Cablegate: Ambassador Brownfield's Visit to Arauca, April 29,


DE RUEHBO #1713/01 1301757
R 091757Z MAY 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) SUMMARY: The Ambassador traveled on April 29 to the
oil-producing and historically conflict-plagued Department of
Arauca (along the Venezuelan border) to meet with local
political, security, and civil society representatives as
well as to visit Occidental Petroleum's (Oxy) major
production facility at Cano Limon. Interlocutors emphasized
the improved security situation and the commitment among
Araucan society to utilize local resources to benefit all
residents. In addition to touring Cano Limon, the Ambassador
received a briefing from the local military commander and
visited a joint vocational program in Arauca City funded by
Occidental Petroleum, Ecopetrol, and the local government.
He also traveled to the municipality of Arauquita to visit a
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded
community center providing local residents access to public
services. The visit received positive media coverage,
highlighted USG and U.S. private sector assistance efforts,
and underscored the improvement in conditions in Arauca. END

Officials Emphasize Interest in Continued USG Assistance
--------------------------------------------- -----------

2. (SBU) Arauca Governor Freddy Forero, Arauca City Mayor
William Reyes, Arauquita Mayor Jose Vargas, and Arauca Bishop
Monsenor Carlos Mesa all accompanied the Ambassador
throughout his visit to Arauca. Each emphasized in their
public statements and private comments the progress that
Arauca has made as a result of President Uribe's "Democratic
Security" policy as well as assistance from the USG on
security. Governor Forero reiterated at each stop his
administration's interest in utilizing the Department's
resources to improve living conditions and to working more
closely with the USG on economic development to consolidate
the Department's security gains.

Security Improving, but Still a Challenge

3. (SBU) Brigadier General Jose Gonzalez briefed Ambassador
Brownfield on progress on security in Arauca, highlighting
the decrease in Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
and National Liberation Army (ELN) attacks as well as the
increase in desertions and guerrillas killed or captured.
Gonzalez said his brigade had already captured 108 guerrillas
in 2008 as compared to 167 for all of 2007. He noted that
GOC military gains against insurgent groups had translated
directly into a drop in kidnappings and that the local
population increasingly felt safe to travel on the
Department's roads at night. Gonzalez also pointed out the
significant decrease in oil pipeline attacks from 170 in 2001
to 10 in 2007 and the lack of an attack on the electrical
distribution system in over three years. (Note: The night the
Ambassador's delegation departed Arauca the Cano
Limon-Covenas pipeline suffered its first sabotage attack of
2008 in Norte de Santander Department. Oxy officials
consider the timing a coincidence. End Note.) Gonzalez said
fighting between the FARC and ELN remained a significant
security challenge and threat to the local population as the
two groups fought over drug smuggling routes and resources.

Oil Production Outlook Positive

4. (U) Oxy Colombia President David Stangor accompanied the
Ambassador on a tour of Oxy's Cano Limon oil production
facility operated in partnership with state-owned
hydrocarbons company Ecopetrol. Stangor outlined the field's
claim as Colombia's most important oil find to date and its
continuing position as a supplier of 95,000 barrels of oil
per day (bpd). Since entering production in 1985, the field
has produced over 1.2 billion barrels of oil, provided almost
USD 2 billion in royalties to Colombia, and generated 2,300
direct and indirect jobs. Although the field's production
has declined in recent years, Stangor told accompanying press
that he expects to hold Cano Limon production steady and
increase Oxy's overall production to 135,000 bpd by 2011 with
increases from adjacent fields. Oxy also briefed the
Ambassador on its USD 4.7 million environmental program which
includes an extensive cleaning system for the water used in
pumping operations as well as reforestation of 680 hectares
of land surrounding the field.

Partnerships Promote Opportunity and Access to Services
--------------------------------------------- ----------

5. (U) At Cano Limon the Ambassador also visited the El

Alcaravan Foundation. The Foundation's productive center was
built with USAID assistance in 2006 and now receives support
from Oxy, Ecopetrol, and the municipal government to provide
vocational training and educational opportunities to the
local community. The Foundation assists 6,000 families
living near Arauca city and Cano Limon with youth and adult
education, job training, technical assistance to small
businesses, social counseling, and youth recreation. The
Ambassador met with over 50 beneficiaries, toured stalls with
examples of productive activities supported by the
Foundation, and donated a library kit to the Foundation's
literacy program.

6, (U) The Ambassador concluded his visit to Arauca
Department with a stop in the municipality of Arauquita, once
unreachable to visiting delegations due to security concerns.
In Arauquita, the Ambassador toured the municipality's
community center built with assistance from USAID to provide
access to public services as well as early childhood
education. The center serves as a one-stop delivery point
for government and social services such as citizen registry
and family welfare programs. Following a presentation of the
center's activities, beneficiaries provided testimonials on
the impact of having regular access to public services for
the first time in Arauquita's history. The Ambassador
concluded the event by donating a library kit to the center's
Early Childhood Learning Program.

Positive Press Coverage

7. (U) Traveling press from Reuters, Semana (a leading
centrist weekly news magazine with a circulation of 928,000),
Portafolio (a leading business daily reaching 53,300
readers), and El Espectador (a weekly newspaper converting to
a daily format read by 668,000 people) accompanied the
Ambassador throughout the day. The visit received positive
coverage from both the traveling and local Araucan media,
with stories filed by Reuters and El Tiempo the following
news day. We expect Semana and El Espectador to publish in
the coming days. Coverage focused on the Ambassador's
positive message that his visit to the area was evidence
Arauca Department has made significant progress in
establishing security and that the improvements permitted USG
security funds to shift from pipeline protection to other
areas identified by the GOC.

© Scoop Media

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