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Cablegate: United Nations Weighs in On Uribe-Supreme Court

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RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 7224
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C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 003359

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/08/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PHUM KJUS CO
SUBJECT: UNITED NATIONS WEIGHS IN ON URIBE-SUPREME COURT
FEUD

REF: BOGOTA 2891

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

SUMMARY
-------
1. (C) UN rapporteur for Judicial Independence Leandro
Despouy used his participation in a judicial conference in
Cartagena organized by Colombia's judiciary to voice concern
over tensions between President Uribe and the Supreme Court.
At the conference, Supreme Court President Ricaurte
complained that Uribe's constant verbal attacks on the Court
threaten its independence. Uribe criticized Despouy for
commenting on Colombia's internal affairs without hearing the
GOC's side of the story.Despouy later met with Uribe and
other top GOC officials, and said Colombia's institutions are
healthy enough to resolve the row without UN intervention.
Still, Presidential adviser Jose ObdulioGaviria told us the
executive-judicial conflict would continue because Uribe is
in no mood to "surrender" to a court he believes is in league
with the opposition. End Summary.

UN "WORRIED" BY RICAURTE CLAIMS
-------------------------------

2. (U) Supreme Court President Javier Ricaurte, along with
the presidents of Colombia's other high courts, met with UN
judicial envoy Leandro Despouy on September 4 in Cartagena to
complain that President Uribe's verbal agression against the
Courts threaten their "independence." Despouy told the media
he is worried by Ricaurte's claims and noted his perception
that the executive-court conflict was worsening. Both sides,
he claimed, had eschewed dialogue and were feuding through
the media. Despouy, who was attending a judicial conference
in Cartagena at the invitation of the Colombian judiciary,
said he would continue to monitor the situation, but added
that he was not in Colombia on an official UN mission.

3. (U) PresidentAlvaro Uribe criticzedDespouy's
statements, saying the UN representative should "properly
study the issues before making statements that make the
country appear suspicious." Uribe suggested that Ricaurte
apologize for his claims, and reiterated that Colombia's
democracy respects judicial independence. He blasted
Ricaurte for claiming the GOC's proposed judicial reform
package (reftel) could lead to impunity for para-politicians.
Uribe chastised the Court for its "slowness" in
investigating Colombia politicians with alleged ties to the
FARC. He also criticized the Court for insisting that Yidis
Medina--convicted of accepting bribes in Uribe's first
reelection effort--be placed in house arrest, noting that she
also faces kidnapping charges.

GOOD UN-URIBE MEETING
---------------------

4. (U) Despouy met for several hours on September 8 with
Uribe, Justice and Interior Minister Fabio Valencia Cossio,
and Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez, and later told the press
he was confident that Colombia's judicial institutions remain
independent. Both sides would find adequate institutional
channels to resolve the problem, he added. Despouy declined
to offer an opinion on the judicial reform proposal, saying
the issue was an internal Colombian matter. Still, he
suggested that Colombia's judiciary should be involved in any
judicial reform effort, and he reiterated his offer to serve
as a mediator between the branches to help reduce tensions.

CASA DE NARINO IN NO MOOD TO COMPROMISE
---------------------------------------

5. (C) Presidential adviser Jose ObdulioGaviria told us
Uribe's battles with the Supreme Court would continue. He
dismissed Vice President Francisco Santos' call for an
executive-judicial truce, saying Uribe is in no mood to
"surrender" to a court in league with Marxists and the
opposition. Gaviria added that Ricaurte has been on
television more than most presidential candidates, and
claimed that human groups from Europe and the United States
have manipulated the court issue to try to discredit the GOC.


6. (C) President of the House of Representatives,

Representative German Baron, also said the Uribe-Court
tensions would likely worsen. He added that the Uribe-Court
conflict would likely become more personal and nasty in
coming months as Uribe's controversial judicial reform bill
and legislation providing for a referendum on a
constitutional amendment that would allow for a possible
third Uribe term slogged through the Congress--all to the
detriment of Uribe, the Courts, Congress, and Colombia.


NICHOLS

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