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Cablegate: French Hostage Mission On Hold Due to Farc

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/04/2018 \
TAGS: PTER PREL PREF PHUM CASC FR SP CO
SUBJECT: FRENCH HOSTAGE MISSION ON HOLD DUE TO FARC \
INTRANSIGENCE \
\
Classified By: Political Counselor John Creamer \
Reasons 1.4 (b and d) \
\
SUMMARY \
------- \
1. (C) FARC spokesman Rodrigo Granda issued a statement on \
April 3 dashing hopes the FARC would release hostage Ingrid \
Betancourt. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us there \
was "no possibility" the French medical mission in Bogota \
would succeed in reaching Betancourt. He added that \
President Uribe had issued instructions to fully cooperate \
with the French, since the GOC expects the French to try to \
blame it for the mission's failure. The Spanish, one of the \
three countries authorized by the GOC to work with the FARC \
on an exchange, agree that prospects for the mission's \
success are unlikely. They predicted the French will pressure \
the GOC to accept the FARC's demand for a demilitarized zone \
(despeje) if the mission fails. End summary. \
\
FARC SAYS NO TO HOSTAGE RELEASE \
------------------------------- \
2. (U) The FARC's unofficial "foreign minister" Rodrigo \
Granda issued a statement on April 3 saying the FARC would \
only release its hostages as part of a formal "exchange of \
prisoners," casting doubt that a French-led mission to \
provide medical care to Ingrid Betancourt will proceed. A \
French Falcon aircraft and several medical personnel arrived \
at Bogota's military airfield on April 3, promoting \
expectations that the French had an agreement with the FARC \
to treat Betancourt. Granda ruled out further FARC \
unilateral hostage releases without "more demanding" \
guarantees from the GOC. He said Ingrid and other hostages \
were in no "worse condition than Simon Trinidad or Sonia" in \
the United States. Uribe told the press on April 4 that the \
GOC may review Granda's legal status. The GOC conditionally \
released Granda from prison in June, 2007 to facilitate \
humanitarian exchange talks. \
\
GOC PESSIMISTIC \
--------------- \
3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX told us April \
4 that there is "no possibility that the French medical \
mission will get anywhere near Ingrid." He said he had \
warned the French that the mission was risky, and that they \
should not send the planes. They insisted on doing so. \
XXXXXXXXXXXX said French President Nicolas Sarkozy's foreign \
policy advisor Jean David Levitte had accused him of \
violating Uribe's commitment to support the mission, because \
XXXXXXXXXXXX spoke directly with French negotiator Noel Saez and \
suggested that the French aircraft go to Bogota, not San Jose \
de Guaviare. The French have prohibited XXXXXXXXXXXX from \
speaking to Saez and Swiss negotiator Jean Pierre Gontard. \
XXXXXXXXXXXX said the GOC understands the French will try to \
blame the GOC for the mission's failure. Hence, Uribe's \
instructions to cooperate fully with the French. \
\
SPANISH ALSO PESSIMISTIC \
------------------------ \
4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX told us on \
April 3 that the French mission was triggered by an \
unencrypted FARC message to Gontard saying Ingrid was in bad \
health and refusing to eat. The FARC were reportedly worried \
about her condition. The French government feared that if it \
did nothing after Gontard's email, it would be exposed to \
political attack at home. He added that the French had \
discussed the mission with the FARC beforehand in \
Switzerland, and received a positive response. However, \
talking with the FARC in Switzerland was not the same as \
talking with the FARC in Colombia. The French had not \
received a green light from the FARC in the field, nor had \
the FARC in Switzerland coordinated with their colleagues. \
\
5. (C) Gomez said the Spanish, French, and Swiss ambassadors \
met twice with XXXXXXXXXXXX on April 3, but were only able to \
discuss a "generic" operation, since the French did not have \
any details from the FARC. He said the operation would fail \
\
unless Ingrid was truly on death's door, and the FARC decided \
to free her to avoid being blamed for her death. Gomez \
noted that if the mission fails, the French would likely \
blame the GOC since it does not hold Ingrid. Still, Gomez \
said Uribe has handled the issue well by providing the French \
complete cooperation. \
\
6. (C) Gomez predicted the French will focus their efforts on \
pressuring Uribe to accept the FARC's demand for a despeje if \
the mission fails. France is set to assume the EU presidency \
in July, which will give it increased leverage. Still, he \
said France lacks the tools to put real pressure on Uribe to \
yield. France does not provide substantial aid to Colombia, \
and French commercial interests would resist efforts to \
involve business in a political dispute. \
\
BROWNFIELD \

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