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Cablegate: U Party Remains Divided Heading Into 2010

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ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 101439Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0432
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 9639
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ DEC 9103
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 5692
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 0956
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6384
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4202
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 008430

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/10/2017
TAGS: PGOV PINR CO
SUBJECT: U PARTY REMAINS DIVIDED HEADING INTO 2010


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SUMMARY
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1. (C) The U Party continues to consolidate its party
structure following the October local elections, with Party
leaders focused on quashing internal dissent and developing a
plan to enable it to maintain strong ties with whoever wins
the 2010 presidential elections. Still, the Party's poor
relations with President Uribe and the Casa de Narino mean
its leaders will likely have little influence in deciding who
will represent "Uribismo" 2010. Presidential advisor and
political strategist Jose ObdulioGavaria predicts the Party
will disappear after 2010. End Summary

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U PARTY IN LOCAL ELECTIONS
--------------------------

2. (C) The U Party fared well October 28 in its first effort
in local elections, picking up 7 gubernatorial seats in the
Departments of Meta, Magdalena, Choco, Casanare, Guainia,
Vichada and Sucre, and 3 mayoral seats in departmental
capitols (Quibdo, Puerto Inirida, and Pereira). In total
number of votes, the U Party came in third, just behind the
more established Conservative and Liberal Parties. Senator
Carlos Garcia, president of the U Party, told us the party
succeeded in consolidating a regional base, which will
strengthen the party leading up to the 2010 presidential
elections.

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UNITY AND LEADERSHIP
--------------------

3. (C) The U Party remains fractured, with an "all chiefs and
noindians" structure that has crippled its ability to
develop a coherent platform--apart from support for President
Uribe. A dissident group within the Party--former Party
President and Senator Marta Lucia Ramirez, Senator Gina
Pardoli, Senator Armando Bendetti and Deptuy Nicolas
Uribe--say Party leaders abandoned President Uribe's
political reform agenda in favor of traditional backroom
political deals, shady political ties, and manipulation of
internal party rules to stifle party democracy. They blame
Garcia for focusing on jobs for the boys and supporting
candidates with paramilitary links in the October local
elections. They also criticize U Party founders and current
cabinet members Juan Manuel Santos and Oscar Ivan Zuluaga for
largely withdrawing from internal Party politics.

4. (C) Garcia told us the dissidents are unhappy because
they have lost senior positions within the Party, and
represent a small but vocal minority. He confirmed the Party
will hold a congress on December 13, aimed at refining party
rules and setting the stage for possible disciplinary
actions--or even expulsion--of the dissidents. President
Uribe interceded on behalf of the dissidents in October, but
Garcia told us party rank-in-file members have exhausted
their patience. The dissidents need to fall in line or face
the consequences.

5. (C) JaimeRestrepo, U Party Spokesman in the House,
acknowledged the dissidents' complaints, but said they need
to voice those concerns within the party rather than to the
media. Uribe added that he is pessimistic about the party's
future. He plans to push for a long-shot reform bill that
would allow himself (and others in Congress) to switch
political parties while serving in Congress. Current law
requires legislators to leave Congress if they change party
allegiance.

-----------------------------
RELATIONS WITH CASA DE NARINO
-----------------------------

6. (C) It remains unclear how close the U Party is to
President Uribe and the Casa de Narino. Garcia and Restrepo
claim there is a close relationship, but presidential advisor
Jose ObdulioGaviria told us communication between the Party
and the presidency is poor. He said Uribe set up the Party
to give him a solid congressional base, but complained the
Party does not support President Uribe's programs or
policies. It is not an effective vehicle for preserving the
President's legacy. He predicted the Party will disappear
after the 2010 presidential elections. Former presidential
advisor Nicolas Uribe agreed the Party-Presidential
relationship is weak, noting that the "Casa Narino sets its
own policy and does not care whether they have support or
friends in Congress, including from the U Party."

---------------------------
2010 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
---------------------------

7. (C) U Party leaders recognize the 2010 presidential
elections will likely determine the Party's fate. Despite
the tensions with President Uribe, some party leaders support
a third term for the president and Party Secretary General
Luis Guillermo Giraldo has publicly launched a drive to
collect the signatures needed to push for a constitutional
amending allowing Uribe to run again (see septel). Other
leaders are trying to recruit a candidate, such as outgoing
Medellin Mayor and political independent Sergio Fajardo, who
could win Uribe's blessing and maintain his coalition.
Garcia told us the U Party's weaknesses--its newness and lack
of coherent political ideology--may be its greatest asset, as
the U Party can be a natural fit for any candidate. Still,
the Party's tenuous ties with the President and sharp
internal divisions means its leaders are likely to have
little influence in deciding who will represent "Uribismo" in
2010.

Brownfield

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

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