Cablegate: Scenesetter for Ondcp Director John Walters and Dea


DE RUEHBO #7951/01 3102216
P 062216Z NOV 07





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) You are visiting a Colombia far safer, economically
stronger, better governed and more democratic than it has been in
decades. Many Colombians say conditions today have improved to a
level better than any other time in their lives or those of their
parents. Murder rates declined 40 percent since 2002. Murders of
union members dropped even faster - 70 percent during the same
period. Kidnapping rates plummeted 76 percent. The Government
maintains a presence in all municipalities for the first time in
memory. Our anti-drug assistance remains critical to making all of
this possible, as Plan Colombia has lifted Colombia from
quasi-narcostate status to its current situation. Increased
security has led to an economic boom, registering 7.5 percent growth
in the first half of 2007 after reaching 6.8 percent in 2006. The
economic expansion has reduced poverty 20 percent since 2002.
Regional elections October 28, the fourth under the Uribe
Administration, went smoothly with limited violence and fraud. More
than 40,000 combatants, mostly paramilitaries, have laid down their
arms. Despite the progress, the Uribe Administration recognizes the
need to reduce human rights violations further by beefing up the
judiciary, speeding up the judicial process and protecting more
at-risk union members, journalists and human rights workers. END

Drug Eradication and Interdiction

2. (SBU) Eradication of coca and poppy crops and interdiction of
cocaine and heroin reached record levels in 2006, and political
support for manual and aerial eradication continues to grow in
Colombia. President Uribe understands that manual eradication
cannot replace aerial eradication without a sharp increase in
expenditures, and he seeks a complementary approach using both
methods. The National Police and military forces seized over 203
metric tons of cocaine and coca base in 2006, a near-record
quantity, and destroyed 200 cocaine laboratories, also a record. We
continue to work with the GOC to refine our eradication strategy and
determine how best to transfer key tasks from the USG to the GOC.

3. (SBU) Our assistance to the GOC in improving its eradication
performance remains a key element of a nation-wide improvement in
security, as noted above. U.S. anti-narcotics assistance -
particularly through the Plan Colombia Helicopter Program, aka the
COLAR aviation program - enabled the GOC to project power throughout
the country, move to reassert the state's authority, and bring
security to areas where it had become entirely absent during the
decades of narcoterrorist dominance.


4. (SBU) President Uribe remains a strong supporter of the
U.S.-Colombia extradition relationship. Since taking office he has
approved over 550 extraditions to the United States, including
almost 100 cases so far in 2007.

U.S. Assistance

5. (SBU) In January, the GOC presented a Plan Colombia
"consolidation strategy" pledging a Colombian investment of $78
billion between 2007 and 2013. The proposal contains a heightened
emphasis on social development, assigning new resources to
consolidate governance, human rights, displaced people, and
Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities. It also aims to
reintegrate 42,000 demobilized ex-combatants and deserters and to
promote Colombia's competitiveness and licit exports. The GOC seeks
funding from the United States and European countries, but also
brings substantial resources of its own to the table. USG security
assistance combats drug trafficking and terrorism and includes
training, material aid, and technical assistance to security forces
and other institutions. It also provides support for GOC aviation,
essential for all programs - civilian or military - outside
Colombia's major cities.

6. (U) The USAID Mission in Colombia funds $139 million of programs
in four key strategic sectors: alternative development and economic
policy reform; justice reform, human rights, and strengthening

governance; demobilization and reintegration of illegal armed
groups; assistance to internally displaced persons (Colombia has
between 2 and 3 million displaced persons), Afro-Colombians and
other vulnerable populations.

--------------------------------------------- ---
Democratic Security Fosters Successful Elections
--------------------------------------------- ---

7. (U) The establishment of greater GOC territorial control and the
paramilitary demobilization allowed civil society and political
parties to operate more openly than ever before. In May 2006, the
leftist Polo Democratico candidate for president received 2.5
million votes, the highest level ever for a leftist candidate.
Colombia's October 28 local elections occurred without significant
violence or problems, according to the OAS, Embassy observers, and
local press. The GOC deployed 167,000 police and military to voting
sites, and electoral officials appeared well-organized overall. The
GOC and local officials quickly deployed security and investigative
officials to the few areas where allegations of fraud - or localized
violence - occurred. Elections centered on local issues and
alliances, and results did not represent a referendum on President
Uribe or other national politicians - though the Uribe coalition
fared well. Samuel Moreno of the Polo Democratico Party won the key
Bogota mayoral race. Observers told us candidates and parties
associated with the para-political scandal fared poorly overall -
though a few questionable candidates did win. Fighting between
security forces and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC) forced the postponement of voting in the small town of
Argelia, Cauca; though voting proceeded normally in the remainder of
the department.

Demobilization and Peace Process

8. (SBU) Over 32,000 former paramilitaries have demobilized since
2002, and a further 11,000 deserted from all illegal armed groups
(about one-half from the FARC). FARC desertions increased
significantly in 2007, and this has resulted in the largest
reintegration program ever attempted and operates while the GOC
continues to battle the FARC and the Army of National Liberation
(ELN). A small percentage of renegade former-United Self-defense
Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary members have joined new
criminal groups. Job creation remains a priority, but many of the
recently demobilized have few employable skills and need intense
psycho-social and vocational training before they can enter the
labor force. The GOC's reintegration program has significantly
increased the number of former combatants now employed or in
training. The GOC has identified increased investment in small and
medium enterprise development as a priority for promoting job
creation for demobilized ex-combatants.

