Cablegate: Inl a/S Charles Visit to Colombia

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
SUBJECT: INL A/S Charles Visit to Colombia


1. (U) Sensitive But Unclassified. Please handle accordingly.

2. (U) Summary: The March 12-15 visit to Colombia by INL A/S
Robert Charles combined field visits to NAS-supported counter-
narcotics and law enforcement programs and briefings and meetings
hosted by key GOC leaders. In his conversations with GOC
leadership, A/S Charles noted the GOC's recent accomplishments in
pursuit of important counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, rule of
law, and human rights objectives. A/S Charles took advantage of a
one-hour meeting with President Uribe to raise the issue of aerial
eradication in Colombia's national parks and protected areas and
President Uribe flagged several topics he hoped to explore with
high-level officials during his planned March 22-24 visit to
Washington (see septel). End summary.

Colombian National Police Training

3. (U) On March 13, Ambassador accompanied INL A/S Robert Charles
on an inspection of Colombian National Police (CNP) training
facilities in Espinal, Tolima Department. Escorted by CNP
commander Major General Jorge Daniel Castro and CNP Antinarcotics
Directorate director Brigadier General Luis Alberto Gomez, A/S
Charles observed field demonstrations by Jungla (CNP Special
Forces) units and Carabineros (Mobile Rural Police). A/S Charles
was guest of honor at ceremonies marking the graduation of three
Carabinero companies that had completed an intensive seven-week
training program. In a prepared address, A/S Charles noted the
significant role played by CNP units in completing the process of
reinserting public security forces in all of Colombia's 1098
municipalities (reftel). A/S Charles also cited the training
provided to Jungla and Carabinero units by US Special Forces as an
indication of the USG's commitment to supporting and sustaining an
effective bilateral partnership in pursuit of common goals: the
defeat of international terrorism and narcotics trafficking and
the establishment of stability and rule of law throughout

4. (U) A/S Charles and Ambassador had further opportunity to
engage PNC leaders on counter-narcotics and interdiction
strategies and operations conducted by CNP elements. In an
interview with leading TV network, Caracol, arranged by PAS, A/S
Charles commented on the objectives and successes of the Air
Bridge Denial program and the importance of addressing the issue
of coca cultivation in national parks and protected areas in the
context of the growing severity of the problem and the constraints
applicable to eradication in these areas. He highlighted the
successes in the drug war under the Uribe administration and
emphasized the damage being done to Colombia's environment by the
cultivation and production of narcotics. The interview ran on the
evening news nationwide. Other Colombian media also covered the
visit and several articles ran in the press the following day,
characterizing the purpose of visit as a review of US assistance
to Colombia. In addition to the Ambassador, A/S Charles was
accompanied by INL/LP Tom Martin, NAS Director, MilGroup
Commander, and NAS Program Officers.

Ministry of Defense Briefings

5. (SBU) On Sunday, March 14, A/S Charles, DCM, NAS Director,
MilGroup Commander, and NAS Program Officers were briefed by
Colombian Military (COLMIL) leaders on key missions and
organizational objectives. Colombian Army (COLAR) MG Reinaldo
Castellanos, COLMIL Joint Task Force Commander for Plan Patriota
Phase 2, provided an overview of GOC strategy for pacification of
southern regions of Colombia. COLAR Carlos BG Carlos Suarez
briefed A/S Charles on the mission, deployment, and successes of
the COLAR Counter-narcotics (CD) Brigade, which performs
interdiction operations and provides critical support and
defensive operations in conjunction with aerial eradication
operations. COLAR Colonel Rey and NAS Program Officer then
briefed on the organization and mission of the COLAR Aviation
program, which includes training and support for COLAR aviation
assets that provide mobility and logistical support for
eradication, interdiction and counter-terrorism operations. The
morning concluded with a briefing by NAS Program Officer and
Colombian Air Force Colonel on the Air Bridge Denial program and a
tour of the Colombian Air Force's Command and Control Center

Eradication/Colombian National Police Aviation
--------------------------------------------- -

