty reduction--while also
managing increasingly tense relations with Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez--represent the greatest challenges for
the remaining 2.5 years of the Uribe Administration.
Our continued commitment to Colombia--through approval of the
U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Act (CTPA) and support
for Plan Colombia--will help lock in Colombia's democratic
security gains, promote regional stability, and contribute
to a Colombia that povides security and opportunity to all
its citizens. End Summary.

---------------------------------
CTPA Solidifies Advances:
Investment, Poverty, and Security
---------------------------------

3. (U) President Uribe's democratic security policy and free
market 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
grew 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 greater
agricultural imports from Canada and the European Union when
free trade negotiations with them conclude in 2008. Nearly
93
percent of Colombia's exports already receive duty-free
access to the U.S. under the Andean Trade Preferences Act
(ATPA),
which expires February 29, 2008, while U.S. exports to
Colombia face an average tariff of 12.5 percent. Investors
from
around the world boosting investment in Colombia in
anticipation of the CTPA. In 2007, Foreign Direct Investment
(FDI) exceeded $7.5 billion, 350 percent greater than FDI in
2002.

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 deal severe political and
economic blow to Uribe and his policy of strengthened ties
with the United States -- especially given recent tensions
with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. Colombia's second
largest trading partner, Venezuela, has already begun
commercial retaliation over Uribe's decision to
end Chavez' formal facilitator role in a humanitarian
exchange with the FARC. Venezuela has restricted automobile
imports from Colombia and deployed troops to the border to
stop unofficial cross border trade.

5. (U) Analysts estimate the agreement with the United States
would add between one and two percent annual GDP growth to
the local Colombian economy. This growth would add the new
jobs in the formal sector employment that Uribe needs to meet
his goal of cutting 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 falls.

-------------------


Democratic Security
-------------------

6. (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 GOC 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. Murders fell from over 29,000 in 2002
to less than 17,000 in 2007, and kidnappings fell from over
2800 a year to less than 600 during the same period. Local
elections in October 2007 reflected the improved security with
over 86,000 candidates participating. The leftist Polo
Democratico Party (PDA) won 1.2 million more votes than in
2003, and its candidate won the key Bogota mayoral race.

--------------
Labor Violence
--------------

7. (U) Labor violence and impunity remain major concerns,
with the government making greater progress than is regularly
reported. Since 2002, labor union data demonstrates that
murders of unionists for political reasons or common crime
have fallen
more than 75 percent. A resident International Labor
Organization (ILO) representative arrived in Colombia in
January 2007 to
help implement the tripartite agreement committing the GOC to
provide $4 million to finance the ILO Special Technical
Cooperation program and to provide $1.5 million a year to the
Prosecutor General's Office (Fiscalia). The Fiscalia
operates
as an independent agency responsible for prosecuting 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 118 convictions. For 2008, the
Fiscalia has received an additional $40 million in GOC funds
that has allowed it to add 1,072 new positions, including 175
prosecutors and 200 investigators.

8. (U) In addition to gains stemming from its democratic
security policy, the GOC 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 1720 trade unionists. The murder rate
for unionists is now lower than that for the general
population.

--------------------
Human Rights Record
--------------------

9. (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 deter extrajudicial killings, changing
promotion criteria to favor demobilization or capture 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.

10. (U) The Fiscalia has made advances in prosecuting
military personnel alleged to have committed human rights
abuses. In August 2007, a court convicted three military
personnel for the murder of three unionists in Arauca in
2004. In November 2007, 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 set up a special
prosecutorial team to investigate cases of alleged
extrajudicial killings.

---------------
U.S. Assistance
---------------

11. (SBU) In January 2007 the GOC 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 communities. It also aims to
reintegrate more than 45,000 demobilized ex-fighters and
deserters and to
promote Colombia's licit exports. The GOC seeks funding from
the United States and European countries to complement its
own resources.

12. (SBU) Under Plan Colombia, the USG has provided more
than $5 billion in assistance, including $800 million in
economic and social assistance. USG security assistance
combats drug trafficking and terrorism through training,
equipment, and technical assistance. It supports Colombian
military aviation, essential for all programs - civilian or
military - outside Colombia's major cities. U.S. social and
economic aid focuses on alternative development, displaced
and other vulnerable communities, human rights and democratic
institutions, and reintegration of demobilized fighters.

----------------------------------
Drug Eradication and Interdiction
----------------------------------

13. (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
spending. 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 GOC.

-----------
Extradition
-----------

14. (SBU) Since taking office, President Uribe has approved
over 614 extraditions to the United States, including a
record number of 164 in 2007. Among those extradited in 2007
were 11 members of the FARC and three members of the United
Self Defense Forces of
Colombia (AUC).

---------------------------------
Demobilization and Peace Process
---------------------------------

15. (SBU) Over 32,000 former paramilitaries have demobilized
since 2002, and a further 14,000 have deserted from other
illegal armed groups (about one-half from the FARC). The OAS
estimates there are 30 emerging criminal groups with a
combined membership of over 3000 persons. Reintegration
programs and targeted law enforcement are working to counter
these groups. Under the Justice and Peace Law (JPL) process,
over 50 former paramilitary leaders have been jailed, and
many have confessed 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. Almost 100,000 victims have
registered under the JPL, with the GOC working on measures to
accelerate the payment of reparations. The Supreme Court
and the Fiscalia--with GOC support--continue to investigate
politicians with alleged paramilitary ties. Fifty-two
Congressmen, 19 mayors and 11 governors have been implicated
in the scandal.

16. (SBU) The National Liberation Army (ELN) has negotiated
with the Colombian government for over two years on a
cease-fire agreement, but ELN infighting and FARC pressure
have prevented a deal. The ELN kidnap civilians to fund its
operations, but its military capability is declining. The
FARC has rebuffed GOC initiatives to engage in any meaningful
peace talks, and killed eleven state legislators held hostage
in July 2007. The GOC authorized Venezuelan President Chavez
to facilitate peace talks between the Colombian government
and the FARC and ELN in late August 2007, but subsequently
suspended his role after Chavez intervened in Colombia's


internal politics. The GOC issued a communiqu in January
2008
urging Chavez to "stop his aggression towards Colombia" after
Chavez proposed that the international community grant the
FARC "belligerent status" and remove the group from worldwide
terrorism lists. Chavez subsequently announced the
militarization of Venezuela's 2200 kilometer border with
Colombia.

-------------
U.S. Hostages
-------------

17. (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 from a FARC
urban cell 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. In January, the Colombian Government
authorized the International Committee of the Red Cross --
working with Venezuela -- to recover FARC-held hostages. The
FARC released four additional Colombian hostages on February
27, again working with the ICRC and Venezuelan Government.
Brownfield

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC