Cablegate: Major Colombian Print Media Trends Fall 2003

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

REFTEL: 1) BOGOTA 03026, 2) BOGOTA 05259, 3) BOGOTA 08486

1. This report on Colombian media covers the period
September - November 2003. In this time frame, major
Colombian print media (dailies El Tiempo, El Nuevo Siglo, La
Republica, and Portafolio, and weeklies El Espectador,
Semana, and Cambio) published 88 editorials, op-eds, and
other signed commentaries concerning USG policy or leading
bilateral issues. Of these, 54 were positive or supportive
of USG policies, and 34 were negative.

U.S. Military Assistance to Colombia

2. No articles dealt specifically with the topic of U.S.
Military assistance to Colombia.

Eradication/illicit crop spraying

3. In this time frame, 5 articles dealt with the topic of
eradication, aerial eradication, or glyphosate use. Two were
positive and three were negative.

The favorably disposed articles asserted that:

-The agrochemicals used in coca growing cause more harm than

-It is important to continue aerial eradication efforts at
the border with Venezuela, especially in the area of La

Negatively disposed articles asserted that:

-The NGOs will continue to criticize President Uribe for not
protecting the environment as long as he insists on using

-By naming the previous Plan Colombia Coordinator Sandra
Suarez as Minister of Environment, President Uribe sent the
wrong message to environmentalists, who oppose to glyphosate

-Glyphosate harms the jungle even more than other areas.
More education on protecting nature is needed, rather than
continued use of glyphosate.

Plan Colombia

4. In this time frame, no articles dealt with the topic of
Plan Colombia and its results in either way.

Trade issues

5. There were 28 articles on trade issues, including
regional issues, FTAA, and FTA. Twenty were positive and
eight were negative.

Positively disposed articles asserted that:

-Colombia proposes negotiating an FTA without unfounded
pretensions or expectations.

-It is important to Colombia to maintain its share in global
markets. Opening up access to the U.S. market will help
Colombia improve its competitiveness to do so.

-Colombian businessmen, industrialists, and traders must
change. They must undertake the challenge of entering the
U.S. market and view the U.S. as their ally.

-The talks on services under the FTA, which some in Colombia
perceive as something imposed by the U.S., will actually
benefit Colombia.

-With the WTO in hibernation, FTAA in intensive care,
MERCOSUR in trouble, and an Andean Community Group without
Venezuelan participation, bilateral trade relations with the
U.S. are back, hopefully for the better.

-Dealing with both FTAA and FTA at the same time requires
Colombia to have a well-structured strategy that includes a
good knowledge of our strengths and weaknesses, as well as
our priorities.

-Reaching an agreement between the Colombian Government,
Congress, and the business community is crucial for defining
Colombia's position at the trade talks on an FTA with the

-Transcendental, historic, unprecedented, good news... is
the announcement by the U.S. Government of its intention to
initiate trade talks for a Free Trade Agreement with Andean
nations. This is the biggest trade success of the current
Colombian Government. It is important to have the full
participation of the Colombian private sector in the talks.

-By including agricultural issues in FTA negotiations, both
nations have a lot to gain. Negotiations ought to allow a
transition period for sensitive products. Subsidies ought
to be lifted gradually.
-Reaching a free trade agreement with the U.S. is a priority
for Colombia's trade policy, as is working to improve
respect for contracts and intellectual property rights, and
speeding up the paperwork and reducing expenses for

-It is important that Colombia stay calm and continue
working with developed nations to reach a favorable
agreement regarding agricultural protectionism.

-Colombia and Peru are at the top of the list of nations
with which the U.S. will initiate trade talks on a free
trade agreement.

-A free trade agreement with South American nations is not
as good as access to U.S. and Canadian markets.

-Having a good negotiating team is important.

Negatively disposed articles asserted that:

-A free trade agreement with the U.S. is a dilemma for
Colombia. If we don't sign one, we will lose participation
in the U.S. market available to other countries; if we do
sign one, the benefits will not be as good as those with
Europe, including free migration and agricultural subsidies.

-Colombia loses sovereignty under a free trade agreement
with the U.S. Compromises will have to be made on a variety
of issues, including trade conflict resolution.

-A free trade agreement with the U.S. will have a negative
impact on Colombia's incipient industry. There will be an
avalanche of U.S. goods. Turning our back on South American
nations may lead the Colombian economy to disaster.

-The U.S. and Europe let down the poor nations at the Cancun

FARC violence, AUC talks, Demobilization of paramilitaries

6. In this time frame, 19 articles dealt with the
demobilization of paramilitaries, FARC violence, and human
rights issues as discrete topics. Seventeen were positive,
although some with reservations, and two were negative.

Positively disposed articles asserted that:

-To condemn the demobilization of paramilitaries before it
is completed is unjust and wrong.

-A culture inside the Colombian Armed Forces has come
together to observe human rights and international
humanitarian law.

-The Colombian authorities have no doubts the FARC is
responsible for the bombing in the Zona Rosa of Bogota.

-The Colombian Armed Forces have succeeded in the fight
against terrorism and kidnapping, as a result of a
combination of changes in strategy and improved
intelligence. A stronger armed forces is the result of
modernization and an increased military budget.

