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Cablegate: Pyramid Collapse Burying Third Term Prospects?

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OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #4335/01 3401607
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 051607Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5936
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1392
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ DEC PANAMA 2748
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 7494
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 4704
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS BOGOTA 004335

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PTER ECON EFIN
SUBJECT: PYRAMID COLLAPSE BURYING THIRD TERM PROSPECTS?

REF: A. BOGOTA 2558
B. BOGOTA 4134
C. BOGOTA 4201
D. BOGOTA 4261
E. BOGOTA 4263

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) The results of a recent Invamar-Gallup poll show
Uribe maintains high public approval ratings in spite of a
host of political and economic troubles. Still, public
support for a third term has dropped from 74% to 54% since
last July. In southern departments--areas hard-hit by the
pyramid collapse--62% of respondents oppose a third term.
Invamar-Gallup president Jorge Londono told us Uribe's
remarkable popularity--while remaining positive--is likely to
continue to slide in 2009 as the international economic
crisis deepens. Uribe supporters continue to push to amend
the Constitution to allow Uribe to run again, but Londono
predicted that the pyramid scandal has definitely ended the
possibility of a third Uribe term in 2010. End Summary.

Two Terms Sufficient, Thank You
-------------------------------

2. (U) In a recent Invamar-Gallup poll, President Uribe
maintains an enviable--though falling--approval rating.
Seventy percent of the country approves his job performance,
a drop from 86% after the daring Operation 'Jaque' last July,
which rescued fifteen FARC hostages. Over his six years in
office, Uribe has enjoyed an average popularity rating of
65%. Pundits call Uribe's steady approval rating in the face
of political adversity--including the ongoing parapolitical
scandal, the pyramid scheme collapse and the GOC's
controversial intervention, extrajudicial killings by
Colombian Armed Forces, and severe natural disasters--the
"Teflon effect." Lodono predicted that Uribe's approval
ratings would remain positive, but would continue to slide as
the international economic crisis deepens early next year.

3. (U) The Gallup poll also indicates that Uribe is losing
support for a third term. A majority of the general public
supports a 2010 reelection, but the number of supporters has
dropped by 20%--falling from 74% to 54%--since the high point
in July. The decline tracks with a public shift in focus to
economic, rather than security, issues (Reftel A). When
asked if the situation in Colombia is getting better or
worse, the majority of respondents (58%) replied things are
getting worse. The number of people who considered the
situation in Colombia to be getting better dropped from 73%
in July to 30%. These are the worst numbers registered
during Uribe's six years as president.

4. (U) Londono noted that the GOC's handling of the recent
pyramid collape--including allegations that Uribe's sons were
connected to the companies involved and that these firms also
helped collect signatures for the reelection effort--has
exposed popular distrust of the banking sector and eroded
public confidence in GOC institutions as well as Uribe. Many
victims find GOC accusations of criminal activity against DMG
founder Daniel Murcia less than convincing, noting that GOC
agencies dealt with DMG for years before the intervention.
Uribe felt compelled by the accusations against his children
to hold a press conference to defend their integrity.

Southern Dis-Connection: Uribe Low in Public Opinion
--------------------------------------------- --------

5. (U) The poll shows respondents in the southern
departments of Putumayo, Narino, and Cauca were hit hardest
by the closing of DMG and have bleaker views of President
Uribe. Only 45% approve of Uribe's job performance.
Seventy-seven percent believe the situation in Colombia is
getting worse. Seventy-three percent--16% more than in the
country as a whole--believe Colombia's most important problem
is the economy. The majority of southerners (54%) disagree
with the GOC's decision to intervene in DMG. Fifty-one
percent agreed with the statement that DMG had created an
ingenious business model to help people. Protests against
the GOC's decision to close DMG continued in Putumayo, with
protesters chanting "no more Uribe, free Putumayo." An Uribe
town meeting in Huila went badly, with the audience loudly
protesting the GOC's actions.

6. (SBU) A majority of southerners (62%) oppose a second
reelection. As a result of constituent protests, two
Conservative Party coalition members from Narino and
Putumayo--former supporters of a 2010 reelection--were forced
to abstain on the November 9 third-term referendum vote in
the First Commission. An editorial in the Bogota daily El
Tiempo suggests that if the 2010 election were to make it to
referendum, the estimated one million people who lost money
in the pyramid schemes would join forces with the opposition
to block a third term. Pro-Uribe supporters continue to push
the reelection referendum in Congress, but Londono predicted
that the pyramid scandal has definitively ended any
possibility of a possible third Uribe term in 2010.


NICHOLS

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