Cablegate: Scenesetter for Ondcp Director Kerlikowske


DE RUEHBO #3045/01 2662328
R 232318Z SEP 09 ZDS




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Embassy Bogota warmly welcomes the visit of R. Gil
Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control
Policy. Your visit comes as Colombia faces new challenges from
narcotrafficking groups as well as some political uncertainty. The
Colombian Congress has just approved a referendum that opens the
door for a possible third term for President Alvaro Uribe. A
regional debate over a U.S.-Colombia Defense Cooperation Agreement
(DCA) has heated up. The Government of Colombia (GOC) and the U.S.
Embassy are working together to consolidate the successes of Plan
Colombia through a new Embassy follow-on strategy -- the Colombia
Strategic Development Initiative (CSDI) -- which complements the
GOC's National Consolidation Plan (PNC).

2. (SBU) In ten years, Colombia has progressed from a near failed
state and terrorist haven to an economic, political and social
leader in Latin America. Colombia has made major progress in its
fight against illegal armed groups and set records in the
eradication and interdiction of drugs. Murder and kidnapping rates
have dropped dramatically, while rule of law has strengthened
through major judicial reforms. Improved security and economic
reform has grown the economy, reduced poverty and attracted record
levels of investment. The GOC has looked to leverage these
successes beyond its borders by offering troops in Afghanistan and
providing counterterrorism and counternarcotics training to
Mexican, Panamanian and other law enforcement agencies in the

3. (SBU) Significant challenges remain -- especially ongoing
drug-fueled crime that has driven large numbers of rural poor from
the land, as well as human rights abuses within the military. We
hope you will be able to reiterate to the GOC the importance of
providing citizen security and social services in marginalized
areas, and the need for continued and significant progress on human
rights cases. Drug trafficking organizations and illegal armed
groups still operate in large parts of the country, including along
the border. Colombia has over three million internally displaced
persons (IDPs). Inadequate state presence as well as historical
social divides still prevent millions of citizens, especially in
rural areas, from benefiting fully from security and economic
gains. USG support is a critical stimulus to the GOC to confront
these persistent challenges, even as we continue our dialogue on
how best to transfer key counternarcotics tasks from the USG to the
GOC. End Summary.

Democratic Security Advances

4. (SBU) Colombia has achieved successes in its fight against the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), National Liberation
Army (ELN) and emerging criminal groups. The rescue of 15
high-profile FARC hostages in July 2008, including three Americans,
and the deaths of key FARC leaders highlight Colombia's progress in
establishing security. Colombian security forces have captured or
killed a number of mid-level FARC leaders and reduced the space in
which terrorists can operate freely, undermining their ability to
conduct large military operations. The establishment of a basic
police presence in all of Colombia's municipalities has also
undermined FARC logistics and organization. A record number of FARC
members deserted in 2008 -- including mid- and high-level
commanders. Total demobilizations of illegal armed groups reached
3,461 in 2008 -- primarily from the FARC -- making it the highest
level of demobilizations in Colombia's history. In the first 6
months of 2009, there were a total of 1,371 demobilizations of
illegal armed group members.

5. (SBU) With USG help, in 2008, Colombia again set records in
eradication and interdiction of drugs, while further reducing
murder and kidnapping rates. Colombia extradited a record 208
criminals, narcotraffickers and terrorists to the United States in
2008, including 15 senior ex-paramilitary leaders. Colombia has
already extradited more than 145 suspected criminals in 2009. The
number of homicides fell for the sixth consecutive year, dropping
to 16,140 (or 33 for every 100,000 habitants), 45 percent lower
than 2002 levels.

Serious Challenges Ahead
6. (SBU) Despite advances in security and development, challenges
related to violence, narcotrafficking, displacement, human rights,
labor rights, and minority groups remain. We estimate the FARC
still has some 9,000 fighters in the field, using new tactics that
include sniper attacks and mines, and organized narcotrafficking
groups continue to generate violence. Internal displacement due to
the armed conflict remains serious, with more than three million
displaced since 1995. Deep historical social divides make it
difficult for millions from the Afro-Colombian and indigenous
populations to benefit fully from security and economic gains.
These minority groups suffer from limited education, health care,
employment opportunities, and disproportionate forced displacement
in the mostly isolated rural areas where they reside.

7. (U) Colombia has taken significant steps to improve its human
rights performance, but problems still remain. We hope you will be
able to reinforce the human rights message with the GOC leadership.
U.S. concerns include extrajudicial executions (murders falsely
reported as military combat kills), threats against human rights
defenders, and illegal surveillance of the government's political
opponents, including Supreme Court magistrates, politicians, and
NGOs. Fifty-one members of the Colombian military were dismissed in
2008 due to alleged involvement in extrajudicial killings, but
impunity for such abuses remains a serious problem. We are working
with the Ministry of Defense to improve rules of engagement, and
make sure that soldiers accused of human rights abuses are
investigated by civilian prosecutors. Homicides of labor unionists
declined 76% between 2001-2008, yet in 2008 the number of labor
homicides (for all causes) increased from 39 to 46. Still, the
murder rate for unionists is well below the national homicide rate.
As of August 2009, 24 murders of unionists have been reported this
year by union sources. In 2008, the GOC reestablished a government
presence in all 1,098 municipalities and all the country's mayors
once again resided within their municipalities.

