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Cablegate: Polo Party: Far Left Consolidates Power

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DE RUEHBO #2387/01 1832155
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 012155Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3431
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 8270
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0639
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 6321
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 1942
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1329
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6985
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 002387

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/01/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PTER PHUM CO
SUBJECT: POLO PARTY: FAR LEFT CONSOLIDATES POWER

Classified By: Political Counselor John Creamer
Reasons 1.4 (b and d)

SUMMARY
-------
1. (C) The opposition Polo Democratico Party is becoming
increasingly dominated by the far-left, with Party moderates
such as former Bogota May LuchoGarzon distancing themselves
from the group. The Party's decision to fire moderate
Secretary General Daniel Garcia Pena ahead of a critical
Party Congress in February, 2009 will likely lead to
continued dominance of the party machinery by orthodox
Communists, Maoists, and Chavistas. Polo President Carlos
Gaviria told us he would not run again in 2010, but admitted
he will face heavy pressure to carry the far left's banner.
Former Bogota Mayor LuchoGarzon told us it would be better
for the left in the long run if the Polo split, allowing
moderates to move forward with a social democratic agenda
untainted by the FARC or Venezuelan President Chavez. End
summary.

LEADERSHIP CHANGES A BAD SIGN
-----------------------------
2. (C) Polo DemocraticoAlternativo Party Secretary General
Daniel Garcia Pena was forced from his job the week of June 9
after far-left Party President Carlos Gaviria threatened to
resign if Garcia remained. Garcia told us that he was
relieved to be out of the "Polo circus," noting the hard left
had opposed his effort to promote a more pragmatic, open
party. Garcia said problems with campaign finance from
October local elections and a poor Polo showing gave Gaviria
the excuse he needed to oust him. Gaviria claimed Garcia's
removal was done for financial, not political, reasons.
Gaviria said he saw no signs that Garcia engaged in any
wrongdoing, but alleged that Garcia spent $750,000 on the
campaign without authorization or documentation--$500,000
more than was authorized by the Party.

3. (C) LuchoGarzon and former Valle de Cauca Governor
Angelino Garzon (no relation) -- two of Colombia's most
respected leftist politicians -- told us Garcia's removal
represented a victory for Polo's far-left, including orthodox
Communists, Maoists, and Chavistas. The two Garzons said
Maoist Senator Enrique Robledo --with Gaviria's support --
orchestrated Garcia's removal. LuchoGarzon called Robledo's
faction "the contras," saying they oppose everything,
including Uribe's democratic security policy, free trade,
extradition, drug fumigation, and political reform.

4. (SBU) TheGarzons said party rules require that a new
Secretary General be approved by 80% of the Polo Executive
Committee--a near impossibility due to the splits caused by
Garcia's ouster. If the Secretary General post remains
vacant, they concluded that Polo hard-liners will have a
significant advantage in the internal August party elections,
as well as the Party Congress in February, 2009 that will set
the Polo's policies and leadership ahead of the 2010
presidential and congressional elections.

CENTRISTS MAINTAIN DISTANCE
---------------------------
5. (C) The Polo's highest-profile and most experienced
figures -- Lucho Garzon and NarinoGovernor Antonio Navarro
Wolff -- do not hold Polo leadership positions nor
participate in Party meetings due to the party's "closed and
extreme" policies. LuchoGarzon met with ex-president and
Liberal Party chief Cesar Gaviria on June 16 to discuss a
possible alliance to block a third Uribe term and to seek a
"consensus" opposition presidential candidate for 2010.
Lucho told us that he hoped his approach to the Liberals
would lead the Polo to expel him from the party. Angelino
Garzon told us the Polo's far-left wing of the Party is
moving towards a pyrrhic victory, gaining internal power at
the expense of the party's long-term unity and political
viability.

6. (C) Mayor of Bogota Samuel Moreno, who won under the Polo
banner in October, has stayed out of the Party's squabbles,
and generally followed Lucho's pragmatic and moderate line on
security and trade. Moreno met with U.S. Senator Barack
Obama in Miami on June 20, at the National Mayor's Conference
and invited Obama to visit Bogota. Garcia told us that
Moreno had previously offered him jobs in the Mayor's office,
including a new position as the Bogota "Foreign Minister."
Still, Moreno relied on the support of the party's hard left
factions to win the Polo mayoral primary last year.

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE UNCERTAIN
--------------------------------
7. (C) The Polo does not have an obvious front-runner for its
2010 presidential candidate, and many key figures either
remain outside the party or claim they will not run. Garcia
told us LuchoGarzon's overture to the Liberals further
frayed his already tenuous ties with Polo leaders, and would
make it difficult for him to be the Polo's candidate. Carlos
Gaviria, who finished a distant second to Uribe in 2006 (but
with a record number of votes for a leftist candidate), told
us on June 26 he would not run again in 2010. Gaviria is the
far-left's favorite son, and Gaviria said he expects "huge
pressure" to join the race from that segment since they have
no other viable candidate. Carlos and Cesar Gaviria also met
on May 18, and agreed to work together to block a third term
for President Uribe.

8. (C) Carlos Gaviria told us he would support Senator
Gustavo Petro (former M-19) forpresident. Petro, who has
moved from a close Chavez friend and 21st Century Socialist
towards the more moderate Lucho wing of the Polo in the past
year, has also distanced himself from the Party leadership.
Petro has been a Party "free agent," condemning the FARC,
anachronistic Polo security policies, and Uribe with equal
fervor. Garcia told us that Petro's former-Chavista
supporters (20% of Polo activists) found themselves "lost and
leaderless" after Petro's defection to the center-left.

POLO, FARC, CHAVEZ
------------------
9. (C) Both Polo leaders and dissidents confirmed that the
FARC, and to a lessor extent Chavez, remained the biggest
obstacles to the left's political ambitions in Colombia.
LuchoGarzon told us the unreconstructed left could not
resist the temptation to rhetorically sympathize with the
FARC's "all forms of struggle." This "justifiably doomed"
the Polo's chances in general elections given Colombia's
historically right-of-center electorate. The Prosecutor
General's (Fiscalia) request last May that the Supreme Court
investigate Polo Senator Gloria Ines Ramirez and
Representative Wilson Borja for possible ties to the FARC
based on information in the Raul Reyes computers added to the
Polo's problems.

10. (C) Carlos Gaviria said Chavez represented "the biggest
challenge for the progressive left in Latin America." His
"undemocratic populist" acts damaged the efforts of real
reformers the same way that the FARC's cooption of issues
like land reform or indigenous rights harmed the Colombian
left. LuchoGarzon, who told us he had rejected repeated
offers of "assistance" from Chavez (cash, physicians, food)
while mayor, concluded that it would be difficult for the
Polo to remain intact given its growing ideological
divisions. It would be better for the left in the long-run
if the Party split, allowing moderates to move ahead with a
social democratic agenda untainted by the FARC or Chavez.

BROWNFIELD

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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