Cablegate: U/S Grossman's Meetings with President Uribe And

Published: Thu 16 Sep 2004 03:03 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
id: 20691
date: 9/16/2004 15:07
refid: 04BOGOTA9364
origin: Embassy Bogota
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 04BOGOTA7901
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BOGOTA 009364
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/16/2014
B. BOGOTA 8193
C. BOGOTA 9192
D. BOGOTA 7831
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Milton K. Drucker for reasons
1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (C) Summary. On September 9, Under Secretary for
Political Affairs Marc Grossman had separate meetings with
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and Vice-President Francisco
Santos in Cartagena. Grossman thanked Uribe and Santos for
their efforts to secure the safe release of the three
American hostages held by the FARC. He also congratulated
them on progress on human rights cases and called for much
more. Grossman said he would not be able to make immediate
changes on U.S. business visa policies or the travel advisory
for Colombia. Both Uribe and Santos asked for additional
funding for demobilization and said the FARC is showing signs
of weakness. The peace process with the AUC remains
complicated, but there has been some progress toward possible
talks with the ELN. Santos said the fall of the U.S. dollar
was affecting export industries, while Uribe expressed
concern that the tourism industry in Cartagena was suffering
because of the U.S. travel warning. Both said the USG should
recognize the legitimacy of the Chavez administration in
Venezuela while maintaining pressure on the GOV regarding
good governance and relations with the political opposition.
End Summary.
Human Rights
2. (C) Grossman congratulated Uribe and Santos on the
administration's many human rights progress, notably arrests
in the Arauca union murders case (refs A and B), the effort
to move the Mapiripan case to Bogota, and the decision to
hold high-level meetings with NGOs. Grossman stressed the
need for even more progress on human rights, highlighting the
importance of eliminating impunity for military leaders
guilty of human rights violations or collusion with
paramilitaries. He also highlighted U.S. concerns over the
prosecution of Lieutenant Colonel Orozco in the Mapiripan
case, providing Uribe with a chronology of events to explain
the USG's position.
3. (C) Uribe said he would raise the Orozco case with
Prosecutor General Osorio and pass on our concerns and the
chronology of events. (Later that day Osorio provided
information on two human rights cases reported in ref C.)
4. (C) Uribe expressed frustration that NGOs are not
interested in hearing his side on human rights issues, but
are instead promoting their own political agendas. Grossman
stressed the important role that NGOs can play and supported
Uribe's invitation to bring more NGOs to Colombia. Grossman
congratulated Uribe on the meeting between the Military High
Command and the NGO community on August 5, and on Uribe's
meeting with Amnesty International (ref D). Both were
credited in the public eye as successes in improving dialogue
on human rights.
Humanitarian Exchange with the FARC
5. (C) U/S Grossman thanked Uribe for his efforts to secure
the safe release of the three U.S. hostages being held by the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Uribe
admitted that the offer for a humanitarian exchange with the
FARC, initiated by Switzerland, was a surprise. His first
reaction was to refuse the offer because the FARC wanted to
obtain the release of high-level leaders convicted of
atrocities. He eventually decided, however, that if the FARC
released all of its political hostages he would be willing to
release an equal number of low-level FARC members charged
only with rebellion. He explained that he does not have the
legal authority to release those convicted of violent crime.
He also wants the released prisoners to either be resettled
in France, or participate in reintegration programs in
Colombia. He repeated his earlier commitments to insist that
any exchange with the FARC include the American hostages.
Vice-President Santos was pessimistic that Uribe's position
on reintegration would be feasible, and predicted that the
return of FARC members to combat would be a demoralizing blow
to the military. Santos added that the hostages issue is
hurting Uribe's image and chances for reelection.
Demobilization and Peace Processes
6. (C) Uribe was pleased to report that for the first time
his sources tell him the FARC is under pressure from Plan
Patriota Phase 2B. Santos said the COLMIL would soon be
sending a mobile brigade into Arauca. Both Uribe and Santos
said they had overestimated the strength of the FARC.
Grossman said the USG has been pleased with the number of
terrorist deserters, but Santos countered that numbers are
likely to decrease, since the remaining fighters are more
dedicated to their cause.
7. (C) Santos said peace negotiations with the United
Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) are not going smoothly
because the AUC does not really want to demobilize. He
opined that AUC leaders are more worried about extradition to
the U.S. than leaving a power vacuum that could be exploited
by the FARC. He expressed concern that if peace talks with
the AUC break down, "it could get bloody."
