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Viewing cable 06BOGOTA144, WHY JANUARY 2006 IS DIFFERENT FROM JANUARY 2005 IN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06BOGOTA144 2006-01-06 20:08 2011-02-23 06:06 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bogota
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 08 BOGOTA 000144 

SIPDIS 

DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR P AND INL FROM AMBASSADOR 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/06/2016 
TAGS: PREL SNAR CO
SUBJECT: WHY JANUARY 2006 IS DIFFERENT FROM JANUARY 2005 IN 
COLOMBIA 


Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood.
Reason 1.4 b and d. 

--------- 
Political 
--------- 

1.  (C)  President Uribe broke the political custom of 
decades by winning the right to run for re-election.  But 
campaign dynamics are complicating some of his policies. 
Absent tragedy, we can look to four-and-a-half more years of 
partnership like the last three-and-a-half years.  In the 
face of Uribe's more than 65 percent approval, opposition 
presidential candidates have only a small chance.  If Uribe 
were not to win on the first round, as he did in 2002, it 
would be seen as a defeat. 

2.  (C)  Less certain are the congressional elections in 
March, which will determine whether Uribe can push through 
many of the reforms left hanging by the failed referendum in 
2003.  There is no established practice of coattails, several 
different factions supporting Uribe oppose each other, and 
the Liberal Party under ex-president Gaviria seems to be 
focused more on an anti-Uribe campaign than a serious effort 
to advance their own candidates.  Relations between Uribe and 
Gaviria have deteriorated dramatically.  We can expect the 
disarray and divisiveness attendant on any hotly contested 
democratic election. 

3.  (C)  One outcome may be a further weakening of the 
Liberal and Conservative Parties, whose machines have 
dominated Colombian politics since the mid-19th century, in 
favor of a broad center-right coalition under Uribe and a 
broad center-left coalition with the upstart Polo 
Democratico, which is aiming primarily to weaken the Liberals 
for the 2010 elections. 

----- 
Drugs 
----- 

4.  (C)  Drug eradication, seizures, air interdiction, arrest 
of money launderers, and extraditions all continued to set 
records. 

5.  (C)  Aerial fumigation topped 140,000 hectares.    We 
lost one U.S. contractor pilot to FARC ground fire, and three 
aircraft during the course of the year.  The government 
asserts that it has passed 30,000 additional hectares in 
manual eradication, a high-cost, high-risk program that 
combines drug eradication with job creation, and finesses the 
bogus health and environmental controversies of aerial 
fumigation. 

6.  (C)  We topped 225 metric tons of finished drugs seized 
in country.  Much of this was attributable to a unique blend 
of DEA, ORA, Colombian military, and Colombian police 
cooperation. 

7.  (C)  JIATF-South advises that the number of "suspicious" 
flights into Colombia -- no flight plan, short hop across the 
border, no clear departure or arrival point -- has been cut 
in half, many of them displaced to Venezuelan airspace. 

8.  (C)  The government took effective control of two major 
money-laundering enterprises this year (Grajales and La 
Rebaja).  Now we have a better idea how to shut down money 
laundering fronts, clean them out, and re-open them quickly 
so that legitimate employees don't lose work and we don't 
face the political costs of putting thousands of workers on 
the street. 

9.  (C)  The Uribe Administration extradited its 300th 
Colombian national for narcotics trafficking this year, 
outstripping any other country.  Equally important, through 
hard work here and by DOJ in Washington with local U.S. 
Attorneys, our operational extradition relationship with the 
MFA, the Ministry of Interior and Justice, and the Supreme 
Court is better than ever.  But high-profile extradition 
cases arising out of the peace process will continue to test 
that relationship (see below). 

10.  (C)  For the first time, U.S. figures indicate that, at 
a given level of purity, the street price of cocaine has 
increased by 19 percent and heroin by 30 percent, in spite of 
reduced demand.  It is not clear how high the current 
operational level can eventually drive the price.  Continued 
counter-drug efficiencies and accelerated shifting of 
counter-drug costs to the Colombians will be a priority in 
2006.   Absent different instructions, we will seek to 
maintain current level of effort, in order to find out just 
how far we can reduce Colombian drug production and 
trafficking at this level of resources, something not yet 
known. 

