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Cablegate: Scenesetter for President Bush's Meeting With

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

id: 22359
date: 11/2/2004 18:31
refid: 04BOGOTA11752
origin: Embassy Bogota
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

----------------- header ends ----------------

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BOGOTA 011752


E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/15/2014

Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood for reasons
1.4 (b) and (d)


1. (C) President Uribe welcomes the visit of President and
Mrs. Bush with enthusiasm. Current hot topics include:

--Floods in Northern Colombia, more than 150,000 persons

--Demobilization and reinsertion of up to 3,000 paramilitary
terrorists in the next two months

--U.S. support in out years

--Free Trade Agreement negotiations; next round in Tuscon at
the end of November could be crucial

--Record-breaking drug eradication and seizures

--Major judicial reform starting in January


--U.S. travel advisory and security in Cartagena

--Continued shortage of helicopters for counter-drug and
counter-terror missions

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--Status of U.S. hostages

--Human rights

--Alternative development and humanitarian assistance

Floods in Northern Colombia

2. (C) Heavy rainfall has caused flooding in the north coast
region, including the Cartagena area. Some 200,000 persons
have been affected and more than 300 homes destroyed.
Through the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, we are
providing $150,000 in assistance to the Red Cross to help
some 10,000 persons in the hardest-hit areas south of

Demobilization and Reinsertion

3. (C) Colombia plans to demobilize 3,000 or so members of
the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), the
country's largest paramilitary terrorist organization, in the
next six weeks, adding to the over 1,000 paramilitaries who
demobilized in 2003. The program is underfunded and the OAS
verification chief has issued an international call for help;
several European nations have responded with low levels of
aid. Uncertainty regarding Patriot Act restrictions has
prevented direct U.S. assistance or involvement in design of
the program. President Uribe may seek U.S. assistance to
help reinsert voluntarily demobilized ex-terrorists who are
cooperating against their former organizations and otherwise
adhering to the government's program. This
demobilization/reinsertion is expected to be the template for
eventual demobilization of up to 15,000 paramilitaries by the
end of 2005, and the leftist terrorists of the ELN, with whom
preliminary talks are underway but going slowly.

U.S. Support

4. (C) As in past meetings, Uribe will be looking for private
and public reaffirmations of U.S. support and continued
financial resources for the next few years. Requested U.S.
assistance tops $660 million in FY05, plus a number of DOD
operating accounts. Special DOD assistance to Plan Patriota
operations runs out after 2005.

Free Trade Agreement/Economy

5. (C) Negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement, with Peru and
Ecuador, begin their fifth round on November 29 in Tuscon.
President Uribe remains a strong proponent, but agricultural
and other concerns, principally regarding pharmaceuticals,
have prevented Colombia from moving as rapidly as it should.
As a result, our goal of conclusion by early 2005 is
uncertain. Colombia hopes for special consideration for its
close cooperation on counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism
efforts. Overall growth continues to be strong (about 4
percent), and investment is returning. But the country faces
fiscal pressure, and President Uribe political pressure, from
the competition for resources between defense and social
needs, especially unemployment (currently 12.5 percent).

Drug Eradication/Interdiction

6. (C) FY04 drug eradication and interdiction are at record
levels. We should meet our 130,000-hectare goal for coca
spraying and exceed last year's level for opium poppy.
President Uribe is working to expand manual eradication
efforts. We continue to press for spraying in national parks
in the face of Colombian and U.S. congressional resistance.
Drug seizures are also at record levels. In 2004 the
Colombian National Police has seized approximately 56 metric
tons; the Colombian military, primarily the navy and coast
guard, approximately 68 metric tons; and a multi-national
force approximately 192 metric tons. Between eradication and
seizures, more than 475 metric tons of drugs have been
blocked in 2004, in comparison to about 300 tons in 2003.

Judicial Reform

7. (C) Colombia will switch to an oral adversarial trial
system, like that of the U.S., in January. We have provided
extensive training and advice to this major reform; it is
also a high priority among many in the U.S. Congress.
President Uribe may request additional resources. The
Minister of Justice has requested that the justice sector
rapidly/rapidly receive 50 percent of all Colombia-related
drug assets that we seize; in the past, Colombia has received
a smaller share, sometimes after years of delay.