6. (U) Afternoon activities featured a tour of the NAS-funded
maintenance facilities at the CNP Aviation (ARAVI) base in
Guaymaral, near Bogota. A/S Charles examined a number of static
displays and toured ongoing maintenance and repair activities
being conducted at the facility. DIRAN Director BG Gomez and
ARAVI personnel then briefed A/S Charles on the CNP's aerial and
ground eradication strategies, operations, and program results.
This visit provide A/S Charles with an opportunity to discuss CNP
needs and capabilities with CNP Aviation personnel and to
reinforce their understanding of US objectives. A/S Charles was
accompanied by DCM, NAS Director, and NAS program officers.

Ministry of Interior and Justice

7. (SBU) On March 15, A/S Charles met with Minister of Interior
and Justice Sabas Pretelt. Pretelt stated that the GOC was moving
aggressively on its asset forfeiture program, noting that
approximately 200 assets, including farms and houses valued at
approximately USD 10 million, had been seized the previous week
from one narcotics trafficker alone (Luis Hernando Gomez). The
government intends to intensify its efforts in this area,
conducting a thorough property registration and seizing land used
to cultivate illicit crops, as well as other assets derived from
narcotics trafficking. Funds generated by this process will
finance the prosecution of narcotics traffickers and the
construction of new prisons. Pretelt said that 64,000 inmates
were now confined in prisons designed for 48,000 and that vigorous
police and prosecutorial work was putting an additional 1,000
criminals behind bars every month. A/S Charles noted that the GOC
had developed significant momentum in its campaign against
narcotics traffickers and other criminal elements, and that asset
forfeiture weakens these organizations even further.

8. (SBU) Pretelt said that the GOC's policy on extradition caused
problems within Colombia, especially in the context of evolving
policies regarding demobilization of paramilitary groups, but that
the GOC had no intention of changing its extradition policy or
practices at this time. A/S Charles expressed the USG's
appreciation for Colombia's cooperation and resolve on extradition
of individuals indicted by US courts.

9. (SBU) Pretelt and A/S Charles agreed on the importance of
aerial eradication as a means of cutting off funds to narco-
terrorists and Pretelt pointed to the spraying of mixed
coffee/coca plantations as an example of the GOC's resolve to
press ahead aggressively on eradication. He noted, however, that
there would be significant political fallout attendant to spraying
in national parks, protected areas, and indigenous zones. A/S
Charles underscored the importance of communicating and
publicizing the environmental harm that drug cultivation and
processing causes and that aerial eradication, properly conducted,
is a safe, efficient, and effective means of protecting parks.
Over all, A/S Charles noted, Colombia was to be commended for its
progress on eradication of illicit cultivation. A/S Charles was
accompanied by DCM, INL/LP Tom Martin, and NAS Director.

Colombian Legislators

10. (U) A/S Charles and Ambassador met with Senators Alvaro
Araujo (Senate Vice President), Jairo Clopatofsky (Chair, Defense
and Foreign Relations), Carlos Garcia (former President), Habib
Merheg (member, Defense and Foreign Relations), and Representative
Telesforo Pedraza (member, Constitutional Affairs). The
discussion centered on the USG's counter-narcotics strategy,
eradication efforts in national parks, money laundering and asset
seizure, and the conditional parole bill for former paramilitary

11. (SBU) A/S Charles and Ambassador Wood praised bilateral
counter-narcotics cooperation. In response to a question
regarding drug consumption in the United States, A/S Charles
reviewed the five pillars of USG strategy--prevention, enforcement
of laws, treatment, interdiction, and money laundering--and noted
that roughly 50 percent of the counter-narcotics budget was
devoted to prevention and treatment. The Ambassador described the
USG's push/pull strategy of exerting force against drug
trafficking leaders while enticing the lower ranks into legitimate
economic activity.

