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Cablegate: Goc Efforts to Win Popular Support in Conflict

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER PGOV PREL MARR EAID CO
SUBJECT: GOC EFFORTS TO WIN POPULAR SUPPORT IN CONFLICT
ZONES

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Summary
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1. The GOC is implementing social action programs to
complement military action and to win the support of two
million people in conflict zones. Colombian Armed Forces
Commander General Padilla strongly supports the program and
recently traveled to a remote village to open a rural health
clinic. President Uribe is expected to inaugurate a new town
being built for survivors of a 2002 FARC massacre. The
programs appear popular, but must be integrated with
longer-term development economic plans to sustain citizen
support for the GOC. End Summary.

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Seeking Sustainable State Control
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2. In 2003, Uribe announced the GOC had established a police
presence in every municipality in the country for the first
time. Still, the GOC recognized that a security presence
alone is insufficient to achieve effective state control.
Hence, the GOC set up the Centro de Coordinacion de Accion
Integral (CCAI) to promote short-term social and economic
development in nine "priority" zones where Colombian security
forces have established security, but state control remains
shaky. The priority zones have a population of over two
million. CCAI's goal is to build public support for the GOC
and to improve its capacity to govern in the priority zones.
CCAI has no budget of its own, but coordinates and
prioritizes about eighty million dollars of GOC spending on
social services, such as health clinics, schools and
small-scale infrastructure. CCAI's executive board of civil
and military officials, chaired by presidential advisor Luis
Alfonso Hoyas, meets regularly and is able to react quickly
to events on the ground. A small staff assigned from
different agencies implements board decisions and cuts
through red tape to quickly deliver emergency relief. The
USG plays an integral role in CCAI. SouthCom helped design
it, trained its staff, and spends 1-2 million USD a year to
support dozens of its projects.

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Opening a Health Clinic with the COLMIL Commander
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3. On October 27, we traveled by GOC military aircraft to
the village of La Loma, Bojaya municipality, Choco, for
CCAI's inauguration of a SouthCom-funded health clinic.
Choco is one of Colombia's poorest departments, and years of
conflict between illegal armed groups have further eroded
social and economic development. La Loma was a ghost town
for over a year; its displaced population returned home only
in the past six months as the GOC reestablished its presence.
CCAI civil coordinator Juan Carlos Vargas Morales said the
new clinic, gleaming amongst dilapidated tin-roofed houses,
is about more than providing health services to a traumatized
population. Rather, it is proof that the government has
returned. Residents were appreciative of the new clinic but
unenthusiastic about employment prospects: bananas and
pineapples are the town's main products but they usually
spoil by the time they reach the nearest markets downriver.

4. The presence of General Freddy Padilla de Leon, commander
of Colombia's armed forces, together with a dozen reporters,
underscored the visit's importance. Padilla said ten percent
of his time is devoted to winning "hearts and minds," because
he thinks Colombia's conflict will not be resolved until
citizens believe in the government. He planned more
humanitarian outreach to show the military is "not just about
guns and bullets" and to gain the public's confidence.
Still, the clinic's inauguration was inauspicious; its first
patient was a woman treated for minor cuts when a
helicopter's prop wash blew the roofs off nearby buildings
and a piece of corrugated tin struck her in the head.

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A New City for Victims of a Massacre
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5. The GOC is spending millions of dollars carving a new city
out of the jungle for survivors of the May 2002 FARC massacre

of 119 civilians in a church in the village of Bellavista in
Bojaya municipality. CCAI is helping coordinate the
construction of a new Bellavista about a mile away from the
old one. Hundreds of local laborers have worked for two
years building 250 sturdy concrete homes and a scattering of
public buildings. CCAI officials said they were not sure
what employment opportunities locals would have once the
construction was done.

6. Bellavista locals greeted General Padilla
enthusiastically when we visited and told us they were eager
to move into their new homes. The move is currently
scheduled for early 2007. The old Bellavista, whose
ramshackle buildings are festooned with giant banners with
pictures of the massacre victims, will then be converted into
a memorial and children's park. President Uribe is expected
to inaugurate the memorial and the new Bellavista on the
fifth anniversary of the massacre.

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Comment
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7. CCAI programs appear to be popular and not without
reason; providing clinics, for example, is a tangible
demonstration of State concern. Still, it remains to be seen
if CCAI efforts are sufficiently integrated with the
longer-term economic development plans necessary to establish
a sustained GOC presence and build citizen loyalty.
DRUCKER

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