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Cablegate: Betancourt Hostage Situation Renders "Poor

VZCZCXRO3115
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV
DE RUEHFR #0460 0721856
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 121856Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2244
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 0472
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0542
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 0490
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0047

C O N F I D E N T I A L PARIS 000460

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/07/2018
TAGS: PTER PREL FR CO
SUBJECT: BETANCOURT HOSTAGE SITUATION RENDERS "POOR"
OTHERWISE STRONG FRANCO-COLOMBIAN RELATIONS


Classified By: POL/MC Josiah Rosenblatt for Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D)

1. (C) On March 6, Colombian Ambassador to France Fernando
Cepeda Ulloa described Franco-Colombian relations as "poor"
in a breakfast meeting with Ambassador Stapleton and WHA PDAS
Craig Kelly. Cepeda encapsulated the current distrust
between the two governments by suggesting that the GOF
considers Colombia a banana republic that takes policy
direction from the United States. He complained that the GOF
coordinates public messaging with Franco-Colombian hostage
Ingrid Betancourt's family in a way that undermines President
Uribe.

2. (C) Cepeda recalled that under Chirac he felt only
limited pressure concerning Betancourt. Chirac simply urged
Cepeda to tell President Uribe that "a military solution is
not the best option." There was little movement on the issue
until Sarkozy took office in May 2007. Since then,
Franco-Colombian relations have essentially been compressed
to this single issue, according to Cepeda, who is reportedly
close to President Uribe. He attributed President Sarkozy's
single-minded focus on securing Betancourt's freedom to a
personal enmity towards former Prime Minister Dominique de
Villepin and the desire to prove Sarkozy could accomplish
what Villepin could not. He described the Betancourt family
efforts to publicize Ingrid's detention as a textbook media
success and a textbook disaster to achieving her freedom.
Despite his claim of "poor" overall relations, Cepeda did
note that Franco-Colombian relations were positive with
fruitful cultural exchanges, and welcome trade and investment
flows. There is also good bilateral counter-narcotics
cooperation.

3. (C) COMMENT: Sarkozy's personal involvement in the FARC
hostage case may have contributed to securing the release of
some lower-profile hostages while perversely raising Ingrid
Betancourt,s value to the FARC as a hostage. A desire to
best his rival de Villepin, who failed after expending
tremendous effort to win Betancourt's freedom, may have
triggered Sarkozy's intervention. However, Betancourt,s
long-standing public profile in France predates Sarkozy's
presidency and release would have naturally appealed to
Sarkozy as a challenge and as a demonstration of his ability
to apply his will and bring results. Despite positive
fundamentals in the Franco-Colombian relationship, this
hostage situation negatively colors what should be a good
news story between France and Colombia.

4. (U) This message has been cleared by PDAS Kelly.

Please visit Paris' Classified Website at:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm


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