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Cablegate: Colombian Military Commander Montoya Resigns,

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #4028 3111833
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 061833Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5418
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1288
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ NOV LIMA 6713
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 7411
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 4678
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

S E C R E T BOGOTA 004028

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/22/2016
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KJUS CO
SUBJECT: COLOMBIAN MILITARY COMMANDER MONTOYA RESIGNS,
GENERAL GONZALEZ PENA NAMED AS REPLACEMENT

Classified By: Political Counselor John S. Creamer. Reason: 1.4(b,d)

-------
SUMMARY
-------
1. (S) Colombian Army Commanding General Mario Montoya Uribe
resigned his post on November 4. Montoya stepped down less
than a week after President Alvaro Uribe's dismissal of 27
military officers for their roles in the disappearance and
subsequent murders of young men from Soacha and Antioquia.
Montoya has been dogged in recent years by allegations of his
involvement in human rights abuses. Later on November 4,
Uribe named Major General Oscar Enrique Gonzalez
Pena--considered Montoya's "protege"--to the post. Minister
of Defense Juan Manuel Santos told us Montoya personally
convinced Uribe to appoint Gonzalez. Human rights groups
have voiced concerns that extrajudicial killings were
committed under Gonzalez' watch while commander of the 4th
brigade. END SUMMARY.

----------------------- ------------------
GENERAL MONTOYA RESIGNS AS COLAR COMMANDER
----------------------- ------------------
2. (U) On November 4, Colombian Army Commanding General
Mario Montoya Uribe resigned his post. Montoya stepped down
less than a week after President Uribe's dismissal of 27
military officers--including two division and three brigade
commanders--for their roles in the disappearance and
subsequent murders of young men from Soacha and Antioquia.
Montoya had been the subject of multiple human rights
complaints during his tenure, including alleged abuses
committed in Medellin's poorer neighborhoods during Operation
Orion, collusion with paramilitaries, and demanding "body
count" as a measure of operational success.

3. (U) Colombian press reported statements by Senator
Patrick Leahy calling Montoya's departure a "long overdue and
positive step." Leahy said Montoya "shares responsibility
for widespread and systematic abuses by the Colombian
military." Montoya's recent military successes include the
rescue of hostages in Operation Jaque. Some believed he
would be a likely successor to Armed Forces Commander General
Freddy Padilla de Leon.

------------------------ -------------------
PRESIDENT NAMES GONZALEZ PENA AS REPLACEMENT
------------------------ -------------------
4. (U) Later on November 4, President Uribe announced at a
press conference with General Freddy Padilla and Minister of
Defense Juan Manuel Santos thatMajor General Oscar Enrique
Gonzalez Pena, current commander of the Caribbean Joint
Command, would replace Montoya as Commanding General of the
Colombian Army. Uribe said Gonzalez' appointment leaves the
Army in "good hands," highlighting his significant
operational successes. Gonzalez Pena followed Montoya as
commander of the 4th Brigade from December 2003 to July 2005,
and then became commander of the 7th Division in 2005.

5. (U) Gonzalez was responsible for the operation that led
to the death of "Martin Caballero," the former head of the
FARC's 37th Front, in September of last year. Human rights
groups publicly criticized Gonzalez' appointment for his
close association with Montoya, and voiced concerns regarding
45 alleged extrajudicial killings committed by the 4th
Brigade during his command. El Tiempo reported that Montoya
selected Gonzalez as 'best commander in the country' during
his tenure as 4th Brigade commander because his unit reported
the most combat kills---857.

---------------------------
GONZALEZ, MONTOYA'S PROTEGE
---------------------------
6. (S) MOD Santos told the Ambassador that Montoya--who has
a close relationship with Uribe--persuaded the President to
appoint Gonzalez as his replacement. Santos pushed back, but
Uribe decided to proceed with the appointment. Santos
subsequently met with Gonzalez who assured him that he was
"clean" on all fronts. Vice Ministers Pinzon and Jaramillo
told us separately that Gonzalez is Montoya's protege, and
could be an obstacle to further improvements on human rights.
Still, Pinzon and Jaramillo stressed Santos' commitment to
human rights, and voiced confidence that they could manage
Gonzalez.
BROWNFIELD

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

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