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Cablegate: Staffdel Grove Meetings in Bogota

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

141459Z Sep 05



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) Congressional aides Paul Grove and Thomas Hawkins met
with Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo on August 30 and
representatives of several human rights organizations on
August 31 to discuss the paramilitary demobilization process
and the Law of Justice and Peace. Restrepo explained the
status of demobilizations, requested resources for GOC's
security enhancement, and answered questions regarding the
reinsertion of former combatants. The majority of the human
rights groups expressed their concern with both the
demobilization process and the law, stating paramilitary
structures were not being dismantled, the judicial system did
not have enough time to investigate cases, and paramilitaries
remained in control of several cities in the country. End

Restrepo Meeting

2. (U) On August 30, Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo
met with Paul Grove and Thomas Hawkins to explain the status
of demobilizations, request resources for the GOC's security
enhancement, and answer questions regarding the reinsertion
of former combatants. Restrepo explained that despite
previous peace efforts during the past 20 years, no other
government has attacked the paramilitaries like this one. In
2000, no casualties were reported, but since the Uribe
administration, 1,450 paramilitaries have been killed and
5,000 are in jail. Under this pressure to talk, the United
Self-Defense Groups of Colombia (AUC) agreed in 2003 to begin
to demobilize. To date, more than half of the former
combatants have demobilized (over 10,000 paramilitaries).
The GOC has also created a legal framework to go after the
most atrocious offenders and for reparations of victims that
no other peace process in the world has ever had, he said.

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3. (U) Restrepo stressed that one of the GOC's biggest
concerns is being able to fill the security void left behind
by the demobilized paramilitaries to prevent the guerrillas
from seizing control of these areas and the drug trade. He
recognized that the GOC currently lacks the resources to
guarantee the necessary protection to its citizens. The GOC
estimates that it needs an additional 10,000 to 15,000 police
officers for these efforts. He stated that this force would
require a minimum of six months training and it would cost
approximately USD 150 million a year. The GOC is calling for
assistance from the international community. He reiterated
how U.S. support has been decisive in helping the GOC fight
the guerrillas and demobilize the paramilitaries, and he
hoped for additional support.

4. (U) Staffers expressed concern with the government's
limited efforts to offer employment opportunities for the
demobilized. Restrepo stated that the GOC is giving each
former combatant the opportunity to receive free education
and training. The GOC is also sponsoring alternative
programs to assist demobilized paramilitaries to begin their
own business.

NGO Meeting

5. (U) Grove and Hawkins met with representatives of five
well-respected human rights organizations on August 31.
Participants included Mario Gomez, Director of the Restrepo
Barco Foundation; Soraya Gutierrez, President of the Lawyer's
Collective ("Colectivo de Abogados"); Gloria Florez, Director
of MINGA; Gustavo Gallon, Director of the Colombian
Commission of Jurists; and Agustin Jimenez, Director of the
Committee for Solidarity with Political Prisoners. The
discussion focused on the paramilitary demobilization process
and the Justice and Peace law.

6. (U) The majority of the participants agreed that the
Justice and Peace law is weak. Jimenez noted that the law
does not allow for the dismantling of paramilitary
structures. He added that there is no mechanism to determine
who is supporting the paramilitaries, either politically or
financially. Gutierrez and Florez both remarked that some
cities and regions continue to be controlled by the
paramilitaries, such as in Catatumbo and Cucuta (Norte de
Santander department), where paramilitaries and their
supporters are involved in local politics and have
infilitrated key institutions. The Ambassador noted that the
situations in Catatumbo and Cucuta were of concern, but added
that a benefit of the demobilization process is finding out
who the paramilitaries are, as they sign a statement
acknowledging their participation in the illegal group.

7. (U) Gallon said three former presidents -- Alfonso Lopez
Michelson, Cesar Gaviria, and Andres Pastrana -- have all
voiced concerns with the process, and the Colombian
Commission of Jurists (CCJ) agrees with their assessment. A
well-done demobilization could have positive effects, but,
according to Gallon, this process would not. He added that
violations of the cease-fire continue to exist, and the
government has not reacted to them. Gallon also voiced his
concerns regarding the 60-day timeframe prosecutors have to
investigate cases, stating it was not enough time to
investigate the multitude of cases each prosecutor would
have. Regarding victims' issues, Gutierrez noted the high
number of paramilitary victims in Colombia, but low number of
prosecutions and convictions. She added that the law does
not provide for truth, justice or reparations, that
confession is not required, and victims' rights are only
considered at the very end of the process. Jimenez said that
one could not sacrifice justice for peace, as it will weaken
Colombian society.

8. (U) Mario Gomez disagreed with his colleagues and said the
law is a good step in working towards peace in Colombia.
Although it is not perfect, the law is necessary and his
foundation will continue to support the process. He
underscored that the law would be used in any future peace
processes with the guerrilla groups as well.

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