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Cablegate: March 5 Update On Colombia's Dispute with Ecuador

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id: 144469
date: 3/5/2008 23:07
refid: 08BOGOTA839
origin: Embassy Bogota
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination:
header:
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C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 000839

SIPDIS

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/05/2018
TAGS: PREL PREF PTER MOPS VZ EC SP FR SZ CO
SUBJECT: MARCH 5 UPDATE ON COLOMBIA'S DISPUTE WITH ECUADOR
AND VENEZUELA

REF: BOGOTA 827 AND PREVIOUS

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

SUMMARY
-------

1. (C) Colombia's border with Venezuela remained partially
closed on March 5, as the GOV confirmed that its troop
deployments on the border were 90 percent complete (reftel).
The border with Ecuador remained open. The GOC reiterated
that it would not deploy troops to its borders. GOC Deputy
Foreign Minister Reyes told the GOC is happy with the OAS
resolution, since it does not condemn Colombia's incursion
into Ecuadorian territory. Senior Colombian political leaders
supported President Uribe, but questioned his plans to take
Chavez to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The French
remain convinced that only Chavez can free Ingrid Betancourt,
and pushed on the margins of the March 4 OAS meeting to
include Venezuela and other countries as intermediaries with
the FARC. END SUMMARY.


UPDATE: BORDERS ALMOST NORMAL
-----------------------------

2. (U) The Colombian border with Venezuela remained partially
closed, as Venezuelan Defense Minister Gustavo Rangel told
the press the GOV had completed 90 percent of its
mobilization of troops to the Colombian border. Colombia's
border with Ecuador remained open. Food and medicine crossed
into Venezuela, but some border posts imposed varying
restrictions on the flow of goods and people without
visas/permits into Venezuela. Colombian food processors
confirmed that food is crossing into Venezuela for now, but
the GOV is trying to negotiate deals with other producers.

3. (C) Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos repeated that the
GOC would not "deploy one single soldier" to its borders in
response to Venezuelan and Ecuadorian deployments.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa continued his tour of
Latin capitals in Brazil, criticizing the GOC for the attack.
Meanwhile, negotiators at the OAS reached a deal on language
for a resolution regarding the GOC attack against Reyes.
Deputy Foreign Minister Camilo Reyes told us the GOC is happy
with the resolution, since it did not "condemn" Colombia's
infringement on Ecuador's territory. He said President Uribe
and Foreign Minister Araujo will travel to the Dominican
Republic on March 6 to attend the Rio Group meeting. Uribe
will use the event to lobby regional leaders.


SENATE DEBATE STRESSES CHAVEZ THREAT
------------------------------------

4. (C) On March 4, the Colombian Senate debated the crisis
and the threat from Venezuela--a debate the GOC had planned
prior to Raul Reyes' death. Senator German Vargas Lleras,
presidential hopeful and leader of the Cambio Radical Party,
made an elaborate presentation detailing more than $4 billion
of Venezuelan weapons purchases and showing numerous FARC and
ELN camps inside Venezuela. Vargas said, "We face a concrete
threat, and have been the object of permanent aggression from
Venezuela for many years. We are the aggrieved party, not
the aggressor."

5. (C) Vargas told us on February 20 that he had coordinated
the debate on Venezuela's links with the FARC with Santos and
other GOC officials. Vargas confirmed that Santos had
provided him with intelligence information for the
discussion. Santos followed Vargas' presentation with an
assurance that the GOC did not expect war.


POLITICIANS RALLY AROUND URIBE
------------------------------

6. (U) The Advisory Commission on Foreign Relations -- which
includes ex-presidents and foreign ministers -- met with
Uribe for five hours on March 4, and later issued a statement
of support. Opposition Liberal Party chief and
former-President Cesar Gaviria, speaking for the Commission,
rejected GOC and GOE threats and troop movements as

provocative, and criticized their support for the FARC.
Several Commission members suggested that Uribe reconsider
his decision to initiate a case against Chavez in the
International Criminal Court (ICC). Uribe named a high-level
committee of jurists to manage the GOC case on March 5.


IMPACT OF REYES DEATH ON FARC
-----------------------------

7. (C) The FARC issued a communique on March 4, naming Milton
Toncel (aka Joaquin Gomez) as Reyes' replacement in the FARC
Secretariat. Peace activist Moritz Akerman said Gomez was

SIPDIS
intellectual and "urbane," but also violent and resentful.
Unlike other FARC members who expect to live and die in the
mountains, Akerman said Gomez could see the bigger picture.
He added that Reyes' death undermined the FARC's diplomatic
network; the group would need months to rebuild this.


FRENCH COMPLICATIONS
--------------------

8. (C) Peace Commissioner Restrepo told us GOC-GOF relations
are "very bad." France remains obsessed with Betancourt,
Restrepo said, and continues to believe only Chavez can
achieve her release. Restrepo also told us that on the
margins of the March 4 OAS session, the French tried to
re-float their proposal that a group of countries (including
Venezuela) intervene as international facilitators for a
humanitarian accord.


Brownfield

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

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