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Cablegate: Ambassador Engages Prominent Labor Leader

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #0355/01 0571942
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261942Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3097
INFO RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS BOGOTA 000355

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
USTR FOR EISSENSTAT AND HARMAN
DOL FOR ZOLLNER AND QUINTANA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB EAID ETRD PGOV PHUM PREL USTR LAB CO
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR ENGAGES PROMINENT LABOR LEADER

REF: REF A: 09 BOGOTA 3027; REF B: 09 BOGOTA 2958
REF C: 09 BOGOTA 3343; REF D: 09 BOGOTA 3031; REF E: 10 BOGOTA 309

SUMMARY

-------

1. (U) The Ambassador expressed USG support for the essential role
unions play in healthy democratic societies in a February 17
meeting with the Colombian Confederation of Workers (CTC). The CTC
is one of the three main labor confederations in Colombia, with
120,000 members organized into approximately 450 unions
concentrated in the agricultural, agro-industrial, metallurgical,
financial, and public sectors. The meeting, which involved a
discussion of U.S. trade and military policies on Colombia, was
part of Post's proactive human/labor rights strategy (Reftels A-C).
Immediately following their discussion, the Ambassador repeated his
message to the press, although journalists were more interested in
discussing the USG response to the Colombian Supreme Court's
decision to deny a recent U.S. extradition request. End Summary.

A WIDE-RANGING DISCUSSION

-------------------------

2. (SBU) In a cordial meeting with the Ambassador, CTC President
Luis Miguel Morantes Alfonso raised the violent persecution of the
labor movement; the illegal use of Associated Worker Cooperatives
(AWC) as labor intermediaries; the effects of widespread, forced
displacement on workers; and the false positives scandal (military
murders falsely presented as combat kills). Morantes also used the
opportunity to criticize the U.S.-Colombian Trade Promotion
Agreement (CTPA) and the Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA). The
Ambassador told Morantes that the CTC could count on USG support
for fundamental labor rights, including the right to associate,
negotiate, and strike. He stressed that the solution to
displacement must involve assistance with the option to return or
stay, taking into account the situations and desires of those
affected. Moreover, given the dramatic reduction in the number of
new false positive cases, the task at hand is to identify and hold
the perpetrators accountable. The Ambassador said the CTPA would
boost overall economic activity and employment, while the DCA
simply updated existing bilateral agreements concerning cooperation
against illicit trafficking, illegal armed groups, and terrorism.

CTC WILL REMAIN ENGAGED IN LABOR VIOLENCE STUDY

--------------------------------------------- --

3. (U) The Ambassador stressed the importance of the CTC's
continued participation in a multi-institutional study led by the
United Nations Development Program (UNDP) that aims to analyze the
root causes of labor violence in Colombia (Reftel D). The
Ambassador said it was important to arrive at a baseline conclusion
regarding labor violence on which everyone -- the GOC, business
groups, labor, and the international community -- could agree.
Morantes said the CTC intended to remain fully engaged in the UNDP
study.

PRESS FOCUSES ON EXTRADITION DENIAL

-----------------------------------
4. (U) Following their meeting, the Ambassador and Morantes both
addressed the media. The Ambassador gave brief remarks, stating
that "strong and independent unions are essential, crucial elements
of democracy." The meeting received coverage in broadcast media
with emphasis on an unrelated question the Ambassador received
about the Colombian Supreme Court's February 17 decision to deny a
U.S. request for the extradition of former United Self-Defense
Forces of Colombia (AUC) leader Edwar Cobos Tellez, alias "Diego
Vecino" (Reftel E). La FM radio (80,000 listeners) covered the
meeting, as did CM& (publically-owned, national news channel with
507,000 viewers). RCN Radio (second largest radio network, right
of center, with 6,759,400 listeners and an Internet audience of
12,000,000) focused on Morantes' comments regarding the CTC's
opposition to the CTPA.
Brownfield

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