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Cablegate: Update On Eradication in Colombian National Parks

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

UNCLAS BOGOTA 005326

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/AND
STATE FOR WHA/PDA
STATE FOR INL/PC

SENSITIVE/NOFORN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR SENV PREL CO
SUBJECT: Update on Eradication in Colombian National Parks

1. (SBU) Summary: In an effort to dispel misinformation
about the aerial eradication program and illicit coca
cultivation in national parks, the Colombian National Police
(CNP) recently hosted two over-flights of affected parks.
Participants, including key legislators, opinion leaders,
and the media, gained a clearer appreciation for both the
extent of illicit coca cultivation in protected areas and
the potential for aerial eradication to reverse the
resultant damage. End Summary.

Background
------------------

2. (SBU) On March 30, 2004, Colombian Senator Jorge Robledo
publicly attacked the joint USG-GOC narcotics eradication
program, singling out plans to spray within national parks
as an unacceptable assault on Colombia's patrimony.
Robledo's charges, which were rife with misinformation, were
not immediately refuted by GOC leaders. NGOs opposed to
spraying in national parks lobbied the Minister of
Environment, Housing, and Territorial Development who
subsequently announced that there would be no spraying in
national parks until manual eradication had been tested as
an alternative to aerial eradication. Some Government
officials also played-down the extent and impact of illicit
cultivation within the Natural Parks, further undermining
public support for spraying in parks.

Getting the Facts Out
-------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Working with Embassy PAS, NAS organized and
supported park inspections for key members of the Colombian
Congress and other opinion leaders. The over-flights of
Tayrona National Park (Magdelena Department) on April 17 and
Serrana de la Macarena National Park (Meta Department) on
May 15 were hosted by the CNP.

4. (SBU) When weather prevented flying over an area in a
national park known to be under coca cultivation, the flight
went to another part of the park and came across a
previously unknown 700 hectare coca farm. Press coverage of
the events was extensive and universally favorable. The
consensus among members of the Colombian congress and
others, including most of those not previously supportive of
aerial eradication, was that the incursion of coca
cultivation into national parks was so extensive that it
could only be reversed through aerial eradication. One key
legislator, Senator Juan Gmez Martnez, announced plans to
convene a public hearing on June 1 to denounce the GOC's de
facto abandonment of the parks and to demand that the
government take the necessary steps to halt further
encroachment in these and other protected areas.

Wood
od

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