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Cablegate: Ambassador's April 2 Visit to Cartagena

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #1442/01 1082207
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 172207Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2430
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0271
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 6114
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 1522
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 6765

UNCLAS BOGOTA 001442

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON PREL ASEC EAGR ETRD EAID SOCI CO
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S APRIL 2 VISIT TO CARTAGENA

Summary

1. The Ambassador visited Cartagena, capital of
the Department of Bolivar, to attend a bilateral summit
between the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the
Colombian Navy (COLNAV), meet with the Mayor of Cartagena
And the Governor of the Department of Bolivar, and visit a
Little league baseball team and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP)
assistance center in poor neighborhoods. The bilateral summit
addressed the importance of USCG and COLNAV collaboration. The
Governor and the Mayor underscored the importance of cooperation
between Embassy Bogota and the leadership of the region in promoting
tourism and regional economic development, strengthening regional
security, and solving the problems of the displaced population in
the area. Both advocated the opening of the U.S/. Embassy branch
office in Cartagena. Local press coverage was heavy and positive.
End summary.


USCG and COLNAV Combat Trafficking on the Open Seas

2. Representatives from the USCG,headed by USCG
Commandant Admiral Thad W. Allen, Mexico, Panama, and COLNAV's
Commandant Admiral Barrera, Admiral Cely, and their staffs attended
the summit. Expected representatives
from Ecuador did not attend because of the recent border
tensions between the GOC and GOE. The summit focused on
solving working-level problems to continuously improve
joint, combined counter-drug operations and improved
communication. The summit examined current trafficking
trends that demand cooperation and use of new technology
such as biometrics for the identification of suspects at
sea.

A U.S. Embassy Presence in Cartagena Would Help Colombia


3. At a meeting hosted by the Mayor Judith Pinedo in her
office, mayor Pinedo acknowledged the prospective positive
impact of the U.S. - Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement
on Cartagena. She stated that the city had tremendous
potential as a commercial port, tourist destination and a
business center, but needed improved infrastructure and
security in order to increase number of visitors and
attract more international business. The Mayor stated that
an expanded U.S. presence in Cartagena would be crucial to
promoting the city, as it would demonstrate growing U.S. confidence
in Colombia that would lead to an improvement in
Colombia's international image. The Ambassador agreed that
there are valid reasons for considering the establishment
of a U.S. Embassy branch office I Cartagena including the
city's positive changes in recent years, the presence of
over 1000 American citizens in the city, hundreds of
thousands of U.S. tourists, and the importance of the Cartagena port
for the whole Andean region.

4. The Ambassador suggested that discussions about the
opening of an Embassy branch office could take place
between the GOC and the U.S. Embassy, but stated that if
there were such a decision it should be carefully timed to
provide maximum benefit to U.S. - Colombian relations and to
maximize the promotion of Cartagena And the entire
Caribbean region of Colombia.

5. The Governor of Bolivar, Joaco Berrio, thanked the
Ambassador for the U.S. Agency for International
Development's (USAID) assistance through the high-profile
Alternative Development and Municipal Strengthening program
(ADAM). USAID's efforts assisted in the creation of small
business and generated economic opportunities for over
4,000 families. Governor Berrio asked for a continuation
of this program.

Showing America's Friendly Face

6. The Ambassador and USCG Commandant visited an
underprivileged neighborhood of Cartagena and me t with
members of the Bravitos baseball club, ages 6-14, at a
baseball field that the USCG and COLNAV had rejuvenated
several months earlier with USAID assistance. After
throwing out a ceremonial pitch clocked at 94 mile s per
hour and just nicking the outside corner, the Ambassador
joined Admiral Allen in distributing sports equipment
generously donated by Major League Baseball. The
Ambassador talked to the children, demonstrated proper
batting techniques, and emphasized the importance of sports
education in promoting teamwork, respect, And other
important skills that will help the youth of Colombia to succeed in
all aspects of their lives and allow their community to prosper.
Cartagena's major newspaper, El
Universal, gave extensive and positive coverage to the
Ambassador's visit with the Bravitos, publishing a large
color photo of the Ambassador's change-up pitch on its
front page. All major Colombian print and broadcast media
reported on the visit, including a front page above-the-
fold picture of COLNAV Commander Admiral Barrera throwing a
pitch (AMB note: which hit a cameraman in the head), in El
Tiempo, the major national daily.

7. The Ambassador closed his trip by touring Action for
Bolivar (ACTUAR), one of the most prominent NGOs working in and
around Cartagena. Since 2001, USAID has provided
nearly one million dollars to ACTUAR to assist IDPs and
other vulnerable populations in the areas of health, education,
training, and income generation. During a
round-table discussion with ACTUAR's founders and board members, the
Ambassador underlined the USG commitment to
helping Colombia's IDPs, and expressed his appreciation for
ACTUAR's work in improving the lives of local families and
their community.

BROWNFIELD

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