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Cablegate: Quarterly Human Rights Certification Consultation

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #3580/01 2672258
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 232258Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4898
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1051
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ SEP 9675
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 6582
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 7259
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4593
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAWJC/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS BOGOTA 003580

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KJUS CO
SUBJECT: QUARTERLY HUMAN RIGHTS CERTIFICATION CONSULTATION
FOCUSES ON NEW CRIMINAL GROUPS/PARAMILITARIES

1. Summary: Post's quarterly human rights consultations
focused on new criminal groups and so-called paramilitary
structures. Many participants asserted that the armed
criminal groups which continue to operate in many areas
represent a continuation of the former paramilitary blocks.
Others contended that with a few exceptions, the new groups
lack the military structure, capability, and ostensible
counterinsurgency purpose that characterized the
paramilitaries. The new groups largely focus on
narcotrafficking, extortion, and other crimes and should be
seen as organized crime. Still, all agreed that whatever the
label, the groups corrupt local institutions and businesses,
harm local residents, and in some instances target civil
society leaders. The International Crisis Group (ICG)
recognized that the GOC has taken steps to combat the groups,
but said it needs to devote more police resources against
criminal leaders and local corruption. The Colectivo de
Abogados said the GOC should use the Justice and Peace Law
(JPL) process to aggressively pursue the economic and
political supporters of the former paramilitaries. End
Summary

2. On September 10, we hosted our quarterly consultations
with human rights groups, focusing on new criminal groups and
paramilitaries. Attendees included: Mauricio Albarracin of
Comision Colombiana de Juristas (CCJ),Markus Schultz Kraft of
the International Crisis Group (ICG), Agustin Jimenez of the
Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP),
Alberto Yepes of Coordinacion Colombia Europea, Rafael
Barrios of Colectivo de Abogados, Gloria Flores of Asociacion
para la Promocion Social Alternativa (MINGA), Luz Stella
Aponte of Fundacion Reiniciar, Yimi Munoz of Comision de
Justicia yPaz, Mario Gomez of Fundacion Restrepo Barco,
Geilar Romana of Asociacion de Afrocolombianos Desplazados
(AFRODES), and Carlos Garaviz of the Jesuit-run Centro de
Investigacion y Educacion Popular (CINEP).


PARAMILITARIES VERSUS NEW CRIMINAL GROUPS
-----------------------------------------

3. Several participants, including CINEP's Carlos Garaviz
and CSPP's Agustin Jimenez, asserted that the armed criminal
groups that continue to operate in many areas represent a
continuation of the previous paramilitary structures.
Garaviz noted that Daniel Rendon (Don Mario), a major
narcotrafficker in Antioquia and Cordoba departments, is a
former paramilitary and controls the same territory
previously dominated by the Elmer Cardenas Block. Jimenez
claimed that, like the former paramilitaries, the new groups
corrupt democratic institutions and attack political
opposition leaders, unionists, and human rights defenders.
He added that in many areas, the new groups advance the same
economic and political interests that supported the
paramilitaries. Afrodes' Geiler Romana noted that in
Jiguamiando and Curvarado in Choco department, armed groups
defend the same African palm companies that were protected by
the paras. Jimenez added that in departments such as Meta,
the Santanders, and Antioquia, the new groups receive
substantial support from GOC security forces.

4. ICG's Markus Schultz Kraft agreed many criminal groups
continue the same activities as the former paramilitaries.
He proposed four criteria to determine if a new group should
be viewed as a paramilitary force or as a form of organized
crime: support from local security forces; ties to local
political and economic elites; participation by former
paramilitaries in leadership posts and other key roles; and
ties to narcotraffickers and other organized criminal groups.
Schultz Kraft noted that in some regions, local security
forces continue to use the criminal groups to combat the
FARC, ELN, and other criminal groups. Still, in contrast to
the former paramilitaries, many new criminal groups also
cooperate with the FARC and ELN on drug shipments and coca
cultivation.

5. Fundacion Restrepo Barco representative Mario Gomez
doubted that the new criminal groups should be considered
paramilitaries, noting that they lack the military structure,
armed capacity, and counterinsurgency agenda that
characterized the former United Self-Defense Forces of
Colombia (AUC). He said that after the paramilitary

demobilization, civilian deaths fell sharply in regions where
the AUC was present. The new groups operate in many of the
same areas as the AUC because that is where the coca is,
Gomez declared.

SIZE, IMPACT ON INSTITUTIONS AND CIVILIANS
------------------------------------------
6. Alberto Yepes of Coordinacion Colombia Europea claimed
that so-called paramilitary groups number between 6500-10,000
members and operate in 24 departments. He alleged that Don
Mario maintains 3000 armed men in Cordoba, Antioquia, and
Choco, while Pedro Guerrero (Cuchillo) has a similar force in
Meta. Both operate extensive narcotrafficking networks,
exercise control over local residents, and benefit from
collusion with security and municipal officials. Yepes said
the "Aguilas Negras" criminal group is a major problem in
Bogota, Barranquilla, Barrancabermeja, Curvarado, and parts
of Valle de Cauca. MINGA's Gloria Florez voiced concern that
so-called paramilitaries are acquiring significant political
and economic influence through their penetration of legal
businesses. She said the groups also dominate pyramid
financial schemes, gambling, and other quasi-legal
activities. Luz Aponte of Reiniciar cited Don Mario's
penetration of the Medellin Prosecutor General's Office
(Fiscalia) as an example of so-called paramilitary groups'
continued influence.

GOC RESPONSE
------------

7. Schultz Kraft acknowledged that the GOC has scored some
important successes against the new criminal groups, but
called the overall GOC response inadequate. The GOC needs to
dedicate increased police resources to the pursuit of new
criminal groups leaders, and should also initiate more
programs to combat corruption in local institutions. Florez
and Jimenez questioned the GOC's commitment to fighting the
new groups, citing the GOC's failure to investigate the major
economic and political supporters of the AUC. Jimenez
charged that the economic and financial networks that
sustained the AUC continue to operate through the new groups,
and called for international pressure to push the GOC to
investigate and dismantle these networks. Florez said the
Fiscalia needs to be more aggressive in following up on the
testimony provided by paramilitaries participating in the
Justice and Peace Law process.

8. Victims' rights advocate Yimi Munoz complained that the
Ministry of Interior and Justice only extends its protection
program to individuals threatened by the FARC, ELN, and
paramilitary groups. It does not include individuals
threatened by criminal groups, unless they are also
witnesses. All groups urged that the MOIJ program be
extended to any at-risk individual. (We subsequently
confirmed with MOIJ Director of Protection Program Rafael
Bustamente Cruz that individuals threatened by criminal
groups are already included in its program).
BROWNFIELD

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