Cablegate: Scenesetter for Sept 30-Oct 1 Visit of U/S James


DE RUEHBO #3603/01 2692230
P 252230Z SEP 08



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) With U.S. assistance, Colombia finds itself safer,
economically stronger, better governed, and more democratic
than it has been in decades. Rates of murder, kidnapping,
and violence nationwide have fallen sharply. The captures or
kills of several leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC) and rising desertions have weakened
Colombia's largest terrorist group. More than 45,000
combatants, mostly former right-wing paramilitaries, have
laid down their arms, and many are participating in GOC
reintegration programs. FARC desertions hit a record 2480 in
2007, and 1278 have deserted through May 2008. Still,
Colombia remains a work in progress. Consolidating recent
gains and making further advances on governance, human
rights, security, and poverty reduction represent the
greatest challenges for the remainder of the Uribe
Administration. Our continued commitment to Colombia will
help lock in Colombia's democratic security gains, promote
regional stability, and contribute to a Colombia that
provides security and opportunity to all of its citizens.
End Summary.

Democratic Security

2. (U) The establishment of greater Colombian government
territorial control and the demobilization of 32,000
paramilitaries have created the space for civil society and
political parties to operate more openly than ever before.
The GOC maintains a police presence in all 1099
municipalities for the first time in history. Increased
security of roads and highways have allowed for greater
freedom of movement of people and commerce. Murders fell
from over 29,000 in 2002 to less than 17,000 in 2007, and
kidnappings fell from over 2,800 a year to less than 600
during the same period. Local elections in October 2007
reflected the improved security with over 86,000 candidates

3. (SBU) During 2008, FARC leader Manuel Marulanda
("Tirofijo") died, the military killed key FARC Secretariat
member Raul Reyes in a daring operation in Ecuador, notorious
FARC commander Nelly Avila Moreno ("Karina") deserted, and
the military rescued three American hostages, former
presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, and eleven others.
These successes have further demoralized the morale of FARC
rank-and-file morale, leading to increased desertions. The
military is focusing its efforts on attacking FARC in Meta,
Tolima, and Valle de Cauca departments. Colombian National
Police (CNP) say the FARC's urban terrorist capabilities have
been weakened, but Colombian security forces remain concerned
over FARC efforts to launch attacks in urban areas. The FARC
recently destroyed the court house in Cali, Colombia's third
largest city. FARC collusion with new narcotrafficking
organizations has increased in many areas of the country,
especially in Meta and on the Pacific Coast.

GOC Moving Forward with Consolidation

4. (U) In 2004, the GOC created the Center for Coordinated
and Integrated Action (CCAI), an interagency committee led by
Vice-Minister of Defense Sergio Jaramillo and Accion Social
Director Luis Alfonso Hoyos, to promote short-term social and
economic development in priority areas where Colombian
security forces have reestablished security. Still, the
presence in post-conflict areas by civilian institutions
remains weak or nonexistent. CCAI's creation reflected the
GOC's recognition that a purely military response to the FARC
and paramilitary threats was insufficient to solve the
country's security problems. Instead, GOC officials
understood the GOC needed to complement the military effort
with programs to establish a permanent police and government
presence in newly secured areas. CCAI focuses on the
departments of Meta, Choco, Cesar, Magdalena, Antioquia, and
Norte de Santander-- which are centers of FARC or other
terrorist activity.

5. (U) Military and civilian officials agree that CCAI is the
mechanism that will allow the GOC to reestablish state
presence in conflict and post-conflict zones. Still, more
resources and support from across the GOC bureaucracy are
needed for successful implementation. CCAI continues to lack
sufficient staff and budget authority to fully manage its
vast range of responsibilities, and individual ministries
resist surrendering control of resources. Key issues such as
transitioning responsibility for security from the military
to the police, developing a viable legal economy, and
extending health and education services can not be managed by
the Defense Ministry alone. The Defense Ministry is leading
an effort to better integrate civilian agencies into the

6. (SBU) CCAI's flagship effort--the Consolidation Plan for
Macarena (PCIM)--aims to establish permanent GOC control over
the FARC's old strongholds in the Macarena region of Meta
department. With funding from the U.S. Military Group,
construction began on a Fusion Center (CFI)--PCIM's
civilian-military headquarters--in early September after a
year-long delay due to CCAI organizational issues. The CFI
is set for completion by late October, and will provide a
secure site for GOC civilian staff. The delay led to backups
in staffing the Center, especially from the Prosecutor
General's Office (Fiscalia). CFI staff are meant to be the
on-the-ground implementers in Meta, but the Center will
require more robust support from civilian agencies (legal,
judicial and agricultural) if it is to respond to community
demands for more civilian services and development in the
near term.

