Cablegate: October Colombia Strategic Development Intiative Update


DE RUEHBO #3582/01 3142152
R 102151Z NOV 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. BOGOTA 3262; B. BOGOTA 2904



1. (U) At a senior level coordinating meeting, Diego Molano,
civilian lead of the National Consolidation Plan (PNC), set goals
for consolidation and attempted to reinvigorate the interagency
coordinating mechanism. The military is still playing a large role
in Montes de Maria. USAID held 11 town hall meetings to select
small infrastructure projects in Montes de Maria communities that
are beginning the consolidation process. Town councilors in Puerto
Rico commented on consolidation in their community. An Embassy
Colombia Strategic Development Initiative (CSDI) team traveled to
Buenaventura to evaluate security, economic, and social conditions.
Presidential candidate Rafael Pardo criticized the GOC's current
efforts to expand state presence and called for "ad hoc
institutionality" in remote areas. The departmental government of
Antioquia is leading consolidation efforts in Bajo Cauca. The
Choco police academy graduated 147 new police and looks forward to
future participation in NAS' scholarship program. End Summary.

Diego Molano Sets Interagency Goals for Year-End

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

2. (SBU) On October 21, Diego Molano, new Director General of the
President's Agency for Social Action and International Cooperation,
and Vice Minister of Defense Sergio Jaramillo attended the GOC
monthly executive committee meeting of the Coordination Center for
Integrated Action (CCAI). Their participation was an attempt to
reinvigorate senior-level PNC coordination and increase involvement
of GOC line ministries in implementing programs to support
consolidation efforts. Molano told interagency representatives
that they need to review how their agencies were complying with
Presidential Directive 001 -- the March 2009 decree that ordered
all agencies to support the PNC -- particularly with respect to
resources, since the funding to implement consolidation programs
must come from existing ministry budgets.

3. (SBU) Molano tasked the interagency with four objectives to
complete by the end of the year:

-- Determine priorities: There are 100 municipalities that are now
part of the consolidation plan and the GOC needs to determine which
are the most critical. The border areas have risen in importance,
particularly Tumaco and the Catatumbo.

-- Define interagency roles and how to better manage coordination
and follow-up between agencies: Jaramillo asked the Ministry of
Agriculture if their Vice Minister could participate in the
executive committee in the future. Molano also increased the
frequency of executive committee meetings to every two weeks rather
than once a month.

-- Find areas where the GOC can achieve quick wins and publicity:
Montes de Maria and eastern Antioquia were both mentioned as

-- Organize a strategy for public outreach to explain and defend
the PNC in light of the upcoming political season and recent
criticism that the PNC is "too militaristic."

Military Still Playing Large Role in Montes de Maria

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

4. (SBU) According to Juan Carlos Vargas, GOC regional coordinator
for Montes de Maria, his zone has not reached post-conflict status
yet. Vargas told us the region remains vulnerable due to criminal
bands that still operate south of Sincelejo, the Sucre departmental
capital, and the area's role as a transit corridor for
narcotrafficking. He added that any crackdown against the criminal
bands would result in retaliation against the populace. Presently,
the military is the dominant force but is coordinating with the
police who are just starting to establish a presence in the region.
Vargas said that if the military were to leave, Montes de Maria
would become even more vulnerable. The military presence consists
of a marine infantry brigade (1,200 personnel) while the police
number about 250 in the four municipalities targeted under CSDI and
the PNC. The military is extending its reach into more rural areas
while the police are primarily operating in urban centers.

Immediate Impact Projects Extend State Presence

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

5. (U) USAID implementers in Montes de Maria held 11 town hall
meetings in targeted communities to select small scale
infrastructure projects such as health posts, school classrooms,
and community soccer fields to begin establishing state presence.
The projects are intended as a first step in building confidence in
the state and will be implemented over the next six months. An
integral part of the projects will be increasing municipal
administrative capacity through training and technical assistance.

6. (U) On October 22, Emboffs observed a town hall meeting in La
Pelona, a community recently reconstituted by returned internally
displaced persons and identified as a priority by the municipal
administration. In the meeting, an elderly community member
complained that neither the national government nor the mayor were
there to hear their needs. Pointing to Embassy personnel, he said
that even foreign strangers came to listen and cared more about La
Pelona than their own government. Still, by the completion of the
process, the municipal administration had promised to send a health
professional to the community once a month and made a monetary
commitment to the selected project, a school. Participants seemed
to appreciate the transparency of the town hall process and were
guardedly optimistic about their future school.