11.  (C)  We also will continue to focus on better metrics. 
For interdiction, there is some double counting for both 
in-country seizures and for transit zone seizures; both we 
and the Colombians are trying to clean up those numbers.  For 
eradication, for years the flagship metric has been "number 
of hectares eradicated," which has two problems:  (1) 
problems of terrain, cloud cover, and drugger 
counter-measures make our measurements, the best in the 
world, still very imprecise, and (2) the focus on number of 
hectares diverts attention from the other production 
variables, soil productivity, number of plants per hectare, 
and productivity of each plant (i.e., the size and number of 
harvests per year, which depend on the maturity of the 
plants).  The combination has led us at times to spray 
re-plantings -- small plants where the hectarage is large but 
the production small -- rather than smaller plots of mature 
coca plants (plants three times the size, with four harvests 
per year versus one or two).  Better metrics would help us 
target our efforts better, in an environment of short 
resources, danger from ground fire, and political 
controversy.   For instance, spraying in the national parks 
and other protected areas would attack areas with a higher 
concentration of mature, high production plants. 

---------- 
Terrorists 
---------- 

12.  (C)  Although a separate sub-heading in this message, 
for the FARC and the paramilitaries the distinction between 
counter-drug and counter-terror in Colombia is a distinction 
in name only.  Counter-drug success hurts them as much as 
counter-terror success.  Explicitly in the case of the 
paramilitaries, and substantively in the case of the FARC, 
there is now talk here of the "third generation": a drugger 
generation, following the early ideologues and the later 
military organizers.  This relates directly to the peace 
process, which will be able to take older ideologues, current 
foot soldiers, and at least some of the militarists off the 
field.  But many drugger-terrorists will try to use the 
process only to camouflage their activities or reduce the 
penalties they face, and will have to be rooted out by 
military, judicial, and police action. 

13.  (C)  Since 2002, the military has grown from 158,000 to 
260,000 personnel, and the police from 104,000 to 134,000. 
The combined Colombian military-police operating budget has 
grown from USDOLS 2.6 billion to a budgeted USDOLS 4.5 
billion in 2006, to which U.S. assistance will add almost 9 
percent. 

14.  (C) Colombian counter-terror operations continued at an 
unprecedented pace.  The military and the police are going 
all-out to: (1) maintain the Plan Patriota offensive in 
south-central Colombia, (2) improve the defense of isolated 
rural communities, (3) go after high value targets, (4) fill 
in behind demobilizing paramilitaries, and (5) protect the 
elections.  Unrelenting pressure for results by Uribe and new 
MOD Ospina on the police and military may be burning out the 
uniformed services, or at least creating distance between 
them and the senior civilian leadership.  It is also putting 
pressure on us to divert more helicopters from counter-drug 
to counter-terror operations; shortage of Blackhawk 
helicopters is a daily problem. 

15.  (C)  The Plan Patriota offensive kept the FARC under 
growing pressure.  The FARC staged fewer attacks on 
population centers, but doubled the number of electrical 
towers blown up, increased the number of attacks on the oil 
pipelines, and caused more casualties in 2005 than the 
previous year, which may imply that government forces are 
stretched thin or that the FARC is picking its targets more 
carefully.  Although there were better results against high 
value targets from all terrorist organizations this year, 
there continue to be serious problems with military 
organization, operational security, and the 
intelligence-planning-operation sequence.  The government is 
expanding still further the police and military to cover 
demobilized areas.  Although there have been a few attacks 
against politicians, for the most part the election campaign 
has been kept free of overt violence. 

16.  (C)  The FARC, the only terrorist organization not 
involved in at least some sort of peace process, is also 
making a maximum terror effort, which can be expected to 
continue through presidential elections.  But they are weaker 
than before and on the defensive in many areas.  At the same 
time, in spite of increased terrorist activity against rural 
communities, high profile targets, and the police and 
military, the FARC has been toying with the issue of 
humanitarian exchange of hostages.  On January 1, 2006, the 
FARC published a declaration that they would not negotiate a 
hostage exchange with President Uribe.  This makes clear that 
their interest in political maneuvers to complicate the 
election year are more important than their desire to win 
back some of their lost contact and prestige with 
international audiences and civil society. 

17.  (C)  The three U.S. hostages will complete three years 
in captivity on February 13 and remain one of our highest 
priorities.  President Uribe has repeatedly reassured us that 
there will be no deal for hostages that does not include our 
citizens. 

--------------------------------------------- -- 
Peace Process with Paramilitaries and Maybe ELN 
--------------------------------------------- -- 

18.  (C)  At year-end, some 14,000 paramilitaries have 
demobilized in the group demobilization program, in addition 
to almost 8,000 demobilized deserters from all terrorist 
organizations.  The two-year debate on the Justice and Peace 
law governing the disarmament, demobilization, and 
reinsertion of the paramilitaries ended with signature of the 
law in July.  The government's decision to delay the 
"justice" part of the law until after completion of the 
"peace" part -- demobilizations -- has complicated the 
picture.  Demobilizations continued to produce reduced levels 
of violence and crime against civilians in every zone where 
they have occurred, but there is growing concern that FARC or 
unredeemed "third generation" paramilitaries will move into 
vacated drug fields. 