FARC Demobilization and Deserters on the Rise

7. (SBU) The Ministry of Defense's $21 million budget for
humanitarian aid, rewards, and public outreach continue to
promote FARC desertions. FARC desertions hit a record 2480
in 2007, and 1278 have deserted through May 2008. Still,
Colombia's constitutional prohibition against granting
amnesty or a pardon to individuals alleged to have committed
gross human rights abuses complicate GOC efforts to persuade
senior FARC commanders to demobilize. On June 13, Uribe
announced that the GOC would not extradite FARC members who
freed hostages and would facilitate their passage to a third
country. Several senior FARC members have reportedly voiced
interest in demobilizing with some of the FARC's hostages if
they are assured they would not serve any jail time. French
President Nicolas Sarkozy told Uribe in New York on September
22 that France would accept the FARC members who desert with

8. (U) Sustained, targeted Colombian military
pressure--coupled with the demobilization program--have also
improved the "quality" of FARC deserters. The deaths of FARC
Secretariat members Manuel Marulanda, Ivan Rios, and Raul
Reyes in recent months, along with the desertion of FARC 47th
Front leader Karina, have hit FARC morale and encouraged
further desertions. In September, Karina entered the Justice
and Peace Law process as provided for in Decree 1059 which
offers FARC deserters similar legal benefits (reduced jail
times) to those given to demobilized paramilitaries. MOD
officials told us Karina would be charged for seven crimes
against humanity.

GOC Revamps Reintegration Programs

9. (U) The High Commissioner for Reintegration Office (ACR)
has assisted 37,137 demobilized individuals: 29,776
collective and 7361 individual. Eighty percent of the
demobilized were former paramilitaries, and 20% were
individual deserters from the FARC, ELN, and other terrorist
groups. Still, the ACR is revising its focus to respond to
new challenges. ACR lifted its 18-24 month limit on program
participation, and has conditioned receipt of benefits on
participation in its programs to ensure compliance and
provide the guidance demobilized individuals need to
reintegrate into society. The ACR is also reviewing criteria
for participation to ensure that demobilized "properly
graduate" the program instead of being prematurely being

ejected. The ACR is working with the Colombian National
Police (CNP) to monitor crimes against--and committed
by--demobilized. It is also trying to locate 3,000
individual deserters and 1,864 paramilitaries who did not
register in the reintegration program.

10. (SBU) ACR officials told us they have committed $38
million on reintegration programs since October 2007, and
will maintain its "equal treatment" policy for all
demobilized groups. In addition, the program will dedicate
more resources to psycho-social services, community outreach,
education, and employment generation. Demobilized receive
approximately $80-$213 monthly payments--as well as a monthly
transportation stipend of $42-$58--as long as they complete
80% of psycho-social programs, 60% of education programs, and
80% of vocational preparation classes.

Anti-FARC Marches Show Progress

11. (U) On February 4, a non-partisan Colombian student group
organized marches against kidnapping and the FARC in 148
cities around the world. Over one million marched against
the FARC in Bogota, and millions more around the country.
While marches against the FARC had occurred before, this was
the largest in Colombia's history. The students used the
website Facebook to organize the events throughout Colombia
and around the world. The march in Bogota drew the support
of politicians from across the political spectrum. On July
20, marches again took place throughout Colombia against the
FARC. The turnout in Bogota did not compare to the earlier
march, but marches took place even in non-urban areas that
traditionally supported the FARC, such as Vista Hermosa and
La Macarena in Meta Department.

MLK Fellowship Program

12. (U) In 2005, the Embassy launched the Martin Luther King
(MLK) English Language Fellows Program with a view to
expanding access of disadvantaged minority youth, such as
Afro-Colombians and indigenous, to academic and economic
opportunities. The MLK Fellows Program started in Bogota as
a pilot project and subsequently expanded to the cities of
Cali, Medellin and Quibdo. In its two years of existence,
the program has developed the English language and leadership
skills of 87 minority students selected for their leadership
potential and interest in admissions to post-graduate
studying in the U.S. This program reflects the USG's
commitment to reaching out to diverse populations of
Colombia. Ensuring follow on opportunities for the MLK
fellows such as post-graduate studies, internships and job
opportunities in Colombia is essential to the program's

© Scoop Media

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