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Cablegate: Prm's a/S Dewey's Visit to Colombia

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 BOGOTA 003943

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE PLEASE PASS TO PRM AND USAID/LAC/SAM

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREF PREL SOCI CO
SUBJECT: PRM'S A/S DEWEY'S VISIT TO COLOMBIA


This message is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
accordingly.

-------
Summary
-------

1. (U) PRM Bureau's Assistant Secretary Gene Dewey visited
Colombia March 7-10. Most interlocutors agreed that there
has been a significant reduction in the number of internally
displaced persons since the Uribe Administration took office
18 months ago. Many cautioned, however, that this positive
trend could be reversed if paramilitary demobilization
negotiations break down or guerrillas launch major
offensives. A/S Dewey encouraged the GOC and other donors to
consider holding a consultative donors meeting with the World
Bank or Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) to attract
more multi-lateral assistance for social investment. He said
PRM would try to maintain its current level of assistance to
Colombia and work with the GOC to develop more emergency
employment programs. A/S Dewey's meeting with PRM partner
organizations is discussed septel. End Summary.

-------------------
Project Site Visits
-------------------

2. (U) A/S Dewey, accompanied by representatives from
Community-Habitat-Finance (CHF), "Minutos de Dios" (CHF's
implementing partner), the World Food Program (WFP), and the
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), visited several
sites outside the city of Cartagena, Bolivar department. In
La Rosera, A/S Dewey visited a school-feeding program
organized by the WFP in a temporary, CHF-constructed school
building. Last year, local parents constructed two
schoolrooms with CHF resources.

3. (U) A/S Dewey visited "Minutos de Dios," an NGO affiliated
with the Roman Catholic Church, where he met with recently
displaced persons. None expressed any desire to return to
their homes. In Maria La Baja, where the CHF is funding a
self-help construction program for 79 displaced families on
land donated by the local Catholic priest, A/S Dewey met with
community leaders and a representative of the mayor's office.
The internally displaced persons (IDPs) are building their
own houses, planting gardens and trees, planning bridge
construction, and making sanitary improvements. The CHF
discourages rural IDPs from fleeing to urban centers, and
instead to tries to channel them to safe rural communities
where they can better use their skills. The Governor's
office has already offered CHF a number of additional plots
outside Cartagena to replicate this model IDP community.

4. (U) In Turbaco, A/S Dewey visited a cooperative childcare
facility funded by UNHCR and supported by the League of
Displaced Women. IDP women manage the center, where they
care for children of IDPs who are working or receiving
training. After eight years of operation, the center is
finally able to pay its caregivers and recently received a
deed to its property. A/S Dewey also visited Lomo de Peye,
in the La Maria hills above Cartagena, where he saw a school
constructed by CHF and a feeding program supported by WFP.

--------------------------------------------- --------------
Dewey meets UNHCR Reps from Colombia, Venezuela, and Panama
--------------------------------------------- --------------

5. (SBU) A/S Dewey met with UNHCR/Colombia representative
Francisco Galindo, UNHCR/ROVEN (Regional Office/Venezuela)
representative Virginia Trimarco, and UNHCR/Panama
representative Gonzalo Vargas Llosa. All three
representatives noted the importance of USG financial and
political support for UNHCR programs in Colombia and
neighboring countries, but stressed the need for diplomatic
support from the international community. They added that
PRM RefCoord's presence in the region has been key in helping
their work.

6. (SBU) Galindo noted that UNHCR began its Colombia
operations in July 1998 with the opening of its Bogota office
at the GOC's invitation. He said its relationship with the
GOC's Social Solidarity Network ("Red de Solidaridad Social,"
or RSS) is very good, both in Bogota and outlying regions.
Galindo agreed that the director of the RSS has good
intentions, is open to ideas, and is close to President
Uribe, but added that he lacks the necessary resources and
cooperation from other GOC agencies to effectively address
the needs of IDPs. The GOC needs to find a comprehensive
approach that balances security and humanitarian concerns.
He highlighted that increased security has not created
additional problems, as in other countries. The Colombian
military does not threaten refugees; the problem remains the
terrorists. Galindo also noted that although forced
displacements have fallen, there is no guarantee that this
trend will continue. UNHCR made a plea that USG funds for
UNHCR be earmarked for Colombia to make sure they reach the
Bogota office. For 2004, Geneva has allocated USD 5.6
million for Colombia operations. (UNHCR Colombia requested
USD 7.2 million). In 2003, the Colombia program received USD
6.0 million.

