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Cablegate: Codel Coleman Meets with President Uribe

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

id: 40050
date: 9/7/2005 16:32
refid: 05BOGOTA8406
origin: Embassy Bogota
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 05BOGOTA8292
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 008406


E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/07/2015


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

1. (C) Summary. Senators Coleman and Martinez and
Congressman Miller met with President Uribe on August 23
during a brief visit to Bogota. The CODEL told Uribe they
had come to thank him personally for his leadership in the
fight against drugs and terrorism, and for the vital
U.S.-Colombian partnership. Uribe expressed gratitude for
ongoing U.S. support. He also thanked the U.S. for
supporting Ambassador Moreno's election to head the IDB. He
proposed that the U.S. work with the IDB to set a new agenda
for Latin America. Citing the resonance of Chavez's message
and impact of his checkbook, growing anti-Americanism, and
many upcoming elections in the region, Uribe said the time
was right for a new approach. His formula was that: (1)
Latin American countries pledge to comply with UN Millennium
goals; (2) the IDB help countries comply; and (3) the U.S.
strongly support the initiative. The economic and social
components of the goals could effectively counter Chavez's
populism. The CODEL agreed that a new effort was needed with
more immediate results felt by the average person. The CODEL
asked Uribe for his views on the region and Chavez. Uribe
said democracy was at risk. The opposition in Venezuela was
weak, Evo Morales was gaining in the polls in Bolivia,
Brazil's Lula was distracted, the liberal party in Nicaragua
remained divided which could lead to Ortega's election, and
President Fox's party in Mexico was also losing ground.
While he trusted Ecuador's President Palacio, his government,
too, was weak. Uribe said he handled relations with
Venezuela carefully given its long border and significant
commercial relationship. Senator Coleman said the
demobilization of the paramilitaries and the new justice and
peace law were of particular interest to the Congress. Uribe
reviewed the state of play. While acknowledging the law was
controversial, he insisted it was workable. For the first
time Colombia had successfully introduced the principles of
justice and reparations into a peace process. Uribe said he
wanted rigorous, transparent implementation and thus hoped to
form an international commission, led by former President
Clinton, to monitor progress and provide constructive
criticism. In response to a question on how Uribe would
react to a negative constitutional court ruling on
re-election, Uribe said he would work to elect a successor
who continued the "fundamental lines" of his policy. Any
action the people might urge him to consider beyond that
would be in strict accordance with the constitution (e.g. a
national referendum) and determined after the ruling. End

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2. (C) On August 23, during a brief stopover in Bogota,
Senators Norm Coleman and Mel Martinez and Representative
Jeff Miller met with President Uribe at the airport. CODEL
Coleman was accompanied by the Ambassador, two senate aides
and polcouns (notetaker). Uribe was accompanied by Deputy
Foreign Minister Camilo Reyes and MFA North American affairs
director Francisco Gonzalez (notetaker). The meeting lasted
about an hour. Uribe himself had just arrived from attending
a funeral in Medellin and took off for Cartagena shortly
after the CODEL departed for Orlando, Florida.

3. (C) Uribe opened by expressing gratitude on behalf of all
Colombians for U.S. support in the fight against drugs and
terrorism. We have not won but are winning, he said. He
attributed recent progress to the courage of the Colombian
people and sustained U.S. assistance. Senator Coleman
remarked that progress was the result of Uribe's commitment
and leadership. He said he and his colleagues stopped in
Colombia to thank Uribe, and underscore appreciation for the
vital U.S.-Colombian partnership. Senator Martinez agreed,
also expressing appreciation for Uribe's leadership, and
applauding Colombia as a great partner to the U.S., and Uribe
as a beacon of hope for all who want peace, a better future
and the rule of law.

4. (C) Coleman noted that the demobilization of
paramilitaries and the new justice and peace law were of
particular interest to the Congress, and emphasized the
importance of rigorous and energetic implementation of the
law to ensure a credible process. He asked about the recent
meeting between President Bush and Uribe in Crawford. Uribe
described the meeting as excellent and important for
Colombians to witness the strong partnership with the U.S.
In Uribe's view, such an event made Colombians feel safer and
more optimistic about the future.

Ambassador Moreno Election to IDB

5. (C) Senators Coleman and Martinez expressed satisfaction
with the election of Ambassador Moreno to the IDB
presidency. Uribe said he was thankful to the U.S. and in
particular to President Bush for his support of Moreno's
candidacy. He cited the President's comments to President
Fox as critical to securing Mexican support and putting
Moreno over the top. Uribe was confident that Moreno would
do an excellent job at the IDB and that his presence at the
bank presented an opportunity for the region. Uribe proposed
that the U.S. consider working with the IDB to set a new
agenda for Latin America. Escalating oil prices were giving
Chavez a powerful tool to pressure weaker countries in the
region. Brazil was distracted by the corruption scandal.
There were continuing accusations that Venezuela was trying
to influence elections in Bolivia, and perhaps in Peru.
There was growing anti-U.S. sentiment in Brazil, Uruguay,
Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador. A new agenda for the region
was needed and new IDB leadership could be a useful tool to
help establish it.

6. (C) Coleman agreed that the trends in the region were
worrying and that the IDB could be helpful in working to
provide increasing economic stability.

7. (C) Uribe then elaborated a three-step process for a new
regional agenda: (1) Latin American countries pledge to
comply with the UN Millennium goals; (2) the IDB declares
that its main focus will be to help Latin countries meet
these goals; and (3) the U.S. follows with strong support for
the initiative, with a public declaration that Latin American
countries meeting these goals will receive U.S. backing as
well. Given the economic and social development content of
the millennium goals, Uribe said he was convinced such a
process could effectively counter Venezuelan populism. He
emphasized that this was the right moment as well, given the
many national elections scheduled for 2006 in the region.
This would be the right way to influence in a positive way
election results, he said.

