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Cablegate: Mixed Reactions to Plan Colombia Cut, Goc to Lobby Us

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INFO RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
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UNCLAS BOGOTA 000165

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PTER SNAR EAID CO
SUBJECT: Mixed Reactions to Plan Colombia Cut, GOC to Lobby US
Congress

Summary

-------

1. (SBU) The Government of Colombia's (GOC) reaction to the
announcement of cuts to USG Plan Colombia assistance has been
measured and has recognized fiscal realities in the United States
as well as Plan Colombia's natural tendency towards reduced
assistance. Still, officials have expressed concerns over
reductions in eradication funding, citing high levels of coca
cultivation and the need to consolidate gains under Plan Colombia.
Minister of Defense Gabriel Silva plans to travel to Washington
next week to lobby for sustained Plan Colombia support. A
presidential candidate, and a prominent NGO analyst, inferred
deeper messages, saying the cut signals disapproval of a possible
third Uribe term and a shift in U.S. policy. Other analysts said
the reduction should have come with an explicit message that the
cuts represented success in attacking narco-trafficking
organizations and that the United States has taken a decision to
confront the social roots of the Colombian conflict. End Summary.

U.S. Fiscal Realities & Plan Colombia Glide Path

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

2. (U) The GOC has reacted rationally to the USG announcement of
FY11 Plan Colombia reductions and emphasized that it should not be
a surprise. President Uribe said the United States will continue
being an ally and will not abandon Colombia. He added that two
things need to be acknowledged: the U.S. budget deficit is very
large -- 10% of GDP as compared to 4.5% in Colombia, and Plan
Colombia has always been spoken of in transitory terms. Vice
President Francisco Santos said the idea has always been that the
Colombian state would progressively assume charge of the efforts
financed by Plan Colombia. Diego Molano, head of the President's
Agency for Social Action and International Cooperation (Accion
Social), also stated the cuts were predictable and added that they
did not represent a punishment for false positives or the illegal
wiretapping scandals of the Administrative Department of Security
(DAS).

Eradication Primary Concern

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

3. (SBU) While Uribe acknowledged Plan Colombia's realities, he
also warned not to lower the guard against coca cultivation as
large amounts still exist in Colombia. Uribe pointed to apparent
flexibility in Washington for more manual eradication funds as a
positive, since coca cultivation has transitioned from vast tracts
to small parcels. Molano also expressed concerns about reductions
in spending on eradication, which is a key component of the
National Consolidation Plan and vital to reinforce alternative
development. Colombian Ambassador to the United States Carolina
Barco stated that, in light of the cut, a review is necessary to
find the most effective strategy involving manual eradication and
aerial spraying.

Potential Budget Impacts Downplayed

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

4. (U) Uribe affirmed that everyone is going to have to do the same
with less money by being more efficient. General Freddy Padilla,
Commander of the Armed Forces, said for now the cuts will not


affect the military since they can count on resources for the next
six months, which they will optimize, and await the next budget in
September. Molano said the cuts will not affect Accion Social's
social programs, which are largely paid for out of Colombia's own
national budget.

GOC Will Lobby U.S. Congress

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

5. (SBU) Despite public acceptance, the GOC plans to lobby the U.S.
Congress for sustained Plan Colombia support and Minister of
Defense Gabriel Silva plans to travel to Washington next week with
Vice Minister Jorge Mario Eastman. Molano said the Ministries of
Foreign Affairs and Defense were covering all fronts in the United
States to demonstrate the importance of maintaining the levels and
priorities of Plan Colombia, with respect to cooperation in
security and social development.

Adapting Counternarcotics Strategies

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

6. (U) In light of the reduction, Colombian Ambassador Barco stated
that a regional counternarcotics strategy is needed that includes
the United States, Mexico, Central America, and Colombia. Jairo
Clopatofsky, Senator of Uribe's U party, was more pointed, saying
the announced cuts go against the commitment the United States has
had with Colombia to support the eradication of illicit crops,
which according to him now amounts to more than 140,000 hectares.
Opposition Senator Cecilia Lopez, Liberal Party, went even further
saying the reduction should be a lesson in the failure of the war
against drugs, and the Colombian government will now have to
envision a way to assume the responsibilities of its own conflicts
and put counternarcotics on the global agenda.

Presidential Candidate Faults Uribe Third Term

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

7. (U) German Vargas Lleras, presidential candidate of the Radical
Change Party (anti-reelection but supportive of Uribe policies),
blamed Uribe's possible third term saying the USG has clearly
demonstrated that it is against reelection. He also faulted
Colombian diplomacy for allowing the United States to cut
assistance to its principal ally in the region.

Prominent NGO Analyst Says GOC "Disgraced"

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

8. (U) Leon Valencia, of respected think tank New Rainbow
Corporation, wrote that the Plan Colombia cuts were the culmination
of several signals that the GOC has been disgraced in Washington,
and the United States is shifting its Colombia policy. According
to Valencia, the signals have been the failure to ratify the
U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, rejections of an Uribe third
term, calls to respect human rights, and the two critical letters
sent from the U.S. Congress to Secretary Clinton. Other NGOs have
been largely silent on the issue.


9. (SBU) Political violence expert Gonzalo Sanchez told Polcouns
February 3 that he thought the cuts should have been announced with
a clear message that the United States had taken a decision to
attack the social roots of the Colombian conflict such as poverty
and land access. Center-right security analyst and columnist
Alfredo Rangel told Polcouns February 4 the cuts were
understandable given the GOC's success in attacking
narco-trafficking organizations. He added, however, that Colombia
still needs help from the international community with justice
sector reform and alternative development.

Continued Support Needed to Consolidate Gains

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

10. (U) Vice President Santos said he was in complete disagreement
with criticisms that Plan Colombia has been a failure. He
described the Plan as a historic success in fighting against
narcotics, combating illegal armed groups and establishing
governance. Santos maintained that Colombia needs continued
support in security matters to consolidate those advances.
BROWNFIELD

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