7. (SBU) Trimarco noted that Colombia's problems spill over
its borders. Displaced Colombians often cross into
neighboring countries, settling in poor border communities or
nearby urban centers, where they face discrimination and
suffer from limited access to basic services. UNHCR
Venezuela has seen its workload increase 600 percent since
2001. UNHCR's assistance has included legal aid
(registration and documentation), humanitarian assistance,
information campaigns, and protection networks.

8. (SBU) Vargas said there are less than 800 recognized
refugees and 600 Colombians under temporary protection in
Panama. UNHCR helps this community with legal advice for
asylum seekers, aid for refugees, temporary protection in the
border region, and quick impact infrastructure projects.
Panama broke off from the UNHCR/ROVEN office in April 2003
and opened a separate office in October for six months (an
extension agreement may be signed early next month). Over
the last five months, there has been a small improvement in
the GOP's attitude towards UNHCR and a greater willingness to
abide by international standards regarding Colombian
refugees. The GOP's decision to strengthen its National
Refugee Office (ONPAR) has also been positive. However, the
overall situation regarding asylum in Panama remains poor,
and Panama continues to be preoccupied by security concerns
about Colombians crossing the border. The GOP's national
refugee legislation is also below international standards.
Moreover, its Refugee Eligibility Commission met recently for
the first time since 2002 and rejected seven of nine asylum
applications. Other challenges include improving the legal
refugee framework and shifting emphasis from return to
reception and stabilization at the border.

-----------------
Meeting with ICRC
-----------------

9. (SBU) A/S Dewey lunched with the ICRC's Chief Delegate in
Colombia, Juan Pedro Schaerer, and his chief of protection,
Max Frurrer. ICRC has a significant presence in Colombia,
with approximately 60 expatriate employees, and constitutes
the ICRC's largest program of direct assistance to IDPs.
Schaerer briefed Dewey on coordination within the Red Cross
movement (ICRC, the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies) and the five foreign national societies operating
in Colombia, including the American Red Cross. ICRC's
cooperation with the UN, other humanitarian actors, and the
GOC is excellent.

10. (SBU) The ICRC provided an excellent analysis of
Colombia's internal conflict. It confirmed that mass
displacements caused by illegal armed groups fell in 2003.
In 2002, ICRC assisted approximately 179,000 IDPs while in
2003 the number dropped below 120,000. Schaerer attributes
this drop to demobilization negotiations between the GOC and
paramilitary groups. He said levels of individual
displacement appear unchanged. Individual displacement,
which is hard to track, is normally the result of direct
threats to individual families, who are more reluctant to
return home.

----------------
Meeting with IOM
----------------

11. (SBU) A/S Dewey met with staff from the International
Organization for Migration (IOM), which provides logistical
support for the P-1 Refugee Referral program as well as
implements IDP assistance programs with USAID funding. In
FY03 197 individuals were accepted into the US Resettlement
Program (USRP). In the first six months of FY04, over 200
individuals have been accepted. FY04's goal is 500
individuals. A/S Dewey noted that PRM is under significant
pressure from Congress to increase the number of refugee
applicants, and he would like to see more coming out of the
Americas. The potential for expanding the USRP into
Venezuela was discussed. The GOV established a Refugee
Eligibility Commission late last summer and the Commission
recently approved its first 47 cases. It was agreed that
before expanding the USRP into Venezuela, the GOV's
Commission must adjudicate more cases on a regular basis. If
this happens, the USRP program could expand into Venezuela as
early as mid-year, pending US Embassy Caracas concurrence.

12. (SBU) IOM is USAID's largest IDP partner implementing mid
and long-term assistance programs. One area in which IOM has
had particular success is helping IDPs to their original
communities in coordination with the GOC's RSS. IOM is
extremely cautious in determining which communities are
viable for returnees. All of IOM's five pilot projects,
which returned hundreds of families to their communities,
have been successful. IOM and CHF have worked together to
assist over 120 individuals who were repatriated from Panama
to northwestern Colombia in the past four months, providing
housing, sanitation, and productive projects for families
that returned to the town of Jurado, Choco department.

