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Cablegate: Ambassador's Trip Highlights the Delicate Balance Between

VZCZCXYZ0006
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #3160/01 2751744
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 021743Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0212
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0059
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 0012
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0058
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ OCT LIMA 0065
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 0062

UNCLAS BOGOTA 003160

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID MARR PHUM PTER SNAR AORC MOPS
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S TRIP HIGHLIGHTS THE DELICATE BALANCE BETWEEN
SECURITY AND COMMUNITY IDENTITY

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SUMMARY

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1. (U) The Ambassador participated in a September 16 ceremony to
transfer ownership of five counterdrug radar installations to the
Colombian Air Force (COLAF). The ceremony was held at the Tres
Esquinas Air Force Base, in a remote area near the Colombia-Ecuador
border. The transfer ceremony included the newly appointed
Minister of Defense (MOD) and other high-ranking members of the GOC
military, with representatives from U.S. MILGP and DAO. The
Ambassador also met with representatives of an indigenous group at
risk of extinction, the Korebaje, and discussed the pressures and
challenges they face as a result of the Colombian conflict. END
SUMMARY.

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INDIGENOUS GROUP WORKS TO BALANCE SECURITY AND IDENTITY

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2. (SBU) The Ambassador met with representatives of the Korebaje
indigenous group, Alvaro Piranga and Loreto Orlando Figueroa, to
discuss the importance of preserving the Korebaje's language,
traditions, and cultural patrimony. The tribe has been under
significant pressure from Colombia's illegally armed groups to
engage in drug production and transport and to surrender
traditional lands to large private-sector entities. The group is
working with USAID, the International Organization for Migration
(IOM), local governments, and Colombian NGOs, to protect the
Korebaje people, their culture, and the fragile natural resources
of the area in which they live from the violence that the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other illegal
groups perpetuate in their communities. The key elements of
support that the Korebaje need are education, traditional medical
practices, economic development, and strengthening their community
while protecting their autonomy from outside influences. They
emphasized the importance of cultural education for their youth and
requested assistance with preserving their tradition of orally
passing down their way of life from one generation to the next.

3. (SBU) When asked by the Ambassador about the impact of the
Colombian conflict on their culture, the Korebaje representatives
resoundingly replied that their biggest adversary is the FARC and
not GOC military forces. Piranga and Figueroa stressed they are
trying to secure a balance between their security and their
cultural identity. They emphasized that they are not the enemies
of the Colombian National Police (CNP) nor are they involved in the
armed conflict. Figueroa did, however, recount an incident where a
Korebaje boat was seized by the Colombian military while en route
to another community. The boat was seized under allegations that
they were transporting illegal arms. Figueroa asked the Ambassador
to assure the Tres Esquinas Base Commander that they were not
involved in any illegal activities. The Ambassador thereafter did
advise the Base Commander of the statements made by the Korebaje
leaders. The Korebaje are currently preparing for a nationwide
indigenous group conference to denounce the FARC and the impact the
armed conflict has on their lives and traditions.

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TRANSFER CEREMONY HIGHLIGHTS TWENTY YEARS OF COLLABORATION

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4. (SBU) The Ambassador participated in the ownership transfer
ceremony of five U.S. TPS-70 counterdrug radars to the COLAF. The
radar systems are located in San Andres Islands, Riohacha, San Jose
del Guaviare, Marandua and Tres Esquinas. The ceremony marked
nearly 20 years of a collaborative program between the Colombian
and U.S. Air Forces. Defense Minister Gabriel Silva Luj????n and
General Jorge Ballesteros Rodr????guez, Commander of the COLAF, also


participated in the ceremony and subsequent tour. The MOD
emphasized the responsibility the GOC has to protect its people and
country, and how the radar installation was an important part of
this goal. The U.S. Air Force Counterdrug Mission intends to
support these radars through the Fiscal Year Defense Plan (FYDP)
with counterdrug funding, logistical support, and technical
assistance.
BROWNFIELD

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