19.  (C)  When, in August, the government transferred 
paramilitary/drug lord Don Berna to prison, the 
paramilitaries suspended demobilizations for two months. 
Although demobilizations are now back on track, the delay set 
back the deadline for all demobilizations until at least mid 
February.  The episode demonstrated: (1) that the 
paramilitaries did not expect such harsh treatment under the 
law, (2) that the law is close to the edge of the achievable 
with the paramilitaries, and (3) that extradition to the U.S. 
has become the principal issue in the process. 
20.  (C)  Government preparations for prosecution, 
reinsertion, and reparations remain embryonic.  More than a 
half-dozen other countries are lending at least some level of 
assistance to the program, which enjoys endorsements of 
varying intensity from the EU, the OAS, the South American 
Council of Presidents, and others.  Predictably, especially 
in an election year, complaints are already surfacing in the 
implementation of prosecution and reinsertion; we are raising 
these issues with the government and expect them to be a key 
theme in 2006. 

21.  (C)  Starting in December, the government began direct 
"pre-talks" with the 40-year old ELN in Havana.  Another 
round is scheduled for January 11.  We are supporting the 
talks, from a distance.  A peace process with the ELN would 
take another 4000 or so terrorists off the field, legitimize 
the process with the far-right paramilitaries, put more 
pressure on the hold-out FARC, and most importantly, end the 
hundreds of kidnappings attributed to the organization. 
Because the ELN has not traditionally been involved in 
narcotics trafficking, their extradition situation is 
different from that of the FARC or the paramilitaries, 
although as the ELN has become more dependent on the FARC 
they have also developed some drug activity.  The FARC, which 
does not want to be the lone hold out, does not want all the 
government counter-terror effort focused exclusively on them, 
and finds the ELN operationally useful from time to time, is 
being unhelpful.  Interestingly, violence between the ELN and 
the FARC intensified in December in the northern section of 
the country. 

22.  (C)  The government is wary.  The ELN has walked away 
from several major peace initiatives, including a major 
Mexican effort early in 2005.  They profess to be in a hurry, 
so they can come out of the jungle and begin to "consult" 
with legitimate candidates during the elections, with an eye 
toward direct participation in the 2007 local elections.  But 
they refuse to accept the Justice and Peace law that governs 
paramilitary demobilization; we are concerned that any 
further concession they get will have to be given to the 
paramilitaries too.  Although a difficult issue, we hope that 
there will be major progress this year. 

-------------------------------- 
Economics, Trade and Development 
-------------------------------- 

23.  (C)  2005 was a banner year.  The government already is 
revising growth figures to reflect higher than predicted 
results in the second two quarters.  Real GDP growth for the 
year will likely top 5 percent (3.8 percent was predicted) 
based on a wave of foreign and domestic investment, a 
dramatic increase in exports, greater optimism, and a reduced 
security threat and reduced related costs, all of which was 
spurred still further by the possibility of Uribe's 
re-election.  Continued progress against terrorists would 
generate further growth among small businesses, which still 
face rampant extortion by one or another terror group. 
Anecdotally, we know of no major non-traditional exporter 
that is not expanding capacity. 

24.  (C)  Rural development -- normal and alternative 
development -- continued to lag, in spite of more than $68 
million in U.S. aid, as a result of terrorism, confused and 
in some cases illicit ownership patterns, and a weak 
transportation infrastructure.  But there were also bright 
spots as rural development in formerly drug-ridden Putumayo 
province made unexpected strides.  For instance, a plant to 
process hearts of palm has created hundreds of jobs, linked 
this isolated region to the larger national market and, 
starting in February, will begin exporting to Europe. 

25.  (C)  Production increases not only were reflected in 
improved profits, but also higher employment.  Unemployment 
may fall to near 10 percent in the last quarter of 2005, 
compared to over 15 percent when Uribe took office.  The drop 
is due to job creation, rather than people leaving the formal 
economy. 

26.  (C)  All of this should have given Colombia a solid base 
on which to build the compromises necessary for a free trade 
agreement.  But, as often occurs, potential losers complained 
loudly and potential winners remained quiet, leading the 
Uribe Administration to seek tailor-made concessions in 
agriculture and intellectual property against our advice.  As 
the year closed with an agreement reached with Peru and none 
with Colombia, we believe the Colombian team has finally 
gotten the message and will resume talks in January ready to 
reach agreement.  We urge Washington to help pocket their 
"yes" early.  Once there is an agreed text, we expect the 
"winners" to begin work on ratification even during the 
election campaign. 

