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Cablegate: Scenesetter for December 7-9 Visit of Deputy

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SIPDIS

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SIPDIS

COMMERCE FOR DAS FOR DOMESTIC OPERATIONS LITKENHAUS

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TAGS: OVIP ETRD PREL ELAB PHUM PTER PREF CO
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR DECEMBER 7-9 VISIT OF DEPUTY
SECRETARY OF STATE NEGROPONTE AND CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION

SIPDIS

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Summary
-------

1. (SBU) Your return to Colombia comes as the Uribe
Administration continues building a safer, economically
stronger, better governed and more democratic country.
Murder rates declined 40 percent since 2002, violence against
union members fell over 60 percent, and kidnapping rates
plummeted 76 percent. Increased security has led to an
economic boom, registering 7.5 percent growth for the first
semester of 2007, and poverty levels dropped 20 percent.
More than 40,000 combatants, mostly paramilitaries, laid down
their arms since 2002, and the Uribe Administration has
focused aggressively on reducing human rights violations.
The Government beefed up the judiciary, reformed the judicial
process, and protected at risk union members, journalists and
human rights workers. Venezuelan President Chavez' November
decision to put relations with Colombia "in the freezer" and
his ad hominem attacks on President Uribe have sharpened the
importance of strong relations with the United States in the
minds of most Colombians. The delay in U.S. ratification of
the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Act (CTPA) has raised
concern about our commitment to Colombia. CTPA will likely
create hundreds of thousands of jobs for citizens now
vulnerable to terrorist or narco recruitment.

2. (U) On this trip your delegation will witness first hand
those dramatic changes. In Medellin you will speak with
demobilized persons and see the dramatic security and
economic improvements that occurred in previously one of the
most violent cities on earth. In Bogota you will meet with
President Uribe to hear his positive vision for Colombia and
U.S. relations in the region, as well as the continuing
challenges posed by narcotrafficking and the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). End Summary.

-------------------------
Positive Economic Outlook
-------------------------

3. (U) Significant gains in security have helped boost the
Colombian economy, with GDP growth in 2007 near 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. Total
foreign direct investment in Colombia has quadrupled since
2002, reaching some USD 8 billion in 2007. The largest U.S.
investors - Drummond (coal), ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil -
plan considerable expansion due to the improved investment
climate and security situation.

4. (SBU) The CTPA remains the Colombian government's highest
economic priority, and Colombians remain bewildered over the
U.S. delay in passage since Colombian consider themselves
staunch U.S. allies in a complex region. The Colombian
Congress ratified the CTPA in June by a substantial margin.
Our Congress 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, and hosted visits by
President Bush, Defense Secretary Gates, Commerce Secretary
Gutierrez, U.S. Trade Representative Schwab, Overseas Private
Investment Cooperation CEO Mosbacher, and Senate Majority
Leader Reid in 2007.

-------------------
Democratic Security
-------------------

5. (U) Increased security and the paramilitary demobilization
has achieved tangible results. Colombians from all walks of
like will tell you that for the first time in decades they
can drive across the country without fear of kidnapping or
vote in elections without intimidation from armed groups.
Civil society and political parties 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 Organization of
American States. More than 80,000 victims stepped forward in
the new more secure Colombia to denounce paramilitary crimes,
and Uribe and the Courts have aggressively pursued
investigations against almost 50 members of the Colombian

Congress for alleged paramilitary ties.

-----
Labor
-----

6. (U) Violence against trade unionist has declined
dramatically under Uribe, but impunity remains a major
concern. Colombia developed excellent relations with the
International Labor Organization (ILO), and in 2006 the ILO
recognized Colombia's progress and removed it 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, which commits the government to finance the ILO
Special Technical Cooperation program and allocate USD 1.5
million annually to the prosecute cases of violence against
trade unionists. The GOC has assigned nearly 100 prosecutors
and investigators to a special unit dedicated to this task in
the Prosecutor's office. Labor leaders and the UN High
Commission on Human Right's (UNHCHR) local representative
praised the initiative.

7. (U) The Colombian government has taken several steps to
protect labor leaders and prosecute those responsible for
union violence. In 2006, the Colombian government protected
10,000 human rights activists and other individual at risk,
including over 1,500 union members. The Colombian government
plans to spend USD 35 million on protection in 2007. You
will meet Prosecutor General Mario Iguaran who has reaffirmed
to us that his office remains committed to prosecuting cases
of violence against labor. Since 2001, the Colombian
government has won convictions in 56 cases of violence
against union members, resulting in sentences against 118
suspects.

---------------
U.S. Assistance
---------------

8. (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.

9. (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 funded
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
----------------------------------

10. (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
--------------------------------------------- ----

11. (SBU) The Uribe Administration remains strongly committed
to progress on human rights, and to eliminating military
abuses or collaboration with armed groups. Members of the
military and police receive mandatory human rights training.
Minister of Defense Juan Manuel Santos has made military
justice reform a top priority; in October, he named the first
civilian - and the first woman - as director of the Military
Criminal Justice System. Santos has also taken steps to
eliminate extrajudicial killings by security forces. The
UNHCHR and human rights groups all play active roles here.

-----------
Extradition
-----------

12. (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
---------------------------------

13. (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 FARC). This has
resulted in the largest reintegration program ever attempted
and operates while the Colombian government continues to
battle the FARC and National Liberation Army (ELN). A small
number of renegade former-United Self-Defense Forces of
Colombia (AUC) members have joined new criminal groups
focused on drug trafficking. The Colombian government has
identified increased investment in small and medium
enterprise development as a priority for promoting job
creation for demobilized ex-combatants.

14. (SBU) The ELN has negotiated with the Colombian
government for almost two years, but prospects for success
remain doubtful. The ELN still uses kidnapping to finance
its operations, but their military capability continues to
decline. The FARC has refused to engage in any meaningful
peace talks, and in June killed eleven state legislators that
they had held hostage. At the end of August, Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez offered his assistance in facilitating
peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC and
ELN, and on November 6, Chavez met with FARC Secretariat
member "Ivan Marquez" in Caracas. President Uribe ended the
Chavez effort on November 21 citing a lack of results and
Chavez' failure to adhere to rules of the game he had agreed
to with GOC. Chavez reacted by freezing relations with
Colombia, withdrawing his ambassador to Colombia, and
launching a series of personal attacks ion President
Uribe--calling him a traitor and "pawn of the imperialist."


-------------
U.S. Hostages
-------------

15. (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 he will include the U.S. hostages in any
exchange. On November 29, GOC security services detained
three suspected members of the FARC and discovered video,
photos and letters for 16 FARC-held hostages, including the
Americans--the first visual proof of life for the American
hostages since 2003.
Nichols

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