Cablegate: Wha Das Mcmullen,S Clears the Air On the U.S.-Colombia Dca, Opens Dialog On Regional Issues
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BRASILIA 001076
WHA FOR A/S SHANNON, DAS MCMULLEN, AND, AND BSC
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/27/2019
TAGS: PREL MARR BR CO
SUBJECT: WHA DAS MCMULLEN,S CLEARS THE AIR ON THE U.S.-COLOMBIA DCA, OPENS DIALOG ON REGIONAL ISSUES
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Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Lisa Kubiske. Reason: 1.4 (d)
1. (C) SUMMARY: WHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Christopher McMullen,s visit to Brazil and briefings to GOB officials on the U.S.-Colombia Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) helped ease Brazilian concerns over the issue and spurred new dialog aimed at greater bilateral and multilateral cooperation with the United States. McMullen,s conversations with Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations (Itamaraty) officials and a senior presidency foreign policy advisor clarified U.S. intentions with the CDA as preparing part of a long-term strategy to decrease the U.S. military presence in South America. GOB officials expressed interest in greater dialog with the United States on security and regional issues and highlighted several opportunities for better cooperation and communication in the future. It appears that the jarring public criticism of the DCA represents an effort to curry favor with Venezuela in advance of the UNASUL summit in Bariloche, with the goal of lowering tensions there and preserving UNASUL. END SUMMARY.
2. (SBU) Charge hosted a lunch for DAS McMullen August 25 with seven senior Itamaraty officials: Under Secretary for Political Affairs Ambassador Vera Machado, Under Secretary for Latin America Ambassador Enio Cordeiro, Pol/Mil Advisor to Deputy Foreign Minister Guimaraes Ambassador Marcos Pinta Gama, Policy Planning Director Ambassador Hermano Telles Ribeiro, US/Canada/Inter-American Affairs Department Head (Assistant Secretary equivalent) Carlos Abreu, Transnational Illicit Activities Department Head Virginia Toniatti, and South America II Department Head Clemente Baena Soares. Separately, McMullen met with presidency foreign policy advisor Ambassador Marcel Biato. McMullen also met with Colombian Ambassador Tony Jozame, who conveyed GOB officials, positive reception to the clarifications he had made on the DCA and to his assurances that Brazilian borders and sovereignty would continue to be respected.
3. (C) In his conversations with GOB officials, McMullen explained the origins of the U.S.-Colombia DCA and emphasized that the DCA was meant to lay the foundation for a continued decrease in U.S. military presence in Colombia. McMullen highlighted the routine nature of the agreement and the explicit provisions requiring respect for Colombia,s and other nations, sovereignty. McMullen explained that the DCA does not expand the scope of U.S. presence in Colombia, and made clear that the U.S. goal is to civilianize its presence in Latin America, in particular because we understand the history and sensitivity of U.S. presence in the region. McMullen stressed that the USG and GOC did not want to discuss the DCA prior to concluding negotiations, and only did so after the details were leaked to the Colombian press. He noted that such agreements are so common that they should not raise suspicion. McMullen acknowledged, however, that lack of information had raised concerns, which is why he was visiting Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina.
NATIONAL, REGIONAL SENSITIVITIES ON FULL DISPLAY --------------------------------
4. (C) Itamaraty officials and Biato showed a great deal of interest in the details of the DCA. Machado said the GOB was surprised to find out about the agreement through the media and emphasized that part of Brazil,s concern stems in large measure from the lack of information available on the DCA. Machado identified security of the Brazilian Amazon and regional stability as important and sensitive issues for Brazil. She explained that there is a perception among Brazilians, especially those in the north, that the Amazon is a region coveted by foreigners searching for biodiversity and natural resources who have a hidden interest in taking it over. Therefore, any foreign presence near the Amazon region can become an explosive issue. Machado also highlighted that news of the DCA came out at a time of significant regional tensions and as Brazil was in the process of consolidating UNASUL as a mechanism for addressing those tensions. While respecting Colombia,s sovereign right to negotiate the DCA, Brazil could not ignore the serious implications for stability in the region. Biato explained that, as long as the United States maintains a presence in the region, it will be a difficult and neuralgic issue that will periodically resurface and require constant management. While Brazil understands the reasons for a U.S. presence in Colombia,
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Biato said, the GOB,s goal is to work to remove the conditions that make this presence necessary.
5. (C) Both Biato and Machado requested greater information sharing and guarantees. Machado requested written assurances that equipment at the Colombian bases would not be used to violate the sovereignty of neighboring countries and that the U.S. presence would not expand beyond Colombia,s borders. (Colombian Ambassador Jozame told McMullen that GOB officials had asked the GOC to add a clause to the DCA specifying that actions are only to be undertaken within Colombian borders.) Machado also suggested that the DCA document be made available before the next UNASUL meeting, scheduled for August 28 in Bariloche, as she believed the provisions for respect of other nations, sovereignty would help allay concerns.
TAKING THE OPPORTUNITY TO SEEK GREATER BILATERAL DIALOG ------------------------------
6. (C) Biato stressed that, because of the history of U.S. presence in the region, the United States and Brazil need to have a more fluid dialog that allows Brazil to develop a level of trust regarding U.S. actions in the region. The goal is not to agree on everything, but to discuss sensitive issues so that Brazil can demonstrate to its South American neighbors that it has a full understanding of what the United States is doing in the region. Itamaraty officials expressed interest in restarting Pol/Mil talks, both on a formal and informal level, as a way to increase dialogue and smooth discussions on sensitive issues like the Colombian bases. GOB officials also raised the possibility of increased intelligence sharing between the United States and Colombia and other UNASUL countries. McMullen said such increased cooperation is worth exploring.
