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Cablegate: Secretary Gutierrez and U.S. Representatives'

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P 262257Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9784
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 9472
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ OCT 9000
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 5559
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 0757
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6197
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4146
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 1509
RUCNDTA/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 1861

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SENSITIVE
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ELAB ETRD KJUS OVIP PGOV PHUM PTER EC
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SUBJECT: SECRETARY GUTIERREZ AND U.S. REPRESENTATIVES'
OCTOBER 13 MEETING WITH PRESIDENT URIBE


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SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) In an October 13 breakfast meeting with Commerce
Secretary Gutierrez and an accompanying congressional

SIPDIS
delegation, President Uribe thanked the group for U.S.
support and urged them to support the bilateral Free Trade
Agreement (FTA). He said the FTA will complement Plan
Colombia by generating the resources Colombia needs to
sustain advances on security and social issues. Uribe
reviewed GOC programs to respect human rights, protect union
members and human rights activists, and punish those guilty
of human rights abuses. He also highlighted the result of
the paramilitary peace process-60 key paramilitary leaders in
jail and others on the run-and reiterated his commitment to
extradite any paramilitary who violates the terms of the
peace process. END SUMMARY.

------------
PARTICIPANTS
------------

2. (U) UNITED STATES

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez
Representative Eliot Engel
Representative Richard Hastings
Representative James McDermott
Representative Gregory Meeks
Representative John Salazar
Representative William Sali
Ambassador William R. Brownfield
Deputy Chief of Mission Brian A. Nichols
Commerce Counselor Maggie Hanson-Muse


COLOMBIA

President Alvaro Uribe
Vice President Francisco Santos
Ambassador Carolina Barco
Minister of Trade Luis Plata
Reintegration Commissioner Frank Pearl
U.S. and Canada desk Chief Patricia Cortes
Accompanying Cabinet and other officials

---
FTA
---

3. (SBU) Uribe thanked Commerce Secretary Gutierrez and the
U.S. Congressmen for their support, noting that Colombia's
progress in recovering control of its national territory from
narcotraffickers and the FARC could not have happened without
U.S. support. Colombia remains a good friend of the United
States; the bilateral free trade agreement would symbolize
the permanent cooperation between the two countries. This
becomes especially important now, as South America passes
through a complicated period. Venezuelan President Chavez
and Ecuadorian President Correa talk of a "new socialism" and
advocate "new authoritarian constitutions.8 In contrast,
Colombia shares the U.S. commitment to democratic values,
including respect for independent institutions, transparency,
and social cohesion. Countries in the region would not
understand if the U.S. Congress did not approve an FTA with
the United States, &best friend8 in the region.

4. (SBU) Uribe said the FTA will complement Plan Colombia by
helping to generate the resources Colombia needs to sustain
advances on security and social issues. He noted that under
his administration, the percentage of Colombians living below
the poverty line fell from 57% to 45%. Coverage for basic
education rose from 78% in 2002 to 92% today, and the number
of children in nutrition programs has climbed from 3.7
million to 9 million during the same period. More than 36
million Colombians now have health insurance, up from 23
million in 2002, and the GOC hopes to provide universal
coverage by the end of his term in 2010. The GOC rebuilt
196 towns that the FARC had destroyed, including

Bojaya/Bellavista which the delegation would visit later that
day. Uribe said his "democratic security" policy has boosted
investor confidence, leading to increased employment, growth,
and tax revenue. The FTA remains key to maintaining
confidence and consolidating the progress achieved to date.

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PARAMILITARY PROCESS
--------------------

5. (SBU) Uribe reviewed the GOC's fight against
paramilitaries, noting that his administration has
demobilized 32,000 paramilitaries. Most paramilitary leaders
are in jail, and those who remain at large face constant
pressure from Colombia's security forces. The GOC has
extradited more than 650 criminals to the United States, a
world record. Uribe said he has suspended the extradition of
eleven paramilitary leaders due to their cooperation in
dismantling paramilitary structures. Still, he would
extradite them if they continued their involvement in
criminal activity or violated the terms of the peace process.
For example, Uribe said he removed a major paramilitary
leader from the Justice and Peace Law process because he
clearly remained engaged in crime. He will extradite him as
soon as the USG submits an extradition request. Ambassador
Barco added that the paramilitary demobilization has exposed
links between these criminal groups and some Colombian
politicians. She said 37 legislators await trial for their
alleged paramilitary ties.

6. (SBU) GOC Reintegration Czar Frank Pearl said that the GOC
has developed a program that works with the demobilized,
their families, and local communities. The program
conditions the demobilized paramilitaries, receipt of
economic, psychosocial and educational benefits on their
compliance with the terms of the peace process (i.e. a
commitment to confess their crimes, pay compensation, and
refrain from criminal activity.) To overcome popular
antipathy toward the former paramilitaries, the GOC extends
health, education, and employment benefits to local residents
of "receptor" communities as well. Pearl said the Colombian
private sector supports the reintegration program, and has
financed 56 projects. FTA approval would help the
reintegration effort because it would create new economic
opportunities.

