Cablegate: Scenesetter for Visit of Director of Foreign Assistance


DE RUEHBO #2800/01 2141620
P 011620Z AUG 08 ZDS




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Fostered by targeted U.S. assistance, Colombia
finds itself safer, economically stronger, better governed, and more
democratic than it has been in decades. Rates of murder, kidnapping,
and violence nationwide, particularly against union members, have
fallen dramatically. Increased security has led to an economic boom
that has reduced poverty by 20 percent since 2002, lowered
unemployment by 25 percent, and attracted record levels of
investment. Almost 48,000 combatants, mostly paramilitaries, have
laid down their arms and are participating in GOC reintegration
programs. The captures or kills of key leaders of the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the July 2 rescue of 15 hostages
held by the FARC including three Americans, and rising desertions
have weakened Colombia's largest terrorist group. Consolidating
recent gains and making further advances on human rights, security,
and poverty reduction, while also managing tense relations with
Venezuela and Ecuador, represent the greatest challenges for the
remaining two years of the Uribe Administration.

2. (U) The Government of Colombia is one of our strongest strategic
partners in the world, evidenced by the GOC's commitments to
complement and facilitate USG security, counter-narcotics
operations, and social and economic development efforts throughout
the country. Its economic growth potential complements the nature
of our trade relationship with Colombia, evidenced by the strong
support for the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Act (CTPA). Our
continued commitment to Colombia will help to further consolidate
recent security and governance gains as well as to promote
Colombia's economic growth and promote regional stability. End

U.S. Assistance

3. (SBU) Since 1999 under Plan Colombia, the USG has provided more
than USD 5.5 billion in assistance, including USD 950 million in
economic and social assistance. USG security assistance combats
drug trafficking and terrorism through training, equipment, and
technical assistance. It supports Colombian military aviation,
essential for all programs - civilian or military - outside
Colombia's major cities. USG social and economic aid, roughly 40%
of the FY 08 USG contribution under Plan Colombia, focuses on
alternative development, displaced and other vulnerable communities,
human rights and democratic institutions, and reintegration of
demobilized fighters.

4. (SBU) In January 2007 the GOC presented a Plan Colombia
"consolidation strategy" pledging a Colombian investment of USD 78
billion through 2013. The proposal emphasizes the importance of
building social cohesion, and allocates substantial resources to
help strengthen local governance, protect human rights, and assist
displaced people, Afro-Colombians, and indigenous communities. It
also aims to reintegrate more than 48,000 demobilized ex-fighters
and deserters and to promote Colombia's licit exports. The GOC seeks
funding from the United States and European countries to complement
its own resources.

5. (U) Congress increased economic and social assistance from USD
140 million in FY 07 to USD 215 million in FY 08, while security
assistance was reduced in FY 08. With additional resources, USAID
is launching a new biodiversity program, increasing its assistance
for victims of the conflict, enlarging its support to
Afro-Colombians and indigenous communities and significantly
expanding its assistance to the GOC in its effort to consolidate
Colombia's conflict zones that were formerly controlled by armed
groups. Food aid assistance is also increasing from USD 6 million
per year to USD 10 million in FY 08 through USAID'S Food for Peace
support to the World Food Program.

Government of Colombia a True Partner

6. (U) (%}Ql#zevelopment. The joint
efforts under Plan Colombia exemplify that cooperation as proven by
GOC funding during the past year of over USD 12 million into USAID
contracts on joint initiatives. All aspects of the USG's assistance
program in Colombia, designed and implemented with the GOC
counterparts, seek gradual "Colombianization", or nationalization,
of the programs as a mutually agreed objective of both governments.
We hold recurring meetings with counterparts to track the progress
of their initiatives, the results of which are passed to and
commented on by President Uribe.

7. (SBU) We are providing substantial planning assistance and
social and economic development aid to support the GOC's
post-conflict consolidation efforts throughout the country and most
recently in the Department of Meta. The result of that assistance
is a new model for "clearing and holding" territories that have been
under the control or influence of illegally armed groups for
decades. Under the GOC's leadership, the approach integrates
security and military operations and illicit crop eradication with
immediate social and economic assistance and government services.
The GOC plans to expand this approach nationwide.

8. (U) In 2007, a USAID investment of USD 130 million leveraged an
additional USD 1 billion in resources from the GOC and the private
sector. One of the most successful leveraging efforts in the world,
it remains a key component of U.S. development assistance to
Colombia. Further policy reforms and consolidation efforts will
increase this figure further in the coming years.

