Cablegate: Scenesetter: Visit of Policy Planning Director,


DE RUEHBO #2597/01 1992254
P 172254Z JUL 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Your visit comes as Colombia celebrates major
victories in its fight against the Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia (FARC), continued strong economic growth, and an
expansion of democratic governance. Increased security has
led to an economic boom that has reduced poverty by 20
percent since 2002, cut unemployment by 25 percent, and
attracted record levels of investment. Almost 48,000
combatants, mostly paramilitaries, have laid down their arms
and are participating in GOC reintegration programs. The
captures or kills of key FARC leaders, the audacious rescue
of 15 high-profile FARC hostages--including three
Americans--and rising desertions have weakened Colombia's
largest terrorist group.

2. (SBU) Still, serious challenges remain as Colombia
consolidates the progress achieved to date. Socio-economic
inequality, weak GOC presence especially in rural areas, and
narcotrafficking will continue to require substantial GOC
attention and investment. Nonetheless, a more secure,
confident Colombia will play a larger role on regional and
international issues. Our continued commitment to
Colombia--through approval of the U.S.-Colombia Trade
Promotion Act (CTPA) and support for Plan Colombia--will help
lock in Colombia's democratic security gains, promote
regional stability, and create a Colombia that is a regional
and international force for deeper economic integration,
enhanced security cooperation, and stronger democratic
institutions. End Summary.

Successes of Democratic Security Policy

3. (U) President Uribe's democratic security policy and free
market economic reforms have created a more secure
environment and spurred the economy. Since 2002, homicides
have decreased by 40% -- its lowest point in twenty years --
while kidnappings have declined by 76%. GDP growth exceeded
7.5 percent in 2007, but is expected to return to its recent
average of 5 percent amid a slowing global economy in 2008.
Colombia's trade volume has grown more than 65 percent since
2003. The United States remains Colombia's largest trade
partner (approximately 34
percent of exports and 26 percent of imports). In 2007,
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) exceeded $7.5 billion, 350
percent greater than FDI in 2002.

4. (SBU) The GOC created the Centro de Coordinacion de Accion
Integral (CCAI) to integrate military, police, and civilian
programs into a single, coordinated effort to restore an
integral GOC presence in key conflict areas. The USG
provided $13.5 million to support CCAI activities in FY 2007,
and plans to provide over $10 million to CCAI activities for
the Consolidation Plan for Macarena, Meta Department (PCIM),
an area central to the fight against the FARC. The PCIM
calls for an integrated, interagency effort to regain state
control, foster economic development, and support civil
society. CCAI programs initially suffered from interagency
rivalries, but coordination has improved significantly of
late. Though some human rights groups criticize CCAI for
failing to involve local officials and civil society in its
projects, the project has strong support in Meta. You will
visit Macarena, which is the locus of current Colombian
military operations against the FARC, and speak with military
and civilian officials integral to the PCIM effort.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
Challenges: Strengthening Economy, Security, Democracy
--------------------------------------------- ---------

5. (SBU) Still, Colombia faces significant challenges as it
consolidates the progress achieved to date. Combating
inequality, fighting narcotrafficking, and promoting
social-economic development will require substantial
resources and attention in the years ahead. The GOC will
look for the continued partnership and support of the United
States, and will also seek regional allies to help it address
these issues.

6. (SBU) In its relationship with the United States,
ratification of the CTPA remains the Colombian government's
highest economic priority. Analysts estimate the agreement
with the United States would add between one and two
percent annual GDP growth to the local Colombian economy,
adding new jobs and contributing to President Uribe,s goal
of cutting the poverty rate from 45 percent to 35 percent by
2010. Colombia will also seek continued, but declining, U.S.
security assistance as it achieves greater economic growth
and social cohesion.

Regional Alliances and Tensions

7. (SBU) Colombia continues to ponder its role in the
region, but a more secure, prosperous Colombia will play a
more assertive role in Latin America and the world. Working
with like-minded countries such as Mexico, Peru,
and Chile, Colombia will seek to promote greater economic
integration through the creation of a web of free trade
agreements on the Americas' Pacific Coast. Colombia will
avoid ideological confrontation with its Bolivarian
neighbor due to their extensive border and economic ties, but
we expect Colombia to be a pragmatic advocate for
enhanced regional security cooperation and strengthened
democratic institutions in the region.

8. (SBU) Colombia,s commitment to free markets, democracy,
and close relations with the United States are an exception
to trends in the region. Following Colombia,s March 1
air-strike killing FARC senior leader Raul Reyes across the
border in Ecuador, Venezuela joined Ecuador in breaking
relations and deployed military forces to its border.
Venezuela called off the buildup after reaching agreement
with Colombia March 7 to reduce tensions and reestablish
commercial and diplomatic ties. Computers found in Raul
Reyes, camp have information that appears to implicate
Venezuelan and Ecuadorian government officials in providing
support to the FARC, as well as a wider than thought
international support network for the terrorist group. After
months of strained relations, President Uribe and President
Chavez met on July 11 and affirmed their commitment to
improve ties, but tensions remain over Venezuela's ambiguous
relations with the FARC. Ecuador and Colombia have yet to
restore relations.

