Cablegate: Colombia: 2003 Annual Terrorism Report

Published: Fri 12 Dec 2003 07:36 PM
R 121936Z DEC 03
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: A. REF A: STATE 301352
B. REF B: BOGOTA 10403
C. REF C: BOGOTA 10048
1. Colombia continues its struggle against the country's
three main terrorist organizations ) the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN)
and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) -- all
of which have been designated by the U.S. as Foreign
Terrorist Organizations. Although there were no reports of
international terrorist acts in Colombia during 2003, there
were and continue to be persistent actions by guerrilla
groups endangering U.S. and Colombian government personnel
and assets, and targeting congested public areas such as
shopping malls, parks, and popular restaurants.
The Government of Colombia does not support terrorists
politically or financially; to the contrary, the Uribe
administration continues to take a tough stance against
terrorism. In 2003, President Uribe has increased military
pressure on illegal armed groups and pushed forward an
ambitious security agenda, which: 1) secured congressional
passage of anti-terrorism legislation; 2) strengthened
programs promoting the desertion and reintegration of illegal
armed group members; and 3) engaged the GOC in demobilization
negotiations with the AUC. The latter process has led to a
recent mass demobilization of 855 paramilitaries in Medellin
and another 155 in Cauca; another is planned for early 2004.
End Summary.
Terrorist Organizations Continue to Attack
2. In February, the country's largest terrorist organization
(the approximately 16,000-member FARC) set off a major
car bomb attack on Bogota's Club El Nogal. The bombing killed
34 and wounded over 160. One week later near Florencia,
Caqueta Department, the FARC captured three U.S. contractors
and killed another American and a Colombian - all crew
members of a crashed U.S. aircraft; the three Americans
continue to be held hostage. The FARC struck again on
February 15 when a house bomb detonated in Neiva, Huila
Department, killing sixteen and wounding over forty. In
September, the ELN kidnapped eight foreign tourists visiting
archeological ruins in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. One
escaped, two were released in November 2003, but five remain
captive at year's end.
In October, November, and December 2003, the FARC set off a
car bomb in San Andresito, an area of Bogota where contraband
electronics are commonly sold and where the FARC and the AUC
are known to extort shop owners and compete for turf,
launched a rocket at a prominent Colombian business leader,
fired another rocket at the military side of Bogota's
international commercial airport, and tossed grenades at two
restaurants frequented by Americans and other foreigners.
Numerous other attacks have been thwarted in Bogota, due in
large part to intelligence work performed by Colombian public
security forces.
Reflecting increased high level attention and funding, the
GOC's ambitious security agenda has produced substantial
achievements. In 2003, murders have decreased by sixteen
percent, assassinations of trade unionists are down
sixty-eight percent and kidnappings have been reduced by
thirty percent from 2002. The Colombian military has
completed phase 2A of its "Plan Patriota" national defense
plan in the Cundinamarca area surrounding Bogota, which
reaped significant successes, including the killing of at
least five mid-level FARC commanders who operated in the area.
3. The following addresses ref A's specific questions:
a. The GOC has taken the following actions in 2003 to support
the global coalition against terrorism:
-- The GOC continues to cooperate in blocking terrorist
assets. The Financial Information and Analysis Unit (UIAF),
similar in function to the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement
Unit (FINCEN), was created in 2001. UIAF collaborates closely
with the Embassy's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC);
-- President Uribe will have met his goal of installing a
state security presence in every one of the country's 1098
municipalities by the end of 2003. This has been a major
accomplishment toward reclaiming territory from terrorist
-- President Uribe has submitted to Congress two important
draft laws with significant public security implications: 1)
the anti-terrorism bill; and 2) the conditional parole bill
(ref B). The anti-terrorism bill, which was approved by
Congress December 10, will increase the government's
authority to conduct wiretaps, residential searches, and
detentions. The conditional parole legislation is connected
to the broader peace process, and provides the GOC with
flexibility to waive prison sentences for combatants who
agree to demobilize and support the GOC's anti-terrorism
-- With USG assistance, the GOC expects to encourage this
year upwards of 4000 illegal combatants to desert ) an
increase of 84 percent from 2002. The program has yielded
significant intelligence, which will help in capturing and
prosecuting other illegal armed group commanders (ref C);
-- On November 25, the GOC demobilized 855 paramilitaries
from the AUC's Cacique Nutibara Bloc. In December, 155
paramilitaries in Cauca Department were demobilized. The
next AUC demobilization is scheduled for early 2004 in
northern Colombia;
-- The USG's Anti-Terrorist Assistance (ATA) programs are
training Colombian police and military anti-kidnapping units
(GAULA). Kidnappings are an important means of revenue for
the illegal armed groups, particularly for the FARC and ELN.