Drug Eradication and Interdiction

9. (SBU) Eradication of coca and poppy crops and interdiction of
cocaine and heroin reached near-record levels in 2007. President
Uribe supports greater manual eradication, but recognizes that
continued aerial eradication will key success. He seeks a
complementary approach using both methods. In 2008, the national
police and military forces have set a brisk pace for cocaine, coca
base and marijuana seizures, and are over half way to record-level
seizure totals. We continue to work with the GOC to maximize our
scarce resources to achieve the eradication and interdiction
targets. We continue our productive dialogue on how best to
transfer key tasks from the USG to the GOC.

--------------------------------------------- ------
Trade and Investment Key to Poverty Alleviation and Security
--------------------------------------------- ------

10. (U) President Uribe's democratic security policy and free
market economic reforms have spurred the economy. GDP growth
reached 8.2 percent in 2007 after averaging more than five percent
annually since 2003. The economy, decelerating this year, shows
recent growth slowing to just over four percent. Colombia's trade
volume grew more than 65 percent in the same period. The United
States remains Colombia's largest trade partner (approximately 37
perc% BMQH them conclude in 2009. In 2007, the
United States exported some USD 1.2 billion in agricultural products
to Colombia. Nearly 93 percent of Colombia's exports already receive
duty-free access to the U.S. under the Andean Trade Preferences Act
(ATPA), which expires December 31, 2008, while U.S. exports to
Colombia face an average tariff of 12 percent. Investors from
around the world have boosted investment in Colombia in anticipation
of the CTPA. In 2007, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) exceeded USD
7.5 billion, 350 percent greater than FDI in 2002.

11. (SBU) The Colombian Congress ratified the CTPA in 2007 by a
substantial margin, and it remains the GOC's highest economic
priority. U.S. rejection of the accord would deal a political and
economic blow to Uribe and his policy of strengthened ties with the
United States. Venezuela is Colombia's second largest trade
partner; but the political and economic relationship has been bumpy,
and Venezuela has tightened its import regime and blocking some
Colombian exports such as automobiles and clothing.

12. (U) Analysts estimate the CTPA would add between one and two
percent annual GDP growth to the local Colombian economy. This
growth would add the new jobs in the formal sector that President
Uribe needs to meet his goal of cutting the poverty rate from 45
percent to 35 percent by 2010. Trade-based formal sector growth
will also provide the GOC with additional fiscal resources to
shoulder a larger portion of its security costs as USG Plan Colombia
support falls.

13. (U) Colombia's robust private sector is the backbone of the
country's economic development. Its investment in initiatives
associated with the USG's assistance programs results in high rates
of leveraging, an example of which is found in USAID's alternative
development program that mobilizes an average of USD 5 of Colombian
investment for every USD 1 of USG funds.

--------------------------------------------- -------
Support to Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Communities
--------------------------------------------- -------

14. (U) A congressional soft earmark was listed in FY08 legislation

directing USAID to implement USD 15 million in economic development
activities in Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities. In order
to effectively respond to both rural and urban Afro-Colombian and
indigenous communities, two different approaches will be integrated.
In urban areas, USAID will help to create "growth poles" to link
economic development and basic services around larger urban centers.
In rural areas, community consultations will identify economic
development projects in targeted clusters, creating market linkages,
and local capacity building to enable communities to respond to
changing market conditions.

15. (U) On May 19, the GOC launched the Inter-sectoral Commission
for the Advancement of the Afro-Colombian Communities, with the
purpose to evaluate the living standards of Afro-Colombians and
submit recommendations to the GOC to design affirmative action-like
public policies. At the request of the Vice-President's office and
the Ministry of the Interior and Justice, USAID will assist the
Commission in the implementation of its operational plan by
supporting a series of outreach events, as well workshops with
Afro-Colombian communities throughout the country. The Commission
also requested USAID support for an assessment of Afro-Colombian
living conditions to be conducted by Universidad de los Andes, one
of the top universities in Colombia. USAID is considering this and
other requests.

16. (U) USAID is also launching a new three year, USD 11 million
biodiversity and indigenous groups preservation project in September
2008. It seeks to enhance governance, enforcement, and economic
opportunities for in and around Colombia's national parks and
protected areas, particularly indigenous communities, to create
buffer zones to decrease illicit crop production.

Democratic Security

17. (U) The establishment of greater GOC territorial control and
the paramilitary demobilization have created the space for civil
society and political parties to operate more openly than ever
before. The GOC maintains a police presence in all 1099
municipalities for the first time in history. Increased security of
roads and highways have allowed for greater freedom of movement for
people and commerce. Murders fell from over 29,000 in 2002 to less
than 17,000 in 2007, and kidnappings fell from over 2,800 a year to
less than 600 during the same period. Local elections in October
2007 reflected the improved security with over 86,000 candidates
participating. The leftist Polo Democratic Party (POA) won 1.2
million more votes than in 2003, and its candidate won the key
Bogot mayoral race.

