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Cablegate: Consolidation Progress in Former Farc Stronghold Impressive,


DE RUEHBO #0264/01 0262148
R 262146Z JAN 10



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: 09 BOGOTA 2334; 09 BOGOTA 2786; 08 BOGOTA 3547

1. (SBU) Summary: Despite notable progress, including marked
gains in public security, reduction of coca cultivation, and
winning support of the local population for governmental
institutions, the overall situation is fragile in the Macarena area
of Meta Department -- the former heartland of the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the focus of the Government of
Colombia's (GOC) Plan for the Integrated Consolidation of the
Macarena (PCIM). "Success" in the Macarena will be scrutinized
carefully since the PCIM is the model for intervention in other
priority areas under Colombia's National Consolidation Plan (PNC)
and has been touted as a counterinsurgency model for other
countries in conflict. While security and citizen confidence in
the national government have improved, Macarena residents and
leaders cite remaining challenges in transitioning to the licit
economy: land titling issues, deteriorated or non-existent tertiary
roads, and a lack of access to credit and resources. PCIM
officials and Colombian military commanders have noted the void
created in the wake of military clearing operations, especially the
lack of police presence, and the slow pace of the government to
establish a meaningful civilian presence in newly consolidated
areas. Government action has lagged behind rhetoric about the need
to establish state presence. Embassy Bogota is positioned to help
the GOC address many of the significant challenges facing the PCIM
and other key zones through Post's Colombian Strategic Development
Initiative. Post has also developed an engagement strategy with
key GOC stakeholders over the next month to focus civilian agency
attention on consolidation, including the PCIM. End Summary.

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2. (SBU) On December 14, NAS, USAID, and MILGP representatives
visited former FARC strongholds Cano Amarillo and Puerto Rico,
communities qualified as "in transition" under the PCIM. While
these areas have made tangible and significant progress, GOC
consolidation leaders emphasized the delicacy of the overall
situation and the need for continued progress. In Cano Amarillo --
a hamlet retaken from the FARC approximately a year ago -- local
residents and leaders raised concerns about challenges facing
consolidation and difficulties in transitioning to the licit
economy. Unless the GOC addresses the significant challenges
facing the PCIM, these problems may negatively impact the Embassy's
Colombian Strategic Development Initiative.

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PCIM as a Counterinsurgency Model

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3. (U) Beginning in 2007, the GOC, under Ministry of Defense
leadership and with USG support, initiated the PCIM, a pilot
program to increase state presence in the Macarena region of Meta
-- six municipal counties which were long a stronghold of the FARC.
The three PCIM coordinators (civilian, army, and police) act as
interlocutors with local, regional, and national government
counterparts, theoretically working together to ensure that the
clear/hold/build phases of consolidation unfold in a coordinated
and sequenced fashion. The military first establishes permanent
security for communities and then transitions security
responsibilities to the police while civilian institutions create
state presence through a range of government services including
education, health care, and infrastructure projects.

4. (SBU) The Colombian government used the PCIM model to create
the PNC. Regional coordination center (RCC) coordinators
responsible for consolidating other priority regions have visited
the PCIM to draw lessons and the PCIM civilian coordinator has
advised other RCCs. Representatives from across the USG, including
from the missions in Panama, Mexico, Afghanistan, Paraguay, and
other countries, have met with PCIM staff. Perceived PCIM success
to date has also attracted the interest of the governments of
Holland and Germany -- both of whom are financing aspects of PCIM

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

Stronger Participation of Civilian Agencies Needed in PCIM

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

5. (SBU) The lag in effective participation of civilian
ministries, such as the Ministry of Agriculture, and other actors
undermines the PCIM model of integrated state action. As the
consolidation process progresses, better civilian coordination and
high-level commitment from GOC civilian agencies are essential to
ensure the delivery of state services to communities that are
embracing the state as the legitimate authority for the first time.
The current ad hoc inter-institutional process will result in
poorly coordinated interventions that lack a long-term, structural

6. (SBU) Some of the challenges civilian government agencies face
to effectively participate in the PCIM include rigid bureaucratic
processes and the inability to adapt to fast changing conditions on
the ground. Additional funding for socio-economic programs is
needed and existing programs need more flexibility to be able to
respond quickly to take advantage of expanding spaces of security
and eradication. Post is encouraging the GOC to deepen civilian
agency commitment and improve upon steps taken to date, which
include a demonstrated prioritization of consolidation zones in the
2010 budget for the Agency for Social Action and a two day
conference this month convoked by the National Planning Department
to identify the totality of existing GOC programming as well as
programming gaps throughout the consolidation zones.