9. (SBU) Colombia also seeks to play a greater role in the
international security architecture, as evidenced by its
willingness to contribute troops to the NATO effort in
Afghanistan. We expect the GOC to make available the
expertise developed in combating the FARC for international
peacekeeping efforts and other international security
activities in the years ahead, although financial constraints
will remain an issue.

U.S. Hostages

10. (SBU) An audacious Colombian military operation led to
the rescue of three U.S. contractors and twelve Colombians
held by the FARC. The three Americans were captured by the
FARC in February 2003 and were the longest held U.S. hostages
in the world at the time of their rescue. The Colombian
government worked closely with us on hostage issues, and U.S.
training of Colombian military personnel contributed to the
operation,s success. The FARC continues to hold 25
Colombian "political" hostages, as well as an estimated 700
economic hostages. The FARC is believed to continue to hold
a U.S. citizen who was kidnapped in Panama in April 2008, and
perhaps a Colombian-American dual national kidnapped in 2003,
though it has never provided proof of life.

Human Rights Record

11. (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.
In October 2006, Defense Minister Santos named the first
civilian -- and the first woman -- as director of the
Military Criminal Justice System. Santos has strongly backed
initiatives to deter extrajudicial killings,
changing promotion criteria to favor demobilization or
capture of illegal fighters, and ordering military
personnel to facilitate civilian investigations of all combat
deaths. Still, human rights groups allege that
security forces committed 955 extrajudicial killings over the
last five years.

U.S. Assistance

12. (SBU) In January 2007 the GOC presented a Plan Colombia
"consolidation strategy" pledging a Colombian
investment of $78 billion through 2013. The proposal
emphasizes the importance of building social cohesion, and
allocates substantial resources to help strengthen local
governance, protect human rights, and assist displaced
people, Afro-Colombians, and indigenous communities. It also
aims to reintegrate almost 48,000 demobilized
ex-fighters and deserters and to promote Colombia's licit
exports. The GOC seeks funding from the United States and
European countries to complement its own resources.

13. (SBU) Under Plan Colombia, the USG has provided more
than $5 billion in assistance, including $800 million in
economic and social assistance. USG security assistance
combats drug trafficking and terrorism through training,
equipment, and technical assistance. It supports Colombian
military aviation, essential for all programs - civilian or
military - outside Colombia's major cities. U.S. social and
economic aid focuses on alternative development, displaced
and other vulnerable communities, human rights and democratic
institutions, and reintegration of demobilized fighters.

Drug Eradication and Interdiction

14. (SBU) Eradication of coca and poppy crops and
interdiction of cocaine and heroin reached near-record
levels in 2007. President Uribe supports greater manual
eradication, but recognizes that continued aerial
eradication is also key. He seeks a complementary approach
using both methods. In 2008, the Colombian National Police
and military forces have set a brisk pace for cocaine, coca
base and marijuana seizures, and are on pace to set a record.
We work with the Colombian government to maximize our scarce
resources to achieve the eradication and interdiction
targets. We also continue our productive dialogue on how
best to transfer key tasks from the USG to the GOC.


15. (SBU) Since taking office, President Uribe has approved
over 750 extraditions to the United States,
including a record number of 164 in 2007. The Colombian
Government has extradited over 119 criminals to the United
States in 2008, including 15 former paramilitary leaders.

Demobilization and Peace Process

16. (SBU) Over 32,000 former paramilitaries have demobilized
since 2002, and a further 16,000 have deserted
from other illegal armed groups (about one-half from the
FARC). The Organization of American States (OAS) estimates
there are 30 new criminal groups numbering over 3000 members.
Reintegration programs and targeted law
enforcement are working to counter these groups. Under the

Justice and Peace Law (JPL) process, many former
paramilitary leaders have confessed their participation in
violent crimes. To date, the JPL process has revealed the
location of the graves of almost 1,200 paramilitary victims
and provided information on 3,600 crimes. Over 120,000
victims have registered under the JPL, with the GOC working
on measures to accelerate payment of reparations. The Supreme
Court and the Fiscalia--with GOC support--continue to
investigate politicians with alleged paramilitary ties; 68
Congressmen, 23 mayors, and 14 governors have been implicated
in the scandal.

17. (SBU) The National Liberation Army (ELN) has negotiated
with the Colombian government for over two years
on a cease-fire, but ELN infighting and FARC pressure have
prevented a deal. The ELN kidnaps civilians to fund its
operations, but its military capability is declining. The
FARC has rebuffed GOC overtures to engage in meaningful
peace talks, most recently rejecting GOC negotiator Luis
Carlos Restrepo,s efforts to establish direct talks earlier
in July.

© Scoop Media

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