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Cablegate: Uribe Continues to Keep All Options Open On

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id: 170996
date: 9/22/2008 19:25
refid: 08BOGOTA3537
origin: Embassy Bogota
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination:
header:
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DE RUEHBO #3537/01 2661925
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 221925Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
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INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 8391
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1028
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 6573
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 2348
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 7253
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY


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C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 003537

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/19/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PTER PHUM CO
SUBJECT: URIBE CONTINUES TO KEEP ALL OPTIONS OPEN ON
POSSIBLE THIRD TERM

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

SUMMARY
-------
1. (C) President Uribe continues to keep all options open on
a possible third presidential term. He urged Congress to
shelve the proposal for a constitutional change to allow a
third term after it was presented on September 10, but
congressional leaders said Congress is legally required to
consider the initiative. Uribe also intimated he would not
run for a third term, or might delay a reelection bid until
2014, if his congressional coalition named a single Uribista
candidate. Still, coalition leaders tell us it would be very
difficult for the fractious Uribe coalition to agree on a
unified candidate Third term initiative leader Guillermo
Giraldo predicted Uribe would run in 2010, and said the first
congressional votes on the initiative would occur in
mid-October. He dismissed the 2014 option, arguing that
Uribe would face strong resistance from whoever was the
incumbent. End summary.

URIBE KEEPING HIS OPTIONS OPEN
------------------------------
2. (C) President Uribe continues to keep all options open as
the initiative to amend the constitution to allow for a
possible third Uribe term makes it way through Congress.
Uribe said on September 10--the day the reelection proposal
was presented in Congress--that he wanted Congress to put the
reelection proposal on the back burner so it could focus on
pending judicial and political reform bills. He also
suggested he might defer any reelection ambitions until 2014.
Uribe heightened the uncertainty on September 17, saying he
was inclined not to run for a third term, but only if his
fractious coalition reached agreement on a single "Uribista"
presidential candidate.

3. (C) Still, House of Representatives President German
Varon (Cambio Radical) and third term initiative leader
Guillermo Giraldo (U Party) told us Uribe's statements were
tactics to deflect third term critics. Conservative Party
leader Efrain Cepeda, Giraldo, and Varon told us it would be
very hard for the coalition to unite around a single
candidate given the presidential ambitions of Cambio Radical
leader German Vargas, Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos,
Ambassador to the United Kingdom Noemi Sanin, and others.
Cepeda said that if Uribe did not run, the election could be
contested by five or more Uribista candidates--creating the
prospect of a victory by a leftist candidate such as former
Bogota Mayor Lucho Garzon and likely prompting another Uribe
presidential bid.

4. (C) Former Senate President Nancy Gutierrez agreed that
Uribe's refusal to clarify his third term intentions is
designed to ensure that numerous coalition candidates move
forward, making a unified candidate unlikely. U Party
Senator Martha Lucia Ramirez, who is planning her own
candidacy, said despite his oft-stated claims to want a
unified coalition candidate, Uribe has done nothing to
promote such a goal. Journalist Mauricio Vargas, who is
close to Uribe, told us the president "does not want to be
close" to any contenders, including Uribista candidates,
because such distance would facilitate an Uribe third term
campaign in either 2010 or 2014. Giraldo contended that
Uribe could not wait until 2014, since any incumbent--even an
Uribista--would likely seek his or her own second term.

URIBE AS FDR?
-------------
5. (C) Giraldo told us he and Uribe agreed when the
reelection effort began that they would not discuss Uribe's
intentions so Giraldo could maintain "plausible deniability."
He explained that Uribe is following President Franklin D.
Roosevelt's 1940 strategy of "sitting back and waiting until
a last minute clamor from the people" forces him to run.
Giraldo noted that under the Law of Guarantees (Ley de
Garantias), Uribe could delay any presidential announcement
until November 2009, six months before the May 2010
presidential elections. Still, most observers think Uribe
would have to actively campaign to generate the 25% turnout
of registered voters (approximately 7 million) required to

make the constitutional referendum valid. Several Casa de
Narino insiders tell us Uribe will need to declare his
intentions even earlier to ensure congressional passage of
the initiative before the end of the year.

FIRST CONGRESSIONAL VOTES COULD OCCUR IN MID-OCTOBER
--------------------------------------------- -------
6. (U) The third term proposal language being considered by
Congress has also raised doubts about Uribe's intentions,
with some legislators arguing that the current language would
preclude a 2010 Uribe candidacy. Giraldo acknowledged the
issue, but told us Congress could modify the language to
remove any uncertainty. He said that despite Uribe's request
that Congress drop the referendum issue, Congress is legally
required to consider the measure as the first order of a
business, since it is the result of a popular initiative. He
expects the first two of the required four congressional
votes to happen in mid-October.
BROWNFIELD

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

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