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Viewing cable 06BOGOTA1965, GOC-ELN EXPLORATORY TALKS MAKE STEADY PROGRESS,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06BOGOTA1965 2006-03-03 22:10 2011-02-23 06:06 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bogota
VZCZCXYZ0013
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #1965/01 0622220
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 032220Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2775
INFO RUEHSW/AMEMBASSY BERN PRIORITY 1011
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 6591
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 7258
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ MAR 7750
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 3315
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID PRIORITY 8836
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 0296
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 8821
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 3942
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA PRIORITY 0066
C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 001965 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/03/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PTER PREL PINR CO
SUBJECT: GOC-ELN EXPLORATORY TALKS MAKE STEADY PROGRESS, 
RESUME IN APRIL; ELN CALLS ON COLOMBIANS TO VOTE IN MARCH 
12 ELECTIONS 

REF: BOGOTA 1145 AND PREVIOUS 

Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood 
Reason: 1.4 (b,d) 

------- 
SUMMARY 
------- 

1.  (C) The latest round of exploratory talks between the GOC 
and ELN ended February 28 in Havana.  The GOC-ELN joint 
statement issued February 27 characterized the talks as 
"satisfactory" and said they would resume in early April, 
again in Havana.  Other participants and observers told us 
the talks made steady progress.  Civil society guarantor 
Moritz Akerman was optimistic, saying the talks moved forward 
on defining modalities for the next session, including a 
"working group" to handle the tough issues.  He said the 
guarantor group would expand shortly.  A close observer from 
the Catholic Church, who also attended the talks, was more 
skeptical, saying neither party seemed to have a clear 
strategy beyond seeking short term political advantage.  The 
GOC conceded "political" status to ELN negotiators, which 
allows them to travel within Colombia and abroad and 
insulates them from arrest while the talks continue.  The ELN 
negotiators plan to use this status to travel to Europe in 
the near future.  The GOC's reluctance to concede the 
political status almost led to the talks breaking down. 
Akerman told us that ELN military commander Antonio Garcia 
asked him to "tell the Americans to pay close attention" to 
the talks.  The guarantor also said Garcia regarded a 
guarantor proposal to the ELN on kidnappings (reftel) as 
positive but premature.  On March 2, the ELN called on 
Colombians to vote in the March 12 congressional elections 
and said it would suspend military action for a few hours 
before and after voting time.  End summary. 

--------------------------------------------- ------- 
STATEMENT SAYS TALKS CONCLUDE IN SATISFACTORY MANNER 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 

2.  (C) A GOC-ELN statement dated February 27 said the most 
recent round of exploratory talks in Havana concluded in a 
"satisfactory" manner.  The statement said the parties met 
their objectives, which were to define further their 
proposals on the peace process in general and the agenda for 
subsequent sessions.  The statement thanked the Governments 
of Cuba and Venezuela for their assistance, and the 
Governments of accompanying countries" Spain, Norway, and 
Switzerland for their participation.  The exploratory 
phase of talks will resume in early April, again in Havana. 
The statement did not mention the fact that the GOC agreed to 
concede "political status" to two ELN negotiators (apparently 
militarycommander Antonio Garcia and alias "Ramiro Vargas.") 
This status would allow the ELN negotiators to travel 
without fear of arrest, according to press reports.  Leading 
daily El Tiempo reported March 1 that the ELN wanted to use 
the status to visit Europe. 

------------------------------------ 
STEADT PROGRESS, BUT NO BREAKTHROUGH 
------------------------------------ 

3.  (C) The talks made steady progress but did not result in 
a breakthrough, according to participants and observers. 
Civil society guarantor Moritz Akerman told D/Polcouns that 
the agreement was "very good," because it talks about a 
"peace process" for the first time.  Akerman said the parties 
agreed to establish a working group-type mechanism ("mesa 
alternativa") for the next round of talks, which would enable 
especially difficult issues to be thrashed out prior to 
reaching the main negotiators.  According to Akerman, the 
guarantors would play a role in the "mesa alternativa."  He 
also said the GOC and ELN agreed to a formal role in the 
talks for the "accompanying countries" (who are to be called 
"international observers"). 

4.  (C) Akerman said the guarantors group still intends to 
expand (reftel).  Three new guarantors will soon be 
announced: former foreign minister Maria Emma Mejia, Father 
Horacio Orango, and El Colombiano editor Ana Mercedes Gomez


(who still needs permission from her publisher employer).  He 
noted that the guarantors are exploring moving the talks to 
Panama and are in touch with Panamanian interlocutors. 

5.  (C) Akerman said he was concerned the talks were headed 
for trouble late on February 22, when Garcia called him on 
the cell phone to say the GOC was refusing to concede the ELN 
negotiators "political" status that would enable them to 
travel.  According to Akerman, Garcia said, "tell the 
Americans that they should pay close attention to this 
matter."  Akerman understood from this comment that Garcia 
was suggesting the U.S. help persuade the GOC to grant 
political status to the negotiators.  (Akerman relayed this 
information to us on February 24, by which time the GOC and 
ELN had reached agreement.)  Akerman also said Garcia told 
him the guarantor proposal to the ELN on kidnappings was 
positive but premature (reftel). 

6.  (C) Lead Catholic Church negotiator Father Dario 
Echeverri, who was also in Havana for the talks, told 
Polcouns he believes neither the ELN nor the GOC have a clear 
strategy for the talks beyond seeking short-term political 
advantages.  He said the ELN wanted to move the talks to 
Europe beginning March 28, and argued the GOC is correct to 
insist on a "very big concession" from the ELN before it 
agrees to such a move.  According to Echeverri, the ELN wants 
the GOC to release captured Valle del Cauca commander, alias 
"El Viejo," to join ELN spokesman Francisco Galan at the 
House of Peace in Antioquia for further civil society 
consultations.  In Echeverri's view, the House of Peace 
initiative educates the ELN on the negative impression most 
Colombians have of the guerrilla organization. Echeverri said 
he was very impressed by a new ELN negotiator in Havana, 
alias "Moises," from Norte de Santander. 

--------------------------------------------- -------- 
ELN CALLS ON COLOMBIANS TO VOTE IN MARCH 12 ELECTIONS 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 

7. (C) On March 2, the ELN,s Garcia called on the Colombian 
population to vote in the March 12 Congressional elections 
and promised to suspend any military action that could 
interfere with voting for a few hours before and after the 
election.  He made these statements in Cuba during a 
teleconference with journalists in Medellin.  Some Colombian 
analysts see the ELN,s new attitude toward elections as an 
indicator of the group,s willingness to move forward with 
the peace process and as a sign of the ELN distancing itself 
from the FARC.  Others remain skeptical.  Garcia denied the 
ELN had any favored candidates or parties, but encouraged the 
population to vote for candidates &committed to peace and 
who are willing to support necessary changes8 in the 
country. 

------- 
COMMENT 
------- 

8.  (C) The fact that exploratory "talks about talks" will 
continue is a good sign, but Embassy is inclined to accept 
Echeverri's account as more realistic.  Foreign Minister 
Barco told Polcouns that the GOC remains skeptical of ELN 
intentions and does not want to get embroiled in a long, 
complicated process with too many moving parts -- something 
the ELN has been partial to during past attempts at peace. 
Both Echeverri and members of Peace Commissioner Restrepo's
team report that ELN commander Garcia was very tough and 
intransigent at the negotiating table.  Garcia's interest in 
ensuring the U.S. was informed of what he viewed as GOC 
stubbornness is an interesting sidebar but Embassy believes 
we should take our cue from the GOC with respect to any 
future involvement in the process. 
WOOD 

=======================CABLE ENDS============================