-The Mexico OAS Conference on Security Declaration is
particularly important to Colombia. The governments of 34
American States call upon the FARC, the ELN, and self-
defense groups to stop violence and enter peace talks.

-The decision to fight terrorism in the jungle is positive.

-The important questions on conditional liberty legislation
asked by the U.S. send a clear message: more debate on the
topic is required in order to prevent the failure of the
incipient peace talks with self-defense groups.

-The image presented to the world by President Uribe in the
UNGA and Washington on human rights was a successful effort.
-We are not against peace talks with the paramilitaries. A
balance must be struck between what the Colombian Government
is offering and what they are willing to give up.

-We are concerned that peace talks with the paramilitaries
will allow drug traffickers to be part of the list of those

-The conditional liberty legislation is faulty. It lacks
consensus. Amnesty and pardons should be granted at the end
rather than the beginning of the talks.

-The peace talks with the paramilitaries face difficulties
and an atmosphere of uncertainty. The international public
disagrees with the proposed conditional liberty legislation.
Negatively disposed articles asserted that:

-The designated zone for peace talks with the paramilitaries
in Medellin will become a problem.

-In contradiction of (the position of) the Government of the
U.S., Congressman Cass Ballenger supports conditional
liberty legislation.


7. A total of 6 articles dealt with counter-narcotics and
counter-insurgency policy. Five were positive and one was

Positively disposed articles asserted that:

-With the appointment of a business leader as the new
Minister of Interior and Justice, the Colombian President
clearly is giving notice that money laundering and
extradition remain law enforcement policy priorities.

-A Counterterrorism Act is very important to Colombia.

-In his remarks at the Civil-Military Relations Conference,
U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Wood was straightforward
and concrete on the U.S. position against terrorist groups.

-International solidarity with Colombia against terrorism
must reflect appropriate assistance. U.S. assistance
already is there, and increasing, now through a free trade
agreement. The Europeans mustn't be so naive with a few
NGOs. The Europeans must cut the sources of financing of
terrorist organizations.

-A drastic reduction in drug trafficking will weaken the
guerillas by attacking their major source of income.

Negatively disposed article asserted that:

-An international agreement on drug legalization would
lessen the damage caused by narcotics.

Miscellaneous articles

8. Thirty-two miscellaneous articles addressed topics such
as U.S. reconstruction policy in Iraq, the U.S. role in the
Mideast, the global campaign against terrorism, the
Venezuelan situation, TPS for Colombians and the U.S.
support for the referendum in Colombia. Twelve articles were
positive and twenty-one were negative. Sixteen of the
twenty-one negatively disposed articles concerned Iraq.

9. This report shows a decrease in the overall number of
articles in the above categories from 107 in Summer 2003 to
88 in Fall 2003. (There were 182 articles in Spring 2003 and
91 articles in Winter 2002-2003.) Positive articles
decreased from 59 to 54. (There were 42 positive articles in
Spring 2003 and 21 positive articles in Winter 2002-2003.)
Negative articles decreased from 48 to 34. (There were 126
negative articles in Spring 2003 and 58 negative articles in
Winter 2002-2003.) As in Summer 2003, there were no neutral
articles in this time frame. (There were 15 neutral articles
in Spring 2003 and 12 neutral articles in Winter 2002-2003.)

There were no articles dealing with U.S. Military assistance
to Colombia. (There were 8 positive articles in Summer
2003, one positive article in Spring 2003, and 2 positive
articles in Winter 2002-2003. There were zero negative
articles in Summer 2003, two negative articles in Spring
2003, and 6 negative articles in Winter 2002-2003.)

Five articles in this time frame dealt with eradication, the
same number as in Summer 2003. (There were 6 articles in
Spring 2003 and 5 articles in Winter 2002-2003) Positive
articles decreased from 3 to two. (There was one in Spring
2003 and none in Winter 2002-2003.) The number of negative
articles increased from 2 to 3. (There were 5 in Spring 2003
and 5 in Winter 2002-2003.)

There were no articles dealing with Plan Colombia. (There
were 8 positive articles in Spring 2003 and one negative
article in Winter 2002-2003)
The number of articles dealing with trade issues decreased
from 42 to 28. (There were 19 articles in Spring 2003 and 15
articles in Winter 2002-2003.) Positive articles decreased
from 25 to 24. (There were 3 in Spring 2003 and 6 in Winter
2002-2003.) Negative articles decreased from 17 to 8. (There
were 10 in Spring 2003 and 6 in Winter 2002-2003.)

Articles dealing with FARC violence and AUC talks increased
from one to 19. Positive articles increased from 0 to 17.
(There were no articles in Spring 2003 or in Winter 2002-
2003). Negative articles increased from one to 2. (There
were no articles in Spring 2003 and 12 articles in Winter

Articles dealing with counter-narcotics/counter-insurgency
decreased from 13 to 6. (There were 8 articles in Spring
2003 and 5 articles in Winter 2002-2003.) Positive articles
decreased from 7 to 5. (There were 3 articles in Spring 2003
and one article in Winter 2002-2003.) Negative articles
decreased from 6 to one. (There were 5 articles in Spring
2003 and 3 articles in Winter 2002-2003.)

The number of articles dealing with miscellaneous topics was
32, the same number as Summer 2003. (There were 146 articles
in Spring 2003 and 46 in Winter 2002-2003.)


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