Cablegate: Scenesetter for Codel Davis
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BOGOTA 008409
DEPT. FOR H - PLEASE PASS TO CODEL DAVIS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SNAR ASEC PTER CO CODEL
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR CODEL DAVIS
1. (SBU) Post warmly welcomes the September 9-11 visit of
CODEL Davis to Colombia. With USG assistance, Colombian
President Alvaro Uribe has made great strides in fighting
drug trafficking and terrorism. Drug eradication and
interdiction are at record levels. A nation-wide,
multi-phased offensive by the security forces has re-taken
key territory from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC). The peace process with the United Self-Defense
Forces of Colombia (AUC) has already resulted in the
demobilization of almost 9,000 paramilitaries with several
thousand more expected. Colombia's human rights record,
although imperfect, is improving. Executive-legislative
relations have been tense, but Uribe managed to push through
some important legislation, including a bill to allow
presidential re-election. The economy continues to improve
and FTA talks have concluded the eleventh round. Three U.S.
citizens have been held hostage by the FARC for two and a
half years now; their safe recovery continues to be one of
our top priorities. Uribe is a strong proponent of
extradition. End Summary.
U.S. Assistance Key to Security Improvements
2. (SBU) USG Assistance to Colombia (Plan Colombia) is
premised on combating the interrelated issues of drug
trafficking and terrorism and includes training, material
aid, and guidance to the security forces and other
institutions. President Uribe and Colombian Minister of
Defense (MOD) Camilo Ospina have characterized U.S.
assistance as key to the GOC's "Democratic Security Policy"
and acknowledged the United States as Colombia's most
important ally. Since taking office, President Uribe has
focused on establishing a state presence throughout national
-- Plan Patriota: The military's multi-phased campaign plan
to re-take areas dominated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia (FARC) is entering its third year. The first
phase, which focused on securing Cundinamarca Department,
which surrounds Bogota, pushed the FARC presence out of reach
of the capital and resulted in the deaths of at least five
mid-level FARC commanders. The second, much more complex
phase has reached the eighteen month mark and is focused on
the FARC's traditional stronghold in southeastern Colombia.
Infectious diseases - especially leishmaniasis, a parasitic
skin and intestinal infection - and landmines are the leading
causes of military casualties.
-- FARC Attacks: FARC violence in the first half of 2005,
although tactically aggressive, remained more a political
tool than military tactic.
-- Center for Coordinated Integral Action: With support from
the U.S. MILGRP, the GOC formed an interagency center to
facilitate social services in seven areas that have
traditionally suffered from little state presence and
pressure from illegal armed groups. The Center focuses on
providing immediate social services, including documentation
and medical clinics, and establishing longer term projects,
such as economic reactivation. Approximately 40,000
individuals have been enrolled in state health care, judges,
investigators, and public defenders have been placed in all
16 municipalities of the Plan Patriota area, and a public
library was recently opened in the town of San Vicente del
Caguan, which had long been dominated by the FARC.
-- Plan Colombia II: The GOC has provided us with a draft
proposal of Plan Colombia II. Most of the program areas
outlined are a continuation of the same goals the U.S. has
supported since Plan Colombia's inception in 2000. Congress
will be asked to consider one new program area, which
includes peace negotiations, demobilization, and
reintegration of illegal armed groups.
Drug Eradication and Interdiction
3. (SBU) Eradication and interdiction are at record levels.
As of August 2005, over 110,000 hectares of coca and 1,500
hectares of opium poppy had been sprayed since the beginning
of 2005, and 15,500 hectares of coca and poppy were manually
eradicated. Ground fire against spray planes is well below
2003's record levels but remains problematic.
4. (SBU) Interdiction operations are on target to match or
exceed last year's record seizures. Through July 2005, the
Colombian National Police (CNP) had seized more than 65
metric tons of cocaine and coca base and the Colombian navy
had seized more than 75 tons of metric tons of cocaine. In
CY2004, GOC forces seized 178 metric tons of cocaine and coca
base. CNP interdiction units are also concentrating on
capturing high value leadership targets of the FARC, ELN, and
AUC, and have had several successes in seizing secondary
U.S Assistance to Development and Democracy-Building
5. (U) The USAID Mission in Colombia funds programs to
improve transparency of the justice system, assist farmers in
growing alternative legal crops and livestock production, and
supports more than 1.4 million Colombians displaced from the
internal violence. USAID is also strengthening a center to
support children who had been forced to serve as child
combatants. These programs help reinforce Colombian
society's democratic and social institutions.
6. (U) The Colombian military justice system has been
criticized for inefficiency and weakness. We have emphasized
the importance of creating a system that delivers credible
findings to ensure expeditious justice for both the innocent
and the guilty. In April, the Military Penal Justice
Director submitted a "shock" reform package to Congress as
the first step towards institutional streamlining. A second
reform package, slated for Congressional review in the next
few weeks, would improve the long-term functioning of the
7. (SBU) President Uribe is a strong supporter of the
U.S.-Colombia extradition relationship, and since taking
office has approved more than 250 extraditions to the U.S.
