Cablegate: Ambassador's Visit Highlights Usg Interest in San Andres


DE RUEHBO #3204/01 2821504
R 091504Z OCT 09



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) The Ambassador traveled to San Andres, Colombia on
September 22-23, to highlight U.S. interest in San Andres and
discuss how the United States can best support the development of
the island. The Ambassador was briefed by the Governor, leaders in
conservation and tourism, leaders of the Afro-Colombian Raizal
community regarding challenges facing its community, and local
military and police commanders about narcotics trafficking
activities in and around the island. The Ambassador visited the
Universidad Nacional Caribbean branch and made a book donation to a
local bilingual grade school. San Andres' immediate future will be
determined by three current fault lines: 1) Native Raizal community
vs. Colombian mainlanders; 2) Colombia vs. Nicaraguan sovereignty
claims; and, 3) San Andres leadership vs. narcotics trafficking
industry. End Summary

Working Luncheon with the Governor

2. (U) The Ambassador attended a working luncheon with the Governor
of San Andres on September 22. This meeting framed his trip to the
island with discussions on tourism, bilingualism, conservationism,
Afro-Colombian issues, and drug trafficking in San Andres. The
Governor confirmed that tourism was vital to the island's
development and informed the Ambassador that his office had been in
close contact with Spirit Airlines and Royal Caribbean. He also
noted that the Vice President of Spirit Airlines informed him that
the company would add a direct flight from Fort Lauderdale to San
Andres starting next year. The Governor discussed the lack of
English language used in the tourism industry in recent years. He
stated that English was slowly disappearing on the island, and that
the tourism industry caters mostly to Spanish-speaking mainland

3. (SBU) The Ambassador emphasized USG disposition to cooperate
with San Andres on tourism. He highlighted that bilingualism was
one of San Andres' strongest assets, and noted that the United
States would support efforts to bring mainland Colombians to San
Andres and Providence islands to learn English.

English Immersion Programs in San Andres

4. (U) The Ambassador visited Universidad Nacional's Caribbean
branch to learn about the University's English Immersion program.
The vice-rector of Universidad Nacional and the University Director
of the Caribbean branch explained that the program began five years
ago and annually benefits about 60-70 public school teachers who
learn English in classes with native English speakers. San Andres'
native English speakers are the Raizal community.

5. (U) The Ambassador addressed, in his speech to the university's
professors and staff, the importance of creating English projects
in San Andres as a way to strengthen economic development within
the archipelago. He emphasized that English will provide greater
opportunities for advanced studies and academic achievement. The
Ambassador noted that the Embassy is investigating ways to expand
English teaching programs through increased English scholarships,
teacher training, donations of resources and materials, and
exchanges for Colombian teachers.

Native Raizal Community vs. Colombian Mainlanders

6. (U) The Ambassador met with leaders from the Afro-Colombian
Raizal community and the Governor to discuss the challenges that
face the Raizal community. The Raizal population is a protestant
Afro-Caribbean Colombian ethnic group that speaks English Creole
and lives in the Archipelago of San Andres, Providencia, and Santa
Catalina. In 1903, the local Raizal population rejected an offer
from the United States to separate from Colombia when the U.S.
declared Panama an independent nation. Following the rejection,
according to the Raizal leaders, the Colombian government led an
assimilation policy to modify the ethnic composition within the
Archipelago with Spanish-speaking mainland Colombians. This policy
resulted in an ethnic divide between the Raizal community and the
Colombian mainlanders.

7. (SBU) The Raizal leaders acknowledged that the community
considers itself an underrepresented minority at both the local and
national level. They conversed about their feelings of being an
endangered community that fears it will lose its cultural identity.
The majority of Raizales suffer from high unemployment and lack of

income and economic generating opportunities to improve their
livelihoods. There has been a surge of domestic violence against
women, teenage pregnancy, single parent families raised mostly by
women, and an increase in illegal activities related to drug
trafficking. The leaders emphasized that there is a lack of
political representation to assist them in addressing these issues.

8. (SBU) The Ambassador underscored the need for the Raizal leaders
to design a development plan and to look into the possibility of
existing programs through USAID and PAS to support the community
and to help improve their representation, economic opportunities
and living conditions. The Ambassador reiterated the continued USG
commitment to Afro-Colombian issues throughout Colombia.

Colombian vs. Nicaraguan Sovereignty Claims

9. (SBU) The Ambassador raised the issue of sovereignty claims over
the San Andres Archipelago during a joint meeting with the local
naval and police commanders on September 23. The Colombian Naval
Commander emphasized that the International Court of Justice ruled
in favor of Colombia's sovereignty over the San Andres Archipelago,
but the maritime issues were yet to be resolved. There have not
been confrontations between Nicaraguan and Colombian Navies, and
the Colombian Coast Guard is able to patrol the territorial waters
of the San Andres Archipelago without any quarrels from Nicaragua.

