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Cablegate: Ambassador's Visit to Medical Mission Highlights Security

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #0686/01 0531743
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 221742Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2982
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA

UNCLAS BOGOTA 000686

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV EAGR EAID SNAR MARR CO
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S VISIT TO MEDICAL MISSION HIGHLIGHTS SECURITY
GAINS IN LA MACARENA

REF: 10 BOGOTA 264

SUMMARY

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1. (SBU) The Ambassador traveled to La Macarena, Meta, on February
2 to tour a SOUTHCOM-sponsored humanitarian assistance mission
supplying medical services to more than 5,000 Colombian citizens.
The operation in the former guerrilla heartland underlined the
security gains made under Colombia's National Consolidation Plan.
Despite substantial security successes and other gains, the
consolidation effort faces continuing challenges. END SUMMARY.

HUMANITARIAN MISSION PROVIDES FREE SERVICES TO LOCAL POPULATION

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

2. (SBU) The Ambassador toured the annual bilateral U.S. Southern
Command (SOUTHCOM) sponsored Medical Readiness and Training
Exercise (MEDRETE) site at a local school in La Macarena, Meta
Department. The event, "Compromiso Colombia 2010," (Commitment
Colombia 2010) was a nine-day exercise in San Vicente del Caguan,
Caqueta, and La Macarena conducted by medical personnel from the
U.S. Army, with support from the Colombian Army and local civilian
personnel. The MEDRETE addressed health needs of the local
population and demonstrated U.S. commitment to the Government of
Colombia's (GOC) consolidation strategy. Medical services were
provided under the Colombia Strategic Development Initiative, the
Embassy's strategy to accompany the GOC's consolidation efforts.

3. (SBU) Accompanied by Colombian Military (COLMIL) Commander
General Freddy Padilla, the Ambassador toured the working mission,
observed the variety of treatments available, and talked to
patients. A total of 5,120 people were seen at the two sites
combined during the nine days of operations, including 3,733 for
general medical treatment up to the surgery level, 236 for dental
procedures, and 1,141 for optometry services. The Ambassador met
some of the 35 U.S. medical providers giving treatment, part of the
70 U.S. military personnel participating in the mission. Free
medications and 3,000 radios were provided to the local communities
as part of the operation.

4. (SBU) The Ambassador spoke to members of the mission and the
Colombian press of the tangible benefits increased security has
brought to the region. The Ambassador acknowledged that a MEDRETE
in this area, the former FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia) heartland, would have been impossible five years ago due
to the presence of armed groups and the lack of either economic
infrastructure or a viable state presence in the area. The local
population can now receive vital public health services, he said,
largely due to the efforts of COLMIL and local authorities. The
Ambassador underscored that if this stability can be achieved in an
area as remote as La Macarena, then it can be replicated in any
part of Colombia.

PROGRESS IN CONSOLIDATION PLAN MODEL, BUT CHALLENGES REMAIN

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

5. (SBU) The Ambassador was briefed on the advances and challenges
facing the consolidation program by the civilian coordinator for
the GOC's Plan for the Integrated Consolidation of the Macarena
(PCIM). The PCIM is the GOC's model program to increase state
presence in priority areas under the National Consolidation Plan,
in this case focusing on a former stronghold of the FARC in the
Macarena region of Meta (see Reftel). The Ambassador saw how


territory previously under the control of guerrillas and used for
the cultivation of illicit crops has been recuperated by COLMIL and
police in many local municipalities. He was also briefed on the
challenges of 2010, including the consolidation of security and
citizen protection, eradication of illicit crops, inefficient land
titling, consolidation of economic development opportunities, and
human rights abuses. The Ambassador concluded by underlining the
hope that the successes of the PCIM model can be applied to the
rest of the country. He urged progress in the land titling issue,
increased tertiary road transport routes, and credit access to
local farmers. He also stressed the need for civil institutions to
play a significant role in maintaining the National Consolidation
Plan.

NATIONAL AND REGIONAL PRESS COVERAGE

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

6. (U) The Ambassador's visit to La Macarena was covered by
national and regional media, with most of the focus on remarks from
the Ambassador on recently released figures of U.S. foreign
assistance support to Colombia, but other media concentrating on
the results of the services provided to the local population.
Coverage included articles in Bogota's daily El Espectador
(centrist, circulation: 264,000), Medellin leading daily El
Colombiano (conservative, circulation: 290,700), Cali's leading
daily El Pais (conservative, circulation: 210,600), Monteria's
regional daily El Meridiano de Cordoba (circulation: 136,000), and
national Todelar Radio (listenership: 150,000).

BROWNFIELD
BROWNFIELD

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