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

Security Improves, but Police Presence Lacking

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

7. (SBU) Colombian public security forces have made impressive
gains in the PCIM's area of operations, pushing the FARC out of key
population centers and surrounding areas and winning the confidence
of citizenry who now openly collaborate with government
consolidation efforts. Despite these advances, security gains are
tenuous. Area military commanders point to severe limitations
posed by their constitutional inability to act as "civilian" law
enforcement officials in matters not related to terrorism or armed
conflict, and tout the need for additional police presence in the

area. As in other areas of Colombia, the FARC is adapting to the
increased security presence by employing small, mobile units of
5-10 guerrillas, often in civilian attire. These groups are
difficult to identify and move into rural communities to exert
pressure, extort businesses, gather intelligence, and provide
logistical support for FARC units that are increasingly isolated
from population centers. Instead of engaging Colombian security
forces directly, the FARC is increasing its use of anti-personnel
mines and improvised explosive devices to inflict damage.

8. (SBU) The transition of security responsibility from the
military to the police -- a key element of consolidation --
continues to lag in the PCIM. The Colombian National Police has
established two new police stations in towns outside the municipal
capitals as a result of the consolidation effort. They also plan
to build two more stations by 2011. Nonetheless, overall police
presence is limited in transition zones and lags behind military
clearing operations. In the absence of a robust police presence,
common crime is reportedly on the rise in areas of previous FARC
influence. The potential for the emergence of organized drug
trafficking groups operating in areas adjacent to the PCIM is also
a concern. Until the Colombian National Police is able to budget
enough resources to expand and staff permanent bases outside of the
municipal capitals, permanent security will be elusive.

9. (SBU) Recently, the Fiscalia (the Colombian Prosecutor General
equivalent) assigned a special prosecutor and two investigators to
the PCIM's RCC in Vista Hermosa. The special prosecutor is tasked
to investigate crimes in the PCIM related to terrorism and
narco-trafficking. Despite this important support -- which took
nearly two years of lobbying to secure -- mobility within the PCIM
presents challenges to investigation efforts. Attempts to use
virtual courtrooms have been stymied by the legal requirement that
the accused be physically represented by counsel, an impossible
task given the absence of public defenders in the zone.


Economic Development Challenges


10. (SBU) Improved security conditions and a significant drop in
coca cultivation have spurred the transition to legal economic
activities in the Macarena. Long-term crops such as cacao, rubber,
coffee, and African Palm have demonstrated potential as suitable
alternatives to coca cultivation and drivers of sustainable
economic growth. Despite improved conditions, remaining obstacles
to lasting economic development include deteriorated tertiary
roads, poor market access for locally-produced products, lack of
credit, and the need for more government and private sector

11. (SBU) Notwithstanding the region's relative proximity to
Bogota, the country's largest domestic market, inadequate
infrastructure in the Macarena region limits local farmer access to
markets. Under the PCIM, tertiary road and bridge construction
prioritizes linking rural communities to markets and increasing
access to government services. To improve the region's tertiary
roadways and market access for rural farmers, the GOC must improve
roads and bridges and undertake new construction.

12. (U) The creation of rapid income-generating opportunities to
replace lost income from the coca economy and lack of credit for
small farmers also present challenges to economic growth in the
PCIM. The GOC, in collaboration with international donors
including USAID, have initiated pilot programs to address income
and food security needs post-eradication. Short-term food subsidy
programs encourage rural families to remain in the area, but they
do not represent a sustainable livelihood strategy for families in
the Macarena. For many rural farmers, credit is needed to purchase
essential farming inputs and equipment, make capital investments in
their farms, and pay day laborers. The problem is more severe for
former coca growers who often received financing from the FARC to
grow illicit crops and earned frequent cash payments for their
coca. USAID is working with the GOC's Opportunities Bank policy
program and the Colombian banking sector to encourage expansion of
microfinance services to rural areas such as the PCIM.