U.S. Hostages

18. (U) An audacious Colombian military operation led to the rescue
of the three U.S. contractors and twelve Colombians held by the
FARC. The three Americans were captured by the FARC in February
2003, and were the longest held U.S. hostages in the world at the
time of their rescue. The GOC worked closely with us on hostage
issues, and U.S. training of Colombian military personnel
contributed to the operation's success. Despite this success, the
FARC continues to hold hundreds of other hostages.

Labor Violence

19. (U) Labor violence and impunity remain major concerns, with the
government making dramatic progress. Since 2002, labor union data
shows that murders of unionists for political reasons or common
crime have fallen more than 79 percent. A resident International
labor organization (ILO) representative arrived in Colombia in
January 2007 to help implement the tripartite agreement committing
the GOC to provide USD 4 million to finance the ILO special
technical cooperation program and to provide USD 1.5 million a year
to the Prosecutor General's office. The Prosecutor General operates
as an independent agency responsible for prosecuting cases of
violence against trade unionists. The additional funding enabled
the Prosecutor General to create a speciI$Q7
crimes - which began operations in November 2006 - resolved SO
cases, leading to the conviction of 90 individuals. For 2008, the
Prosecutor General has received an additional USD 40 million in GOC
funds that has allowed it to add 1,072 new positions, including 175
prosecutors and 200 investigators.

20. (U) In addition to gains stemming from its democratic security
policy, the GOC has taken specific steps to protect labor leaders
and other vulnerable individuals. In 2008, the Ministry of Interior
and Justice's USD 44 million protection program helped protect more
than 9,444 human rights activists, journalists, politicians, and
other threatened individuals, including 1,959 trade unionists. The
murder rate for unionists is now lower than that for the general

Demobilization and Peace Process

21. (U) Incessant pressure from Colombian security operations makes
demobilization an attractive alternative to the increasingly dire
living conditions for terrorists. The "carrot-and-stick" approach
employed by the GOC has cut FARC strength in nearly half since the
beginning of the Uribe administration, dramatically improving
security conditions across Colombia.

22. (SBU) To date, over 48,000 members of Colombia's illegal armed
groups (IAGs) have demobilized or deserted ranks. Of those, over
32,000 were members of the United Self-Defense Group of Colombia
(AUC) who demobilized between November 2003 and April 2006 under a
peace agreement with the GOC. Another 16,000 have deserted from
other illegal armed groups (about one-half from the FARC) between
2002 and 2008 as a result of a USG-assisted Ministry of Defense
campaign promoting desertion. Of those, only 7,000 are currently
active in the GOC Reintegration Program.

23. (SBU) The USG provides crucial assistance to the GOC to
implement desertion, demobilization, and reintegration programs.
USAID provides technical assistance, institutional strengthening,
and implementation support to four peace process components: 1)
implementation of the legal framework for the DR process; 2)
monitoring and verification of the DR Process; 3) reintegration of
ex-combatants including children; and 4) reconciliation and victims'
reparations. NAS supports the Ministry of Defense's individual
Demobilization Program (DP) to directly and indirectly reduce the
numbers, capabilities, and impunity of Colombian narcoterrorist
organizations, particularly the FARC. It is almost completely
nationalized as Colombia has dedicated USD 21.5 million in 2008 and
the U.S. Embassy's Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS) only USD

24. (SBU) The National Liberation Army (ELN) has negotiated with
the Colombian government for over two years on a cease-fire
agreement, but ELN infighting and FARC pressure have prevented a
deal. The ELN kidnap civilians to fund operations, but its military
capability is declining. The FARC has rebuffed GOC initiatives to
engage in any meaningful peace talks.


25. (SBU) Colombia's commitment to free markets, democracy, and
close relations with the United States are an exception to trends in
region. Following Colombia's March 1 air-strike killing FARC senior
leader Raul Reyes across the border in Ecuador, Venezuela joined
Ecuador in breaking relations and deployed military forces to its
border. Venezuela called off the buildup after reaching agreement
Colombia March 7 to reduce tensions and reestablish commercial and
diplomatic ties. Computers found in Raul Reyes' camp have
information that appears to implicate Venezuelan and Ecuadorian
government officials in providing support to the FARC, as well as a
wider than thought international support network for the terrorist
group. After months of strained relations, President Uribe and
President Chavez met on July 11 and affirmed their commitment to
improve ties, but tensions remain over Venezuela's ambiguous
relations with the FARC. Ecuador and Colombia have yet to restore


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