8. (C) President Uribe has approved since taking office more
than 150 extraditions to the U.S. He will likely ask for
more political sensitivity in our extradition requests, as he
and his ministers have done several times in the last year.
Although Uribe is solid in his support, extradition faces
political pressure from well-connected drug traffickers
awaiting extradition and from paramilitary leaders involved
in peace negotiations. We are taking steps to avoid killing
the golden goose. Uribe may raise paramilitary leaders'
efforts to negotiate extradition at the peace table. We have
said that extradition should not be a topic in the
negotiations, and not be addressed in any way before all/all
demobilization steps are fulfilled by the paramilitary
leaders, including peaceful demobilization of their troops.
Uribe has agreed.


9. (C) The U.S. travel advisory warns against all travel to
Colombia. President Uribe may ask for a cut-out for
Cartagena, so cruise ships, a potential major source of
tourist revenue, can enter. Cartagena has not seen a
terrorist incident for two years, has special safeguards for
cruise ship tourists (no incidents have been reported for
European cruise ship tourists), and has a better security
record than many Latin American capitals. Although we resist
a cut-out for Cartagena, we are working to revise the travel
advisory for Colombia as a whole, and the State Department
head of security will visit Cartagena at the end of November.

Plan Patriota/Military

10. (C) The Colombian Armed Forces has made steady progress
against illegal armed groups since the late 1990s, thanks in
large part to U.S. assistance. Plan Patriota is currently
focused in FARC-dominated, heavily forested southeastern
Colombia; it is going well, but slowly. The logistical
strain of keeping 17,000 troops in the dense, hostile jungle,
hundreds of miles from their supply bases, has been a huge
challenge. Poor inter-service cooperation, corruption, and
tolerance of paramilitarism continue, but they are improving,
most recently with good changes in senior military
leadership. There continues to be competition for scarce
helicopters between counter-drug and counter-terrorism
missions. President Uribe may ask for additional Blackhawk


11. (C) Constitutional reform to permit Presidential
re-election is near completion; we believe it is probable.
The reform will face review by the Constitutional Court early
next year, a wild card. The press may seek a U.S. view on
re-election. Although we can praise President Uribe, we
should avoid comment on re-election, which could be played as
"interference in domestic affairs." Uribe is above 65
percent approval in polls.

Human Rights

12. (C) The Uribe Administration continues to make progress
in human rights, but has not been completely successful in
ensuring accountability, strengthening the military justice
system, in breaking military ties to paramilitary groups, or
in ending corruption. The government has an active dialogue
with NGOs, the United Nations, and foreign governments.
Human rights training is mandatory for all members of the
military and police. The Embassy vets all units that receive
U.S. assistance, in accordance with the Leahy Amendment.
Homicides fell by 20 percent, kidnappings by 30 percent, and
forced displacements by 49 percent in 2003; that trend has
continued in 2004. Less than 2 percent of human rights
violations are attributable to government security forces.
But recent violations by members of the armed forces, such as
the suspicious murders in August of three trade unionists in
the highly conflictive department of Arauca, demonstrate the
need for further improvement.

U.S. Hostages

13. (C) The three U.S.-contractor hostages captured by the
FARC in February 2003 are now the longest U.S. terror
captives in the world. (Another U.S. contractor and a
Colombian were killed by the FARC in the same incident, when
their helicopter safely crash-landed due to mechanical
failure near a FARC camp.) Plan Patriota operations have
increased the likelihood that we will receive more
information about the hostages, but also that an unintended
encounter between Colombian forces and the hostage holders
will result in their execution. The Colombians are providing
full assistance, both to keep us informed and to avoid
unplanned encounters that might endanger the hostages. The
U.S. publicly has counseled against negotiations with the
FARC for any of its dozens of hostages, to avoid providing an
incentive for further hostage-taking. We have supported
Uribe's proposals for an exchange of hostages for FARC
prisoners not accused of violent crimes provided that the
FARC prisoners are prevented from returning to terrorist
activities; so far the FARC has refused. Uribe has assured
us that the U.S. hostages will be included in any possible

Development, Humanitarian, Judicial Reform
14. (C) Alternative development, humanitarian aid, and
democracy programs are going well. We have leveraged
substantial private sector assistance to establish 270 square
miles of legal agriculture benefiting 40,000 families. U.S.
aid has helped nearly 2 million internally displaced persons.
Colombia has the largest displaced population outside Africa.

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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