--------------------------------------------
Meeting with European & Japanese Ambassadors
--------------------------------------------

13. (U) A/S Dewey met with European and Japanese ambassadors
and charges d'affaires at the Ambassador's residence. Dutch
Ambassador Teunis Kamper noted that the Uribe government has
been the first to acknowledge the humanitarian crisis in
Colombia. He raised the issue of the GOC's wariness of a UN
Consolidated Appeal. The GOC was concerned that this would
place Colombia in the same category as the Sudan and Angola.
Kamper said the number of IDPs run from 2-3 million, but
reliable statistics are hard to come by. There are, however,
no organized refugee camps. He agreed that mass
displacements are diminishing, but claimed that many
communities are prevented from fleeing by illegal armed
groups. The paramilitaries are responsible for the largest
number of human rights and international humanitarian law
violations. Kamper stressed that President Uribe deserved
international support, and that the London declaration was an
excellent vehicle to increase international cooperation.

14. (U) The European Community (EC) Ambassador noted European
support in the social sector as well as in justice and
institutional strengthening. They work very well with USAID
and probably are doing as much as they can for Colombia.
Swiss Ambassador said Switzerland has made important
humanitarian aid contributions, including a tripling of its
support for the WFP during 2002-2004. Clashes among illegal
armed groups and government security forces cause most
displacements. The Japanese ambassador said Japan sees more
positive trends, thanks to Uribe. Japan is extending
assistance through both bilateral and multilateral channels,
including funds for libraries and USD 8 million to
multilateral organizations. Sweden believes humanitarian
problems are often best dealt with by a regional approach,
and have recently funded a study of border problems through
UNHCR. Unfortunately, UNHCR/Geneva is not supportive of the
report's results and is withholding its publication.

15. (U) A/S Dewey noted the importance of a comprehensive
approach and the need to deal with security dimensions and
humanitarian issues together. He was aware of the GOC's
resistance to a Consolidated Appeal, and suggested that the
World Bank or Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) could be
alternate mechanisms.

--------------------------------------------- --------
Meeting with the GOC's Social Solidarity Network, RSS
--------------------------------------------- --------

16. (U) Luis Alfonso Hoyos, Executive Director of the RSS,
said the Uribe Administration has three priorities: (1)
reestablishing a state presence throughout Colombia; (2)
reforming the government; and (3) reactivating the economy.
The GOC has accomplished much in its first 18 months, but
still has much unfinished business. He cited specific
accomplishments. For example, two years ago there were two
million Colombian children who could not attend school
because there was no space for them; the GOC has created 1.5
million new places for school children. In 1990, only 25
percent of the population had access to the public health
system. Today, there has been a 60 percent increase in
access, although 20 million people remain outside the state's
health system. The GOC plans to add an addition 8 million
individuals to the health system's roles over the next 30
months.

17. (U) After a steady increase of displaced persons
averaging over 300,00 per year, the trend dropped by 53
percent in 2003. Hoyos attributed the decline to increased
public security, both military and police. At the beginning
of the Uribe Administration, 158 municipalities (equivalent
to U.S. counties) lacked a police presence. Today, every
municipality in the country has a police force. The recent
demobilization negotiations with the paramilitaries have
reduced the number of confrontations between paramilitary and
guerrilla forces, which was a primary cause of displacement.

18. (U) Hoyos would like to see more land recovered for
housing, improve schools and health centers, maintain a
viable emergency response to displacement, and concentrate on
the prevention. The GOC is also focusing on increasing
government presence in communities previously controlled by
paramilitaries and guerrillas. Education, health services,
and employment will continue to grow as long as the economy
remains strong. Hoyos welcomed A/S Dewey's suggestion to
establish short-term emergency employment for IDPs.

19. (U) A/S Dewey congratulated Hoyos and the GOC on their
accomplishments over the past 18 months. He cautioned that
one of the worse errors that donors commit when they see
improvements in countries in crisis is that they begin to
reduce their levels of assistance. He hoped that PRM will
maintain current levels of assistance to Colombia, and he
said he will encourage other donors to do the same.

20. (U) A/S Dewey's joint meeting with PRM partner
organizations is discussed septel.

WOOD

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