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Viewing cable 06BOGOTA3258, JURY STILL OUT ON PARAMILITARY INFLUENCE IN MARCH

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06BOGOTA3258 2006-04-11 22:10 2011-03-04 16:04 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bogota
Appears in these articles:
http://www.elespectador.com/wikileaks
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #3258/01 1012209
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 112209Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4071
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 7531
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 4210
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 3523
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 003258 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SOUTHCOM FOR POLAD 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/11/2021 
TAGS: PGOV PTER SNAR CO
SUBJECT: JURY STILL OUT ON PARAMILITARY INFLUENCE IN MARCH 
12 ELECTIONS AND NEXT CONGRESS 
 
REF: A. BOGOTA 2658 
 
     B. BOGOTA 2295 
     C. 05 BOGOTA 5619 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood, Reasons: 1.4 B & D. 
 
1.  (C) Summary:  Opinions continue to vary on the potential 
of paramilitary influence in the Congress following the March 
12 elections.  Some commentators point to the defeat of the 
three most blatantly pro-AUC members of Congress (MOCs) as 
evidence of the erosion of para political influence.  The 
Director of the Department of Administrative Security (DAS) 
estimates that 13 individuals directly linked to the AUC 
attained Congressional seats (out of 268 total seats). 
Nevertheless, the picture remains blurry.  Several sitting 
MOCs expelled from two major pro-Uribe parties for alleged 
AUC ties were reelected.  Four smaller parties (two publicly 
pro-Uribe) generally viewed as "sympathetic" to para 
interests attained 1.25 million votes for Senate.  Vicente 
Castano's statement that the AUC controlled of 35 percent of 
this Congress was never really accurate, and should not be 
used for comparison (see Ref C).  Once municipal level 
numbers are available, we will provide additional 
observations, including the prevalence of extremely high 
votes for one candidate (a possible sign of vote coercion 
and/or buying).  End Summary. 
 
ARGUING FOR DECLINE 
------------------- 
 
2.  (C) Numerous commentators and national press have stated 
that the level of AUC influence in the next Congress (taking 
office July 20) will decline, as the three vocally pro-AUC 
MOCs -- Carlos Moreno de Caro, Rocio Arias, and Eleonora 
Pineda -- failed to win reelection (or, in the case of Arias, 
move from House to Senate).  In addition, Conservative Rep. 
Muriel Benitorebollo of conflictive Sucre Department, subject 
of numerous accusations of AUC ties in major media and 
reportedly in the sights of the Prosecutor General's Office 
(Fiscalia), was defeated. 
 
3.  (C) Department of Administrative Security (DAS, rough FBI 
equivalent) Director Andres Penate told PolCouns that his 
institution considered 50 Congressional candidates (out of 
some 2700 total) as directly linked to the AUC, FARC, or 
narcotraffickers (but predominantly the former).  Of those 
50, according to Penate, 17 were elected, with 13 linked to 
the AUC.  Penate offered three criteria for DAS determination 
of ties to illegal armed groups: 
 
--Financing of campaigns (HUMINT sources); 
--Secret meetings/encounters (limited to unusual times, say 
after midnight); and/or 
--Direct solicitation of votes via bribery or intimidation. 
 
Penate said DAS investigations found that all three groups 
tended to target MOCs for business reasons (almost like a 
"business plan") or when they move from the House to the 
Senate and require additional resources for a national 
campaign. 
 
AND YET ... 
----------- 
 
4.  (C) Others note that Moreno de Caro and Arias, who ran 
under the former's party label (Let Moreno Play), fared 
reasonably well with the electorate, attaining roughly 
145,000 votes nationwide, enough votes to have gained a seat 
if they had been affiliated with a party that met vote 
threshold requirements.  In addition, four of the five 
individuals (Sens. Habib Merheg, Dieb Maloof, and Luis Carlos 
Vives, and Rep. Jorge Caballero) expelled from the pro-Uribe 
National Unity (U) and Radical Change (CR) parties for 
alleged AUC ties attained seats.  Hector Lopez, son of jailed 
AUC-linked lottery baroness "La Gata," easily won a House 
seat from Bolivar Department under the little-known "Liberal 
Opening" party banner.  Newcomer Citizen Convergence Party, 
whose suspicious finances came under scrutiny based on public 
criticism from President Uribe himself, attained some 590,000 
Senate votes, resulting in seven Senate and eight House 
seats. 
 
5.  (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX a leading 
expert on paramilitary issues, told poloff AUC influence in 
Congress remained roughly unchanged, in spite of the defeat 
of Moreno, Arias, and Pineda.  She suggested that AUC 
commander alias "Jorge 40" was a clear winner, having 
attained victory for his preferred candidates from Atlantico, 
Bolivar, Cesar, and Magdalena Departments.  These included 
the four winners listed in para 4 above.  (Comment:  While 
the U and CR parties did not state so publicly, the 
expulsions stemmed from GOC intelligence that the individuals 
had met secretly with Jorge 40 in late 2005.  End Comment.) 
She admitted to poloff that statistical comparison of 2002 
and 2006 voting was not yet possible, owing to the 
unavailability of municipal level results.  Those results, 
according to XXXXXXXXXXXX, would demonstrate the prevalence of 70 
plus percent voting in favor of a candidate.  She claimed 
this would be a tell-tale indicator of AUC influence in a 
particular race. 
 
6.  (C) The views of long-standing Congressional contact and 
former Senate president Carlos Garcia (U) are emblematic of 
the fact that everyone has opinions but the evidence is 
harder to come by.  He recently told poloff that his party 
had no hard AUC linkage evidence to support the expulsions of 
Merheg, Maloof, and Vives.  Furthermore, in Garcia's opinion, 
four of the U's 20 elected Senators -- Zulema Jattin, Jairo 
Merlano, Mauricio Pimiento, and Piedad Zuccardi -- do have 
clear ties to the AUC.  According to Penate, the DAS lacks 
evidence against the four U members, but does have the dirt 
on Maloof (and former CR member Caballero). 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
7.  (C) How many actual members of Congress are sympathetic 
to local or national para interests remains unclear.  As Ref 
C detailed, the AUC's rumored 35 percent "control" of the 
current Congress was not factual and should not be used as a 
basis for comparison.  The number of votes attained by the 
AUC-sympathetic parties, however, suggest that the paras or 
candidates whose thinking parallels that of the 
paramilitaries continue to maintain a level of influence in 
certain areas of the country, particularly along the Atlantic 
Coast.  Once municipal-level voting numbers are available, we 
will offer additional views on this complicated subject. 
WOOD