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Cablegate: Scenesetter for April 4-6 Visit of Ustr Schwab And

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #1205/01 0922053
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 012053Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2188

UNCLAS BOGOTA 001205

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

PASS TO USTR FOR MCARILLO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD PREL ECON EFIN PGOV EAID CO
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR APRIL 4-6 VISIT OF USTR SCHWAB AND
CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION TO COLOMBIA

1. (U) Fostered by targeted U.S. assistance, Colombia finds
itself safer, economically stronger, better governed, and
more democratic than it has been in decades. Rates of
murder, kidnapping, and violence nationwide, particularly
against union members, have fallen dramatically. Increased
security has led to an economic boom that has reduced poverty
by 20 percent since 2002, lowered unemployment by 25 percent,
and attracted record levels of investment. More than 40,000
combatants, mostly paramilitaries, have laid down their arms
and are participating in GOC reintegration programs. The
captures or kills of several leaders of the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and rising desertions have
weakened Colombia's largest guerrilla group.

2. (SBU) Nevertheless, Colombia remains a work in progress.
Consolidating recent gains and making further advances on
human rights, security, and poverty reduction--while also
managing tense relations with Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa--represent the
greatest challenges for the remaining 2.5 years of the Uribe
Administration. Our continued commitment to
Colombia--through approval of the U.S.-Colombia Trade
Promotion Act (CTPA) and support for Plan Colombia--will help
lock in Colombia's democratic security gains, promote
regional stability, and contribute to a Colombia that
provides security and opportunity to all its citizens. End
Summary.

---------------------------------
CTPA Solidifies Advances:
Investment, Poverty, and Security
---------------------------------

3. (U) President Uribe's democratic security policy and free
market economic reforms have spurred the economy. GDP growth
exceeded 7.5 percent in 2007 after averaging more than five
percent annually since 2003. Colombia's trade volume grew
more than 65 percent in the same period. The United States
remains Colombia's largest trade partner (approximately 34
percent of exports and 26 percent of imports), though
Colombia could shift to greater
agricultural imports from Canada and the European Union when
free trade negotiations with them conclude in 2008. Nearly
93 percent of Colombia's exports already receive duty-free
access to the U.S. under the Andean Trade Preferences Act
(ATPA), which expires December 31, 2008, while U.S. exports
to Colombia face an average tariff of 12 percent. Investors
from around the world have boosted investment in Colombia in
anticipation of the CTPA. In 2007, Foreign Direct Investment
(FDI) exceeded $7.5 billion, 350 percent greater than FDI in
2002.

4. (SBU) The Colombian Congress ratified the CTPA in 2007 by
a substantial margin, and it remains the Colombian
government's highest economic priority. Delays in U.S.
approval or rejection of the accord would deal a severe
political and economic blow to Uribe and his policy of
strengthened ties with the United States -- especially given
recent tensions with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.
Colombia's second largest trading partner, Venezuela resorted
to temporary commercial and diplomatic retaliation over the
March 1 killing of FARC Secretariat Member Raul Reyes in
Ecuador as well as Uribe's earlier decision to end Chavez'
formal facilitator role in a humanitarian exchange with the
FARC. Venezuela restricted automobile imports from Colombia
in January and then temporarily halted all trade in March
after sending tanks to its border with Colombia in response
to the Reyes incident. Chavez later reestablished relations
with Colombia and withdrew his forces from the border after a
rapprochement at the Rio Group summit. However, economic
strains continue.

5. (U) Analysts estimate the agreement with the United
States would add between one and two percent annual GDP
growth to the local Colombian economy. This growth would add
the new jobs in the formal sector that President Uribe needs
to meet his goal of cutting the poverty rate from 45 percent
to 35 percent by 2010. Trade-based formal sector growth will
also provide the GOC with additional fiscal resources to
shoulder a larger portion of its security costs as USG Plan
Colombia support falls.