---------------------------------- 
Judicial, Social, and Humanitarian 
---------------------------------- 

27.  (C)  The first year of U.S.-style oral accusatory 
criminal trials was a resounding success.  The process moves 
on from Bogota in 2005 to Medellin, Cali, and other 
jurisdictions in 2006, and then countrywide by 2008.  There 
is already talk of extending the oral accusatory system 
beyond criminal cases.  The Justice and Peace law for 
demobilization operates in an oral accusatory framework. 

28.  (C)  Colombia continued to have the largest displaced 
population in the hemisphere and the third largest in the 
world, after Sudan and the Democratic republic of the Congo. 
In addition to the vast human suffering, displacement has put 
a heavy burden on local government for public order and 
social services, has left the rural areas largely in the 
hands of terrorists and narcotics traffickers, and the troops 
who fight them, and inhibits rural development and extension 
of state authority countrywide.  U.S. assistance programs 
provided $31 to displaced families in 2005.  Rising job 
opportunities are absorbing many displaced into the urban 
workforce, but has also put a heavy burden on urban police 
and social services.  Unemployment is approaching 10 percent, 
from above 15 percent in 2002. 

------------ 
Human Rights 
------------ 

29.  (C)  According to the Gallup poll, 79 percent of 
respondents replied that "the Uribe Administration respects 
human rights," the highpoint for the administration.  The 
clamor, especially in rural districts, overwhelmingly is for 
more government presence, not less.  Nevertheless, building 
on the four-decade-long, pervasive four-front conflict with 
terrorists and narcotics traffickers, the tradition of 
accommodation, lack of accountability, do-it-yourself 
justice, and weak institutional presence by the government 
persisted in some areas. 

30.  (C)  Human rights questions have frequently been linked 
to suspicions of government tolerance or collusion with 
brutal paramilitary operations or, following the recent 
massive demobilization of paramilitary "military" 
organizations, with concerns that paramilitaries abandoning 
the battlefield will be allowed to move into criminal 
activities or dirty politics.  Although the latter would 
produce the reduction in violence against civilians we have 
seen over the year or more, it also would spell continued 
trouble for Colombian democracy.  The AUC does not command 
the national structure it once did, the government is keeping 
the pressure on, and the parties are openly debating how best 
to block paramilitary corruption in the elections.  But we 
believe that, on a local basis, individual paramilitary blocs 
can influence individual elections.  We are working the 
problem with the government. 

31.  (C)  We are also working the individual cases that 
continue to complicate otherwise clear improvement in respect 
for human rights here.  Recent cases relating to Cajamarca, 
Guitarilla, and Arauca are before the courts, and suspects 
remain in confinement.  The very recent assassination case of 
Afro-Colombian activist Orlando Valencia is being 
investigated, but no arrests have yet been made.  The 
recurring series of killings, accusations, and 
counter-accusations related to the "peace community" of San 
Jose de Apartado continues to defy all our efforts to get the 
community and the government together to pin down the facts. 

--------- 
Venezuela 
--------- 

32.  (C)  The Uribe Administration has no illusions about the 
Chavez Administration.  It will continue to put 
counter-terror, counter-drug, open borders, and bilateral 
trade issues at the top of its list, and try to manage all 
other aspects of the relationship.  Uribe remains convinced 
that Chavez came off second best in the confrontation over 
the hand-over of FARC leader Granda, but he also remains 
chastened by the success of Chavez' three-week border 
closure.  This will mean that Colombia, already nervous at 
the perception that it is the "best" U.S. friend in the 
region, will continue to try to finesse some issues it should 
take head-on.  It is not Uribe's style to publicly criticize 
Chavez.  But he will defend his interests, and our interests, 
in private, and not shy away from difficult operational 
decisions.  Uribe believes that Chavez, too, would prefer to 
work behind the scenes on areas of disagreement. 

------ 
Others 
------ 

33.  (C)  Uribe continues to believe in a constructive 
approach to his other neighbors.  By and large he has 
confidence in their good intentions and he believes they are 
facing big problems, which he does not want to aggravate.  He 
believes that Peru and Brazil (and Cuba) were helpful in 
reining in Chavez during the Granda affair, and even helped 
force stronger counter-terror promises from him.  He will not 
reject regional support for his peace initiative with the 
ELN, even if from Cuba or Venezuela.