9. (SBU) The Army of National Liberation (ELN) has negotiated with
the GOC for well over a year, so far without success and prospects
remain doubtful. Although the ELN retains hostages, their military
capability continues to decline. The FARC has refused to engage in
any meaningful peace talks, and recently killed eleven state
legislators they had held hostage. At the end of August, Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez visited Colombia to offer his assistance in
facilitating peace talks between the GOC and the FARC and ELN. He
will reportedly meet with FARC leadership this week in Venezuela.

--------------------------------------------- ----
Military Justice and Improved Human Rights Record
--------------------------------------------- ----

10. (SBU) The Uribe Administration continues to make progress on
human rights cases involving military abuse or collaboration with
paramilitaries. All members of the military and police receive
mandatory human rights training. Minister of Defense (MOD) Santos
identified military justice reform as a top priority; last month, he
named the first civilian - and the first woman - as director of the
Military Criminal Justice System. The UN Human Rights Commission
and private human rights groups all play active roles here.
Progress on certain high profile human rights cases against the
public security forces has gone agonizingly slow and injured the
GOC's reputation in the international community.

Positive Economic Outlook

11. (U) Significant gains in security have boosted the Colombian

economy. GDP growth in 2006 hit 6.8 percent, while 2007 first
semester growth reached 7.5 percent. Both exports and imports grew
more than 20 percent in 2006. The U.S. remains Colombia's largest
trade partner (approximately 40 percent of exports and 26 percent in
imports). Colombian exports to the U.S. have grown USD 1 billion
per year since the Andean Trade Preferences Act's (ATPA) renewal and
the expansion in late 2002, while U.S exports to Colombia increased
approximately USD 2 billion. The largest U.S. investors - Drummond
(coal), ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil - plan considerable expansion
due to the improved investment climate and security situation.
Investors from around the world continue investing or considering
investing in Colombia in large part because of the possibility of
unfettered access to the U.S. market provided under the Free Trade
Agreement (CTPA). In 2006, Foreign Direct Investment increased to
USD 8.9 billion, quadruple the 2002 level.

12. (SBU) The CTPA remains the GOC's highest economic priority.
The Colombian Congress ratified the CTPA in June and the
supplementary protocol on labor and environment in November, both
votes by substantial margins. The U.S. Congress has extended trade
preferences for Colombian exporters under the ATPA through February
2008. The Uribe Administration has redoubled efforts to win U.S.
Congressional support for CTPA approval. Visits in 2007 by
high-level USG officials, including President Bush, Secretary of
Defense Gates, Deputy Secretary Negroponte, USTR Schwab, OPIC CEO
Mosbacher, U/S Jeffery, and Commerce Secretary Gutierrez have
reassured them of the Administration's commitment, but the GOC
remains cognizant of the daunting political challenges ahead.


13. (U) Labor violence and impunity remain major concerns in
Colombia. In June 2006, the GOC, trade confederations and business
representatives signed a Tripartite Accord at the International
Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva, removing Colombia from
discussion in the ILO's Committee for Application of Standards for
the first time in 21 years. A resident ILO representative arrived
in Colombia in January 2007 to implement the agreement committing
the government to financing the ILO Special Technical Cooperation
program and allocating USD 1.5 million annually to the Fiscalia to
prosecute cases of violence against trade unionists. The GOC has
assigned nearly 100 prosecutors and investigators to this task.
Labor leaders and the UNHCR's local representative praise the

14. (U) Although trade unionists continue to fall victim to
violence for both political reasons and common crime, the GOC
remains determined to protect labor leaders. In 2006, the GOC's
Protection Program assisted over 1,500 trade unionists and 10,000
human rights activists, journalists, politicians, witnesses and
other individuals under threat. As a result, the murder rate for
trade unionists has dipped below that for the general population.
The GOC expects to spend some $34 million on protection in 2007.
Attorney General Mario Iguaran reaffirmed in August that his office
is committed to prosecuting cases of violence against labor. Under
his leadership the Attorney General's office focused resources for
the human rights office's sub-unit concentrating on prosecuting 352
priority labor violence cases. In those cases, the GOC has already
scored 12 convictions.

U.S. Hostages

15. (SBU) The three U.S. contractors captured by the FARC in
February 2003 remain the longest held U.S. hostages in the world.
Their safe release continues as our top priority. The Colombians
provide full assistance, and President Uribe has assured us that any
humanitarian exchange will include the U.S. hostages.


© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Euro Med Monitor: Syria Cross-border Aid Mechanism Extension Is Necessary For The Survival Of Millions

Permanent members of the UN Security Council should extend the cross-border aid to northwestern Syria, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said Tuesday in a statement...

Commonwealth Secretariat: Island Nations Urge Commonwealth Leaders To Bolster Ocean Climate Action
Small island nations are calling for strengthened global support for ocean and climate change action, just days before Commonwealth leaders convene in Kigali, Rwanda... More>>

Climate: ‘Surprise’ Early Heatwave In Europe, Harbinger Of Things To Come

Sweltering conditions in Europe have come earlier than expected this year but the bad news is, they’re the shape of things to come... More>>

World Vision: Deeply Concerned For Thousands Affected By Afghanistan Quake
World Vision is deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan in the wake of a powerful earthquake in the early hours of this morning... More>>

Malaysia: UN Experts Welcome Announcement To Abolish Mandatory Death Penalty

UN human rights experts* today commended an announcement made by the Malaysian government that it will abolish the country’s mandatory death penalty and encouraged Parliament to take concrete steps to pass the agreement into law... More>>

Ukraine: Bachelet Briefs Human Rights Council On Mariupol
Excellencies, Further to Human Rights Council resolution S-34/1 adopted at its 34th Special Session, I present you with an oral update on the grave human rights and humanitarian situation... More>>