PRESSING FOR INTERVENTION IN HONDURAS --------------------------------
7. (C) GOB officials pushed for greater U.S. response and intervention in Honduras. Biato said Brazilian President Lula was pleased to hear from President Obama that the USG would consider addition measures in Honduras. He compared the pressure the United States is receiving on Honduras and Venezuela to the heat the GOB has taken for its stance with Bolivia, Ecuador, and Paraguay. "It is the price you pay for doing the right thing." With Biato and Itamaraty officials, McMullen said the U.S. was prepared to ratchet up the pressure on the Micheletti de facto government. However, he said that many in the United States perceive a contradiction in applying the Inter-American Democratic Charter (IADC) to Honduras without also raising IADC-related issues in Venezuela. Biato responded it is the GOB,s assessment that Venezuela is "not on the path toward" and "nowhere near" an authoritarian regime, and that they do not believe public criticism of Chavez is helpful. Biato and Itamaraty officials suggested that it would be important for the United States and Brazil to discuss implementation of the IADC, as a common understanding of its provisions and requirements is essential to implementing it.
POTENTIAL OPENING FOR TRILATERAL COOPERATION WITH BOLIVIA ------------------------------
8. (C) Itamaraty officials highlighted their interest and an opening for possible trilateral cooperation on counternarcotics issues with Bolivia and the United States. Cordeiro said Brazilian Foreign Minister Amorim recently raised the possibility of joint cooperation with the United States in a meeting with the Bolivian Foreign Minister, who agreed it would be beneficial. Cordeiro asked for concrete ways in which the United States and Brazil could engage Bolivia. He noted that Bolivian sensitivities with regard to DEA and, more broadly, U.S. respect for Bolivian sovereignty are substantial, and will need to be taken into account. But he added that the Bolivians are waiting for a signal from the United States to increase engagement. Machado and Cordeiro stressed the importance of reinstating ATPDEA privileges. They said Brazil will replace USD 21 million of lost ATPDEA market in Bolivia, and Argentina USD 9 million. McMullen explained the U.S. efforts at bilateral dialogue with Bolivia and the complexities of certification and the ATPDEA process. He agreed that a discussion on how our two countries could
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engage Bolivia on counternarcotics cooperation would be useful.
MEANWHILE, OUT IN THE MEDIA ------------------------
9. (U) During McMullen,s discussions with GOB officials, media outlets were highlighting comments by FM Amorim regarding Brazil,s deep concern over the DCA and demanding that the United States answer to the region,s concerns. Amorim this week has publicly demanded transparency and guarantees with the U.S.-Colombia DCA, insisting that language be included in the agreement limiting the use of the equipment at the bases to combating narcotrafficking and the FARC. Following the phone call between President Lula and President Obama, Amorim told the press that President Obama is considering a request to meet with UNASUL countries in the near future. And even after various USG efforts to explain the nature of the DCA, Amorim continued to refer to the bases as "foreign bases" and claimed that the agreement and the "foreign presence" could bring to South America "problems that are not from the region."
COMMENT: WHAT BRAZIL IS UP TO ------------------------------
10. (C) DAS McMullen,s visit to explain the DCA was well received by the GOB as fulfillment of promises by General Jones during his visit and, we understand, President Obama during his phone call with President Lula, to provide greater detail on the DCA. The openings on Pol-Mil talks, CN cooperation with Bolivia, and discussions of the IADC are all indications of a new posture toward the United States that suggest the GOB heard, internalized, and wants to respond to the expressed interest in broader and more transparent communication brought by National Security Advisor Jones and other senior Administration officials over the last few weeks. We believe there is a genuine desire on the part of the GOB to explore greater options for bilateral cooperation.
11. (C) In light of the private overtures made to McMullen, Amorim,s continued outbursts to the press are jarring. In explaining these press statements to Charge and PolCouns, Biato has both suggested, in the first instance, that the press has an axe to grind and cannot be trusted to accurately convey the GOB,s position. There is some truth to this, as Brazil,s major newspapers have consistently expressed disagreement with the GOB,s regional foreign policy, but it does not account for what are clearly accurate quotes from Amorim. In this regard, Biato has explained that, as Brazil tries to maintain its role as mediator among its bickering neighbors, the GOB has to stay in the center of the regional debate. In this instance, this has required the GOB to shift its public rhetoric toward Venezuela. In other words, although Amorim,s comments seem to be heightening emotions rather than lowering them, the GOB has assessed that Venezuela is the more problematic neighbor to deal with, and sees public statements supportive of its position as helpful in gaining support from President Chavez for taking a less confrontational tone at the upcoming UNASUL summit in Bariloche.
12. (C) It is entirely plausible that Amorim,s antics are aimed at making things easier for Brazil in Bariloche. Biato has told us that Lula was initially reluctant to agree to the meeting, as they saw the potential for it to add to the uproar over the DCA. Brazil,s main goal for Bariloche is to prevent it from destroying the still-shaky UNASUL or relations with a U.S. Administration with which it is desperate to cultivate a deeper dialogue.
13. (U) DAS McMullen has cleared this message.