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Cablegate: Ambassador's Visit to Cauca, July 30, 2008

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DE RUEHBO #3181/01 2402323
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 272323Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4420
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 8347
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ AUG LIMA 6499
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 2211
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 7184
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS BOGOTA 003181

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

TAGS: PGOV EAID PHUM EINV ETRD PTER PREL ECON CO

E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S VISIT TO CAUCA, JULY 30, 2008

1. (U) SUMMARY: The Ambassador traveled on July 30 to the Department
of Cauca to meet with local political, security, and civil society
representatives, as well as to visit USAID sponsored sites in and
around Popayan, Cauca. During his visit he emphasized the
U.S.-Colombia partnership in matters of security and development.
The Ambassador received a briefing on military and counter-narcotics
operations in the region from Brigadier General Alfonso Barrero. He
and USAID Mission Director Susan Reichle visited three USAID
partnered projects: a water treatment facility, a specialty coffee
farm, and a community social services center. The Ambassador also
had lunch with the governor of Cauca, the mayor of Popayan, the
rector of the University of Cauca, members of the Chamber of
Commerce of Cauca, and members of the department's governing
council. Governor Guillermo Alberto Gonzalez accompanied the
Ambassador throughout the day.

Security and Military Operations in Cauca
-----------------------------------------
2. (SBU) Brigadier General Leonardo Alfonso Barrero Cordillo of the
29th Colombian Army Brigade briefed Ambassador Brownfield on the
progress of security in Cauca, highlighting the increase in
demobilized, captured, and killed guerillas in the region. Barrero
said that they had already captured 266 guerillas in 2008 compared
to 332 in all of 2007. In addition, he pointed out that their
specific targeting of narcotics trafficking has resulted in the
capture 1,209 kilos of processed cocaine in 2008 compared to 409
kilos in 2007 and the destruction of 97 drug laboratories so far in
2008 compared to 164 for all of 2007. Barrero also lauded the
partnership between the Colombian military and the US MILGRP which
has helped fund the construction of a health center, a school, and
an emergency room in Corinto, Cauca that will open soon.

3. (SBU) Ambassador asked about reports of tension between the army
and indigenous communities in Cauca. Barrero admitted to some
tension. He attributed it to two factors: 1) young indigenous
leaders from the far left in some communities, and 2) land title
disputes between some indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.


Partnerships Promote Opportunity, Development and Access to
Services
--------------------------------------------- ----------

4. (U) The Ambassador visited three USAID projects in the Popayan
area that have increased local access to services for vulnerable
populations and alternative development. The Ambassador toured the
Rio Negro Water Treatment Facility. USAID contributed US$300,000 to
the US$454,000 project which resulted in the construction of the
largest water treatment plant in the country that uses a
non-chemical treatment process. The water treatment facility
benefits 7,000 people including vulnerable families as well as 1,224
internally displaced persons (IDPs) across three municipalities.
The local community supported the project and is responsible for its
construction, management and ongoing operations. The Ambassador
spoke with a number of key community leaders involved in the project
as well as vulnerable and internally displaced beneficiaries of the
facility.

5. (U) The Ambassador visited a coffee farm that participates in
USAID's Specialty Coffee Program 'CAFES'. The CAFES program
provides an economic alternative to coca by working with thousands
of specialty coffee farmers across Colombia, their producer
associations, and international and Colombian specialty coffee
private sector entities to open new market niches for specialty
coffee. USAID assistance reaches more than 10% of the 80,000 coffee
farmers in Cauca. The Ambassador was given a tour by the farm owner
and was accompanied by the governor, a Cauca representative of the
National Coffee Federation and USAID's local partners. The tour
highlighted how coffee is grown and processed, the benefits of
specialty coffee, and accompanying food security activities. Media
was present for the tour and subsequent coffee tasting ceremony
where local specialty coffees were graded for quality.

6. (U) The Ambassador concluded his visit to Popayan with a stop at
the Centro de Atencion Integral de la Familia (CAIF), a community
social services center that benefits the local internally displaced
and vulnerable population. CAIF's construction was funded by USAID,
FundaColombia(Coca-Cola Foundation) and Cauca's Pension Social Fund
(COMFACAUCA) to provide integrated social services to vulnerable
families and IDP's, including nutrition, training for parents,
childcare, and social and cultural activities for children. The
CAIF benefits 532 children, 192 parents, and 50 pregnant women

Positive Press Coverage
-----------------------
6. (U) The Ambassador's visit received extensive local print and
broadcast coverage, which served to emphasize USG soft side support
to the southeastern Department of Cauca. PAS organized an exclusive
interview with Popayan's main daily, El Liberal
(traditionalist/liberalist editorial line; readership 75,000), which
ran under the headline "A Visit with a Coffee Aroma" and featured
the Ambassador's visit to the coffee farm. RCN Radio (listeners
607,300) also featured the Ambassador's visit to CAIF. Press
coverage allowed us to deliver basic public affairs messages about
US support for vulnerable communities, alternatives to illicit
drugs, trade and investment opportunities, and the "soft side" of US
support for Colombia.

8. COMMENT: Cauca is a front line department in many of Colombia's
strategic challenges. It has many IDP's, large Afro-Colombian and
indigenous communities, residual FARC along its Pacific coast and
eastern sectors, and some remaining coca production. It is, in
short, Colombia's national challenge in microcosm. This visit
suggests they are moving in the right direction on their
challenges.

BROWNFIELD

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