Cablegate: Scenesetter for December 8-9 Visit to Colombia Of


DE RUEHBO #4215/01 3301320
P 251320Z NOV 08



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Your visit comes as Colombians watch with great
interest the transition period to President-elect Barack
Obama, and speculate on what the outcome might mean for
U.S.-Colombia relations--especially prospects for
Congressional passage of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion
Act (CTPA). The GOC will seek to maintain and strengthen the
historically strong--and bipartison--ties between the United
States and Colombia. The GOC and Colombian people hold
strong positive views of the United States, and Colombia sees
itself as an unwavering U.S. ally in an Andean region
increasingly hostile to U.S. values and goals.

2. (U) Colombia in 2008 celebrated 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 bold rescue of 15 high-profile
FARC hostages--including three Americans--and rising
desertions have weakened Colombia's largest terrorist group.
Still, serious challenges remain as Colombia consolidates the
progress achieved to date. 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
eight percent in 2007, but is expected to reach a maximum of
five percent amid the slowing global economy and financial
crisis in 2008. Colombia's trade volume has grown more than
65 percent since 2003. The United States remains Colombia's
largest trade partner (accounting for 34 percent of Colombian
exports in 2007, and 26 percent of imports). In 2007,
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) exceeded $9 billion, more
than triple the amount of FDI in 2002.

4. (SBU) The GOC has created an interagency body--created the
Centro de Coordinacion de Accion Integral (CCAI)--to
integrate military, police, and civilian programs in an
effort to establish permanent GOC control over areas
previously held by the FARC. The USG provided $13.5 million
to support CCAI activities in FY 2007, and plans to provide
over $10 million to support CCAI activities in Meta
Department, an area central to the fight against the FARC.
CCAI programs suffer from interagency rivalries, but
coordination has improved. Though some human rights groups
criticize CCAI for failing to involve local officials and
civil society in its projects, the project in Meta enjoys
strong local support.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
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 as U.S. assistance
is set to decline. 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

8. (SBU) Relations with Venezuela have improved since a
July 11 meeting between Presidents Uribe and Chavez, but
Venezuelan support for the FARC--as evidenced in the
computers found at Raul Reyes' camp--contributes to continued
tensions. Ecuador broke diplomatic relations with Colombia
after the GOC's March 1 bombing of Reyes' camp in Ecuadorian
territory, and has yet to resume ties.

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 and the Sinai Multinational Observer Force.
Colombia also provides anti-narcotics training to police in
the Caribbean and elsewhere, and Mexico is benefiting from
Colombia's experiences fighting narcotraffickers. We expect
the GOC to make available the expertise developed in
combating the FARC and narcotrafficking groups 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 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 criminal groups, but serious problems
remain. 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, and the GOC is investigating new allegations that the
military recruited and murdered 23 young men from the Soacha
area of southern Bogota in an effort to increase numbers of
enemy "kills." All members of the military and police
receive mandatory human rights training.

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. The Colombian
Government has already extradited 168 criminals to the United
States in 2008, including 15 former-paramilitary leaders,
breaking its 2007 record of 164 extraditions.

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 3,000 members. The
Colombian National Police have the lead in countering these
new 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 more than 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 reparation measures. The Supreme
Court and the Fiscalia--with GOC support--continue to

investigate politicians with alleged paramilitary ties; 70
Congressmen, 28 mayors, and 14 governors have been implicated
in the scandal.

17. (SBU) The National Liberation Army (ELN) negotiated with
the Colombian government for over two years on a cease-fire,
but ELN infighting and FARC pressure prevented a deal. The
ELN kidnaps civilians to fund its operations, but its
military capability is declining. Still, there are no
negotiations underway between the GOC and ELN. The FARC has
rebuffed GOC overtures to engage in meaningful peace talks,
most recently rejecting GOC negotiator Luis Carlos
Restrepo,s July effort to establish direct talks.

© Scoop Media

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