2004-11-02 18:31:00


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 04 BOGOTA 011339


E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2014

REF: A) BOGOTA 11207 B) BOGOTA 11205 C) BOGOTA 10728

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

1. (C) SUMMARY: Ambassador met with UN special advisor on
Colombia James LeMoyne at the latter’s request on October 28
and 30. LeMoyne said that the EU would release a new policy
paper on Colombia in January 2005 which would lead to an more
engaged approach. On demobilization, LeMoyne reported that
GOC Peace Commissioner Restrepo had requested UN political
support and technical assistance. LeMoyne told the
Ambassador that the UN system was not working in Colombia and
relations between the UN and GOC were strained. The SYG had
proposed a high-level working group to discuss the situation
which will meet later this month. Foreign Minister Barco
will lead the Colombian side. Of particular concern was the
operation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Rights, whose relations with the GOC and G-24 had
deteriorated sharply. LeMoyne reviewed the latest GOC
proposal for Mexican facilitation of talks with the ELN. He
also reported that the FARC was conducting a series of
interviews with prominent leaders in Bogota from business,
politics and journalism to discuss their views on the current
situation, prospects for the future and possible scenarios in
which the FARC may consider taking political steps. LeMoyne
said that he doubted the FARC would do anything to help
President Uribe but might be willing to “play politics” to
see what they could pocket. He speculated that the FARC
might use the Catholic Church, the Swiss, and ex-presidents
Samper and Pastrana to pressure President Uribe on the
hostages and a humanitarian accord with terms closer to what
FARC leaders want. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) On October 28 and 30, Ambassador met with UN special
adviser on Colombia James LeMoyne during the latter’s
five-day visit to Bogota. Issues covered included possible
increased engagement by the EU, upcoming demobilizations of
the AUC, the future of the UN presence, the status of ELN
negotiations with the GOC, and recent FARC activity.


3. (C) LeMoyne said the EU position on the Colombian peace
process was shifting. A new policy paper was circulating in
Brussels which would be blessed by the Council in December.
LeMoyne described it as advocating a more serious, engaged
approach in Colombia. It will establish a framework to do
more, he said. EU High Representative Javier Solana planned
to come to Colombia in January to unveil it. (From readouts
Embassy has received elsewhere, the EU paper may contain new
positive statements but also establish new conditionalities
on aid. That will impede assistance and widen the
Colombia/EU gap.)


4. (C) LeMoyne briefed Ambassador on his meeting with GOC
High Commissioner for Peace Luis Carlos Restrepo on October
26. In the context of upcoming demobilizations of the AUC
(reftels), Restrepo had requested that the UN provide: (1)
public support for the OAS mission, including an appeal to
donors for financial and technical support; (2) a strong
declaration urging that those who disarm and the communities
that receive them not be attacked; and (3) high-level
training for GOC officials on demobilization, disarmament and
reintegration (DDR). LeMoyne recommended that the UN, the
International Committee for the Red Cross and the Catholic
Church expand and deepen their DDR programs already underway
in the affected areas.


5. (C) LeMoyne told Ambassador that his meetings with GOC
officials during the UNGA “were not good.” President Uribe
remained unhappy with the UN. As a result, the SYG has
proposed that the GOC and UN form a small, high-level working
group to discuss the GOC’s vision of the UN in Colombia and
what the UN thought it ought to be doing. Barco will lead
the GOC delegation to the first meeting tentatively planned
for the end of November in New York.

6. (C) LeMoyne conceded that the UN system was not working in
Colombia, characterizing the various agencies as atomized,
defending their own micro-programs. He noted that helpful
but frustrated UNDP (and UN country team) director Alfredo
Witschi would be retiring in the spring. This might be an
opportunity to set in motion a new approach. LeMoyne also
underscored that other countries — the EU, the Nordics,
Canada, Mexico, Brazil — had to weigh in with the SYG and
others in the system to energize UN attention to Colombia.