San Andres Leadership vs. Narcotics Trafficking Industry

10. (SBU) During the luncheon with the Governor, the Ambassador
inquired about the magnitude of the narcotics trafficking problem
on the island. The Governor stressed drug trafficking in San
Andres is a major problem, San Andres has problems with both drug
trafficking and internal consumption. He informed the Ambassador
of an initiative he was proposing called "Seawatchers" which would
provide artisanal fishermen with government support, including
improved equipment and housing conditions, in exchange for the
fishermen agreeing to use a monitoring device that would allow the
government to track the locations of their vessels at all times.
The Governor concluded that San Andres' leaders are in control of
the situation and are working to reduce narcotics trafficking in
San Andres.

11. (SBU) Throughout the joint meeting with the local naval and
police commanders, the group highlighted that the Colombian
National Police, Navy and Air Force are working with DEA to combat
the drug trafficking problem. They pointed out that the San Andres
Archipelago represents unique narcotics trafficking opportunities
between mainland Colombia and the Central American corridor. The
number of seizures this year has increased and they anticipate
greater success in the coming years. They stressed the importance
of working with DEA and their desire to increase the presence of
DEA in San Andres, even suggesting opening a satellite office
staffed by DEA. The commanders appealed for more technical support
for cellular and radio equipment.

Book Donation to Brooks Hill Bilingual School

12. (U) The Ambassador donated a set of books to the library of the
Brooks Hill Bilingual School on September 23. Brooks Hill
Bilingual School is the first school to pilot an extensive
bilingual curriculum in San Andres promoted by the Ministry of
Education and the local Secretary of Education. The Ambassador
gave a speech to about 400 teachers and students (kindergarten to
eleventh grade) on the importance of learning a second language and
the opportunities offered by knowledge of another language.

Luncheon with the Tourism Industry

13. (U) The Ambassador attended a working luncheon, hosted by the
Colombian Chamber of Commerce, with twelve local leaders in the
tourism industry. The leaders expressed gratitude for the
Ambassador's visit to San Andres and noted that it was the first
official visit by a U.S. Ambassador. They voiced interest in
strengthening commercial relationships with the United States and
the desire to increase tourism to the island. The leaders
expressed interest in participating in trade expositions and fairs
as a means to establish relationships with U.S. companies. They
acknowledged the poor infrastructure in the island, but wanted to
improve it to help develop additional potential business


14. (U) The Ambassador described U.S. Major League baseball's
winter leagues in Latin America. There are currently leagues in
Venezuela, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. We are
exploring a Colombian league. He suggested San Andres might
explore such a team.

15. (U) The Ambassador also met with the Director of Food
Inspection and Control of the Health Secretary, who explained the
USAID-sponsored program to improve sanitation standards in
restaurants and food chains. The director noted that 31
restaurants received USAID-sponsored training and noted that the
restaurant where the working luncheon took place was a beneficiary
of the program.

Conservation Project with CORALINA

16. (U) The Ambassador attended a meeting with members of CORALINA-
The Corporation for the Sustainable Development of the Archipelago
of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina- to discuss the
issues facing the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve. Recognized by
UNESCO in 2000, it is the largest marine protected area in the
Caribbean and among the largest in the world. CORALINA works in
collaboration with the government of San Andres to administer,
protect and restore the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve. The Biosphere
Reserve covers about 10% of the Caribbean Sea and includes costal
mangrove swamps and coral reef areas.

17. (U) The director of CORALINA expressed that one of the major
problems facing fisheries management in the archipelago is rampant
poaching from foreign fishers in the region. Nicaraguan, Honduran,
Jamaican, and Dominican fishing vessels are often identified as
illegal fishers. CORALINA has worked extensively to plan and
implement external boundaries, zoning and regulations within the
Biosphere to reduce the damage created by human activities. The
director noted that the Colombian Coast Guard works well with
CORALINA to enforce the boundaries and zoning areas of the marine
protected area. NOAA Fisheries Office of International Affairs has
worked with CORALINA on regulation of queen conch, and gave a grant
to develop a case study on how they maintain sustainable fisheries.
NOAA will continue to work with CORALINA on management and
enforcement training.

18. (U) The Ambassador underscored the success of CORALINA since
its implementation in 1993. He recognized CORALINA's world
leadership in marine protected management by conserving the natural
resources of the archipelago and contributing to the economy of
Colombia. The Ambassador noted the importance of conservation and
USG continued efforts to support the preservation of the Biosphere

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