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Cablegate: Colombia Conflict Update for September-December

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #0905/01 0662329
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 062329Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1817
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0062
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ MAR LIMA 5987
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 1356
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 6639
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 4324
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC//USDP ADMIN/CHAIRS//

id: 144651
date: 3/6/2008 23:29
refid: 08BOGOTA905
origin: Embassy Bogota
classification: SECRET
destination: 07BOGOTA3096|07BOGOTA5002|07BOGOTA7453|07BOGOTA7625|07BOGOTA8091
header:
VZCZCXYZ0040
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #0905/01 0662329
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 062329Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1817
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0062
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ MAR LIMA 5987
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 1356
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 6639
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 4324
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC//USDP ADMIN/CHAIRS//


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

S E C R E T BOGOTA 000905

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/06/2018
TAGS: PREL PTER MARR PGOV CO
SUBJECT: COLOMBIA CONFLICT UPDATE FOR SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER
2007

REF: A. 07 BOGOTA 3096
B. 07 BOGOTA 5002
C. 07 BOGOTA 7625
D. 07 BOGOTA 7453
E. 07 BOGOTA 8091

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


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (S) The military killed two key FARC commanders in the
September-December period, prompting desertions from the
16th and 37th fronts. The FARC continued to move forces from
the eastern Macarena in Meta to parts of Tolima -Valle zone,
leading some analysts to speculate that it is withdrawing
some elite units to the central mountains to escape heavy
military pressure. An increase in FARC terrorist attacks
suggested a possible escalation in terrorism to offset its
declining military capabilities. The ELN cooperated with the
FARC and other illegal armed groups, as each front struggled
to fund and safeguard itself through local alliances. Still,
the FARC and ELN continued to fight each other in Arauca. END
SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- -------
DECAPITATION, THEN DISINTEGRATION OF KEY FARC FRONTS
--------------------------------------------- -------

2. (S) Colombian military takedowns of FARC front commanders
aka "Negro Acacio" and "Martin Caballero" (Refs D, E) led to
the collapse of the 16th and 37th Fronts. Acacio's death on
September 1 triggered mass desertions of his forces, gutting
the 16th front in Vichada. Acacio's successor was covertly
negotiating his surrender with the Army. One source
estimated drug revenues of the FARC's core Eastern Bloc
shrank from $800,000 per month under Acacio to $200,000 after
his death. FARC leaders told remaining 16th front fighters
to break into small units and retreat to remote areas to
evade GOC forces. The 37th front in Bolivar received similar
orders. After sustained military and police operations
against its fighters and militias led to Caballero's death on
October 24, the front shift south to alleviate the military
pressure.

3. (S) Colombian successes against FARC front commanders and
the resulting desertions yielded new tactical intelligence,
generating a steady stream of new strike targets. At the
current pace, desertions will set a record in 2008.
Significantly, recent desertions include FARC veterans of 10
or more years. Some are demoralized by food and supply
shortages; others alienated by abusive leaders or
disillusioned by the loss of a revolutionary ethos. GOC
targeting of FARC mid-level commanders and rank-and file with
rewards programs is also paying off. In the FARC's
heartland, the military is locating and destroying
substantial arms and supply caches, thanks to tips from tired
and hungry deserters seeking GOC payouts. The snowball
effect of leadership takedowns, desertions, and fresh
tactical intelligence is likely to unravel more fronts in
2008.

--------------------------------
FARC FORCES' SHIFT TO THE CENTER
--------------------------------

4. (S) The FARC continued to concentrate forces in a zone
extending from Meta in the east, across the central ranges of
Tolima / Huila, to Cali and Buenaventura in the west.
Seventy percent of its fighters were located in this
east-west oval, with the outer ends struggling to fulfill
leaders' logistics needs. Some analysts speculated that 1300
elite fighters of the Eastern Bloc located in the western end
of La Macarena (Meta) are moving west into the central
mountains to escape military pressure. The steep terrain in
Tolima provides the FARC with a natural fortress. Such a
retreat would signal its inability to maintain its presence
in the key Macarena region due to sustained military
pressure from Joint Task Force Omega. To the west of Tolima

are strategic corridors through Florida and Pradeira (Valle)
-- where the FARC seeks a demilitarized zone (despeje) -- and
to Cali and Buenaventura. FARC terrorist actions centered on
these cities and nearby Neiva (Huila). The Eastern Bloc also
lost its financial prominence, with drug income now centered
in the west.

------------------------------------
FARC POLITICAL vs. MILITARY TENSIONS
------------------------------------

5. (S) The Secretariat maintained overall command, but the
growing military pressure disrupted its internal
communications as well as command and control over individual
fronts. Some analysts speculated that the FARC's military
wing led by aka Mono Jojoy might be losing ground to more
"political" leaders such as aka Alfonso Cano as the FARC
continues to cede territory to the GOC, suffer supply and
cash flows shortages, and lose experienced commanders. Cano
and other "political" leaders stress the need to complement
military action with political activities, including the
creation of Marxist cells ('Bolivarian militias') to
infiltrate local government institutions, cultivation of ties
to Venezuelan President Chavez, and diplomatic outreach to
other European and Latin countries.

---------------------------------
FARC TERRORIST ATTACKS MAY SPIKE?
---------------------------------

6. (S) Recent attacks suggest the FARC may return to
high-profile terrorism to offset its declining conventional
capacity. On December 30, the Teofilo Forero Mobile Column
(TFMC) responsible for past headline terrorist acts fired a
rocket (unsuccessfully) at a Colombian Hercules C-130
aircraft carrying 50 soldiers on the runway in Neiva (Huila),
only days after it made a fourth attempt to assassinate the
city's outgoing mayor. Earlier in December, police foiled a
TFMC plot to kidnap President Uribe's sons. Some military
analysts speculated the FARC might resort to new attacks
against military, government, and infrastructure targets to
reassert its relevance. While the prevailing assumption had
been that the FARC would hunker down to 2010 to wait out
President Uribe's term, the possibility that its
disintegration had reached an unsustainable rate could prompt
an escalation. A successful hit against a GOC aircraft, in
particular, could radically change the war's dynamic in the
FARC's favor.

------------------------------------------
ELN: GANGING UP WITH FARC, CRIMINAL GROUPS
------------------------------------------

7. (C) The ELN increasingly cooperated with the FARC and
other illegal armed groups, as individual ELN fronts
struggled to fund and safeguard themselves through local
alliances. ELN and FARC jointly attacked an Army base in
Bolivar with bombs and grenades. In Catatumbo, the FARC
remained on the sidelines, preferring to leave combat against
the military to the ELN. In contrast, the FARC and ELN
continued to clash, with ELN frequently winning due to
simultaneous military pressure against the FARC. In Narino,
the ELN worked with new criminal groups such as the Rastrojos
and the Organization Nueva Generacion (ONG) to compete with
the FARC for control of drug traffic. These alliances were
transaction-driven, and varied from locality to locality.

Brownfield

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

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