DSS/ATA is implementing one of the largest USG
anti-kidnapping assistance programs ($25-million) to help the
GOC train and equip GAULA units;
-- The GOC is also taking its own steps to strengthen its
anti-terrorism capabilities. A newly-improved and expanded
anti-terrorism unit has been set up in the Prosecutor
General's Office (Fiscalia). This unit was formally part of
the narcotics section, but was separated out in 2003. The
GOC has assigned additional prosecutors to the anti-terrorism
unit to focus on prosecuting infrastructure attacks,
particularly in oil producing areas such as Arauca and
Casanare; and
-- Plan Colombia has made significant strides in combating
narco-trafficking, a key source of income for terrorist
organizations. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates
that coca cultivation could be reduced by aerial eradication
by as much as 50 percent this year (almost 130,000 hectares
eradicated). The GOC sprayed approximately 2700 hectares of
opium poppy this year. In August 2003, the U.S. resumed the
Airbridge Denial Program, which assists the GOC in
intercepting aircraft trafficking narcotics and arms.
B. The GOC has been particularly cooperative in cases and
investigations involving Americans, such as the kidnapping of
the contractors and the recent grenade attack in Bogota.
C. The US-Colombia extradition relationship continues to be
one of the most successful in the world. The GOC has
extradited 136 Colombian citizens to the U.S. since July
2000, mostly related to narcotics cases. Continued
cooperation from the GOC's Foreign and Justice Ministries has
led to the extradition of 88 persons during President Uribe's
tenure (through November 14), 64 in the year 2003. In May
2003, the GOC approved the extradition of Nelson Vargas
Rueda, the first FARC member to be sent to the U.S. (Note:
Vargas Rueda is accused of the 1999 kidnapping and murder of
three American NGO activists working on behalf of Colombian
indigenous groups. End Note.) Also extradited in May was
Gerardo Herrera Iles, accused of taking foreign oil workers
hostage, including U.S. citizens.
D. There is no impediment to extradition for terrorist acts
occurring outside of Colombia. However, for terrorist acts
that occur in Colombia involving American victims, there
could be an impediment if the GOC initiates its own
prosecution before the U.S. submits a request for
extradition. The Colombian Code of Criminal Procedure and
jurisprudence from the Colombian Constitutional Court
prevents extradition of individuals who have been, or are
being, prosecuted in Colombia for the same act or acts. Once
a case has been opened in Colombia, even if it were later
dismissed, double jeopardy could prevent the defendant from
being extradited on those charges. Accordingly, the U.S.
recently had to withdraw an extradition request for an
Ejercito Liberacion Popular (ELP) defendant who was already
being prosecuted in Colombia for the same act.
E. In addition to prosecution, the GOC has taken several
other measures to combat terrorism:
-- As in 2002, the GOC continues to speak out forcefully and
often against terrorist organizations;
-- The GOC continues to improve and expand its Informer
Network, which trains civilians to assist police in crime
prevention and alerting law enforcement to illegal armed
group activity;
-- A U.S. financed Rewards for Justice (RFJ) campaign has
been initiated for information that leads to the capture,
arrest, and prosecution of those persons involved in the
hostage-taking of the three American contractors; and
-- Despite severe national budget constraints, President
Uribe continues to increase the amount Colombia spends on
security. In 2003, the GOC allocated 4.0 percent of GDP to
security ) up from 3.5 percent in 2002. It hopes to increase
spending to 4.5 percent by 2006.
F. The GOC has sought to build international condemnation of
Colombian terrorists. At the GOC's request, the Organization
of American States (OAS) passed Resolution 837 condemning the
bombing of El Nogal, specifically naming the FARC as the
perpetrators. The GOC also requested and received UNSC
condemnation of the attack. In mid-2003, the United Kingdom
hosted a conference in London in which 24 countries voiced
their commitment to support Colombian democracy and
disapproval of the illegal armed groups.
G. The GOC has not provided any support for international
terrorism, terrorists, or terrorist groups.
H. The GOC has not made any statements in support of
terrorist organizations or terrorist-sponsoring states.
I. Comment: Colombia understands only too well the
devastation caused by terrorism. From the day it assumed
office on August 8, 2002, the Uribe Administration has
demonstrated a firm resolve in fighting terrorism. The GOC is
supportive of USG efforts to combat terrorist acts, target
terrorist finances, and cooperate with extradition requests.
We expect this highly productive USG-GOC cooperation to
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