Cablegate: Researchers Assess Post-Farc Consolidation, Intelligentsia


DE RUEHBO #3526/01 3091717
R 051716Z NOV 09



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Researchers Assess Post-FARC Consolidation, Intelligentsia




1. (U) On October 28, think tank New Rainbow Corporation and the
Dutch Embassy held a public forum on the Integral Plan for the
Consolidation of La Macarena (PCIM). La Macarena lacked a state
presence for years and was the home base region of the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Researcher
Alejandro Reyes presented his findings that land issues
--especially titling so that the small-scale farmers' property
rights are protected-- and a social pact to strengthen institutions
are vital to consolidation. The GOC lead coordinator for the PCIM
defended the consolidation concept from skeptical civil society
participants who clearly held an image of a militarized National
Consolidation Plan (PNC). The GOC has identified the need for
public outreach but will have a difficult time depoliticizing the
message during an election season. The U.S. Embassy's Colombia
Strategic Development Initiative (CSDI) working group, through
USAID, is actively working to explore pilot projects to address
land titling in consolidation zones. End Summary.

2. (U) Respected think tank New Rainbow Corporation and the Dutch
Embassy co-sponsored an open forum to discuss the PCIM on October
28. The forum centered on the presentation of a policy paper
authored by researchers Alejandro Reyes and Gustavo Duncan. The
paper evaluates the PCIM's strategic results and offers
recommendations to improve the PCIM and the national consolidation
strategy in general. In attendance were academics, journalists,
GOC officials, and the international community.

Property Rights for Local Community Essential During Transition

--------------------------------------------- ------------------

3. (U) Reyes told the forum that resolving land issues is key to
consolidation. The absence of land titles for small-scale farmers
creates a dynamic of continuous settler migration to areas outside
of state control, thus expanding the conflict. These "colonists"
move to areas lacking state presence where coca cultivation is
their most lucrative productive option. Reyes added that rural
farmers without formal ownership of land cultivate illicit crops
for lack of access to legitimate credit and because the threat of
land confiscation by the state means little.

4. (U) Lack of titles also exposes communities to exploitation by
large land owners and outside investors when consolidation begins,
according to Reyes. In conflict zones, illegal armed groups
discourage land acquisition but paradoxically, as citizens benefit
from improved security and the establishment of the state, they are
also economically vulnerable. After coca crops are eradicated, the
farmers, due to their loss of illicit income, may be compelled to
sell their land, sometimes at one fifth of its actual value.

5. (U) Reyes argued that the GOC's agrarian policy favors large
land owners and agricultural enterprises over smaller producers and
that the Ministry of Agriculture has approached land titling in
conflict zones with antipathy. He noted that the Minister of
Agriculture has publicly alleged that farmers in the Macarena have
guerrilla links and that granting titles would benefit the FARC.
Reyes recommended that property rights for ordinary citizens be a
top priority for government interventions in consolidation zones.

Social Pact Necessary to Strengthen Institutions

--------------------------------------------- ---

6. (U) In the consolidation process, the community interacts
directly with assistance programs supported by the Office of the
President. Reyes explained that although this has weakened the
role of traditional community organizations, municipal and
departmental administrations, and other government institutions, it
is necessary given the administrative and budgetary weakness of
these entities and their history of cooption by illegal armed
groups. Reyes concludes what is needed is a social pact between
the national government and the local community to generate
political will and energy to strengthen institutions as part of the
consolidation process. This political energy needs to bring the
entire government into the process, because Reyes says,
"consolidation can't just be a small group of 'Quixotes' in a
regional coordination center."

GOC Explains Structural Difficulties and the Role of Police

--------------------------------------------- --------------

7. (U) Alvaro Balcazar, the GOC lead coordinator of the PCIM, told
the forum that it is difficult to extend the state presence of a
democracy because democratic budgeting and decision-making
structures are cumbersome. Balcazar added that he and his
officials have no real authority and must make progress by
influencing and persuading local actors such as municipal
administrations. Conversely, municipal governments are the
legitimate authorities but do not have adequate budgets and
administrative capacity. As far as total social investment in the
PCIM, Balcazar emphasized the GOC and local governments have
provided the bulk of financing --approximately $162 million of $180
million total. International community support (about $18 million)
has provided the rapid and flexible spending necessary to bridge
gaps between security advances and GOC intervention. Balcazar
assured the group that this investment has made a significant
impact in the PCIM communities.

8. (U) Balcazar noted complications when transitioning security
responsibilities from the military to police. In consolidation
zones, there is a natural tension between the rule of law and
citizen safety. Police, when taking over a zone, must abide by
judicial standards for evidence and prosecution when addressing
threats to the citizenry, which at times has produced lack of
confidence in the police for perceived ineffectiveness when the
accused are released for failure to completely comply with legal
requirements. However, Balcazar said progress is being made. In
Vista Hermosa for example, the military gave way to tactical police
units with assault rifles, who were then replaced by traditional
police with pistols.

Civil Society Confronts GOC Official for Perceived PNC

--------------------------------------------- ----------------------

9. (U) Academics and journalists vehemently confronted Balcazar
about consolidation, which in their view was clearly a military
strategy. One journalist said she believes that the Ministry of
Defense is the center and lead of the PNC and doubted that the
military would ever leave consolidation zones, including areas that
have already been turned over to the police. She also questioned

whether citizens in consolidation zones had any political
liberties. One academic railed against consolidation as a military
imposition of rightist ideology on rural citizens. He even
assailed the GOC National Parks representatives for wearing
"military uniforms and not dressing as decent civilians." (Note:
Parks personnel wear matching khaki pants and blue denim shirts
with a park logo patch. End Note.) Another participant claimed
that any civil society groups that have become allies of the state
in consolidation zones were either bribed or infiltrated by state
agents, and called the PNC the "National Bribery Plan."



10. (SBU) Despite the PNC's whole-of-government approach and
emphasis on social development which would seemingly sell itself,
the GOC has not done well explaining the plan to the public. Nor
have they been able to articulate a clear definition of what
"consolidation" means in the context of the PNC. This has led to
misconceptions and distrust among Colombia's intelligentsia. New
civilian PNC lead Diego Molano has recognized the problem and has
prioritized the development of a public outreach campaign. This
will be difficult during the election season, when any outreach
from the presidency will be perceived as political campaigning.
Reyes's identification of land issues as a top priority is
congruent with thinking in the Embassy's Colombia Strategic
Development Initiative (CSDI) working group. The CSDI is actively
exploring USAID-led pilot projects and initiatives to improve land
titling and alternative development in consolidation zones. The
Ministry of Agriculture, a key agency in land titling, has been a
reluctant interlocutor and generally absent from the PNC
interagency coordinating process. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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