Cablegate: The Un's Future in Colombia

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

22350 2004-11-02 18:31:00 04BOGOTA11339 Embassy Bogota CONFIDENTIAL 04BOGOTA10728|04BOGOTA11205|04BOGOTA11207 This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.\
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BOGOTA 011339 \
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2014 \
REF: A) BOGOTA 11207 B) BOGOTA 11205 C) BOGOTA 10728 \
Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) \
1. (C) SUMMARY: Ambassador met with UN special advisor on \
Colombia James LeMoyne at the latter's request on October 28 \
and 30. LeMoyne said that the EU would release a new policy \
paper on Colombia in January 2005 which would lead to an more \
engaged approach. On demobilization, LeMoyne reported that \
GOC Peace Commissioner Restrepo had requested UN political \
support and technical assistance. LeMoyne told the \
Ambassador that the UN system was not working in Colombia and \
relations between the UN and GOC were strained. The SYG had \
proposed a high-level working group to discuss the situation \
which will meet later this month. Foreign Minister Barco \
will lead the Colombian side. Of particular concern was the \
operation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human \
Rights, whose relations with the GOC and G-24 had \
deteriorated sharply. LeMoyne reviewed the latest GOC \
proposal for Mexican facilitation of talks with the ELN. He \
also reported that the FARC was conducting a series of \
interviews with prominent leaders in Bogota from business, \
politics and journalism to discuss their views on the current \
situation, prospects for the future and possible scenarios in \
which the FARC may consider taking political steps. LeMoyne \
said that he doubted the FARC would do anything to help \
President Uribe but might be willing to "play politics" to \
see what they could pocket. He speculated that the FARC \
might use the Catholic Church, the Swiss, and ex-presidents \
Samper and Pastrana to pressure President Uribe on the \
hostages and a humanitarian accord with terms closer to what \
FARC leaders want. END SUMMARY. \
2. (C) On October 28 and 30, Ambassador met with UN special \
adviser on Colombia James LeMoyne during the latter's \
five-day visit to Bogota. Issues covered included possible \
increased engagement by the EU, upcoming demobilizations of \
the AUC, the future of the UN presence, the status of ELN \
negotiations with the GOC, and recent FARC activity. \
------------------------------- \
------------------------------- \
3. (C) LeMoyne said the EU position on the Colombian peace \
process was shifting. A new policy paper was circulating in \
Brussels which would be blessed by the Council in December. \
LeMoyne described it as advocating a more serious, engaged \
approach in Colombia. It will establish a framework to do \
more, he said. EU High Representative Javier Solana planned \
to come to Colombia in January to unveil it. (From readouts \
Embassy has received elsewhere, the EU paper may contain new \
positive statements but also establish new conditionalities \
on aid. That will impede assistance and widen the \
Colombia/EU gap.) \
------------- \
------------- \
4. (C) LeMoyne briefed Ambassador on his meeting with GOC \
High Commissioner for Peace Luis Carlos Restrepo on October \
26. In the context of upcoming demobilizations of the AUC \
(reftels), Restrepo had requested that the UN provide: (1) \
public support for the OAS mission, including an appeal to \
donors for financial and technical support; (2) a strong \
declaration urging that those who disarm and the communities \
that receive them not be attacked; and (3) high-level \
training for GOC officials on demobilization, disarmament and \
reintegration (DDR). LeMoyne recommended that the UN, the \
International Committee for the Red Cross and the Catholic \
Church expand and deepen their DDR programs already underway \
in the affected areas. \
----------------------------------- \
----------------------------------- \
5. (C) LeMoyne told Ambassador that his meetings with GOC \
officials during the UNGA "were not good." President Uribe \
remained unhappy with the UN. As a result, the SYG has \
proposed that the GOC and UN form a small, high-level working \
group to discuss the GOC's vision of the UN in Colombia and \
what the UN thought it ought to be doing. Barco will lead \
the GOC delegation to the first meeting tentatively planned \
for the end of November in New York. \
6. (C) LeMoyne conceded that the UN system was not working in \
Colombia, characterizing the various agencies as atomized, \
defending their own micro-programs. He noted that helpful \
but frustrated UNDP (and UN country team) director Alfredo \
Witschi would be retiring in the spring. This might be an \
opportunity to set in motion a new approach. LeMoyne also \
