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Cablegate: Codel Engel Discusses Fta and Dca, Encourages Colombian

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DE RUEHBO #0238/01 0221834
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 221830Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2177
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION
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RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
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RUEHDG/AMEMBASSY SANTO DOMINGO
RUEHGT/AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA
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RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
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UNCLAS BOGOTA 000238

CODEL
SENSITIVE
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV SNAR EAID ETRD PHUM MOPS OREP CO
SUBJECT: CODEL ENGEL DISCUSSES FTA AND DCA, ENCOURAGES COLOMBIAN
LEADERSHIP IN REGIONAL COUNTERNARCOTICS EFFORTS

REF: 09 BOGOTA 3635

SUMMARY

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

1. (SBU) House Foreign Affairs Committee Western Hemisphere
Subcommittee Chairman Eliot Engel led a Congressional delegation to
Cartagena and Monteria, Colombia from January 7-10, 2010. At his
private ranch in Monteria, President Uribe outlined Colombia's
progress, with U.S. support, on counternarcotics efforts but
cautioned that much remains to be done. Uribe addressed human
rights violations, violence against labor unions, and social and
economic development. He thanked the Members for extending
unilateral trade preferences for Colombian exports under the Andean
Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) and asked them to
expedite ratification of the bilateral U.S.-Colombia Free Trade
Agreement (FTA). The Defense Minister highlighted Colombian
assistance to a number of governments in the region in building
their capabilities to combat narco-trafficking. In meetings with
the Government of Colombia and in remarks to the press, Chairman
Engel praised the GOC as a close and reliable ally in the region,
highlighted the important gains made under the Uribe
administration, and clarified misconceptions about the recently
signed U.S.-Colombia Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA). He told
President Uribe that there are many merits to the FTA but warned
that U.S. domestic political issues would prevent the legislation
from being passed immediately. Engel also explained his efforts to
create a commission to comprehensively review U.S. counternarcotics
policy with a focus on reducing demand and developing a broader
regional approach to eradication and interdiction. The
delegation's agenda also included: a meeting with the Mayor of
Cartagena; a visit to a vocational center for demobilized child
soldiers; a maritime interdiction briefing at the Colombian Navy
base (one of seven included in the DCA); a roundtable discussion
with Afro-Colombian leaders; and finally, briefings from the
Colombian Narcotics Police on seaport counter-narcotics efforts,
and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel about
implementation of the U.S. Container Security Initiative. END
SUMMARY.

PRESIDENT URIBE HIGHLIGHTS RESULTS, ASKS FOR APPROVAL OF FTA

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

2. (U) In an unprecedented meeting at his private ranch in the
cattle-growing area of Monteria, during which his wife personally
prepared and served breakfast and his two sons assisted with maps
and flow charts, President Alvaro Uribe interrupted his vacation to
host HFAC Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Chairman Eliot Engel
(D-NY), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), and Pedro
Pierluisi (D-PR), accompanied by Deputy Assistant Secretary of
State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Christopher McMullen. Uribe
was joined by Minister of Defense Gabriel Silva, Vice Minister of
Trade Gabriel Duque, High Commissioner for Peace and Reintegration
Frank Pearl, Social Action Director Diego Molano, and Colombian
Ambassador to the United States Carolina Barco.

3. (U) Uribe presented his model of building confidence in Colombia
based on the three pillars of security with democratic values,
investment with social responsibility, and social cohesion. He
underlined that, with the essential support of the United States,
the State has recovered its monopoly to fight criminals and
administer justice, has built confidence in democratic
institutions, and has provided assistance and reparations to the


victims of conflict. Uribe highlighted social investments in
education, health, and housing, while conceding that the government
was still lagging in providing housing for internally displaced
persons. Regarding the DCA, Uribe said the majority of Colombians
support it and he hoped neighbors would eventually recognize how
the agreement benefits the region.

4. (SBU) Uribe thanked the Members for extending unilateral trade
preferences for Colombian exports under the ATPDEA and asked them
to expedite ratification of the bilateral U.S.-Colombia FTA, noting
that Colombia had been and would remain an important regional ally
and could serve as a counterweight to the growing relationship
between Venezuela, Bolivia, and Iran. He said that by the end of
January, the GOC hopes to sign an FTA with the European Union and
that the Colombia-Canada FTA would be presented soon in the
Canadian Parliament. He said the lack of an FTA with the United
States made it difficult to finalize agreements with other trading
partners.

URIBE AND DEFENSE MINISTER EMPHASIZE HUMAN RIGHTS

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

5. (U) President Uribe emphasized the importance of protecting
human rights, which he described as essential to maintaining
confidence in the government and public support for its Democratic
Security policy. Citing government statistics supporting
significant reductions in murders, kidnappings, and attacks on
labor union leaders, 2,000 of whom are now under direct government
protection. Uribe acknowledged that much work remains to be done.
He said he would not be satisfied until the number of labor union
homicides was zero. He referred to increases in the
investigations and prosecutions related to the homicides of
unionists and noted that in many cases these murders appeared to
have nothing to do with the victims' affiliation with organized
labor.

6. (U) Referring to "false positive" killings - military murders
presented as killed in combat - Defense Minister Silva said that no
cases of "false positives" were presented in 2009. He added that
all cases of combat killings were now sent directly to the Office
of the Prosecutor General (Fiscalia) for investigation rather than
being processed through the military justice system. He
acknowledged that the Fiscalia had received 39 complaints of
alleged human rights abuses by members of the armed forces in 2009.
Silva said that in each of these cases, the military personnel
involved were removed from their units pending the results of the
investigations.