8. (C) Santos said incipient peace negotiations with the
National Liberation Army (ELN) are going more smoothly. The
GOC sent a letter to the ELN in June regarding terms for a
peace settlement. (Note: The ELN responded to the GOC in
writing on September 6 (septel). End note).
9. (C) Uribe said the GOC needs the USG's help to reintegrate
former fighters from illegal armed groups. Roughly 6,000
members of the FARC, ELN, and AUC have voluntarily
demobilized and need to be reintegrated into Colombian
society. Grossman assured Uribe that demobilization is a
high priority for the USG, that we have committed USD 275,000
towards demobilization, and plan to add another USD 300,000.
Free Trade Agreement
10. (C) Grossman told Uribe the U.S. supports efforts to
attract U.S. investors to Colombia, including events such as
promotions in New York City on September 29 and Miami on
September 30. Uribe said he has been criticized recently for
his support of the free trade agreement (FTA) with the U.S.,
specifically because of the difficulty many Colombian
nationals have obtaining business visas to the U.S. Charge
d'Affaires informed Uribe that Embassy officers would be
meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the following
day to discuss business visas. Grossman said the Embassy
would do what it could to facilitate the visa application
process, but added that it would not be helpful to link an
FTA and visa issuances.
11. (C) Uribe said he believes the biggest obstacle to
implementing the FTA will be agreement on agricultural
exports. Santos said the fall in the value of the dollar
against the peso was putting pressure on agricultural
exporters in the coffee, banana, cotton, and finished textile
export sectors, which have all laid off workers because of
decreases in production. Otherwise, said Santos, the
Colombian economy is doing well. He said the growing deficit
in the pension system is the only major fiscal policy issue
at the moment.
12. (C) Uribe reiterated his support for extradition of
criminals to the U.S., but said he did not want it to become
an issue in his campaign for reelection. He asked that the
USG ensure that prison sentences for criminals extradited
from Colombia not be longer than allowed under Colombian law,
and that extradited individuals be convicted for acts that
considered crimes in Colombia. Grossman said we had received
the message delivered to Secretary Powell in Panama and that
we are working to improve our mutual understanding of both
legal systems. Uribe accepted Grossman's suggestion of a
visit by a senior DOJ official to Bogota.
13. (C) Grossman asked for Uribe's and Santos' views on
engagement with the administration of Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez. Both stressed the importance of recognizing
Chavez as president, but also noted the need to pressure him
privately on good governance and keeping doors open with the
political opposition. Uribe said we need to cooperate with
Venezuela on counternarcotics and counterterrorism where we
can. Santos said we should work hard to assure that the 2006
elections are free and fair. He also asked the USG to work
with the GOV on security and border issues, as kidnappers
tend to move easily across the border and police/military
cooperation is weak, especially at higher levels.
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Security in Cartagena and the USG Travel Warning
--------------------------------------------- ---
14. (C) President Uribe took advantage of the venue to
comment on overall improvements to security in Colombia and
his desire to see U.S.-flag cruise ships return to Cartagena.
He asked Grossman if it would be possible to make an
exception to the travel warning for Colombia to highlight the
relative security of Cartagena. Grossman said our first
priority is the safety of U.S. citizens and did not commit to
change the travel warning in the near term, but agreed to
convey these concerns in Washington. Uribe said that the
population of Cartagena has swollen from 500,000 in 1990 to
almost 1 million people today, mostly reflecting internally
displaced persons (IDPs). Unemployment is high, and Uribe
would like to attract more international visitors to
Cartagena and stimulate tourism.
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Request for Assistance with Money Laundering Education
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15. (C) Santos passed a request to Grossman from the Ministry
of Finance for USG assistance. The MOF's financial
intelligence unit (UIAF) is seeking funding for a program to
educate the public about money laundering. The program would
elicit phone calls through posters or handbills offering
pesos at a favorable exchange rate. Callers would be
informed that they are playing a dangerous game, and told how
money laundering affects the economy. Santos said the
campaign is important, because many Colombians do not
consider purchasing currency on the black market to be a
crime. Ignorance of money laundering's real consequences was
a major reason why public reaction to "Operation White
Dollar", a sting operation that led to several high-profile
arrests on money laundering charges, was overwhelmingly
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