8. (C) Martinez agreed that a new effort was needed in the
region. The U.S. and Colombia had to advocate an agenda that
showed a "caring heart" and focused on how people could
secure better jobs and better lives. Something more concrete
was needed, he said, with results more immediately felt by
the average person. Uribe agreed, noting that a social
component was critical in Latin America with its deep-rooted

Uribe's Assessment of the Region and Chavez

9. (C) With so many elections approaching, beginning in
December in Bolivia and Chile, Coleman requested Uribe's
assessment of the region and of Chavez, in particular. Uribe
said the Venezuelans he talks to remained convinced there was
cheating in last year's referendum but had no proof. The OAS
and Carter Center declared the elections clean. Nonetheless,
democracy in the region was threatened. The opposition in
Venezuela remained weak and divided and Chavez had the
leverage of oil with surging prices. In Bolivia, Evo Morales
was gaining in the polls. This was worrying. (Former
President and current Presidential candidate) Jorge Quiroga
needed to keep his numbers up. This would prevent Chavez
from interfering in the elections. In Nicaragua, the liberal
party candidates had to unify or Daniel Ortega would win. In
Uruguay, Uribe saw no problems with President Vasquez, whom
he believed was "a totally decent idealistic
socialist with understandable concerns on social issues."
In Peru, he said there were already two to three candidates
but saw no major problems there either. He expressed more
concern about Mexico. The Fox government was weak and his
party unlikely to win in upcoming presidential elections.
The PRI was gaining in the polls, as was the PRD's Lopez
Obrador. Uribe admitted that he was not sure how to approach
these worrying trends in the region but encouraged Washington
policy makers to keep a close eye and work with partners in
the region to design the right strategy.

10. (C) On Venezuela, Uribe said he handles relations very
carefully. The two countries share a long border with a
complicated topography. Bilateral trade could reach $3
billion in 2005 and many small and medium-sized enterprises
depend on sales to Venezuela. At the same time, according to
Uribe, Chavez understood that if he did not cooperate in the
fight against terrorists, Colombian public forces would enter
his territory, seize them and return them back to Colombia.
Uribe also said he makes a point not to respond to Chavez's
excesses publicly. This would only give him the oxygen he
craves, said Uribe.

11. (C) On Ecuador, Uribe said he trusts and has a good
relationship with President Palacio but the government was
weak. As a result, Colombia had to suffer difficult speeches
from the Foreign Minister. Uribe said his foreign minister
(Carolina Barco) grew angry at the speeches of her Ecuadorian
counterpart, but he continued to tell her to ignore them and
be patient. Uribe also said the porous border continued to
be a problem as terrorists slipped back and forth. He did
not understand why the GOE continued to complain about
spraying and demand it be stopped. If the GOC stopped
spraying, insisted Uribe, Ecuador would become flooded with
drugs. The government was not strong enough to stand up to
pressures from "indigenous groups and radical political
parties," concluded Uribe.


12. (C) Uribe reviewed the status of ongoing paramilitary
demobilizations and the important elements of the new justice
and peace law. He said the total number of those demobilized
would exceed 20,000 by week's end, 65 percent from
paramilitaries, and 35 percent from the guerrilla groups. In
six months, he expected to see a total of 25,000 demobilized.
He stressed that earlier peace processes with the M-19 and
other groups handled only 400 and 2,000, respectively. The
sheer number of the current demobilization made it clear how
difficult the process will be. But he continued to believe
it was the right course. The more we demobilize, he said,
the greater the chances that the "ring-leaders" will have
less to fight with and that their structures will be

13. (C) Uribe acknowledged that the law was controversial
but, for the first time, Colombia had successfully introduced
the principles of justice and reparations into a peace
process. Past laws only dealt with amnesty, without
requirements for reparation and justice. He insisted that
the law needed to be applied transparently to all illegal
armed groups -- paras and guerrillas. He was convinced that
those who considered the law too soft on the paras would
consider it too hard on the guerrillas.

14. (C) To ensure rigorous implementation of the law, Uribe
said Colombia needed a group of eminent persons to monitor
progress and provide constructive criticism "when we are not
getting it right." Per reftel, he repeated his idea of
forming a committee of "friends," led by former President
Clinton and a few ex-senators to follow the law's

Colombia without Uribe

15. (C) Coleman noted that Uribe's leadership had generated
great confidence in Washington. As Colombia awaited the
decision of its Constitutional Court on whether the president
could seek re-election, Coleman wondered whether Uribe was
concerned that his priorities could unravel and Colombians
and others could lose confidence if he were not able to
continue. (Note: Senate SACFO staffers Paul Grove and Thomas
Hawkins asked Uribe the same question on August 29. End Note)

16. (C) Uribe said he would speak publicly about the issue
when the court ruled and not before. He stated categorically
that any action he took following the ruling would be in
strict accordance with the constitution. If the
Constitutional Court ruled against re-election, he would do
his best to convince his supporters to elect a successor who
continued the fundamental lines of his policy. Someone who
supported the democratic security policy and was determined
to fight terrorism, restore investor confidence, generate
jobs, and continue the key alliance with the U.S. He noted
that there were other, democratic options citizens could
consider, if they so chose. For example, some had suggested
a national referendum at election time so voters could
express their preferences directly. It would be politically
controversial, he said, but democratic. Uribe hoped for a
decision by the court soon and would weigh his options then.

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

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