7. (C) As LeMoyne saw it, the UN has three missions in
Colombia: the Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Rights (OHCHR), a revised humanitarian action plan, and good
offices. He had already heard during this trip from FM Barco
that GOC officials had lost confidence in the OHCHR presence
and want it changed. The 27 recommendations were now viewed
as draconian demands. In the view of GOC officials, whatever
they told the OHCHR in the spirit of cooperation and
consultation was used against them. LeMoyne forewarned that,
if the OHCHR report due out soon was seen as unfair by the
GOC, “we will have a very big mess on our hands.” On the
other hand, the UN presence and the human rights dimension in
particular, were important to the Europeans and, with the EU
likely to strengthen its involvement, the OHCHR would be even
more essential. The high-level working group needed to
tackle this problem first.

8. (C) According to LeMoyne, the humanitarian agencies were
also not working because of turf battles. The revised
humanitarian action plan, to be launched in mid-November, had
little chance of succeeding. There was not much scope for
the good offices role either. There was little negotiating
and unlikely to be any for a while. U/SYG Prendergast was
advocating that the UN lower its profile in Colombia or close
down the operation altogether. LeMoyne consulted with
Restrepo on this point who urged that the UN good offices
operation not depart. Restrepo had agreed that increasing
the role was equally unwarranted because it would raise
illusions which were not true.

9. (C) Ambassador agreed that the humanitarian agencies were
making a huge effort, but most of it was being frittered away
by incompetence. He also expressed reservations about OHCHR
representative Michael Fruhling. LeMoyne reiterated his view
that whatever its problems, the OHCHR presence was essential
and would become even more so when the “Law for Justice and
Reparations” passed the Congress. Ambassador responded that
the approach of both the OHCHR and leading NGOs on the law
had been unhelpful. Demobilization was happening and the
legal framework to deal with senior leaders and those who
have committed gross violations of human rights or
narco-trafficking remained unfinished. The result was that
Restrepo’s position at the negotiating table was undermined.
His only response to requests from the AUC for legal
guarantees was “no” because he has no legal structure to back
him up.

10. (C) LeMoyne said he was not prepared to write off the
OHCHR but understood that the GOC wanted to. Barco was more
than upset, convinced that the GOC was given no credit for
making a sincere effort and that mending relations may not be
worth the effort. Barco planned to travel to Geneva to meet
High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour in
mid-November to discuss the situation. LeMoyne wondered
whether the mandate of the office was a problem — could it
monitor and offer assistance to the GOC at the same time. A
debate was underway at OHCHR headquarters on the issue. The
office had had three directors and all had ended up badly.
Perhaps it was time to review the mandate. Ambassador
disagreed, noting that the U.S. and others were able to do
both. GOC officials could absorb and respond constructively
to criticism if convinced that their interlocutors were
working in their best interest. He noted that GOC officials
remained fearful of the power and influence of the UN and the
possibility that Colombia could land on the agenda of the
Security Council. GOC officials did not draw a distinction
between the Council and the UN writ large, and were convinced
that the parts of the UN they interacted with were


11. (C) LeMoyne said the ELN was fading, no threat to anyone,
and under the protection of the FARC. The little brother-big
brother dynamic remained in play: the smarter, more
intellectual ELN, dependent on the thuggish and powerful
FARC. The ELN hated the FARC, was frightened of it, and
believed it was wrong. He was convinced that the FARC and
ELN were meeting at high levels and maintained an agreement
and alliance, and neither would negotiate seriously until
things changed. The ELN was trying to tell the FARC that it
wanted international breathing space and needed to take
political steps, but the FARC would limit its
maneuverability. Ambassador noted that the ELN remained
politically important for the FARC, which would otherwise be
isolated. The ELN might be disappearing as a meaningful
piece on the chessboard, but the FARC would do everything to
keep it alive.

