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Cablegate: Colombia Responds Calmly to Venezuela and Ecuador

VZCZCXYZ0936
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #0827/01 0650156
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 050156Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1673
INFO RUEHSW/AMEMBASSY BERN PRIORITY 1419
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 8074
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0050
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ MAR 9277
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 5975
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID PRIORITY 0139
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 1345
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1229
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6626
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4319
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

id: 144263
date: 3/5/2008 1:56
refid: 08BOGOTA827
origin: Embassy Bogota
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 08BOGOTA800
header:
VZCZCXYZ0936
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #0827/01 0650156
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 050156Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1673
INFO RUEHSW/AMEMBASSY BERN PRIORITY 1419
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 8074
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0050
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ MAR 9277
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 5975
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID PRIORITY 0139
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 1345
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1229
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6626
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4319
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY


----------------- header ends ----------------

C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 000827

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/04/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREF PREL PTER MOPS VZ SP FR SZ EC CO
SUBJECT: COLOMBIA RESPONDS CALMLY TO VENEZUELA AND ECUADOR
DECISIONS TO BREAK DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS

REF: BOGOTA 800

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

SUMMARY
-------

1. (C) After Venezuela's announcement on March 4 that it
would close its border with Colombia, the GOC re-stated that
it would not send troops to the Venezuelan or Ecuadorian
borders. Ecuadorian President Correa confirmed in a
Colombian radio interview that he authorized GOE contacts
with the FARC, claiming he was engaged in a secret
"humanitarian exchange" negotiation with the group. The GOC
plans to use international forums such as the OAS to make the
GOC case for the raid against Raul Reyes' FARC camp in
Ecuador (reftel). The local ICRC chief delegate predicted
Reyes' death would lead to increased FARC desertions and
accelerate the breakdown of communications between the FARC
Secretariat and individual FARC fronts. END SUMMARY.

SIPDIS


VENEZUELA AND ECUADOR ESCALATE
------------------------------

2. (U) Venezuela's Minister of Agriculture Elias Jaua told
the media on March 4 that due to the GOC's killing for FARC
Secretariat member Raul Reyes in Ecuadorian territory, the

SIPDIS
GOV would "close its border" with Colombia. Jaua downplayed
the possible impact of the border closing on Venezuela,
saying, "at this moment we absolutely do not depend on
Colombia." Commercial contacts along the Venezuela-Colombia
border reported that the flow of some goods from Norte de
Santander, Arauca, and Cesar departments were suspended on
March 3-4, but they expected the flow to re-start soon due to
dissatisfaction on both sides of the border. Contacts
reported a normal flow of goods and people along the
Colombia-Ecuador (Ipiales) border.

3. (U) Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, speaking on "La
FM" radio, said he had no quarrel with the Colombian people,
but repeatedly accused President Uribe of being a liar. He
said the GOC attack and accusations forced him to break
relations. Correa claimed that he authorized Security
Minister Gustavo Larrea to initiate contacts with the FARC to
discuss a "humanitarian exchange." An angry Correa added
that prior to the Colombian attack on Reyes camp, Ecuador's
relations with Colombia were "the best ever." He also
asserted that the GOE had been trying to capture Reyes.
Still, Correa said he did not trust Uribe and so did not
inform him of Larrea's contact with Reyes, calling it a
"sovereign decision" to hold hostage talks with the FARC in
Ecuadorian territory.


COLOMBIA RELEASES MORE EVIDENCE
-------------------------------

4. (U) The GOC continued to release evidence from computers
found at Reyes camp showing FARC ties to the GOV and GOE,
including letters from FARC leader Manuel Marulanda to Chavez
and photos of international visitors to the Reyes camp.
Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo publicly said
Correa's claims that Larrea's contacts with Reyes were linked
to humanitarian exchange discussions contradicted the facts.
He repeated his claim that the GOE had tried to use the
hostages to reach political deals with the FARC. Local
media extensively covered President Bush's statements on the
crisis following his phone conversation with Uribe.


COLOMBIA TAKES ITS CASE TO UN, OAS, ICC
---------------------------------------

5. (U) The GOC confirmed its decision not to react to GOV and
GOE troop movements to the border, but pressed ahead with its

decision to exploit international forums to make the GOC
case. President Uribe announced that the GOC would use
evidence seized in Reyes' camp showing President Chavez
promised $300 million to the FARC to urge the International
Criminal Court (ICC) to open a criminal investigation against
Chavez for "sponsoring and financing genocide." In Geneva,
Vice President Francisco Santos cited UNSCR 1373 during the
UN's 7th Human Rights Council meeting, adding, "in our
continent there are those who intentionally do not comply
with that mandate."

6. (C) Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos told us the GOC
would focus diplomacy on highlighting dangers of countries
that support terrorists, using materials from the three
computers found with Reyes. The GOC knew the strike on Reyes
would not be a "free ride," but Santos said the benefits of
killing Reyes exceed the costs. The seized computers and
Chavez' reaction made it clear where Chavez stands. Correa,
he added, was a "a hypocrite." The GOC would use UN Article
51, UNSCRs 1368 and 1373, and the Reyes computer evidence
showing GOV and GOE complicity with the FARC as the basis for
its case in international forums.

7. (C) MOD Santos told us the GOC has heard that Chavez met
with journalists claiming the GOV had located paramilitary
camps along the border which were used to kidnap Venezuelans.
Santos said the GOC was worried Chavez could use this as
pretext to create an armed incident with Colombia. Santos
said he requested that the OAS Peace Mission in Colombia
(OAS/MAPP) identify and report on any new criminal group
camps on the border so the GOC could dismantle or attack them.


REYES' DEATH LIKELY TO TRIGGER MORE FARC DESERTIONS
--------------------------------------------- ------

8. (C) Local ICRC chief delegate Barbara Hintermann told us
Reyes' death would demoralize FARC members, prompting
increased desertions by rank-and-file members as well as more
important leaders. It would also accelerate the breakdown of
communications between the Secretariat and individual FARC
fronts, leading to a loss of command and control and giving
Front commanders greater autonomy. She said that if asked by
a FARC commander, the ICRC would consider playing a discreet
role to facilitate his/her desertion or demobilization.
Still, the ICRC would need to consider the security
consequences for its delegates of acting without FARC
Secretariat approval.

SIPDIS

9. (C) Hintermann said the impact of Reyes' death on a
humanitarian exchange was unclear. Reyes did not exercise
operational control over the hostages, but he was the ICRC's
main contact on the issue with the Secretariat. She
predicted there would be no more unilateral hostage releases
by the FARC.


Brownfield

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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