underscored that other countries -- the EU, the Nordics, \
Canada, Mexico, Brazil -- had to weigh in with the SYG and \
others in the system to energize UN attention to Colombia. \
7. (C) As LeMoyne saw it, the UN has three missions in \
Colombia: the Office of the High Commissioner for Human \
Rights (OHCHR), a revised humanitarian action plan, and good \
offices. He had already heard during this trip from FM Barco \
that GOC officials had lost confidence in the OHCHR presence \
and want it changed. The 27 recommendations were now viewed \
as draconian demands. In the view of GOC officials, whatever \
they told the OHCHR in the spirit of cooperation and \
consultation was used against them. LeMoyne forewarned that, \
if the OHCHR report due out soon was seen as unfair by the \
GOC, "we will have a very big mess on our hands." On the \
other hand, the UN presence and the human rights dimension in \
particular, were important to the Europeans and, with the EU \
likely to strengthen its involvement, the OHCHR would be even \
more essential. The high-level working group needed to \
tackle this problem first. \
8. (C) According to LeMoyne, the humanitarian agencies were \
also not working because of turf battles. The revised \
humanitarian action plan, to be launched in mid-November, had \
little chance of succeeding. There was not much scope for \
the good offices role either. There was little negotiating \
and unlikely to be any for a while. U/SYG Prendergast was \
advocating that the UN lower its profile in Colombia or close \
down the operation altogether. LeMoyne consulted with \
Restrepo on this point who urged that the UN good offices \
operation not depart. Restrepo had agreed that increasing \
the role was equally unwarranted because it would raise \
illusions which were not true. \
9. (C) Ambassador agreed that the humanitarian agencies were \
making a huge effort, but most of it was being frittered away \
by incompetence. He also expressed reservations about OHCHR \
representative Michael Fruhling. LeMoyne reiterated his view \
that whatever its problems, the OHCHR presence was essential \
and would become even more so when the "Law for Justice and \
Reparations" passed the Congress. Ambassador responded that \
the approach of both the OHCHR and leading NGOs on the law \
had been unhelpful. Demobilization was happening and the \
legal framework to deal with senior leaders and those who \
have committed gross violations of human rights or \
narco-trafficking remained unfinished. The result was that \
Restrepo's position at the negotiating table was undermined. \
His only response to requests from the AUC for legal \
guarantees was "no" because he has no legal structure to back \
him up. \
10. (C) LeMoyne said he was not prepared to write off the \
OHCHR but understood that the GOC wanted to. Barco was more \
than upset, convinced that the GOC was given no credit for \
making a sincere effort and that mending relations may not be \
worth the effort. Barco planned to travel to Geneva to meet \
High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour in \
mid-November to discuss the situation. LeMoyne wondered \
whether the mandate of the office was a problem -- could it \
monitor and offer assistance to the GOC at the same time. A \
debate was underway at OHCHR headquarters on the issue. The \
office had had three directors and all had ended up badly. \
Perhaps it was time to review the mandate. Ambassador \
disagreed, noting that the U.S. and others were able to do \
both. GOC officials could absorb and respond constructively \
to criticism if convinced that their interlocutors were \
working in their best interest. He noted that GOC officials \
remained fearful of the power and influence of the UN and the \
possibility that Colombia could land on the agenda of the \
Security Council. GOC officials did not draw a distinction \
between the Council and the UN writ large, and were convinced \
that the parts of the UN they interacted with were \
unsympathetic. \
---------------------------- \
---------------------------- \
11. (C) LeMoyne said the ELN was fading, no threat to anyone, \
and under the protection of the FARC. The little brother-big \
brother dynamic remained in play: the smarter, more \
intellectual ELN, dependent on the thuggish and powerful \
FARC. The ELN hated the FARC, was frightened of it, and \
believed it was wrong. He was convinced that the FARC and \
ELN were meeting at high levels and maintained an agreement \
and alliance, and neither would negotiate seriously until \
things changed. The ELN was trying to tell the FARC that it \
wanted international breathing space and needed to take \
political steps, but the FARC would limit its \
maneuverability. Ambassador noted that the ELN remained \
politically important for the FARC, which would otherwise be \
isolated. The ELN might be disappearing as a meaningful \