Town Council Describes Consolidation in Puerto Rico

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

7. (U) On October 7, Emboffs visited the municipality of Puerto
Rico in Meta Department, an area targeted for assistance under the
Plan for the Integrated Consolidation of the Macarena (PCIM) pilot
project. Town council members described the state's presence in
the former coca growing area as "complete abandonment" prior to the
start of the project in 2007. The commanding military officer in
the area said that security improvements had caused land values per
hectare to rise dramatically since the beginning of the GOC

8. (SBU) Though appreciative of military presence in the area,
council members said the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC) had not been defeated but continued to operate in groups of
five or ten dressed as civilians. The council members cited a lack
of infrastructure (roads, warehouses, and trucks) and credit to get
their agricultural products to market. A lack of opportunity for
higher education, they asserted, left their youth with the choice
of joining the army or the guerrillas. One council member
complained that GOC welfare programs lacked sustainability and had
the effect of making them "mendicants of state charity."

Liberal Party Candidate Criticizes PNC to Diplomats

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

9. (SBU) At a breakfast with diplomats on October 28, Liberal Party
candidate Rafael Pardo said the GOC's efforts at consolidation were
incomplete. He said the GOC cannot project state presence into the
poor barrios in Bogota, let alone into the remote areas dominated
by illegal armed groups. Pardo suggested the state adopt an "ad
hoc institutionality," which he left undefined other than an
injunction not to try to recreate every ministry in every
consolidation area. He said the GOC was mistaken over who are the
beneficiaries of consolidation, granting land concessions to large
agro-businesses in conflict areas rather than implementing policies
to help small landowners. In the Macarena, Pardo said the GOC
needs to grant more land titles and establish democratic mechanisms
for determining priorities rather than leaving it to state

Buenaventura: Security Improved but Unemployment High

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

10. (SBU) A CSDI team traveled to Buenaventura in Valle de Cauca on
October 29-30. The Pacific coast port city is part of the CSDI
"Central Band" consolidation zone. The team noted significant
security improvements including a major drop in homicides and an
85% drop in terrorist incidents this year. The CCAI has been in
Buenaventura since 2007 and has staffed civilian, police, and
military coordinators. The military coordinator told emboffs that
the Colombian Navy is ready to turn over responsibility for the
urban areas of Buenaventura to the police sometime next year.
Because of a relatively advanced security situation, the primary
need appears to be in the social and economic development phase of
consolidation, more akin to a traditional development project than
a counter-insurgency strategy. The GOC is embarking on several
mega projects including two new ports (one with significant
Philippine funding), the relocation of 3,500 families, and major
improvements to the highway to Cali. Still, the unemployment of
40% is a major problem in Buenaventura. The regional coordinator
told us that GOC support for consolidation in Buenaventura seems to
be "business as usual," meaning they have seen no additional
resources despite being designated a priority consolidation zone.

Regional Government Leads Effort in Bajo Cauca

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

11. (SBU) On October 23-24, USAID officers went to Caucasia in
northeastern Antioquia to assess consolidation efforts in the Bajo
Cauca region. The area is part of the "Northern Band," one of the
two CSDI regions slated to begin receiving larger Embassy
involvement after the launching of the initial three zones. In

Bajo Cauca, the departmental rather than the national government is
the driving force behind consolidation and has dedicated resources
and assembled various partners for the effort (including a working
group of private sector stakeholders and NGOs). The department is
also coordinating with numerous military and police commands. In
particular, the police have created a special jurisdiction for the
PNC zone.

12. (SBU) Antioquia, as a major hub for industry and commerce, is
one of the wealthier departments in Colombia and has budgetary
resources to commit to consolidation unlike the departments of Meta
and Narino. Governors of Antioquia also have a history of being
politically powerful (President Uribe is a former governor) and a
committed/capable department administration could be a potential
CSDI partner if national civilian ministries continue to lag. The
department's efforts are still nascent but seem well organized and
already include security, eradication, and economic development
assessments, items that CSDI typically requests before beginning
intervention in consolidation zones.

Choco Academy Graduates 147 new police


13. (U) On October 15, the Narcotic Affairs Section (NAS) Senior
Advisor attended the graduation of 147 new police from the
Colombian National Police (CNP) Academy at Yuto, outside of Choco's
capital Quibdo. The academy was created five years ago with NAS
Plan Colombia assistance to provide opportunities for
Afro-Colombian youth, including women, to enhance citizen security,
and to improve perceptions of the police in the marginalized
Pacific Coast region. The deputy governor, departmental
legislators, mayors, and the department's chief of police attended
the graduation ceremony. The top graduate for the year was an
impressive, dynamic female police officer (one of 19 women). The
Yuto School Commander, Major Cuesta, expressed interest in the
participation of candidates from Choco in the NAS Police
Scholarship Program next year, which currently has 100 slots with
plans to increase to 300 next year. The Yuto Police Academy will
likely receive some of next year's batch of NAS-supported police
recruits - many of them women - from the Afro-Colombian populations
along the Pacific Coast.

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