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Cablegate: Uribe Silent As "Deadline" to Declare Candidacy For

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #3485 3352148
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 012148Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1294
INFO RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0274
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS BOGOTA 003485

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KJUS CO
SUBJECT: URIBE SILENT AS "DEADLINE" TO DECLARE CANDIDACY FOR
REELECTION LAPSES

REF: BOGOTA 3373 AND PREVIOUS

1. (U) With less than six months until the May 30 presidential
election, the political panorama is as murky as ever (reftels).
There is still no answer to the million dollar question: "will
President Uribe run for a second reelection?" Observers and the
entire spectrum of presidential candidates had hoped Uribe would
make his intentions known on November 30, as the Law of Guarantees
enacted before Uribe's first reelection in 2006 requires a sitting
president to declare his candidacy for reelection six months before
the election date. The Law of Guarantees comes with restrictions
on the activities of a sitting president seeking reelection, in
order to level the playing field somewhat for candidates that do
not control the state apparatus. However, the initiative calling
for a referendum to modify the constitution to allow a third
presidential term is still under review by the Constitutional
Court. Since the referendum has not been held, Uribe can not
legally declare himself a candidate. Uribe, who was at the
Ibero-American Summit in Portugal on November 30, made no comment
on his reelection plans or the Law of Guarantees.

2. (U) Whether or not the failure to comply with the Law of
Guarantees inhibits Uribe's potential candidacy remains an open
question. Some Uribe opponents were quick to point out that the
Law is still in force, opining that by not declaring his candidacy
by November 30, Uribe can not run in the May 30 elections.
Supporters stressed that Uribe could not legally declare his
candidacy before the referendum, and opined that if the
Constitutional Court sanctions the referendum, Uribe will be
allowed to be a candidate despite the Law of Guarantees since the
referendum is a "higher law." Another possible loophole is that
the Law of Guarantees deals with "reelection" and not
"re-reelection," so does not apply to a subsequent constitutional
reform allowing a third term.

3. (SBU) It seems clear that this latest obstacle will be overcome
or ignored just as previous, more onerous impediments were
surpassed. It is equally evident that, as Alternative Democratic
Pole (PDA) presidential candidate Gustavo Petro said, "President
Uribe's interest in reelection is leading the country to a rupture
of institutions that deepens with every passing moment." Liberal
Party presidential candidate Rafael Pardo urged President Uribe to
voluntarily comply with the Law of Guarantees' restrictions on
ethical grounds. This is a real possibility, described to us weeks
ago by "U" Party Secretary General Mario Solano, but Uribe should
announce his voluntary compliance in order to give other candidates
and Colombia's citizenry increased peace of mind. The relatively
sparse media coverage of the passing "deadline" is a further
indication of the pervasive feeling in Colombia that President
Uribe is happy to let this state of limbo endure for the months
remaining until the Constitutional Court issues its decision.

COMMENT

-------

4. (SBU) Uribe's potential candidacy allows him to avoid lame duck
status and to keep the political machinery in his pocket. His low
profile on the reelection question allows the initiative to
continue to be portrayed as of the people, by the people and for
the people, rather than as an executive's refusal to relinquish the
reins of power. We will likely have to wait until February or
March for the presidential race to become clearer. End Comment.
BROWNFIELD

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