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Viewing cable 06BOGOTA1981, NEW ARMY COMMANDER MAJOR GENERAL MARIO MONTOYA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06BOGOTA1981 2006-03-06 18:06 2011-02-25 12:12 SECRET Embassy Bogota
Appears in these articles:
http://www.elespectador.com/noticia-clave-252925-colombia-wikileaks
VZCZCXYZ0008
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #1981/01 0651824
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 061824Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2810
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 7271
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
S E C R E T BOGOTA 001981 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/01/2016 
TAGS: PGOV MOPS PINR CO
SUBJECT: NEW ARMY COMMANDER MAJOR GENERAL MARIO MONTOYA 
URIBE 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR WILLIAM B. WOOD; 
REASONS 1.4 (B) and (D) 

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

1.  (C) On February 22, Major General Mario Montoya Uribe was 
sworn in as the Commander of the Colombian Army (COLAR). 
Montoya had been Commander of the Army First Division and the 
Caribbean Joint Task Force, one of Colombia's two major 
commands.  Montoya replaced Major General Reinaldo
Castellanos, who was fired by President Uribe.  Montoya work 
with President Uribe as Fourth Brigade Commander in Medellin 
and is said to be close to the President.  He is one of the 
most highly decorated COLAR officers and has experience in 
the field and with Venezuela.  Montoya, at the request of 
Castellanos, was recently investigated by military 
intelligence on allegations of corruption and ties to 
paramilitaries; the allegations remain unsubstantiated. 
Military sources at post say Montoya is highly-respected, 
politically astute, and media-savvy.  End Summary. 

-------------------------------------------- 
NEW COMMANDER REPORTEDLY A FAVORITE OF URIBE 
--------------------------------------------- 

2.  (C) On February 22, Montoya became the new Commander of 
the COLAR following the firing of Major General Castellanos
after public revelation of recruit abuse at a training center 
in Tolima Department (septel).  Montoya is reportedly close 
to President Uribe, whom he met while serving as the Fourth 
Brigade Commander in Medellin.

--------------------------------------------- ----- 
EXPERIENCE IN THE FIELD; EXPERIENCE WITH VENEZUELA 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 

3.  (C) Montoya is one of the most highly decorated COLAR 
officers and has had a variety of assignments, including 
commanding officer of a brigade, division, and joint task 
force unit.  Most recently, he was given command of the Joint 
Caribbean Command in Santa Marta.  (This command was to be a 
model for reorganizing the Colombian military.)  Prior to 
that, he was the Commander of the Army First Division, also 
in Santa Marta, and Commander of the Fourth Brigade in 
Medellin. 

4.  (C) As Commander of the Fourth Brigade, Montoya launched 
a risky urban combat offensive against the Revolutionary 
Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the "Comuna 13" area of 
Medellin in 2002.  The offensive, which required fighting 
uphill and into reinforced trenches, successfully ended FARC 
control of Comuna 13 and is generally considered a success 
for Montoya.  There have been allegations of excessive 
civilian casualties in the operation.  The FARC, members of 
which were living openly in Comuna 13 at that time, alleges 
that the Fourth Brigade launched mortars that injured 
civilians.  According to DAO reporting, shrapnel found in the 
area was not consistent with munitions used by the COLAR. 

5.  (S) As Commander of the Joint Caribbean Command, and in 
his previous jobs, Montoya has been on the front line, 
literally and figuratively, with Venezuela for the last 
several years.  He has shown initiative in dealing with 
issues along the Venezuelan border.  In addition, Montoya has 
personally dealt with Venezuelan Strategic Operations 
Commander General Wilfredo Silva. 

--------------------------------- 
UNSUBSTANTIATED PARAMILITARY TIES 
--------------------------------- 

6.  (C) In December 2005, the COLAR Counterintelligence 
Center (CECIM), at the direction of former Commander 
Castellanos, perhaps for political reasons, initiated 
investigations into three COLAR generals.  One was Montoya, 
who was investigated for corruption, possible ties to the 
United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), and narcotics 
trafficking, stemming from his time in Antioquia Department 
and along the north coast.  According to DAO reporting, 
Montoya allegedly was involved in scams with corrupt 
Colombian National Police officials who allowed him to take 
credit for drug seizures and anti-terrorist operations, while 
protecting the narcotrafficking activities of, and providing 
weapons to, the AUC.  The Embassy is not aware of evidence to 
corroborate these allegations and does not have access to the 
results of the CECIM investigation. 

----------------------------------- 

PERSONAL INFORMATION AND ASSESSMENT 
----------------------------------- 

7.  (S) According to military sources at post, Montoya is 
highly-respected, politically astute, and media-savvy.  He 
was widely viewed as a likely successor to Castellanos.  In 
his first press statements as COLAR Commander, he pledged to 
"get the army beyond the scandal" and provide security for 
the upcoming congressional and presidential elections. 
Montoya was born on April 29, 1948 in Bilga, Valle del Cauca, 
Colombia.  He is married to Colombian Maria Eugenia and has 
two children.  Montoya has 13 siblings; two of his sisters 
live in Portland, Oregon.  Montoya speaks English but prefers 
his native Spanish. 
WOOD