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Cablegate: Peace Process with Eln Stalls

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

31082,4/19/2005 20:39,05BOGOTA3726,"Embassy Bogota",CONFIDENTIAL,05BOGOTA1775,"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 02 BOGOTA 003726

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/18/2015
TAGS: PGOV PTER PREL CO MX ELN
SUBJECT: PEACE PROCESS WITH ELN STALLS

REF: A. BOGOTA 1775

B. BOGOTA 3422
C. CARACAS 0951

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

Summary
--------

1. (C) On April 15, the Ambassador met with Mexican
facilitator for the peace process with the National
Liberation Army (ELN) Andres Valencia and Mexican Ambassador
Chacon. Valencia said the peace process remained stalled due
to the ELN's unwillingness to renounce kidnapping during
talks. Nevertheless, the GOC and ELN were proceeding with
his facilitation because neither wanted to walk away just
yet. In March, Brazil, Venezuela, and Spain offered to
mediate peace talks if the Mexican facilitation stalled, but
the GOC rallied them behind Mexico's lead. Valencia noted an
internal split between negotiation ready-ELN members, led by
Francisco Galan, and more violent leaders such as Antonio
Garcia, who were closely aligned with the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC). Valencia also probed for more
active U.S. involvement as a way to jump-start the process.

2. (U) On April 18, in a surprise move, the ELN rejected
further Mexican facilitation due to the GOM's vote against a
resolution criticizing Cuba's human rights record at the
Commission on Human Rights last week. As a result, this
cable is provided largely for the record. End Summary.

Stalled Peace Process
---------------------

3. (C) Andres Valencia told the Ambassador on April 15 after
a week in Bogota that the ELN peace process, stalled since
early February, was likely to remain stuck for the
foreseeable future. ELN leaders remained adamant that the
organization be allowed to continue kidnapping to finance its
operations during talks, despite the GOC's refusal to accept
that condition. (Note: the Mexicans agree with the GOC.)
Valencia's March ultimatum message to the ELN demanded that
the group agree to either negotiate or end the process.
Valencia hoped that the threat would press the ELN to accept
the necessary preconditions for negotiations set out by the
GOC. Valencia did not end the talks, he said, because other
nations would serve as mediators if he left and a year of
negotiation would be wasted. The Colombian Government also
threatened to end the process and reveal the ELN's
culpability for the breakdown but decided not to since some
officials feared returning to a two-front conflict with the
ELN and the FARC. All three parties continue to participate
in written negotiations despite frustrations with the
progress.

Uribe's Public Secret
---------------------

4. (C) Valencia recounted ELN Leader Francisco Galan's
irritation with President Uribe's comments on GOC talks with
the ELN, broadcast during the March 29 four-party summit (ref
C). Galan told Valencia he was upset that Uribe had made
public statements about the process and claimed it undermined
what little trust had existed between the two sides.
Valencia told the Ambassador he was surprised by the
broadcast but commented that, intentionally or not, Uribe's
""little secret with 26 million people"" had raised the
process's visibility and the public's awareness of the ELN's
kidnapping demand. Before the summit, imprisoned ELN leader
Galan sent letters to the presidents of Spain, Venezuela, and
Brazil requesting international support. In response, the
presidents directed their ambassadors to Colombia to visit
Galan in prison, but reaffirmed their faith in the Mexican
facilitation process. The three urged the ELN to continue
forward with the process rather than seek new facilitators.
In this regard, Valencia also expressed concern that Cuba,
active in negotiations up to 1999, was attempting to exert
influence on the ELN and become a spoiler. He noted that
Cuban attacks against Mexico following the GOM's vote at the
Commission for Human Rights could work against his
facilitation.

ELN Divided on Way Ahead
------------------------

5. (C) Valencia stressed that the ELN's internal divisions
stymied his efforts to negotiate the terms for peace talks.
As an example, Valencia mentioned a meeting with Francisco
Galan where he received word that the ELN would consider
suspending violent actions (including kidnapping) during
peace talks in Mexico. Hours later, however, ELN leader
Antonio Garcia retracted the offer. Valencia told the
Ambassador that he believed Garcia had painted himself into a
corner on the issue of suspending violent acts and needed
some concession to save face. He raised the possibility of
meeting the international community or a judicial pardon for
imprisoned ELN members who worked towards peace. He
acknowledged that either option would require the support of
the international community, including the U.S. In more
general terms, he suggested that U.S. involvement could be
useful to jump-start the process, and urged the Ambassador to
discuss it with Washington.

6. (C) The stalemate will continue, according to Valencia,
since both sides enjoy the appearance of talks without
concessions. He expressed cautious optimism that the ELN or
GOC would find a way forward, but said he did not see either
moving in the immediate future. He doubted that Mexico would
be able to host peace talks, but said he was still working
towards that goal. The Ambassador agreed that the process
should be given every chance to succeed, but also underscored
the importance of ending a failed process.

Comment
-------

7. (C) Despite the internal ELN divisions, Uribe's public
comments, and increasing offers from others to restart the
process, Valencia had managed, up to April 18, to keep the
parties engaged. That said, the ELN's surprise announcement
ending Mexican facilitation and Valencia's comments about
divisions in the ELN leadership also suggest that a large
part of the ELN may be now so dependent on the FARC, that the
time has passed for meaningful negotiations with the GOC.

8. (C) Although Valencia expressed some concern about how
harsh statements from Havana against Mexico following the
Geneva vote might affect his facilitation, he gave no
indication that it would lead to Mexico's dismissal. While
this is mostly an ELN gambit, we do not underestimate Cuba's
role here. We plan to tell the Colombians, still grateful to
Cuba for helping resolve the crisis with Venezuela, that they
would best keep their distance from the Cubans as an
alternate facilitator, and that the episode proves Cuba is
more interested in seeking retribution against Mexico than in
helping the Colombian peace process. This latest development
may also be helpful in dealing with the Cuban resolution on
Guantanamo at the CHR in Geneva.

9. (C) Finally, Embassy believes we should be encouraging
Ambassador Valencia to publish his voluminous,
minute-by-minute history of the facilitation (per reftel),
which will make clear the flexibility shown by the GOC in
trying to get these talks underway, and discouraging the
Brazilians and Spanish from filling the space left by
Mexico's withdrawal from the peace process.
WOOD

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