Cablegate: Congress Passes 29 Articles in Demobilization Law
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
date: 3/22/2005 18:31
origin: Embassy Bogota
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BOGOTA 002649
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/22/2015
TAGS: PTER KJUS PINR PREL PHUM CO
SUBJECT: CONGRESS PASSES 29 ARTICLES IN DEMOBILIZATION LAW
REF: A. BOGOTA 2582
B. BOGOTA 2306
Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood for reasons 1.4 (b)
1. (C) Before pausing for holy week, Congress passed 29 out
of 67 articles in the draft Law for Justice and Peace.
Disagreement over controversial issues, including confession,
alleged extradition loopholes, and reduction of jail
sentences for all prisoners remain unresolved. The GOC will
propose two additional clauses to prevent drug trafficking
from being a political crime and to block eligibility for
crimes committed before membership in an illegal armed group.
These amendments should help ease speculation that
beneficiaries could avoid extradition. Voting will resume on
March 29. Most of our Congressional contacts have told us
that the GOC has the votes to pass its draft of the law.
However, demobilization and the peace process remain highly
sensitive issues, and it is not clear if voting will follow
the traditional pro-Uribe/anti-Uribe pattern. End Summary.
Benign Articles Passing Easily
2. (U) On March 15 and 16, the House and Senate first
committees passed 29 articles in the GOC's draft Law for
Justice and Peace. Minor modifications were made to some
articles, but, for the most part, they passed unanimously or
with a large majority. (See paragraph nine for full list.)
Prior to the debate, a small group of Congressmen in favor of
the GOC draft or Senator Rafael Pardo's rival draft had
reached consensus on the articles that were subsequently
passed. None of the approved articles dealt with the
contentious issues of confession, alleged extradition
loopholes, or blanket sentence reductions for prisoners.
3. (U) Voting on article two was postponed because of
disagreement over whether or not an internal armed conflict
exists. On article three, a large part of the debate focused
on the GOC's definition of an alternative sentence. Pardo
supporters complained that the GOC's definition would not
hold beneficiaries sufficiently accountable for behavior
after prison and suggested using Pardo's language on
conditional liberty, which calls for longer parole periods.
The GOC revised its draft to lengthen the probationary period
from one-fifth of the sentence of serious crimes to one-half
(i.e. 2.5 to four years) and pushed through the article.
Proposals to make the law statutory instead of ordinary
legislation and to allow the United Self Defense Forces of
Colombia (AUC) present their views on the law to Congress
were rejected. Voting was supposed to continue on March 17,
but the session was suspended for lack of a quorum. Congress
will resume on March 29 after holy week.
Contentious Issues Remain
4. (C) The debate will get more heated and less predictable
when voting begins on the remaining 38 articles, which deal
with alleged loopholes to avoid extradition (articles 10, 20,
and 64), confession (articles 15, 17, 21, and 25), and
blanket sentence reductions for all prisoners (article 61).
Senator Rodrigo Rivera has repeatedly complained that the
combination of articles 10, 20, and 64 create a "narcomico"
(inserted text to provide benefits for drug traffickers) that
would make narcotrafficking a political crime and therefore
blocked from extradition. In order to end speculation that
the law would benefit drug traffickers, the GOC will propose
two additional clauses stating that: (1) drug trafficking
cannot be considered a political crime or connected to any
political crimes, and (2) the law only applies to crimes
committed when a beneficiary was a member of the illegal
armed group. This second addition will exclude
paramilitaries, such as Diego Murrillo, who were active drug
purchasing an AUC bloc. Senator German Vargas Lleras
announced that he also plans to suggest a clause to prevent
anyone who personally benefited from drug trafficking from
receiving an alternative sentence. The exact language of
these additions has not been finalized yet.
5. (C) Little has changed so far regarding other contentious
issues. Senator Pardo and his supporters continue to insist
that a full confession is required to ensure the turnover of
illicit assets and dismantlement of the illegal armed group.
Many Congressmen continue to question the reason behind
allowing all prisoners the chance to reduce their sentence if
they collaborate with authorities and give reparations to
Uncertain Political Terrian
6. (C) Our contacts in Congress tell us that the GOC has
enough votes to pass its version of the law despite
disagreements over certain articles. While the political
balance in the Congress is fluid, the combination of diehard
"Uribistas" and Conservatives constitute clear majorities in
both houses. Opponents of the GOC bill, including Pardo
himself and leftist Democratic Alternative Party (AD) head
Senator Carlos Gaviria, have admitted privately that the GOC
draft will likely pass. In the 19-member Senate First
Committee, for example, strong opponents of the GOC draft
number nine at most: four "Officialist" Liberals, three
members of small left and center-left parties, and (possibly)
two Uribista fence-sitters. In the House Committee, which
members, the total number of strong opponents is at most 13.
