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Cablegate: Ambassador Brownfield's March 18 Meeting With

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #1095/01 0792205
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 192205Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2036
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0155
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ MAR 9337
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 6030
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6684
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4355
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAWJC/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS BOGOTA 001095

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KJUS CO ELAB
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR BROWNFIELD'S MARCH 18 MEETING WITH
ASSOCIATION FOR ALTERNATIVE SOCIAL POLICY (MINGA) DIRECTOR

-------
Summary
-------

1. (U) The Ambassador emphasized the important role human
rights workers in a democratic society to Gloria Florez, the
Executive Director of the Association for Alternative Social
Policy (MINGA) in a March 18 meeting. MINGA officials
expressed appreciation for the Ambassador's visit to
demonstrate USG support for human rights defenders. They
expressed concerns over ongoing violence and threats,
extrajudicial executions, and a lack of judicial capacity to
fight impunity. They said fumigation and land issues
negatively impacted displaced communities and other
vulnerable groups. The Ambassador offered to continue to
work together to formulate concrete solutions to human rights
concerns. Florez and the Ambassador held a brief joint press
encounter following the meeting. End Summary.

-----------------------------
MINGA: Human Rights Defenders
-----------------------------

2. (SBU) MINGA Director, Florez, told the Ambassador on
March 18 that human rights concerns remain a serious problem
in Colombia. She depicted current conditions as a "profound
crisis" of systematic attacks and assassinations. MINGA
provides legal services, assists victims of human rights
violations, and demands that the GOC provide more human
rights guarantees. She said MINGA works in partnership with
local organizations, affected communities, and the Catholic
Church to empower victims. Their work focuses primarily in
the areas of Narino, Putumayo, Norte de Santander, Guajira,
and Cauca with indigenous communities, Afro-Colombians,
women, and other vulnerable groups. MINGA no longer maintains
activity in Cesar due to high security concerns. She
indicated that border areas with Ecuador and Venezuela --
with large numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) --
remain particularly worrisome. Despite these challenges, she
expressed confidence in her group's continuing efforts and
thanked the Ambassador for "sending a strong message of USG
support" by visiting the MINGA office. Florez thanked the
Embassy's efforts on the human rights front and our support
of human rights defenders in Colombia who remain stigmatized
and threatened.

3. (U) The Ambassador expressed respect for human rights
NGO's and their important role in a democratic society. He
emphasized our mutual goals to eliminate violence and promote
a just society, providing all citizens with the capacity to
live in dignity and peace. He acknowledged that although we
may not agree with all of MINGA's analysis and conclusions,
we welcome communication channels to discuss problems and
offer pragmatic solutions. In a statement to the press
following the meeting, the Ambassador underscored the
critical role of human rights and civil society groups and
the need for security for them to fulfill this role.

4. (SBU) Francisco Bustamante said he and other human rights
leaders had received threats this month from a group alleging
to be the Aguilas Negras of Bogota (note: many criminal
groups loosely use this name to call attention to their
activity but have no relation to the group, and several other
individuals report recently receiving similar threats). He
said the Ambassador's visit amidst the security threats
highlights the importance of protecting human rights workers.
He said civilians often get caught in the middle of fighting
between the military and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC) in his hometown of Cauca and other regions.
He suggested that the Embassy regularly visit other human
rights organizations to continue demonstrating our support.
The Ambassador agreed to make such visits.

-------------------------------------
Fumigation Impact and Judicial Reform
-------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Amaury Padilla said that aerial fumigation directly
hurts the Putumayo population, and alternative development
projects did not sufficiently address community concerns.
Despite heavy military presence, paramilitaries continued
threatening civilians in Putumayo. Extrajudicial killings,

arbitrary detentions, and child recruitment by all armed
actors were "constant and permanent." He claimed that
fumigation caused a humanitarian crisis of displacement and
hunger, while local officials did nothing to alleviate the
distress. Diana Sanchez added that the 15th mobile brigade
in Catatumbo was guilty of extrajudicial killings and that
judicial vigilance remains necessary to fight impunity. She
said the local prosecutors responded slowly to denouncements,
and they lacked the personnel and resources to investigate
all cases in a timely manner.

-----------------------------
Megaprojects, Land, and Drugs
-----------------------------

6. (SBU) Florez said paramilitaries occupied valuable lands
and inflated their value in Cucuta and Tibu. Megaprojects
took over remaining lands, preventing any possibility of
restitution for IDPs. She said private companies must
recognize the impact of their businesses on human rights and
must engage with local communities. Drug traffickers,
criminal bands, and the FARC continue to create a climate of
violence -- often through anti personnel mines, child soldier
recruitment, and illicit activities that violate the autonomy
of indigenous groups and peace communities.

7. (U) The Ambassador said the problem of violence and drugs
is a decades-old problem that we all recognize; the way
forward remains working together to develop concrete
solutions. He suggested that in addition to short-term
humanitarian assistance, we need to develop long-term
economic and social strategies. The Ambassador offered
continuing dialogue with MINGA -- and in consultation with
international and local organizations -- to come up with
concrete solutions to these problems.

8. (U) In the follow-on press encounter with Florez, the
Ambassador summarized his comments to MINGA on the importance
of an energetic human rights community in a democratic
society. All questions from the media, however, focused on
the March 17 OAS ministerial concerning the
Colombia-Ecuador-Venezuela dispute.
Brownfield

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