-------------------
Democratic Security
-------------------

6. (U) The establishment of greater Colombian government
territorial control and the paramilitary demobilization have
created the space for civil society and political parties to

operate more openly than ever before. The GOC maintains a
police presence in all 1099 municipalities for the first time
in history. Increased security of roads and highways have
allowed for greater freedom of movement for people and
commerce. Murders fell from over 29,000 in 2002 to less than
17,000 in 2007, and kidnappings fell from over 2,800 a year
to less than 600 during the same period. Local elections in
October 2007 reflected the improved security with over 86,000
candidates participating. The leftist Polo Democratico Party
(PDA) won 1.2 million more votes than in 2003, and its
candidate won the key Bogota mayoral race.

--------------
Labor Violence
--------------

7. (U) Labor violence and impunity remain major concerns,
with the government making dramatic progress. Since 2002,
labor union data demonstrates that murders of unionists for
political reasons or common crime have fallen more than 75
percent. A resident International Labor Organization (ILO)
representative arrived in Colombia in January 2007 to help
implement the tripartite agreement committing the GOC to
provide $4 million to finance the ILO Special Technical
Cooperation program and to provide $1.5 million a year to the
Prosecutor General's Office (Fiscalia). The Fiscalia
operates as an independent agency responsible for prosecuting
cases of violence against trade unionists. The additional
funding enabled the Fiscalia to create a special sub-unit
with nearly 100 prosecutors and investigators to investigate
187 priority cases. Since 2001, the Fiscalia has resolved 56
cases of labor violence, leading to 118 convictions. For
2008, the Fiscalia has received an additional $40 million in
GOC funds that has allowed it to add 1,072 new positions,
including 175 prosecutors and 200 investigators.

8. (U) In addition to gains stemming from its democratic
security policy, the GOC has taken specific steps to protect
labor leaders and other vulnerable individuals. In 2007, the
Ministry of Interior and Justice's $34 million Protection
Program helped protect more than 6,900 human rights
activists, journalists, politicians, and other threatened

individuals, including 1,720 trade unionists. The murder
rate for unionists is now lower than that for the general
population.

--------------------
Human Rights Record
--------------------

9. (SBU) The Uribe Administration continues to make progress
on human rights cases involving military abuse or
collaboration with paramilitaries. All members of the
military and police receive mandatory human rights training.
In October 2006, Defense Minister Santos named the first
civilian -- and the first woman -- as director of the
Military Criminal Justice System. Santos has strongly backed
initiatives to deter extrajudicial killings, changing
promotion criteria to favor demobilization or capture of
illegal fighters, and ordering military personnel to
facilitate civilian investigations of all combat deaths.
Human rights groups allege that security forces committed 955
extrajudicial killings over the last five years.

10. (U) The Fiscalia has made advances in prosecuting
military personnel alleged to have committed human rights
abuses. In August 2007, a court convicted three military
personnel for the murder of three unionists in Arauca in
2004. In November 2007, the Fiscalia ordered the detention
of Army Captain Guillermo Gordillo for his participation in
the massacre of eight civilians near San Jose de Apartado in
February 2005. On March 28, 2008, the Fiscalia arrested an
additional 13 members of the military for the 2005 massacre.
The Fiscalia has set up a special prosecutorial team to
investigate cases of alleged extrajudicial killings.

---------------
U.S. Assistance
---------------

11. (SBU) In January 2007 the GOC presented a Plan Colombia
"consolidation strategy" pledging a Colombian investment of
$78 billion through 2013. The proposal emphasizes the
importance of building social cohesion, assigning substantial
resources to help strengthen local governance, protect human
rights, and help displaced people, Afro-Colombians, and
indigenous communities. It also aims to reintegrate more
than 45,000 demobilized ex-fighters and deserters and to
promote Colombia's licit exports. The GOC seeks funding from

the United States and European countries to complement its
own resources.

12. (SBU) Under Plan Colombia, the USG has provided more
than $5 billion in assistance, including $800 million in
economic and social assistance. USG security assistance
combats drug trafficking and terrorism through training,
equipment, and technical assistance. It supports Colombian
military aviation, essential for all programs - civilian or
military - outside Colombia's major cities. U.S. social and
economic aid focuses on alternative development, displaced
and other vulnerable communities, human rights and democratic
institutions, and reintegration of demobilized fighters.

