Cablegate: Congress Prepares to Debate Demobilization Law

Published: Tue 24 May 2005 10:36 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
B. BOGOTA 3555
1. (U) Summary: Debate and article-by-article voting on the
demobilization law is likely to begin the week of May 23 in
the plenaries of both houses of Congress. The GOC sponsors
have submitted a draft to Congress proposing several changes
to what was passed in committee. Senator Rafael Pardo and
his supporters have submitted a rival draft, calling for
required confession and swamping Colombia's international
debt for a reparations fund. On May 17, the plenary approved
an appeal for articles on sedition and blanket sentence
reductions to be re-voted in committee, albeit a different
committee. The predominantly pro-Uribe Second Committee
(Defense, Foreign Relations, and Trade) will likely vote on
the two articles, most likely on May 24. End summary.
Plenary Debate Pending
2. (SBU) The Justice and Peace law has been on the agenda
for plenary debate in both houses of Congress since early
May. Other bills, including pension reform and reelection
implementing legislation (Ref A), have pushed it to a lower
spot on the agenda. Quorum busting, in particular by the
Conservative Party, caused further delays. Debate and
article-by-article voting will probably begin the week of May
23. Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo has said there
may not be enough time to complete action on the bill before
Congress adjourns on June 20. In that case, the GOC would
re-submit the bill during the follow-on session to begin on
July 20. Unlike the joint committee debate, House and Senate
plenary debate and voting will be held separately.
Sponsors Present Drafts
3. (U) The GOC sponsors of the bill, including "Uribista"
Senators Claudia Blum, Mario Uribe (President Uribe's first
cousin), and Luis Humberto Gomez Gallo, presented a draft
("ponencia") on April 28. The plan calls for several changes
to be made to the text passed at the committee level,
-- Making the requirements for individual and collective
demobilized the same (the text passed in committee has
slightly different requirements. It requires individuals to
be debriefed for intelligence purposes and blocks individuals
who personally benefited from drug trafficking. Collective
demobilized are not required to provide intelligence and are
blocked if they were drug traffickers before joining an
illegal armed group).
-- Specifying deadlines: the investigators must report the
results of the beneficiary's open statement to the superior
district court within 12 hours of receiving it and the
beneficiary must be investigated in 30 days total.
-- Making parole one third of the time in confinement.
-- Adding text stating that beneficiaries must give
reparations only if they have them.
-- Continuing to refuse to acknowledge an armed conflict (in
committee, Pardo's proposal to make reference to a conflict
was rejected. The sponsors reiterated that they will not
accept it during the plenary debate).
-- Allowing the GOC to extend the law's scope to facilitate a
peace process with other illegal armed groups (the text
passed in committee says the law will only cover crimes
committed before the law goes into effect).
4. (U) On May 13, Pardo and his supporters presented a rival
draft. It requires confession, makes reference to an
internal armed conflict, and proposes exchanging foreign debt
into a reparations fund. Pardo has said publicly that he
believes the GOC has enough votes to pass its version but it
would not satisfy standards of truth, justice, or
--------------------------------------------- -----
Sedition and Sentence Reductions Back to Committee
--------------------------------------------- -----
5. (U) The Senate First Committee (Constitutional and legal
issues) had earlier rejected articles making paramilitarism
an act of sedition (Article 64) and permitting blanket
sentence reductions for all prisoners currently doing time
(Article 61). On May 17, the Senate plenary approved an
appeal to authorize a re-vote on Articles 61 and 64 in a
different committee. The plenary approved the motion (58
votes in favor; 18 against; 26 abstentions or not present).
The Second Committee, which is pro-Uribe, is likely to
approve both articles the week of May 23, according to
Committee Chair Manuel Ramiro Velasquez. The GOC had
repeatedly emphasized it would push to re-insert a sedition
article so that guerrillas and paramilitaries would be
treated equally (Ref B). During earlier committee debate,
many argued that a blanket sentence reduction had no place in
a demobilization law, but others argued it was unjust to deny
all prisoners the same benefits as demobilized.
6. (SBU) Comment: Embassy is working to improve language
relating to confession and to ensure against any operational
connection with "political crimes" that could impede
extradition. We are also trying to improve time limits. The
Senate Second Committee is all but certain to pass Articles
61 and 64. While full Senate and House debate on the entire
bill is possible next week, it might slip further. Other
legislation, such as pension reform and reelection
implementation, requires more rounds of debate and voting
than Justice and Peace. The Conservative Party, erstwhile
ally of President Uribe, has been working to bust quorum in a
pressure tactic to ensure that the President's nominees for
Prosecutor General (Fiscal) are Conservatives. The debate
over reelection implementing legislation, which includes
proposed regulations to create a level playing field for the
opposition in the May 2006 presidential election, continues
to be tense. Left and center-left parties have also been
blocking progress on this high-stakes issue owing to strong
differences with the GOC and Uribistas.
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