34.  (C)  Colombia is concerned by the election of Evo 
Morales, especially by the perception that the hemisphere has 
taken another step to the left.  While recognizing Chavez' 
mischief in Bolivia, Uribe is not yet convinced that Morales 
will have the organization, will, or resources to create more 
than a diplomatic problem.  He will play Bolivia one step at 
a time. 

35.  (C)  Colombia is also concerned by apparent breakdown in 
Ecuador, which borders on the principal FARC stronghold and a 
key drug growing and transit corridor.  He had a productive 
relationship with Gutierrez and is trying to have one with 
Palacio.  Uribe doesn't want to rock the boat there, as 
exemplified by his agreement temporarily to suspend drug 
spray flights along the border and to consider the 
possibility of a UN report on the health and environmental 
effects of glyphosate, less than a month after he had ordered 
a maximum effort against coca in Narino province, on the 
border. 

36.  (C)  With the departure of Toledo, Colombia fears that 
it will lose its best ally in the region.  In addition to 
Peru's assistance as head of the Andean Group during the 
Granda affair, Colombia believes that Peru shares the 
experience of both a drug threat and a terror threat.  They 
will be watching Peruvian elections closely. 

37.  (C)  Like everyone else, Colombia is disappointed that 
Lula has not provided the rallying point for sensible reform 
that was hoped.  But Brazil is too big and too important to 
Colombia to be dismissed.  Although bilateral cooperation is 
friendly, Brazil has frequently played to NGO and European 
audiences to criticize Plan Colombia, Uribe's "Democratic 
Security" policy, and the peace process with the 
paramilitaries.  The former ambassador here was identified 
with the center-left opposition to Uribe; the new guy may 
change that.  Beyond that, the Mercosur vs. FTAA dynamic puts 
Colombia in a difficult position; they have tried to finesse 
the problem by being all things to all people but, in the 
end, Uribe is staking Colombia's future on free trade with 
the U.S. 

38.  (C)  Colombia is pleased that, at last, Europe seems to 
be listening.  Led by the Dutch, Swedish, and British, 
European political and practical support for the paramilitary 
peace process is a breakthrough.  The behavior of the 
European "facilitators" in the peace process with the ELN and 
in the budding discussions about humanitarian exchange of 
prisoners with the FARC will be an important litmus test; if 
the Europeans get ahead of the government here, there will be 
fireworks.  Much will also depend on whether the Europeans at 
the Human Rights Commission in March listen to their 
ambassadors in Bogota or not; last year they listened instead 
to the head of the local UN Human Rights Office. 

39.  (C)  Colombia has lost confidence in the UN, which it 
finds to be disorganized and contrary here in country, and 
unilateral in New York and Geneva.  Colombia generally will 
try to keep its head down in UN forums, causing us some 
frustration.  But Colombia has been of assistance regarding 
Iran as a new member of the IAEA Board of Governors.

--------- 
Bilateral 
--------- 

40.  (C)  Bilateral relations are strong, with an occasional 
hiccup.  As is often the case with others, the Colombians 
believe that we want a lot in exchange for our approximately 
USD 600 million in assistance.  But they also believe that we 
want the best for them and that our importunings are often 
just "tough love."  They have been frustrated in several 
areas: 

--- that our strategic alliance was unable to get them 
special consideration in the free trade negotiations; they 

understand our problems there, but only sort of; 

--- that we have been unable to provide more assistance in 
their most critical military need, Blackhawk helicopters; 
again, they understand our needs in Iraq and Afghanistan, but 
find it hard to believe that U.S. production capabilities are 
limited; 

--- that our law enforcement goals preclude any tactical 
flexibility on extradition for those participating in the 
peace process or for major narcotics traffickers who want to 
turn themselves in; they want to use extradition as the 
ultimate sanction for failure to comply with the peace 
process, and help us get traffickers to the U.S. as part of a 
negotiated deal for less than full prosecution; and 

--- that we have been unable to provide more assistance to 
the reinsertion program for paramilitaries, at a time when 
even the Europeans are signing on. 

41.  (C)  In addition to our overarching counter-drug and 
counter-terror goals, we have a number of specific challenges 
ahead: to free our hostages, to improve implementation of the 
Justice and Peace demobilization law, to protect the 
extradition relationship, to resolve the outstanding human 
rights cases and fix the system so they don't recur, to agree 
and then get ratified and implemented a free trade agreement, 
to help address the tragic humanitarian situation, and to 
support Colombia in a way that enhances its pro-U.S. 
influence in the hemisphere.  Stay tuned. 
WOOD