12. (SBU) Rep. Pedraza asked A/S Charles and the Ambassador about
aerial eradication in Colombia's national parks. The A/S and the
Ambassador explained that coca cultivation itself was far more
damaging to the environment than any possible USG-GOC eradication
efforts inasmuch as coca processing entailed the indiscriminate
use and disposal of much greater quantities of chemicals that are
more harmful than those employed in eradication operations. They
urged those truly interested in protecting national parks to focus
on the immediate threat: that the coca cultivation and processing
industry is rapidly increasing its foothold in the only areas of
Colombia where they are immune to aerial eradication, i.e.,
national parks and other protected areas.

13. (SBU) A/S Charles noted significant USG progress on fighting
money laundering, including closure of a substantial number of
bank accounts worldwide, and the Ambassador praised the recent
multimillion-dollar asset seizure. Senator Merheg expressed
concern that military and police battlefield successes against the
guerrillas and paramilitaries might motivate the two groups to
join forces with traditional drug traffickers.

Ministry of Defense

14. (U) Minister of Defense Jorge Alberto Uribe noted that
Colombia was engaged in a war against "multinational criminal
organizations," not "guerrillas" or "insurgents." With USG
assistance, he said, Colombia has now "turned the corner of a very
long block." A/S INL Charles noted the coincidence of US and GOC
national interests, including the campaigns against narcotics
trafficking and international terrorism. He praised GOC's
remarkable results on these fronts and cited President Uribe's
inspiring leadership as a critical factor. He said that he was on
solid ground when testifying before the US Congress in support of
Colombian programs, adding that "we must continue, not stop after
we have turned the corner." Minister Uribe said the recent
improvement in security and increased stability were having a
positive effect on trade and investment. He cited the increase in
cultivation of African oil palm, a crop that requires five years
to show a return on investment, as an indication of growing
confidence by investors in Colombia's future.

15. (SBU) The MOD said he had met in February with his
counterparts from Peru and Brazil to discuss closer cooperation on
intelligence sharing, and aerial, coastal, and riverine
interdiction operations. Minister Uribe characterized the talks
as productive and said that follow-on discussions with Peru are
scheduled to take place this June in Bogota. These discussions
will include officials from the Peruvian Ministry of Interior,
under which the Peruvian Police are organized, and will involve
counter-terrorism information sharing.

16. (SBU) Minister Uribe stressed the importance of regional
planning and cooperation on interdiction, noting that a cocaine
HCl shipment from Peru was recently seized on a Mexican fishing
vessel. Colombian Navy (COLNAV) Admiral Soto added that the USG-
GOC Maritime Agreement was working well, with the COLNAV seizing
more than 20 metric tons of cocaine in the first ten weeks of CY
2004 (Note: All Colombian Public Forces seized a combined total of
120 MT in the 12 months ending February 29, 2004.) Ambassador
Wood stressed that the significance of Colombia's Pacific coast as
the source of narcotics shipments--and the success of maritime,
coastal, and riverine operations-argued for more balance in the
deployment of interdiction resources between Pacific and Caribbean

17. (U) Minister Uribe called attention to the progress Colombia
has made in combating money laundering, adding that Colombia would
be willing to share its experiences with other countries. A/S
Charles concluded the conversation by praising the GOC for its
eradication and interdiction program results and noting the
coincidence of US and GOC interests. A/S Charles was accompanied
by the Ambassador, INL/LP Tom Martin, NAS Director, and MilGroup

President Uribe

18. (SBU) A/S Charles opened a one-hour conversation with
President Alvaro Uribe by praising Uribe's leadership, his
commitment to our bilateral agenda, and the GOC's impressive
results in combating narcotics trafficking and international
terrorism. President Uribe responded by thanking A/S Charles for
USG assistance, but noted that the task remains incomplete and
continued effort is required. President Uribe, Minister of
Foreign Affairs Carolina Barco, MOD Uribe, and Plan Colombia
Coordinator Luis Alfonso Hoyos then engaged A/S Charles and
Ambassador Wood in a discussion of a wide range of issues,
including possible topics for meetings with USG officials during
President Uribe's planned March 22-24 meetings in Washington (See
19. (U) A/S Charles did not have an opportunity to clear this


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