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Cablegate: Ambassador Meets with New Ilo Permanent

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DE RUEHBO #1300 3522006
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 182006Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1421
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 8525
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ DEC LIMA 4586
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 5244
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 3813
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1422

UNCLAS BOGOTA 011300

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT. PLEASE PASS TO DOL, USTR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB ETRD PGOV CO
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH NEW ILO PERMANENT
REPRESENTATIVE


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SUMMARY
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1. (SBU) In a cordial meeting on December 14, Marcelo Castro, the
newly-appointed International Labor Organization (ILO)
permanent representative to Colombia, said he wanted to
maintain a cooperative relationship with the GOC, labor, and
employer groups. Castro explained his mandate was to support
the ILO's Special Technical Cooperation Program, not to
criticize the GOC. He said the GOC had been very supportive
of his office, explaining that his relations with the trade
confederations were more complicated than his relationship
with the GOC. The Ambassador stressed our support for the
ILO's presence in Colombia, noted our desire to work closely
with him, and explained how our bilateral FTA would
strengthen labor's position in Colombia. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- -----
ILO PERM REP TO SUPPORT COOPERATION, NOT CRITICIZE
--------------------------------------------- -----

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2. (SBU) Castro said he had overcome initial GOC fears that a local
ILO office would simply become another platform to criticize
the GOC. His mandate from Geneva was to support technical
cooperation projects, not to criticize the GOC's relations
with organized labor. He enjoyed excellent support from the
GOC. In fact, his relations with the trade confederations
were more complicated than his ties with the GOC. For
example, while attending recent GOC-Labor-Employer
negotiations on an increase in the minimum wage, Castro said
he had resisted union efforts to have him denounce the GOC
for its alleged failure to meet its obligations in the
discussions. He singled out relations with the Central
Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT) as especially challenging, due
to "radical" elements within the confederation.

3. (SBU) Castro said his office will support the Special Technical
Cooperation Program, which includes four projects - social
dialogue, employment opportunities for women, employment
opportunities for youth, and local economic development. He
would provide reports every six months to the ILO's Governing
Body, but these reports would focus on his activities rather
than GOC's actions. Castro continues to operate out of the
ILO office in Mexico, but will move permanently to Colombia
on January 15, 2007. He previously worked for the ILO in
Colombia from 2000-2002.

4. (SBU) Castro said that in addition to union issues, he wanted to
explore ways to improve workers' access to health and
education. He felt these were key areas where the GOC and
ILO could cooperate. Castro stated he had explored such
topics in the past with then Labor Minister and current Valle
de Cauca Governor Angelino Garzon and then CUT president and
current Bogota mayor Lucho Garzon.

-------------------------------
VIOLENCE ISSUE MOST CHALLENGING
-------------------------------

5. (SBU) Castro said violence against trade unionists was the most
difficult issue his office faced. Based on his previous
experience in Colombia, Castro said it was clear that much of
the violence against union members was political rather than
union-related. The ILO's capacity to address this issue was
limited, he said, explaining that in 2000 the ILO had tried
to do a study of the causes of violence against unionists.
The CUT subsequently blocked the initiative. Still, Castro
said it was positive that trade unions were voicing public
support for the Prosecutor General's initiative to
investigate and prosecute crimes against union members.

6. (SBU) The Ambassador welcomed Castro's comments, stressed our
support for the ILO's presence in Colombia, and noted our
desire to work closely with him. He added that our bilateral
FTA would strengthen labor's position in Colombia. Castro
thanked the Ambassador for his support, and expressed his
desire to maintain excellent relations with the Embassy.
WOOD

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