Those 13 include two members of the "Pardo" group, both of
whom have shown signs in recent days of being willing to
compromise with the GOC on a text. Turning to the 102-member
full Senate, the Officialist Liberals, left/center-left, and
independents number roughly 30. The addition of -- at most
-- five "Pastrana" Conservatives to the foregoing still
augurs for an ample pro-Uribe majority on the legislation.
In the full House, the numbers are even more strongly
pro-Uribe, with Uribista Liberals and Conservatives
accounting for roughly 110 of 166 total members.
7. (C) However, the bill is politically sensitive and it is
unclear whether the traditional pro-Uribe/anti-Uribe lineup
(which favors Presidential initiatives) will prevail.
Already the debate has led to unexpected political alliances.
For example, Representative Rocio Arias, an outspoken AUC
supporter, joined with Senator Dario Martinez, a proponent of
harsher punishments for the AUC, to propose that the law be
treated as statutory rather than ordinary legislation. Many
strong Uribistas are from areas dominated by the AUC and may
be pressured to vote for more lenient language. First
Committee President Mauricio Pimiento, a native of heavily
AUC-influenced Cesar Department, voted in favor of allowing
AUC members to present their views to Congress after Minister
of Interior and Justice Sabas Pretelt advised against it.
Vice Minister of Interior Hernando Angarita has said
privately that Pimiento was attempting to move the GOC toward
a bill more palatable to AUC leadership.
8. (C) A persistent rumor in Colombia is that paramilitaries
exert strong influence over 30 percent of Congress. The
figure is probably exaggerated, but the AUC undoubtedly has
the political sympathy of some members of Congress who
believe paramilitary actions were initially motivated by
practical expediency or even patriotism. The AUC will
continue to look for ways to leverage its influence. For
example, Congressional elections are in March 2006. Although
the government reimburses candidates for some election
expenses, Congressional races are still financed primarily by
private donations, and the AUC can put a lot of money on the
9. (C) Comment: We are seeing some progress in areas where
the Embassy has been working: longer probation periods,
removal of obstacles to extradition, and clearer language
ruling out benefits for activities prior to membership in an
10. (U) The following articles have been approved:
1: Purpose of law is to facilitate collective and individual
demobilization, rights to truth, justice, and reparation are
guaranteed, and guerrilla or paramilitary groups are
3: Defines alternative sentences as replacing an original
sentence with an alternative sentence provided the
beneficiary obeys the conditions of law, including
contributing to national peace, collaborating with the
justice system, repairing victims, and re-socializing.
(Pardo supporters voted against.)
4: Establishes the right to truth, justice, and reparations.
5: Defines victim. (Pardo supporters made two textual
6: Defines the right to justice, including that the state
must conduct an investigation and take measures to prevent
7. Defines right to truth for all victims and specifies that
the law cannot impede future, non-penal truth mechanisms.
8. Defines the right to reparation, including restitution,
compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and guarantees
against future crimes.
9: Defines demobilization as an individual or collective act
of disarming and abandoning an illegal armed group.
39: The State guarantees a victim's right to the
administration of justice. (Senator Mario Uribe made a
41: In order to protect victims some trials will be closed to
42: Witnesses and their family members will be protected.
43: Any special needs, especially of children participating
in the judicial process, will be met. (Senator Antonio
Navarro Wolff included women's special needs.)
44: Beneficiaries are required to give reparations to
victims. (Pardo added text.)
45: The Superior District Court will decide both economic and
46: A beneficiary must fulfill all reparations, including
restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, and satisfaction
for victims. (Pardo removed the requirement to cooperate
with the National Reparation and Reconciliation Committee.
Senator Vargas Lleras added minor textual changes.)
47: Victims can request reparations through the Superior
48: Restitution implies returning the victim to his state
before the violation occurred. This includes return of
49: Rehabilitation includes medical and psychological
assistance for victims and their relatives paid for by the
50: Names the measures to be taken to guarantee victims are
satisfied and crimes against them are not repeated. The
measures can include verification of events, search for
disappeared persons or graves, the Superior District Court
can order public commemorations, and human rights training
51: The government must implement collective reparations
programs to re-establish state institutions in areas affected
by the violence if advised to so by the Reparations and
52: A National Reparation and Reconciliation Committee will
be created. (Three Congressmen made minor changes.)
53: The Committee will oversee the alternative sentencing and
reparation process and conduct a public study on the
evolution of illegal armed group. (The Committee's power to
suggest reparations or revocation of benefits was removed.)
54: Regional committees will be created to oversee local
reparations, especially the return of land.
55: The regional committees will have local and national
officials. (Two congressmen made minor changes.)
56: A reparations fund will be created and managed by the
Social Solidarity Network (RSS). (Senator Uribe made a minor
57: The RSS will compensate victims with the fund, administer
the fund, and provide other reparations as needed.
58: The State is responsible for preserving historical memory
of the causes and actions of the illegal armed groups.
59: The Inspector General (Procurador) will keep the archives
60: Public access to the archives is guaranteed except when
victims need to be protected.