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HUMAN RIGHTS
------------
7. (SBU) Congressman Salazar said most opposition to the FTA
in the United States comes from religious and human rights
groups, and asked what the GOC has done to address their
concerns. Uribe replied that the GOC remains committed "to
do whatever we have to do to protect human rights." The GOC
recently extended the mandate of the UN High Commission in
Human Rights through 2010, and the Inter-American Court on
Human Rights will hold a session in Bogota in two weeks. The
GOC welcomes the presence of international human rights
groups, and the improved security climate has enabled
opposition parties to campaign throughout the country. Uribe
stressed that despite facing major security threats from the
FARC, narcotraffickers and other criminal bands, the GOC has
not followed the route taken by many South American countries
in the 1970s and restricted political or civil rights. His
"democratic security" strategy aims to defeat the FARC by
strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law.

---------
ECOPETROL
---------

8. (SBU) Congressman Sali noted the importance of energy
security, and asked about the GOC's plans for Ecopetrol,
Colombia's state-owned oil company. Uribe said despite the
recent trend in South America toward state control of
petroleum and other natural resources, the GOC recently sold
20% of Ecopetrol's shares to private investors. Over 520,000
Colombians bought shares, with local pension funds acquiring
a substantial stake. The GOC believes that the partial
privatization will encourage greater transparency and less
corruption. The GOC did the same with the state-owned
telephone company, and the results were dramatic. Service

improved, workers received their salaries on time, and
corruption fell. Uribe noted that with oil exports are
excluded, Colombia runs a trade deficit with the United
States.

-------------------------
LABOR UNIONS AND IMPUNITY
-------------------------

9. (SBU) Congressman Engel thanked Uribe for his strong
support for the USG, and said that the U.S. Congress has an
obligation to work with our allies. Still, he stressed that
many Congressmen want to see the GOC do more to address
violence against labor unions and to include unions in the
policy process before they will support an FTA. Engel added
that several Colombian union leaders have complained that
they did not participate during the FTA negotiations, and he
asked if the GOC would renegotiate some of the deal's
provisions to address union concerns. Congressman McDermott
added that ending impunity in murders of labor leaders
remains essential.

10. (SBU) Uribe reiterated the GOC's commitment to protect
union members and to prosecute those responsible for violence
against them, noting that the number of unionists killed fell
from 256 in 2002 to 60 in 2006. The latter figure largely
reflected fighting between the FARC and the leftist ELN. To
date, only 21 unionists have been murdered in 2007. The
murder rate for the general population now tops the rate for
union members. Still, Uribe said one trade union murder is
too many. He described the GOC's protection program for
human rights activists, union leaders, journalists and other
threatened individuals. In 2007, the GOC will spend $39
million to protect over 6000 Colombians, including 1500
unionists. He added that his "democratic security" policy
will continue to improve the overall security situation.

11. (SBU) Uribe stated that the GOC continues to support the
efforts of the independent Prosecutor General's Office
(Fiscalia) to investigate and prosecute crimes against
unionists. He had doubled the Fiscalia's budget between 2002
and 2008, and will add $40 million in 2008 to strengthen the
Fiscalia's Human Rights and Justice and Peace Law units. The
Human Rights unit contains the special sub-unit that
investigates priority cases. Since 2002, the Fiscalia
resolved 52 cases of labor violence resulting in 108
convictions.

12. (SBU) On labor unions' inclusion in negotiations,
President Uribe emphasized that the GOC had invited the
unions to participate in the talks. Some groups had
accepted. Others, such as unions representing public
employees, had refused to participate based on ideological
concerns. He noted that Colombia has accepted the labor and
environmental changes in the FTA proposed by the U.S.
Congress, and added that the GOC also funds the International
Labor Organization (ILO) office in country. Asked by
Congressman Hastings if the FTA had been a major issue in the
2006 presidential elections, Uribe said the he had made the
elections a referendum on the FTA. The GOC closed the FTA
negotiations with the USG during the election period, and he
made a nationally televised speech highlighting the
importance of the agreement.

--------------------------------------
AFRO-COLOMBIAN CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION
--------------------------------------

13. (SBU) Congressman Meeks said he had spoken with
Congressmen Lewis and Rush, and both expressed interested in
working with a proposed Colombian civil rights commission
that addresses the needs of Afro-Colombian. Uribe reiterated
his interest in the proposal.

14. (U) Secretary Gutierrez did not clear this message.
Brownfield

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