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Cablegate: Possible Uribe Reelection in 2010 Increasingly

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id: 182261
date: 12/10/2008 21:12
refid: 08BOGOTA4372
origin: Embassy Bogota
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination:
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5991
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1406
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RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 6814
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 2759
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 7506
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4711
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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
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C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 004372

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/10/2018
TAGS: PGOV PINR CO
SUBJECT: POSSIBLE URIBE REELECTION IN 2010 INCREASINGLY
UNLIKLEY AS CONGRESSIONAL DEBATE IS POSTPONED UNTIL 2009

1. (C) Summary: Prospects for a possible third term for
President Uribe in 2010 look increasingly unlikely. Congress
announced it would delay further debate on the bill that
could permit Uribe to run again in 2010 until March 2009, and
key Uribista supporters have publicly dismissed the 2010
option. Interior and Justice Minister Fabio Valencia Cossio
urged Congress to reconsider the delay, but with the current
congressional session ending on December 16, time is running
out. Uribe told visiting FBI Director Robert Mueller that he
no longer sees the possibility of running in 2010, but would
like to keep open the option of a constitutional reform that
would let him run in 2014. Meanwhile, the driver of the 2010
referendum initiative--Senator Luis Giraldo--resigned as U
Party Secretary General amid a growing controversy over the
financing of the referendum initiative. End Summary.

President's Allies Raise Concerns
---------------------------------

2. (C) In separate interviews on December 5-8, 2008,
high-profile supporters of President Uribe rejected the
effort to amend the Constitution to allow Uribe to run again
in 2010 and questioned the tactics used by amendment
advocates. In an interview on December 5, Fabio Echeverri
Correa, Uribe's campaign manager in the 2002 and 2006
presidential elections, said the "referendum lacks
legitimacy" and urged Uribe to defer any reelection
possibilities until 2014. On December 7, Luis Alberto
Moreno, President of the Inter-American Development Bank
(IDB) and Uribe's first Ambassador to the United States, said
a a third term would not be good for the country or for
Uribe. Uribe told FBI director Robert Mueller on December 9
that he no longer sees the possibility of running in 2010,
but does not want to close the door on a possible 2014 bid.


New Problems Arise Over Referendum
----------------------------------

3. (C) In early December, new questions arose over funding
for the referendum petition. Echeverri voiced concern that
Senator Luis Guillermo Giraldo, who has managed the
reelection effort, has been unable to explain who provided
1.9 billion pesos (835,000 USD) in financing for the
referendum petition, well over the legal limit of 335 million
pesos (147,000 USD). Several observers allege that public
contractors illegally channeled contributions through a
private foundation, which subsequently "lent" the funds to
the referendum effort. Echeverri told us privately that
Giraldo is an "opportunist" who has been tied to numerous
financial scandals. Publicly, Echeverri said the doubts over
the initiative's funding put the legitimacy of the whole
referendum process in question.

Giraldo Holds U Party Line, But Resigns
---------------------------------------

4. (U) In a December 8 interview, Giraldo defended the
initiative's funding and publicly disputed claims of
irregularities in the collection of signatures. Still,
Giraldo failed to clarify the sources of the funding used to
promote the referendum initiative, and--in the face of
growing criticism--resigned on December 9 from his post as
Secretary General of the U Party. The National Electoral
Advisor (CNE) continues its preliminary inquiry to establish
if the supporters of the referendum did anything irregular or
illegal in the collection of signatures for approval of the
referendum and/or in its financing.

Referendum Postponed Until March 2009
-------------------------------------

5. (U) House President German Varon announced on December 9
that Congress would delay the second debate on the referendum
bill until the next session of Congress in March, 2009. He
said this was to ensure that other priority legislation--such
as the Victims and Political Reform bills--received adequate
attention. Interior and Justice Minister Fabio Valencia
urged Congress not to delay consideration of the referendum,
but appeared to have little support. Giraldo claimed that
postponement of congressional consideration of the referendum
until March would condemn it to a "slow death." It would be

hard to complete the required three congressional votes,
Constitutional Court review, and referendum in time to allow
Uribe to run in 2010. Under current law, a president must
legally declare his intention to seek reelection six months
before the election (which would require Uribe to declare in
November 2009).

6. (C) Varon's party, Cambio Radical, and some other Uribista
legislators oppose allowing Uribe to run again in 2010, and
have cooperated with opposition efforts to stall or derail
the bill. House Secretary General Jesus Rodriguez told us
that many members of Congress remain concerned over Uribe's
failure to take a public stance in favor of reelection. They
are also troubled by the doubts surrounding the referendum's
funding. Congressmen Tarquino Pacheco called Valencia's call
for Congress to consider the referendum bill in the current
legislative session a clear signal of Uribe's support for the
referendum, but it is unclear how many other legislators will
agree.
NICHOLS

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

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