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Cablegate: Scenesetter for the Visit of Senate Majority


DE RUEHBO #8200/01 3252119
P 212119Z NOV 07




E.O. 12958: N/A


1.(SBU) Your delegation will visit Colombia far safer,
economically stronger, better governed and more democratic
than it has been in decades. Many Colombians will not only
say that the Colombia of today is better than any other time
in their lives, but also in the lifetime of their parents.
During your visit, you will have the opportunity to see how
broadly the improvements extend. Murder rates have declined
40 percent since 2002. Murders of union members has dropped
even faster; falling 70 percent during the same period.
Kidnapping rates, a scourge of even the middle class, have
plummeted 76 percent. The Government maintains a presence in
all municipalities for the first time in memory. Increased
security has led to an economic boom, registering 7.5% growth
for the first semester of 2007 after reaching 6.8% in 2006.
The economic expansion has reduced poverty by 20 percent
since 2002. The regional elections on October 28, went
smoothly with limited violence or fraud. Increased security
permitted more competitive elections with an 11% increase in
the number of candidates. More than 40,000 combatants, mostly
paramilitaries, have laid down their arms. Despite all that,
Colombians recognize that much remains to do. The Uribe
Administration has focused aggressively on reducing human
rights violations by beefing up the judiciary, speeding up
the judicial process and protecting at risk union members,
journalists and human rights workers. The delay in U.S.
congressional approval of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion
Act (CTPA) has raised concern about the commitment of the USG
to Colombia. Studies estimate that the CTPA will create
hundreds of thousands of jobs in Colombia; jobs that will
employ the ex-coca growers and poorly-educated population of
young men that demobilize from illegal armed groups. End

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Positive Economic Outlook

2.(U) Significant gains in security have helped boost 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 of imports). Colombian
exports to the U.S. have grown USD 1 billion per year since
the Andean Trade Preferences Act's (ATPA) renewal and
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 consider investing in Colombia in
large part because of the possibility of unfettered access to
the U.S. market provided under the free trade agreement. In
2006, Foreign Direct Investment increased to USD 8.9 billion,
quadruple the FDI in 2002.

3.(SBU) The CTPA remains the Colombian government's highest
economic priority. The Colombian Congress ratified the CTPA
in June by a substantial margin, and Colombia's
Constitutional Court continues to review the Agreement. 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, Defense
Secretary Gates, Commerce Secretary Gutierrez, U.S. Trade

Representative Schwab, Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte,
and Overseas Private Investment Cooperation CEO Mosbacher,
have reassured them of the Administration's commitment, but
the Colombian government remains cognizant of the daunting
political challenges ahead.

Democratic Security

4.(U) The establishment of greater Colombian government
territorial control and the paramilitary demobilization have
allowed civil society and political parties to operate more
openly than ever before. In May 2006, the leftist Polo
Democratico candidate for president received over 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, although violence claimed
the lives of more than 30 candidates during the campaign
period. The Colombian government deployed 167,000 police and
military to voting sites, and electoral officials appeared
well organized. The Colombian government and local officials

quickly deployed security and investigative officials to the
few areas where allegations of fraud ) or localized violence
) occurred. The 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.


5.(U) Labor violence and impunity remain major concerns in
Colombia. In June 2006, the Colombian government, 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 the 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 Colombian government
has assigned nearly 100 prosecutors and investigators to this
task. Labor leaders and the UNHCHR's local representative
praise the initiative.

6.(U) Although trade unionists continue to fall victim to
violence for both political reasons and common crime, the
Colombian government is determined to protect labor leaders.
In 2006, the Colombian government's Protection Program
assisted over 1,500 trade unionists and 10,000 human rights
activists, journalists, politicians, witnesses and other
individuals under threat. The Colombian government expects to
spend some USD 34 million on protection in 2007. You will
meet Attorney General Mario Iguaran who has reaffirmed to us
that his office remains committed to prosecuting cases of
violence against labor. Under his leadership, the Attorney
General's office has focused resources for the human rights
office's 13 prosecutor sub-unit concentrating on prosecuting
187 priority labor violence cases. Since 2001, the Colombian
government has won convictions in 56 cases of violence
against union members, resulting in sentences against 118

U.S. Assistance

7.(SBU) In January, the Colombian government presented a Plan
Colombia "consolidation strategy" pledging a Colombian
investment of USD 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 Colombian government 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 Colombian
government aviation, essential for all programs)civilian or
military*outside Colombia's major cities.

8.(U) Under Plan Colombia, the USG provided more than USD 600
million in economic and social assistance over the past seven
years. In FY2007, the USAID Mission in Colombia funds USD
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. The USAID Mission has
coordinated closely with other sections of the Embassy to
strengthen the integration of security, counter-narcotics and
economic assistance.

Drug Eradication and Interdiction

9.(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 Colombian government to refine our
eradication strategy and determine how best to transfer key
tasks from the USG to the Colombian government.

--------------------------------------------- ----
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 has identified military
justice reform as a top priority; in October, he named the
first civilian - and the first woman - as director of the
Military Criminal Justice System. In January 2007, Santos
relieved Colonel Hernan Mejia Gutierrez, a highly
decorated colonel, from command of the 13th Mobile Brigade
due to allegations tying him to former paramilitary leader
Jorge 40. This marked the first time a MOD had taken such
action against an active commander for alleged paramilitary
ties. 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 has injured the
Colombian governments reputation in the international


11.(SBU) President Uribe remains a strong supporter of the
U.S.-Colombia extradition relationship. Since taking office,
he has approved over 565 extraditions to the United States
including 154 cases so far in 2007, a new record.

Demobilization and Peace Process

12.(SBU) Over 32,000 former paramilitaries have demobilized
since 2002, and a further 11,000 have deserted other illegal
armed groups (about one-half from the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC)). FARC desertions increased
significantly in 2007, and this has resulted in the largest
such reintegration program ever attempted and operates while
the Colombian government continues to battle the FARC and
National Liberation Army (ELN). A small percentage of
renegade former-United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)
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 Colombian government's reintegration program
significantly increased the number of former combatants now
employed or in training. The Colombian government has
identified increased investment in small and medium
enterprise development as a priority for promoting job
creation for demobilized ex-combatants.

13.(SBU) The ELN has negotiated with the Colombian government
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 that 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 Colombian government and the FARC and
ELN. On November 6, Chavez met with FARC Secretariat member
"Ivan Marquez" in Caracas.

U.S. Hostages

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

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