Regional Tensions Flare

8. (SBU) A Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) between the United
States and Colombia is almost ready for signature and would provide
U.S. access to seven Colombian military installations to facilitate
cooperation to combat narcotrafficking and other transnational
crimes within Colombia. The DCA updates existing agreements that
date back to 1952, and would not increase the U.S. military
footprint in Colombia. Nevertheless, Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez, joined by leaders from Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina,
reacted to news of the negotiations with harsh complaints over an
increased U.S. military presence in the region. President Uribe
traveled to seven South American nations and explained to
counterparts that the DCA would benefit the region as it addresses
narcotrafficking. A special summit of the Union of South American
Nations (UNASUR) convened in Argentina on August 28 to address the
controversy -- yielding mixed results. While President Uribe was
able to prevent the group from condemning the DCA, many South
American presidents expressed reservations about the regional
implications of the agreement. UNASUR ministers of defense and
foreign affairs met September 15 in Quito to again address regional
tensions. Some aspects of the DCA are sensitive with the Colombian
public, such as the treatment of immunities for defense

Uribe Third Term

9. (SBU) Your visit comes as the Constitutional Court analyzes a
recent law that would authorize a referendum on whether the
Constitution should be amended to allow President Uribe to run for
a third term in the May 2010 elections. His possible re-election
has become the touchstone of all Colombian politics this year.
Indeed, you will find that your interlocutors are focused on the
short timeframe remaining in the second term given the uncertainty
over the third. If the referendum goes forward, at least 25 percent
of registered voters, or 7.3 million Colombians, must participate
and a majority of them must vote favorably. President Obama told
President Uribe on June 29 that, in the United States' experience,
two terms is enough for any leader, though he emphasized that the
final decision belongs to the Colombian people.

Congressional Elections and Political Reform
--------------------------------------------- -----------
10. (U) Congressional elections will also occur next March, two
months ahead of the presidential election. The 2006-10 Congress has
been rocked by a parapolitical scandal in which 86 legislators were
investigated for links to paramilitaries. In response, Congress
passed a political reform this year that seeks to punish
politicians and political parties for collaboration with
narcotraffickers and illegally armed groups. The reform expressly
bans anyone who has been condemned of crimes relating to
narcotrafficking, illegally armed groups, or crimes against
humanity from holding office. It also creates sanctions and fines
for political parties who have such candidates. Most importantly,
political parties will now lose the seat held by the offending
politician -- previously, the party simply replaced the offender
with another candidate from the party's candidate list.

DAS to be Dismantled

11. (U) President Uribe announced on September 17 that he favored
dismantling the wiretapping scandal-ridden Administrative
Department of Security (DAS), the civilian security service. In a
much-anticipated move, Uribe proposed a much smaller, new entity
that would focus on intelligence and immigration services. The DAS'
other functions would be transferred to other existing agencies.
DAS scandals have included their wiretapping of Supreme Court
Magistrates, opposition politicians, and non-governmental
organizations. The Colombian Congress is expected to pass a law
authorizing Uribe to re-organize the DAS.

Economic Limitations

12. (SBU) Reacting to the economic slowdown in 2009, the GOC cut
the national budget by $1.4 billion, including a $190 million
reduction to the defense budget. The proposal would likely reduce
future expenditures on ammunition, rifles, communications
equipment, infrastructure projects, fuel, food, and uniforms. The
cuts would not directly affect defense expenditures funded by the
wealth tax, which is expected to raise approximately $3.7 billion
between 2007-2011. Still, the GOC's ability to sustain current
levels of defense spending after 2011 could be in jeopardy if the
wealth tax is left to expire at the end of 2010. The Colombian
Congress is presently deliberating on a bill to extend the wealth
tax through 2013. Funding for social programs, critical to
addressing many of the catalysts for the conflict, will be
sustained, according to President Uribe. Proposed increases for
social programs, however, will be put on hold until government
revenues increase.

Post-Plan Colombia Initiatives

13. (U) To consolidate the gains of Plan Colombia and to address
the linked challenges of inadequate state presence and lack of
development in drug production areas, the Embassy developed the
multi-agency Colombia Strategic Development Initiative (CSDI),
which supports Colombia's own National Consolidation Plan (PNC).
The CSDI team is initially focusing on three priority areas of
on-going conflict, drug trafficking and social marginalization in
order to help establish state presence in these strategic,
under-governed parts of the country. The plan is centered on
increasing the government's territorial control to provide security
for communities; to achieve permanent eradication; to transfer
public order and protection responsibilities to the police; and to
provide a wide range of socio-economic services. CSDI's core
assumption is that security is the precondition for development,
which gives communities a stake in the long term future of their
region -- the surest way to sustaining security among marginalized
rural and vulnerable populations.

