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Cablegate: Truth Commission Says Pablo Escobar Paid Leftist

VZCZCXYZ0025
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #0625 3242015
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 202015Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0878
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 8442
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ NOV 8373
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 4498
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 5161

UNCLAS BOGOTA 010625

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KJUS CO
SUBJECT: TRUTH COMMISSION SAYS PABLO ESCOBAR PAID LEFTIST
GUERRILLAS TO ATTACK SUPREME COURT IN 1985; OVER 100 DIED

REF: BOGOTA 10596

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Summary
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1. A Truth Commission placed primary blame on the M-19 for
over 100 deaths resulting from the terrorist group's 1985
attack on the Supreme Court, and said Medellin cartel drug
lord Pablo Escobar paid them USD 2 million to commit the
assault. The Commission's preliminary report also found the
military used disproportionate force in trying to retake the
Court. President Uribe contrasted his tough actions against
paramilitaries with lax efforts by previous administrations
to prevent their growth. End summary.

--------------------------------------------- ------------
Commission Says Escobar Paid M-19 to Attack Supreme Court
--------------------------------------------- ------------

2. A Truth Commission said in preliminary findings released
November 14 that Medellin cartel drug lord Pablo Escobar paid
the leftist M-19 terrorist organization some USD 2 million
for its "cowardly and bloody" attack on the Colombian Supreme
Court in November 1985. The Commission, organized by the
current Supreme Court and comprised of three of its most
distinguished former members, conducted over 60 interviews
and reviewed government and other records of the M-19 attack
and military effort to retake the Court, during which over
100 people died, including 11 Justices. The Commission
expects to release its final report in 2007.

3. The preliminary report cited Escobar associate Jhon Jairo
Vazquez (alias Popeye) as revealing an "initial" Escobar
payment of USD 2 million to the M-19, following meetings
Escobar held with the M-19 in 1984 and other "joint actions"
the two organizations had conducted. In his book, "The Real
Pablo," Popeye said Escobar promised the M-19 USD 7 million
to destroy the Court's extradition records. The report also
cited testimony by deceased former paramilitary leader Carlos
Castano to support its conclusion.

4. Senator Gustavo Petro (Polo Democratico), a former M-19
guerrilla who has sharply criticized Uribe's handling of the
para peace process, strongly denied the Escobar financing
charge. Former Senator Antonio Navarro Wolff (Polo
Democratico), another demobilized M-19 member, also denied
the charge, but said the M-19 attack on the Court was a
mistake. Polo Democratico representative Wilson Borja
alleged the report was designed to attack the M-19 and the
Polo and divert attention from charges that current members
of Congress are associated with paramilitaries. Commentator
Rafael Nieto characterized Petro's remarks as demonstrating a
"distressing zeal," while allowing that Navarro Wolff at
least showed "a certain noble embarrassment" in conceding a
mistake. In a speech on November 17, Uribe contrasted his
tough handling of paramilitaries with previous
administrations' lax efforts to prevent their growth, and
called on all Colombians to come clean on their links to
paramilitaries and assorted leftist terrorist groups such as
the M-19, ELN, and EPL.

---------------------------------------------
Commission Criticizes Military's Use of Force
---------------------------------------------

5. The Commission determined the State had the right to
retake the Court, but said the military used disproportionate
force. It asserted that then-President Belisario Betancur
failed to take charge of the operation, leaving a leadership
vacuum. Based on the report, on November 15 the Prosecutor
General's office (Fiscalia) ordered the arrest of retired
Colonel Edilberto Sanchez Rubiano for "forced disappearance"
of two Court cafeteria workers seen leaving the building
during the military assault; Sanchez protested his innocence
but turned himself in the next day.

WOOD

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