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Cablegate: Ambassador Brownfield's July 7 Meeting With

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #2510/01 1961307
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 141307Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3566
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0697
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ JUL 9548
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 6357
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 7032
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4496

UNCLAS BOGOTA 002510

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER PGOV PREL ECON SOCI CO
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR BROWNFIELD'S JULY 7 MEETING WITH
AFRO-COLOMBIAN HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP

REF: BOGOTA 1427

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Summary:
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1. (SBU) At a July 7 meeting with Association of Internally
Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES) President Geiler Romana,
the Ambassador underscored U.S. support of Afro-Colombian
communities through institution-building, human rights, and
development programs. AFRODES said the GOC and international
community need to provide more technical support, security,
humanitarian aid, and sustainable economic projects to
Afro-Colombians. They acknowledged the need for
Afro-Colombians to build alliances with academic,
humanitarian, and charitable institutions, but said many
internally displaced Afro-Colombians suffer from racial
discrimination, poverty, and lack of access to services and
benefits. The Ambassador spoke to the press on leaving the
meeting and emphasized the important role AFRODES plays in
Colombia's future. End Summary.

------------------------------------
Capacity-Building and Sustainability
------------------------------------

2. (U) The Ambassador visited AFRODES' office on July 7 and
met with its president, Geiler Romana, to highlight the
importance of human rights groups promoting the interests of
Afro-Colombians. Founded in 1999 and headquartered in
Bogota, AFRODES is active in Cartagena, Tumaco, Cali,
Buenaventura, and Narino and focuses on lobbying the GOC and
international community to meet the needs of displaced
Afro-Colombians. Romana said AFRODES needs technical,
logistic, and institutional help from the GOC and
international community to extend its presence throughout the
country. It also seeks strategic alliances with
humanitarian, academic, and charitable groups. Romana added
that better security is required to protect threatened
Afro-Colombian leaders. He also called on the GOC and
international donors to consult with Afro-Colombian
communities on development projects, arguing this would
improve sustainability.
--------------------------------------------- --
Increasing Numbers of Displaced Afro-Colombians
--------------------------------------------- --

3. (SBU) AFRODES adviser Pedro Cortes said Afro-Colombians
make up a disproportionate number of Internally Displaced
Persons (IDPs), especially in the Pacific coast. Citing its
April 4 displacement report (reftel), Cortes noted that while
overall figures for new IDPs have remained constant and even
dipped in 2007, the number of new Afro-Colombian IDPs has
steadily risen since 2004 with 45,000 in 2007 alone. Despite
institutional advances, many suffer from racism and lack
access to resources, basic services, and legal assistance.
Cortes complained that the GOC lacks a specific policy to
address Afro-Colombian IDPs' needs, and said it needs to be
more responsive to applications for assistance. He added
that the GOC is starting to address the reparations issue but
needs to do more. Cortes opined that racism and other
"structural factors" -- in addition to the internal armed
conflict -- contribute to Colombia's "persistent humanitarian
crisis."

4. (SBU) AFRODES Secretary General Luz Marina Becerra said
Afro-Colombian women are the most victimized. They lack the
capacity to file official complaints or fight back because
they fear retaliation. Some are attacked and falsely accused
of being aligned with an illegal armed group. She cited the
June 30 killing in Buenaventura of Afro-Colombian IDP leader
Martha Cecelia Obando, an active participant in USAID's
reconciliation program. Most women lack education and jobs,
resorting to begging or prostitution to stay alive.
Afro-Colombian youth often fall into drugs and gangs. The
most marginalized have the most dire needs, but the GOC does
not provide enough assistance.

---------------------------------------
Improving Program Efficiency and Impact
---------------------------------------

5. (U) The Ambassador underscored the USG's support for the
Afro-Colombian community through USAID programs, including
alternative development, governance, justice, and human
rights. Institutional assistance for groups like AFRODES and
the Afro-Colombian caucus in Congress remain priorities. The

Ambassador said the USG would continue to work with local and
regional groups to help vulnerable communities by providing
schools, clinics, community centers, and housing. As
communities gain confidence and skills, they can develop
self-sustaining economic development projects. He encouraged
AFRODES to provide us information on communities' needs, as
well as on what works and what does not, to help improve the
efficiency and impact of our assistance programs.
BROWNFIELD

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