President Uribe, the prosecutor general and other senior GOC
officials have expressed concern about the impact of
amendments to the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill
dealing with extradition.
8. (SBU) The GOC has been holding negotiations with the
United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) since 2002.
Almost 9,000 paramilitaries have demobilized thus far. The
GOC has said up to 10,000 more paramilitaries could
demobilize by the end of Uribe's term in August 2006. The
GOC has repeatedly stated that the peace process will not
damage the excellent U.S.-Colombia extradition relationship.
-- Aid to Demobilizations: Almost 9,000 paramilitaries have
demobilized since Uribe took office, and he plans to
demobilize the rest of the paramilitaries by year's end.
Colombia has requested U.S. aid for the demobilization and
reinsertion process, including police aid to prevent FARC
inroads in areas formerly under paramilitary domination.
-- Deserters: Since Uribe took office, almost 8,000 illegal
armed group members have deserted and entered the
government's reinsertion program. The program has limited
funding and logistical problems, but is slowly improving.
9. (SBU) The Mexican government was facilitating peace talks
between the GOC and the National Liberation Army (ELN), but
the ELN has refused to suspend kidnapping. The ELN
unilaterally ended the facilitation process on April 18. The
FARC has shown no willingness to have peace talks or hold a
"humanitarian exchange" to swap prisoners, but the GOC
continues to attempt talks. For example, President Uribe
accepted the Catholic Church's offer to broker a
"pre-dialogue" with the ELN and the FARC on August 23, but
Archbishop Castro said on September 1 that the short-term
prospects for success remained dim because the FARC had shown
10. (U) President Uribe approved the Justice and Peace Law in
July and established mechanisms to hold demobilized
terrorists accountable for their crimes. The law offers
demobilized terrorists a five to eight year sentence followed
by a 2.5 to four year parole period only if they fully
demobilize, turn over all illicit assets, release all
hostages and child soldiers, and give reparations to victims.
Individuals or groups organized for drug trafficking or
illicit enrichment would not be eligible for reduced
sentence. Only crimes committed during membership in, and in
the service of, the illegal armed group would be eligible.
The law has been criticized since the debate phase about
being too soft on criminals, but implementation will be the
key to ensure that both the goals of peace and justice are
Human Rights Record Improving
11. (SBU) The Uribe Administration continues to make progress
on human rights. Homicides fell by 16 percent, kidnappings
by 42 percent, and forced displacements by 37 percent in
2004, building on 2003's trends. The GOC increased its
dialogue with NGOs, the UN, and foreign governments, hosting
meetings with local and international human rights
organizations that included over 40 hours of discussions on
the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights' 27
human rights recommendations for Colombia. Human rights
training is mandatory for all members of the military and
police. Less than two percent of human rights violations are
attributable to government security forces, according to GOC
statistics. Recent credible allegations of violations by
members of the armed forces demonstrate the need for further
12. (SBU) Executive-legislative relations have been tense
over the last two years. A major issue has been Uribe's
break with traditional pork barrel projects and patronage for
members of Congress, and many have exacted payback on the GOC
as a result. Uribe's presidential reelection reform
initiative, however, was passed by Congress in December. The
Constitutional Court is currently reviewing the reform, and
it remains to be seen if it will strike the measure down.
Uribe's popularity is over 70 percent and he is expected to
win an additional four year term if the Constitutional Court
upholds the reelection law. Other major issues before
Congress include pension and tax reform, both controversial
proposals that face tough sledding.
13. (SBU) Elections for Congress and President will be held
in March and May 2006, respectively. The current
Congressional session began on July 20 and will likely center
around campaigning and the upcoming Congressional elections
in March 2006.
Positive Economic Outlook
14. (U) Tremendous gains in security have helped the
Colombian economy. In 2004, Colombia's gross domestic
product (GDP) increased by 4.1 percent to nearly USD 90.8
billion. Colombian exports grew 26 percent in 2004 to USD 16
billion. Exports to the U.S. grew by USD 1 billion. The
Colombian Congress recently passed a pension reform package
that will improve the long-term sustainability of the
country's retirement system. Although the International
Monetary Fund has recommended that Colombia revamp its tax
system, fiscal reform was not addressed during this session
of Congress. Unemployment remains high, near 12 percent, but
the rate has been declining since the beginning of the Uribe
15. (U) The eleventh round of negotiations toward a free
trade agreement with Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru took place
in Miami last month. The talks are progressing slowly, with
agricultural issues representing the biggest stumbling block.
As the Colombian political season approaches, negotiators
are concerned that significant delays in completing the
agreement this year could put the FTA on hold until late
2006, at the earliest.
16. (SBU) In February 2003, a DOD plane carrying four USG
contractors and a Colombian military representative crashed
in FARC-controlled territory in southern Colombia. The three
surviving hostages' safe release continues to be one of our