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Cablegate: President Uribe Disavows Third Term, but Doubts

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id: 133834
date: 12/11/2007 21:20
refid: 07BOGOTA8478
origin: Embassy Bogota
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 07BOGOTA8430
header:
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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #8478/01 3452120
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P 112120Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0473
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 9656
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ DEC 9115
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 5704
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 0963
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6398
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4211
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCNDTA/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 1880


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C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 008478

SIPDIS

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/07/2017
TAGS: PGOV PINR CO
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT URIBE DISAVOWS THIRD TERM, BUT DOUBTS
REMAIN

REF: BOGOTA 8430

Classified By: Political Counselor John Creamer
Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: Public debate continues over whether
President Uribe will seek a second re-election in 2010.
Uribe has publicly said he will not do so, and presidential
political strategist Jose Obdulio Gaviria categorically told
us Uribe will not run again. Still, U Party Secretary
General Luis Giraldo continues to collect the signatures
needed to start the process to amend the constitution to
allow for a third Uribe term. Many believe Uribe wants to
keep the door open for a third term to delay lame duck status
and enhance his leverage in selecting a successor. Amending
the Constitution would likely require 12-18 months--meaning a
serious reelection effort would have to be underway by
mid-2008 to allow Uribe to stand in 2010. End Summary.

2. (C) President Uribe publicly said on November 28 that he
will not run again, noting that "to try and stay in power
would take away from the essence of democracy, and for that
reason, the country needs to start thinking about new
leaders." Presidential advisor Jose Obdulio Gaviria
privately told us December 7 "you can count on it," Uribe
will not seek a third term. Gaviria publicly said, "I can't
enter the soul of the President, but I would tell those that
want to succeed Alvaro Uribe to prepare themselves because
there is not going to be a re-election." U Party President
Carlos Garcia also said Uribe is not interested in running
again and that the U Party is considering other candidates
(see reftel).

3. (C) Gaviria told us Uribe understands he would pay a high
political, institutional, and personal price if he were to
run again. First Lady Lina Moreno has made clear she does
not want her husband to seek a third term, and other
observers note that the political deals required to achieve
reelection would jeopardize Uribe's legacy. Weekly magazine
Semana noted that a third Uribe term would risk comparisons
with Venezuelan President Chavez and raise questions about
his commitment to democratic principles. Any re-election
proposal would require support from Uribe's coalition
political parties in Congress, especially the Conservatives
and Cambio Radical. Leaders from both parties say they would
not support such an effort and want to run their own
candidates.

4. (C) Still, efforts to promote a third Uribe term continue.
U Party Secretary General Luis Giraldo announced prior to
the October 28 local elections that he would collect
signatures to start the constitutional amendment process to
allow for a third term. Despite Uribe's disavowal, Giraldo
says he will continue his campaign--which is in the
organizational phase. Gaviria told us Giraldo's efforts
enhance Uribe's leverage to choose his successor and ensure
the continuation of his policies. Garcia told us the
"referendum ploy" was a way for the U Party to garner support
in the October elections and to create more political space
for Uribe during the remainder of his second-term. Gaviria
added, however, that the lack of a clear Uribe successor
would lead center-right leaders and the business community to
press Uribe to stand again. Opinion polls show a slight
majority of Colombians would support a third term.

5. (U) Amending the constitution is difficult and would
require a minimum of 12 to 18 months to complete, according
to most experts. A serious amendment effort would have to be
underway by mid-2008 for Uribe to run in 2010. It can be
done in three ways: 1) Congress can pass a constitutional
change through two separate, consecutive rounds of four
debates in one Congressional year (session), with subsequent
approval of the change by the Constitutional Court; 2)
Congress can call a Constituent Assembly; and 3) signatures
can be gathered (equal to five percent of the population)
calling for a referendum. Congress and the Constitutional
Court must then approve the referendum language. Finally,
the change must be approved by 50 percent plus one of voters
in the referendum--with a minimum of twenty-five percent of
the voting population participating. The U Party effort
would utilize the third route.

Brownfield

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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