piece on the chessboard, but the FARC would do everything to \
keep it alive. \
12. (C) LeMoyne heard that the Mexicans were putting \
considerable pressure on the GOC to move the negotiating \
process forward. The ELN wants to meet the Mexicans directly \
and Mexico wants the ELN to come to Mexico. Restrepo has \
resisted so far, insisting that the ELN respond to earlier \
GOC proposals. Nine years of ELN traveling abroad had \
yielded little. Restrepo wants the ELN to acknowledge that \
it has to deal with the GOC. His latest proposal is for the \
Mexicans to tell the ELN that Restrepo meet with (jailed) \
Francisco Galan as a first step. Then, the ELN would be \
permitted to go to Mexico for a one day meeting, and the next \
day, ELN would meet with Restrepo with Mexican facilitation. \
LeMoyne did not know how the ELN would respond. He assumed \
the Mexicans would wince but go along. \
13. (C) Ambassador responded that the GOC was afraid that \
Mexican facilitation would turn into a negotiating session \
with the GOC outside the room. Restrepo also knew, according \
to LeMoyne, that whatever travel rights he conceded to the \
ELN, the GOC would soon be pressed by the Swiss and others to \
give the FARC. \
--------------- \
--------------- \
14. (C) LeMoyne reported that the FARC had assembled a team \
of interviewers who were soliciting views in Bogota on the \
current situation, prospects for the future, and possible \
scenarios in which it could consider taking political steps. \
The FARC had reached out to a number of prominent individuals \
in business, politics and journalism. Some had agreed to \
talk; others refused. Most were surprised how easily the \
FARC was able to move around Bogota. Characterizing the FARC \
as a Stalinist, 1950s-style organization whose public \
statements still mattered, LeMoyne said that the most recent \
FARC communiqu "was not entirely bad" either. Finally, he \
said that FARC leader Manuel Marulanda Velez had cancer and \
was dying, and an effort was underway to raise the profile of \
Alfonso Cano. He expected that an interview with Cano would \
be published soon, projecting him to a wider audience. \
15. (C) LeMoyne doubted that anything constructive would come \
out of the FARC leadership "until President Uribe was \
re-elected." The FARC hated Uribe and would do nothing to \
help him politically or otherwise. They are convinced, \
according to LeMoyne, that he will weaken after re-election. \
Nonetheless, the FARC may want to play politics over the next \
few months and see what they can pocket. He speculated that \
they might use the Catholic Church or the Swiss to test the \
waters. Or, they might make peace overtures through \
ex-presidents Samper or Pastrana to pressure Uribe on the \
hostages and a humanitarian accord with terms closer to what \
FARC leaders want. Or, the FARC could accept a cease fire \
and play along to see what they could get out of it, with the \
hope of damaging Plan Patriota along the way. LeMoyne \
acknowledged that Plan Patriota has been a strategic hit on \
the FARC and the leadership would do anything to rid \
themselves of it. \
16. (C) According to LeMoyne, the Swiss channel (Jean-Pierre \
Gontard) remained open, and he and the Swiss government \
continued to press the FARC for a ceasefire. Their preferred \
scenario was to bring the FARC to Switzerland for a direct \
meeting with GOC officials under Swiss auspices. LeMoyne \
noted that Restrepo had told him that if the FARC agreed to a \
ceasefire, everything was possible. \
------- \
------- \
17. (C) In addition to an exhange of views, LeMoyne was \
looking to mend fences with the GOC and the G-24 to salvage \
the UN presence in Colombia. The latter is worth monitoring \
closly. LeMoyne's operation will be part of the GOC-UN \
evaluation. He said that he would resign if it became clear \
that he was impeding progress. The OHCHR operation has lost \
the GOC's confidence and exhausted its political capital with \
the G-24. A meeting between Foreign Minister Barco and UN \
High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour would be \
useful to clear the air. This is the OHCHR's largest \
operation outside of Geneva and should be its biggest \
success. The GOC needs it to succeed as well. As the GOC \
and the UN negotiate their future relationship, other \
countries active in Colombia beside the U.S. need to approach \
the SYG on the importance of supporting demobilization and \
other aspects of the peace process. In that context, a new \
EU policy as described be LeMoyne would be welcome. We \
understand that UK Foreign Secretary Straw has raised \
Colombia with the SYG on several occasions over the last few \
months. Countries like Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada, \
Brazil and others now need to do the same. \

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