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Cablegate: Ustr Schwab and Codel's April 6 Meeting With

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #1320/01 1002124
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 092124Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2305
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0216
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ APR 9358
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 6083
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6742

UNCLAS BOGOTA 001320

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE PASS USTR/EISSENSTAT/CARRILLO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ELAB ETRD KJUS OVIP PGOV PREL PTER CO
SUBJECT: USTR SCHWAB AND CODEL'S APRIL 6 MEETING WITH
PRESIDENT URIBE

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

1.(SBU) In an April 6 breakfast meeting with U.S. Trade
Representative Susan C. Schwab and an accompanying
congressional delegation, President Uribe outlined Colombia's
progress in combating labor violence and stated that passage
of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) will
improve conditions for union members. He defended the
military operation in Ecuador against Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC) Commander Raul Reyes, emphasizing
that prudence is required in managing the information
contained on Reyes' laptop and in managing relations with his
neighbors. Uribe insisted that there is no longer an
organized para-military movement, and denied that the GOC has
played any role in threats against those who participated in
the March 6 anti-violence march. The President underscored
Colombia's commitment to protecting the environment, assuring
that its biofuels program does not endanger native forests or
food security. END SUMMARY.

------------
PQQkC9uinted to continued progress on labor
violence. There were 36 reported cases of labor violence
last year out of a union population of 1.25 million. To date
this year there have been 17 cases. The GOC has doubled the
administrative judicial budget during the Uribe
administration despite a fiscal deficit, and added two
thousand new prosecutors. There were 98 sentences last year
against perpetrators of homicides against labor union
members, with 116 convictions and 112 criminals already in
jail.

4. (SBU) Worker conditions have improved during his tenure,
Uribe insisted. The minimum wage has outstripped inflation,
and new legislation presently before Congress will correct
distortions in the utilization of worker cooperatives and
shQs'r)Q There is
no doubt that the CTPA will improve conditions for the
Colombian worker, Uribe concluded. Export sector jobs are in
the formal sector, enjoy higher wages and full benefits.

5. (SBU) Congressman Johnson expressed concern that

statements from a GOC official about the March 6 peace march
being organized by the FARC had opened the door for armed
groups to threaten and kill participants. The President
noted that for his democratic security policy to be credible,
it had to be transparent and respect human rights. With
respect to the 6 reported murders of labor organizers since
the march, he explained that to date the police have
established no linkages between the crimes and the march.
Should such a link emerge, Uribe promised a thorough
investigation. He reminded the delegation that under his
watch 27 members of the Colombian Congress -- many of whom
were Uribe supporters -- were now behind bars. He pointed to
the indictment and imprisonment of members of the armed
forces for human rights violations as evidence that such
charges are taken seriously in Colombia. There is no
allegation of human rights violations, Uribe concluded, that
his administration is not actively pursuing.

------------------
THE REYES INCIDENT
------------------

6. (SBU) Congressman Freilinghuysen thanked the President for
remaining strong in the face of Venezuelan President Chavez's
threat to security and stability in the region. Uribe
defended the attack across Ecuador's border that claimed the
life of FARC Secretariat member Raul Reyes. He reminded the
delegation that Reyes had been a main obstacle to peace
during the negotiations with former President Pastrana as
well as during the present conversations over a humanitarian
exchange. The FARC was launching attacks against Colombian
citizens and soldiers from Ecuadorian territory, and the GOC
had no choice but to respond. He emphasized that the
operation was carefully designed to avoid risks to civilians.

7. (SBU) Uribe noted that he needed to be prudent when
commenting on relations with Presidents Chavez and Correa;
Colombia has a strong interest in preserving quality
relations with its neighbors. He explained that Interpol was
pesently verifying that the Reyes computer had not been
tampered with by Colombian authorities, and he expects their
certification within two weeks. The GOC has delivered copies
of relevant Reyes computer documents to the governments of
Ecuador and Venezuela, and have not made any public. Uribe
stated that Colombia will refrain from conducting any
operations in neighboring territory as long as those
countries do not harbor Colombian terrorist groups.


---------------
RE-ARMED GROUPS
---------------

8. (SBU) Congressman Reichert queried Uribe about his
reintegration policy and reports of re-armed paramilitary
organizations. Uribe explained that under his administration
the state had recovered the monopoly over combating illegal
groups. There no longer are paramilitary organizations, he
argued, rather newly formed groups of common criminals. Of
the 30,000 demobilized paramilitary combatants, there is a
recidivism rate of 5-6%. Of the resurgent groups of drug
traffickers and common criminals, only 1% of the members are
demobilized paramilitaries.

--------------------------------
THE ENVIRONMENT AND SMALL FARMER
--------------------------------

9. (U) Congressman English noted that the CTPA contained the
strongest environmental provisions ever negotiated in a trade
accord. He asked Uribe about the environmental policies of
his administration and the commitment to comply with
international standards. The President expressed pride over
Colombia's environmental regulatory system, which he called
one of the strictest in the hemisphere. Fifty-one percent of
the country consists of rainforest and jungle, he explained,
and preservation of these resources is an administration
priority. One of the greatest threats to the native forest,
Uribe contended, is drug trafficking, which is responsible
for the destruction of 2 million acres per year.

10. (U) The GOC biofuels policy, according to Uribe, is
geared toward respect for the environment and preservation of
food security. It is GOC policy not to touch any native
forest to plant biofuels crops. Instead, they will rely upon
the 17 million acres of grasslands and abandoned agricultural

pastures to support the increased sugar cane and African palm
production necessary to support their biofuels strategy.

11. (U) Congressman Johnson wondered about the CTPA's impact
on the Colombian small farmer, and whether increased
competition from the U.S. could drive them toward coca
production. Uribe discounted that likelihood, noting that,
as a tropical country, Colombia is not competitive in most
grain production, and that high world commodity prices would
serve as a buffer. Instead, he argued that the CTPA would
encourage greater production in crops where Colombia had a
comparative advantage such as coffee, cacao, palm, and
forestry products.

12. (U) USTR Schwab has cleared this message.
BROWNFIELD

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