13. (SBU) Involvement of other government agencies and the private
sector is critical for the success of economic development
activities in the region. Under the Progreso program, USAID has
helped the PCIM establish productive roundtables in the Macarena
region that bring together government institutions, the private
sector, and farmers' associations to discuss productive activities
in the region. While linkages have been developed between
departmental-level agencies, the private sector, and local
producers to provide resources and economic development activities,
more needs to be done to engage the central government, and the
Ministries of Agriculture and Commerce in particular, to improve
small-scale farming.


Lack of Progress on Land Titling


14. (SBU) An unexpected result of the dramatic security
improvements in much of the Macarena region has been skyrocketing
property values. Consolidation staff report that small property
land values have increased 14-fold in two years in some PCIM areas,
attributable to better security. This inflation in land prices may
expose farmers without land title to conflict and competition for
land from large land owners and outside investors seeking to
capitalize on the emerging economic opportunities in the region.
There have also been anecdotal reports that major drug traffickers
have sent emissaries to buy land in and around the PCIM, and small
farmers run the risk of being pushed out by this land grab.

15. (SBU) Accelerated land titling is one solution to this
conflict, yet inefficient land titling is a major challenge and a
contentious issue in the PCIM. According to the civilian
coordinator, no small farmers have received title to property in
the PCIM since consolidation efforts began. Complex bureaucratic
rules governing land titling in Colombia often discourage small
land holders from pursuing their claims. In addition, many
residents in the region reside within territory designated for
special environmental management due to proximity to three national
parks. This designation includes the requirement that claims be
accompanied by an environmental management plan, a daunting task
for small-scale farmers. USAID is supporting GOC efforts to reform

the land policy framework, including titling procedures,
restitution, communal territories, and protected areas. The
changes currently being proposed would greatly facilitate
resolution of the issues mentioned above, not only in PCIM, but for
the other consolidation areas as well. Some PCIM residents face
additional hurdles to land ownership as Colombian law prohibits
former coca farmers from legally obtaining title to their land for
five years after growing coca.


Coca Cultivation Down


16. (U) The United Nations reported that coca cultivation in the
PCIM was down 73 percent in 2008 compared to 2007, evidence that
consolidation and eradication efforts have been successful in
reducing coca cultivation there (Ref A). But the progress must be
seen in the broad context of continued FARC resilience. The
FARC-controlled region in the southern PCIM bordering the Macarena
National Park is still a significant coca cultivation area and
poses security issues for manual eradicators. In July 2009, PCIM
officials, citing security concerns and the relatively small
amounts of licit agriculture in the southern PCIM, requested aerial
eradication operations to cut off an important source of revenue
for the FARC (Ref B). The request came over a year after a large
part of the PCIM was declared off limits to spray to accommodate
consolidation efforts and to implement an ambitious voluntary
eradication program (Ref C). Recently, PCIM officials requested a
second round of aerial eradication for mid-January to combat
replanting efforts following spray operations in August.

17. (SBU) Coca eradication in the PCIM has largely been
successful, but challenges remain. PCIM officials acknowledge that
voluntary and forced manual eradication programs in some parts of
the PCIM are impossible to implement due to anticipated violence by
the FARC against eradication teams and participating communities.
In safer PCIM transition zones, lack of funding for small-scale
eradication operations has left behind small pockets of coca that
undermine lasting eradication and perpetuate a culture of




18. (SBU) The PCIM has shown that improved security brings
significant ancillary benefits, as shown by increased land prices
in the region as a consequence of citizen security. While
challenges continue to face the PCIM, they are not insurmountable.
Post is watching to see if the recent departure of Vice Minister of
Defense Sergio Jaramillo, a major proponent of the PCIM model,
results in less attention and urgency from Bogota on the success of
consolidation in the Macarena. On the other hand, the arrival of a
more operational official to replace Jaramillo might well lead to
progress on operational challenges such as those cited in this
message. Jaramillo's replacement, Jorge Mario Eastman, appears to
have embraced his role as co-chair of the consolidation process and

to recognize the significance of the consolidation plan in the
national context. With elections and a possible government
transition looming, the GOC may grow distracted with the PCIM model
in 2010, and Embassy Bogota is working to prevent this. Embassy
Bogota has developed an engagement strategy with key GOC
stakeholders over the next month to cultivate VMOD Eastman's
interest in the PCIM and to increase the focus of civilian agency
attention on consolidation. Consolidation efforts have generated
high expectations among communities for the transformation of the
Macarena region. Fulfilling these expectations is crucial to PCIM
success and progress of the Embassy's Colombian Strategic
Development Initiative in the Macarena and beyond.

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