Tumaco, Key Consolidation Zone

14. (SBU) You will be visiting Tumaco, Narino, one of the three
CSDI priority zones and an area critical to USG counternarcotics
efforts. In recent decades, the municipality of Tumaco has been a
battleground between the FARC, paramilitaries and GOC forces.
Today, organized criminal bands (BACRIMs) are fighting to control
lucrative drug routes to Mexico. The area's long, inaccessible
coastline is ideal for trafficking, and the largely uncontrolled
land border with Ecuador is a transit region for drugs and
precursor chemicals. The main cash crop in the region has been coca
and the main industry the production of cocaine. According to UN
figures, the municipality has by far the highest coca cultivation
in the country at 5,865 hectares. The Narcotics Affairs Section
(NAS) has sprayed an average of 50,000 hectares of coca annually in
Narino since 2004.

15. (SBU) Widespread violence in the countryside is driving
internally displaced persons to the port city of Tumaco, which has
one of the highest murder rates in the country -- over 80 killings
were reported in the first three months of this year, mostly
drug-related. Municipal and community leaders have been threatened
and some murdered. USAID has been working with semi-autonomous
Community Councils in Tumaco and NAS coordinates eradication
operations with the ADAM alternative development programs.
Establishing civilian security is key to permitting social and
economic development. The CSDI team is coordinating with the Army,
Navy and Police with the goal of transitioning responsibilities
from military to police -- a challenge because of limited police
resources and numbers. NAS is providing scholarships for
underrepresented populations to attend the state police academy,
improve the image of the police, and allow more access to insecure

Eradicating, Training, Nationalizing

16. (U) The USG and GOC are making significant inroads in
confronting narcoterrorism in Colombia. The most recent U.S.
figures for cocaine production in Colombia show a 24 percent
reduction in production since the peak year 2001. In 2008,
Colombian security forces set new records for interdiction and
eradication, seizing 245 metric tons of cocaine and coca paste,
eradicating 230,000 hectares of coca and destroying 3,667 drug
labs. This joint effort kept hundreds of metric tons of drugs out
of the United States. We have reduced the funds available to the
FARC and other criminal groups to purchase of weapons and
explosives, corrupt public officials and coerce local populations.

17. (U) The USG and GOC have made progress in eradication, as
evidenced by a 25 percent decrease in potential cocaine
productivity since the peak in 2001. Much of the success in
confronting narcotrafficking and terrorism is due to air mobility
capabilities provided by the United States. Without helicopters,
the GOC could not project force or provide government presence in a
country the size of Texas and California combined. Colombia is
nationalizing our aviation assets, but still needs some U.S.
support. In the last two years, more than 50 aircraft have been
turned over to the GOC to fund, maintain and control. Colombia's
ability to confront narcotics and terrorism depends in large part
on its air mobility.

Aiming for Irreversibility

18. (U) Our support to the Colombian military is based upon a
three-phased approach. The first phase focused on building
Colombian military forces, projecting those forces into ungoverned
spaces and securing those spaces. It also supported offensive
operations against illegal armed groups on an unprecedented scale.
The second phase, currently being executed, focuses on securing,
consolidating and sustaining those gains, increasing offensive
operations against illegal armed groups, and ensuring the
irreversibility of those gains. The third phase, to be initiated in
2011, will promote a strategic partnership to sustain key Colombian
military capabilities.

19. (SBU) The MILGRP currently supports eight program areas: joint
rotary wing, ground operations, riverine operations, governability,
airpower, maritime interdiction, joint intelligence and
communications, and joint force initiatives. Support to these
programs is vital in both the short and long-terms. In the
short-term, we will assist Colombia in controlling illegal armed
groups and bringing peace and rule of law to the Colombian
population. In the long-term, we will focus on building a strategic
partnership with Colombia and developing key Colombian military
capabilities that can support U.S. national security objectives

Aiding Communities At Risk
20. (U) Under Plan Colombia, the USG has provided more than $950
million in economic and social assistance via USAID. USAID's
initiatives have delivered legal jobs, social services, and
development in narcotrafficking and conflict zones. We are
reintegrating thousands of Colombians who have demobilized, abating
child recruitment into armed groups, and increasing social services
for victims of conflict. We are restoring citizen confidence in
governance, improving the criminal justice system and institutions,
increasing the poor's access to justice, and promoting human rights
through investigation and prosecution of human rights and
labor-related cases. These programs focus on communities at
high-risk of violence, provide legal and psycho-social assistance,
and strengthen key government oversight and judicial institutions.

21. (U) USAID's alternative development program is a key component
of our counternarcotics efforts. It promotes sustainable economic
opportunities in regions vulnerable to drug production and
conflict. These programs create jobs and economic opportunities in
areas recently retaken from illegal armed groups and build the
social infrastructure to mitigate future conflict. USAID is
expanding social and economic opportunities and improving
livelihoods for Afro-Colombians and indigenous communities
disproportionately affected by conflict. These programs provide
jobs, education, health care, housing, and social services for
these vulnerable populations.

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