COLOMBIA AS REGIONAL LEADER IN COUNTERNARCOTICS EFFORTS

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

7. (SBU) Defense Minister Silva discussed Colombia's assistance to
Mexico in building its capacity to combat narco-trafficking, money
laundering and hostage taking. He further explained that Colombia
now provides training to investigators, and anti-narcotics police
in, Guatemala, Panama, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Paraguay.
He said the GOC engages in joint counternarcotics activity with
Peru and intelligence sharing with Chile. Silva said he had also


met recently with his Ecuadorian counterpart to lay the groundwork
for intelligence cooperation.

8. (U) President Uribe remarked that Colombia faces new challenges
as a consumption country, with one million Colombians now
classified as consumers. He cited a recent constitutional
amendment making it illegal to possess small quantities of drugs
for personal consumption and said the GOC would devote more
resources to prevention, education, and rehabilitation. Referring
to the Copenhagen climate change summit, Uribe said he hopes to
raise awareness of the environmental impact of illicit crop
cultivation which contributes to climate change as
narco-trafficking organizations clear the Colombian rainforest to
grow coca.

9. (SBU) At the Cartagena Navy Base, Navy Commander Admiral
Guillermo Barrera expressed his gratitude for the "essential
partnership of the U.S." and briefed the delegation on the record
number of cocaine seizures achieved by international cooperation,
improved intelligence sharing, and the deployment of aerial
surveillance and his-speed interdiction boats. He claimed that, in
aggregate, 31 dollars in cocaine had been seized for every dollar
invested in resources since the U.S.-Colombia Maritime Interdiction
Agreement was signed in 1997. He highlighted that the Colombian
Navy's School of Maritime Interdiction hosted students from 12
partner countries. An International Maritime Analysis Center, in
which 17 countries will participate, is scheduled to be based in
Cartagena.

MEMBERS UNDERSCORE ANTI-DRUG COOPERATION, DCA AND FTA

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10. (U) In meetings with President Uribe and Admiral Barrera,
Chairman Engel outlined his Western Hemisphere Drug Policy
Commission legislation (HR 2134) that passed the House of
Representatives in December. The legislation is modeled after the
9/11 Commission and intends to establish an independent commission
to comprehensively review U.S. counternarcotics policy. He said
the United States needed to focus more on demand reduction and take
a broader regional (versus bilateral) approach to eradication and
interdiction. Engel praised Colombia as a "remarkable success
story" and thanked the GOC for exporting its knowledge and
experience to the region. Representative Pierluisi echoed the
Chairman's remarks, describing the domino effect of
counternarcotics policy; as soon as drug activity is reduced in one
area, it simply migrates to another, more permissive environment.

11. (U) Speaking to the press, Chairman Engel described Alvaro
Uribe as an "extraordinary president" and praised Colombia a close
friend and key ally in the region, adding that reliable allies
should be rewarded. Stating that Colombia has good friends in both
parties, he offered to discuss with his colleagues in Congress and
President Obama the strategic implications of the FTA with
Colombia. He cautioned, however, that domestic political
considerations and competing priorities in the United States made
it unlikely that the FTA would be ratified imminently. Turning to
the DCA, Engel emphasized that the agreement does nothing more than
modernize, consolidate, and codify existing agreements without
threatening Colombia's neighbors or increasing the presence of U.S.
military personnel in Colombia.


EMPHASIS ON AFROCOLOMBIANS AND CHILD SOLDIERS

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12. (U) Over lunch, the Members engaged in a discussion with
Afro-Colombian leaders in Cartagena representing the community,
civil society and the business sector. Despite their diverse
backgrounds, the leaders were unanimous in arguing that
Afro-Colombians are disproportionately affected by displacement due
to the armed conflict, unemployment and sexual tourism. They also
criticized the GOC for its lack of support for land titling
initiatives. Several participants emphasized how plans to
privatize beaches in Cartagena would exacerbate the economic
challenges Afro-Colombian small business owners already confront.
The leaders offered minimal feedback, however, in response to
Chairman Engel's question on how the United States could better
support Afro-Colombian communities. Separately, during the meeting
in Monteria, President Uribe mentioned that the GOC was in the
process of designing a Colombian version of Affirmative Action and
would seek advice from the United States. (Note: On January 12,
during his visit to Colombia, Deputy Secretary of State Steinberg
signed an Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality with Foreign
Minister Jaime Bermudez. End note.)

13. (U) Cartagena's dynamic mayor, Judith Pinedo, herself an
Afro-Colombian, shared her vision of reuniting the two
Cartagenas--rich and poor--divided by a social and economic gap.
Pinedo noted that the poor are predominantly members of the
Afro-Colombian community. She highlighted the growing role of
Cartagena as an international gateway to Colombia.

14. (U) The delegation also met with youth at risk of recruitment
by illegal armed groups and former child soldiers who receive
assistance from Colombia's Escuela Taller, a vocational skills
training center for underprivileged youth supported through USAID's
Child Soldiers Program. The program provides income generation
opportunities for participants while helping them to reintegrate
socially into the community. Several youth participating in the
program shared with the Members their emotional stories of
recruitment (frequently by coercion) into armed groups, life in
those groups (often marked by abuse), and their subsequent
desertion and gradual rehabilitation through Escuela Taller.

15. (U) CODEL Engel cleared this cable.
NICHOLS

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