Cablegate: Das Shapiro Meets with Father Dario Echeverri

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

id: 22386
date: 11/2/2004 18:31
refid: 04BOGOTA13139
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 02 BOGOTA 013139


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/28/2014

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

1. (U) December 15, 2004, 11:15-12:15 a.m., Espicopal
Conference, Bogota

2. (U) Participants:


DAS Charles Shapiro
Ambassador William B. Wood
Jeff DeLaurentis, POLCOUNS
David Henifin, Deputy Director for Andean Affairs
Sarah LaGier, POL (notetaker)


Father Dario Echeverri, Secretary General of the National
Conciliation Commission (CCN)


3. (C) Father Echeverri was optimistic that a meeting between
the ELN and Mexican Government would create the right
conditions for the launching of a formal peace process
between the ELN and the GOC. However, he said two major
obstacles remained: (1) the FARC's control over the ELN; and
(2) the ELN's belief that the Uribe administration was not
committed to social and political reform. Echeverri believed
that the FARC was not serious about a peace process with the
Uribe government, but said the Catholic Church would keep
pressing for a humanitarian exchange and eventually a peace
process. He asserted that the best way to weaken the illegal
armed groups was to have an effective reinsertion program,
but expressed concern that the GOC's program was weak and
poorly funded. Echeverri acknowledged that the FARC and the
Chavez administration have long-standing ties. End Summary.

4. (C) As Secretary General of National Conciliation
Commission (CNN), Father Echeverri is authorized by the GOC
to reach out to the illegal armed groups, particularly the
FARC, to try start formal peace talks.

ELN: Possible Meeting in Mexico

5. (C) Echeverri was hopeful that the proposed meeting
between the ELN Central Command (COCE) and Mexican
facilitator Ambassador Andres Valencia would help set
conditions for a formal peace process. He praised Valencia's
efforts and said the ELN was likely to accept the conditions
of the proposal, including suspending all violent activity
while the meeting took place. He said the ELN was seeking to
gain political recognition. However, two obstacles to formal
negotiations remain:

- The ELN is dependent on the FARC financially and
militarily. The FARC would control any ELN peace process
with the Uribe administration. The COCE does not have
sufficient power over the group's combatant fronts to
implement a peace process.

- The ELN does not view the Uribe Administration as serious
about meeting its demands for social reform. Although Uribe
has said he is not opposed to holding a national assembly,
the ELN would not be satisfied with a one-time forum but
rather wants concrete political concessions. Echeverri said
that he believed the Uribe administration should allocate as
many resources to social programs as it does to the armed

6. (C) Echeverri agreed that the ELN is no longer a military
threat but warned against discounting it altogether. The
December 13 capture of an ELN field commander powerful in
Valle del Cauca Department was a serious blow to the group.
He asserted that the ELN, nonetheless, has a significant
social base in parts of Arauca, Narino, Santander, and Valle
del Cauca Departments. He noted that the group is not as
deeply involved in drug trafficking as the FARC or the
paramilitaries. He hoped the group would eventually be held
accountable for numerous kidnappings, including the 2002
kidnapping of a 12 year-old boy whom they continue to hold
for ransom. He also expressed concern that ELN units could
be absorbed into either the FARC or paramilitary groups.
FARC: Not Yet Serious About Peace

7. (C) In October, Echeverri met with the Swiss government to
coordinate efforts to facilitate a humanitarian exchange.
The Swiss have been authorized by the Uribe administration to
reach out to the FARC to orchestrate an exchange. Echeverri
hoped that an exchange would be a first step toward an
eventual peace process. He pulled Shapiro aside at the end
of the meeting to assure him that he is putting exactly the
same priority on the three U.S. hostages as on the Colombian
hostages. He stressed that the FARC was not serious about
holding negotiations with the Uribe administration in part
because the country's widespread poverty provides the FARC
with easy recruits, and Plan Patriota, in Echeverri's view,
was not hurting the FARC. For example, Echeverri claimed
that FARC Secretariat member Mono Jojoy recently met with
journalists in the middle of a Plan Patriota area of
operations with minimal security.

8. (C) Echeverri noted that the FARC was undergoing a
leadership change, which he does not fully understand yet.
He believes Secretariat member Raul Reyes may be sick and
losing influence, while Secretariat member Alfonso Cano and
subordinate Pablo Catatumbo are gaining power. Echeverri has
received invitations from both Reyes and Catatumbo to meet to
discuss conditions for the humanitarian exchange. He implied
that there were some divergences among the FARC leaders that
could possibly be exploited.

Reinsertion Program Weak

9. (C) Echeverri asserted that the best way to weaken the
illegal armed groups was to offer the rank and file a better
life as civilians. He expressed concern that the
government's reinsertion program for deserters and the
demobilizing paramilitaries was not effective. Without
adequate funding to train and employ the deserters, they
would return to a life of crime and violence.

Venezuelan Ties to FARC

10. (C) Echeverri acknowledged that the FARC have
long-standing ties to Venezuela and President Chavez. He is
aware of at least one meeting between FARC Secretariat member
Raul Reyes on December 26, 2003 in the Petare municipality in
Caracas with GOV officials. Echeverri noted that when
Venezuela hosted meetings between the GOC and the FARC in the
1990s, the FARC negotiators clearly were on friendly terms
with the GOV officials. Colombian Ambassador to Venezuela
Enrique Vargas Ramirez is a member of the CCN, and Echeverri
hopes Vargas can take advantage of GOV-FARC ties to reach out
to the FARC through Venezuelan channels.

11. (U) DAS Shapiro cleared on this cable.

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

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