12. (C) LeMoyne heard that the Mexicans were putting
considerable pressure on the GOC to move the negotiating
process forward. The ELN wants to meet the Mexicans directly
and Mexico wants the ELN to come to Mexico. Restrepo has
resisted so far, insisting that the ELN respond to earlier
GOC proposals. Nine years of ELN traveling abroad had
yielded little. Restrepo wants the ELN to acknowledge that
it has to deal with the GOC. His latest proposal is for the
Mexicans to tell the ELN that Restrepo meet with (jailed)
Francisco Galan as a first step. Then, the ELN would be
permitted to go to Mexico for a one day meeting, and the next
day, ELN would meet with Restrepo with Mexican facilitation.
LeMoyne did not know how the ELN would respond. He assumed
the Mexicans would wince but go along.

13. (C) Ambassador responded that the GOC was afraid that
Mexican facilitation would turn into a negotiating session
with the GOC outside the room. Restrepo also knew, according
to LeMoyne, that whatever travel rights he conceded to the
ELN, the GOC would soon be pressed by the Swiss and others to
give the FARC.


14. (C) LeMoyne reported that the FARC had assembled a team
of interviewers who were soliciting views in Bogota on the
current situation, prospects for the future, and possible
scenarios in which it could consider taking political steps.
The FARC had reached out to a number of prominent individuals
in business, politics and journalism. Some had agreed to
talk; others refused. Most were surprised how easily the
FARC was able to move around Bogota. Characterizing the FARC
as a Stalinist, 1950s-style organization whose public
statements still mattered, LeMoyne said that the most recent
FARC communiqu “was not entirely bad” either. Finally, he
said that FARC leader Manuel Marulanda Velez had cancer and
was dying, and an effort was underway to raise the profile of
Alfonso Cano. He expected that an interview with Cano would
be published soon, projecting him to a wider audience.

15. (C) LeMoyne doubted that anything constructive would come
out of the FARC leadership “until President Uribe was
re-elected.” The FARC hated Uribe and would do nothing to
help him politically or otherwise. They are convinced,
according to LeMoyne, that he will weaken after re-election.
Nonetheless, the FARC may want to play politics over the next
few months and see what they can pocket. He speculated that
they might use the Catholic Church or the Swiss to test the
waters. Or, they might make peace overtures through
ex-presidents Samper or Pastrana to pressure Uribe on the
hostages and a humanitarian accord with terms closer to what
FARC leaders want. Or, the FARC could accept a cease fire
and play along to see what they could get out of it, with the
hope of damaging Plan Patriota along the way. LeMoyne
acknowledged that Plan Patriota has been a strategic hit on
the FARC and the leadership would do anything to rid
themselves of it.

16. (C) According to LeMoyne, the Swiss channel (Jean-Pierre
Gontard) remained open, and he and the Swiss government
continued to press the FARC for a ceasefire. Their preferred
scenario was to bring the FARC to Switzerland for a direct
meeting with GOC officials under Swiss auspices. LeMoyne
noted that Restrepo had told him that if the FARC agreed to a
ceasefire, everything was possible.


17. (C) In addition to an exhange of views, LeMoyne was
looking to mend fences with the GOC and the G-24 to salvage
the UN presence in Colombia. The latter is worth monitoring
closly. LeMoyne’s operation will be part of the GOC-UN
evaluation. He said that he would resign if it became clear
that he was impeding progress. The OHCHR operation has lost
the GOC’s confidence and exhausted its political capital with
the G-24. A meeting between Foreign Minister Barco and UN
High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour would be
useful to clear the air. This is the OHCHR’s largest
operation outside of Geneva and should be its biggest
success. The GOC needs it to succeed as well. As the GOC
and the UN negotiate their future relationship, other
countries active in Colombia beside the U.S. need to approach
the SYG on the importance of supporting demobilization and
other aspects of the peace process. In that context, a new
EU policy as described be LeMoyne would be welcome. We
understand that UK Foreign Secretary Straw has raised
Colombia with the SYG on several occasions over the last few
months. Countries like Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada,
Brazil and others now need to do the same.

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