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Cablegate: Caught in the Crossfire: Discussion With

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id: 144921
date: 3/7/2008 21:45
refid: 08MANAGUA281
origin: Embassy Managua
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination:
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAGUA 000281

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR USOAS
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/FO, WHA/AND
DEPT FOR INR - EMERSON
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR FPA
NSC FOR FISK AND ALVARADO
BOGOTA FOR POL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/06/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL CO NU
SUBJECT: CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE: DISCUSSION WITH
COLOMBIA'S PNG'D AMBASSADOR TO NICARAGUA


Classified By: Ambassador Paul A. Trivelli for reasons 1.4 b,d.

Colombia's Ambassador to Nicaragua (for four more days)
-------------------

1. (C) We met this morning with Colombian Ambassador to
Nicaragua, Antonio Gonzalez Castano to discuss the events of
the last 24 hours, including President Ortega's surprise
announcement to break relations with Colombia. The
newly-PNG'd Castano was in good spirits but clearly concerned
by the unpleasant turn of events. He said earlier this
morning FM Santos had passed a letter formally breaking
relations and attaching three conditions to any
re-establishment of relations. These were that Colombia: (1)
acknowledge the (Nicaraguan interpretation of the) ICJ
decision in December regarding the maritime border at the
82nd parallel; (2) promise not to violate the sovereignty of
another Latin nations; and (3) basically, apologize for
Colombia's recent arrogant attitude. Gonzalez said he had
been instructed to close his Embassy and return to Bogota (he
will depart next Wednesday). There is no consulate, so all
official bilateral functions will stop. Peru will act as
protecting power for Colombia in Managua. (A couple of admin
personnel will stay on for a short time to bring contracts
and other affairs to an end.)

This Rupture Could Last a While
----------------

2. (C) Gonzalez said there was little short-term political
cost to Ortega given that Managua currently has only a charge
in Bogota, having recalled their Ambassador in December after
the ICJ decision. His understanding is that the Nicaraguan
Mission in Bogota will close and Panama will act as
protecting power for Managua. (NOTE: The closures will
affect some travel as Colombians require visas to enter
Nicaragua.) When asked his view of how long the break would
last, without hesitation, Gonzalez responded that Colombia
would never concede to Nicaragua's first demand. He added
that Bogota was still astounded at NicaraguA=&QQ\ns.

How did we get here?
--------------

3. (C) The Ambassador asked Gonzalez for his opinion about
how we had arrived at the current situation, noting that
during a face-to-face meeting earlier this week Ortega had
seemed quite moderate and unemotional about the situation.
Gonzalez responded that President Correa's vitriolic
statement early in the week was his first indication that
things would escalate. Gonzalez asserted that Ortega had
been waiting for an excuse to ratchet-up his months-long
saber-rattling against President Uribe, and recalled that
Ortega's statements during the Caracas ALBA Summit had
included a warning to Colombia that "to attack Venezuela (or
Nicaragua) was to attack all of Latin America." Gonzalez
added that his government is very concerned by what they see
as a calculated, coordinated effort by Chavez and his
acolytes to "close the circle on Colombia." He said that
Chavez has already succeeded in destabilizing the Hemisphere,
not militarily, but politically.

What Caused such an Allergic Reaction?
--------------

4. (C) Gonzalez said that the Uribe Administration had been
taken aback by the intensely negative reaction, but Gonzalez
wryly observed that both Venezuelan President Chavez and
Ecuadorian President Correa did not launch their invectives
until they realized that laptop and other items recovered

MANAGUA 00000281 002 OF 002


from the attack might contained damaging evidence that both
men's contacts with the FARC had been more than "humanitarian
discussions to release hostages." Gonzalez said that
Colombian intelligence entities were examining the laptop and
other materials, and while he did not have first-hand
knowledge of the contents, said that early indications seemed
to reaffirm President Uribe's public statements that Chavez
had provided financial support to the FARC. (NOTE: We have
seen public reports that Chavez has provided at least $300
million in cash to the FARC, that Correa had substantial
contacts with the FARC and that there is an, as yet, unclear
connection between Nicaragua and the Venezuela assistance.
END NOTE.)
TRIVELLI

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

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