----------------------------------
Drug Eradication and Interdiction
----------------------------------

13. (SBU) Eradication of coca and poppy crops and
interdiction of cocaine and heroin reached near-record levels
in 2007. President Uribe supports greater manual
eradication, but understands that manual eradication cannot
replace aerial eradication without a sharp increase in
spending. He seeks a complementary approach using both
methods. In 2007, the National Police and military forces
seized almost 150 metric tons of cocaine and coca base, and
destroyed 200 cocaine laboratories. We continue to work with
the Colombian government to refine our eradication strategy
and determine how best to transfer key tasks from the USG to
the GOC.

-----------
Extradition
-----------

14. (SBU) Since taking office, President Uribe has approved
over 631 extraditions to the United States, including a
record number of 164 in 2007. Among those extradited in 2007
were 11 members of the FARC and three members of the United
Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). the Colombian
Government has already extradited over 50 criminals to the
United States in 2008.

---------------------------------
Demobilization and Peace Process
---------------------------------

15. (SBU) Over 32,000 former paramilitaries have demobilized
since 2002, and a further 14,000 have deserted from other
illegal armed groups (about one-half from the FARC). The
Organization of American States (OAS) estimates there are 30
emerging criminal groups with a combined membership of over
3000 persons. Reintegration programs and targeted law
enforcement are working to counter these groups. Under the
Justice and Peace Law (JPL) process, over 50 former
paramilitary leaders have been jailed, and many have
confessed their participation in violent crimes. To date,
the JPL process has revealed the location of the graves of
almost 1,200 paramilitary victims and provided information on
3,600 crimes. Almost 100,000 victims have registered under
the JPL, with the GOC working on measures to accelerate the
payment of reparations. The Supreme Court and the
Fiscalia--with GOC support--continue to investigate
politicians with alleged paramilitary ties. Fifty-two
Congressmen, 19 mayors, and 11 governors have been implicated
in the scandal.

16. (SBU) The National Liberation Army (ELN) has negotiated
with the Colombian government for over two years on a
cease-fire agreement, but ELN infighting and FARC pressure
have prevented a deal. The ELN kidnap civilians to fund its
operations, but its military capability is declining. The
FARC has rebuffed GOC initiatives to engage in any meaningful
peace talks, and killed eleven state legislators held hostage
in July 2007. The GOC authorized Venezuelan President Chavez
to facilitate peace talks between the Colombian government
and the FARC and ELN in late August 2007, but subsequently
suspended his role after Chavez intervened in Colombia's
internal politics. The GOC issued a communique in January
2008 urging Chavez to "stop his aggression towards Colombia"
after Chavez proposed that the international community grant
the FARC "belligerent status" and remove the group from
worldwide terrorism lists. Chavez subsequently announced the
militarization of Venezuela's 2200 kilometer border with
Colombia. Following the March 1 GOC killing of FARC
Secretariat Member Raul Reyes across the border in Ecuador,

SIPDIS
Venezuela deployed additional military forces to its border
before calling off the buildup after reaching agreement with
Colombia March 7 to reduce tensions and reestablish

commercial and diplomatic ties.

-------------
U.S. Hostages
-------------

17. (SBU) The three U.S. contractors captured by the FARC in
February 2003 are the longest held U.S. hostages in the
world. A November 2007 video seized by the GOC from a FARC
urban cell showed proof-of-life of the three Americans. Their
safe release remains a top priority. A February 26 FARC
communique referred to the three Americans as "spies" and
threatened to hold them for 60 years in retaliation for the
U.S. conviction and sentencing of FARC Commander Simon
Trinidad. President Uribe has assured us that any
humanitarian exchange will include the U.S. hostages. In
January, the Colombian Government authorized the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) -- working
with Venezuela -- to recover two FARC-held hostages. The
FARC released four additional Colombian hostages on February
27, again working with the ICRC and Venezuelan government.
BROWNFIELD

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