C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 008224
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/23/2017
TAGS: PREL PREF PTER PHUM VZ CO
SUBJECT: GOC ENDS CHAVEZ/CORDOBA "HUMANITARIAN EXCHANGE"
EFFORTS--GOC TO SEEK "HUMANITARIAN SOLUTION"
REF: BOGOTA 8160
Classified By: Ambassador William R. Brownfield - Reasons 1.4 (b,d)
Â¶1. (C) President Alvaro Uribe terminated the mandates of
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombian Senator Piedad
Cordoba in the "humanitarian exchange" process on November
21, after the two intermediaries phoned and spoke with
Colombian Army Commander Montoya. Uribe previously told
Chavez that he did not have authorization to contact
Colombian military personnel. The decision follows a
November 20 pronouncement to put a December 31 time limit on
the Chavez effort. FM Araujo told the Ambassador that the
GOC will continue to search for a "humanitarian solution" to
the hostage crisis, and that Peace Commissioner Restrepo
would attempt to engage the FARC. The GOC would accept
advice from the international community, Araujo said, but no
longer seeks new third country intermediaries. The
Ambassador told Araujo that we also had concerns over the
Chavez effort, and accepted the sovereign GOC decision. The
Ambassador urged the GOC to keep hostage family concerns in
mind as it moved ahead, and said he would recommend a new USG
approach to the French, if the GOC requested it. Uribe's
move met with general support in Colombia--and came as Gallup
released a new poll showing 78 percent of Colombians approve
of his performance as President. End summary.
GOC Reacts to Chavez Call to Colombian Army Chief
Â¶2. (U) At the November 9 Ibero-American Summit in Chile,
President Uribe rebuffed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez'
request to speak directly to Army Commander General Mario
Montoya or other Colombian generals. Despite that, on
November 21, exchange facilitator Senator Piedad Cordoba
placed a call to Montoya, for details on military hostages
held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Montoya spoke briefly with Chavez, providing little
substantive information. He immediately called President
Uribe to report the call.
Â¶3. (SBU) The GOC issued a short communique on November 21 at
22:00 stating, "the President of the Republic hereby ends the
facilitation effort of Senator Piedad Cordoba and the
mediation of President Hugo Chavez, who we thank for the
assistance they have provided." Uribe consulted with Peace
Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo and other advisors before
making the decision, which Restrepo told us had been
building. It follows Uribe's November 20 decision to put a
December 31 time limit on the Chavez effort, and growing GOC
frustration over Chavez' decision to carry on negotiations in
public (reftel). Restrepo said the GOC will continue to seek
a "humanitarian solution" that frees the hostages, but said
the GOC could not accept continued FARC delaying tactics or
solutions that threatened the GOC "democratic security"
FM Explains Decision and Way Ahead
Â¶4. (C) On November 23, Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo
called the Ambassador to brief him on the GOC's decision.
The FM said the GOC remained committed to intense efforts to
produce a humanitarian solution for the FARC hostages.
Still, the GOC concluded over the past three weeks that
Chavez had not honored the agreement reached in August when
Uribe authorized him to engage the FARC. Araujo said Chavez
was involved in too much public commentary, despite Uribe's
having requested him not to do so, and had publicly
misrepresented things that he and Uribe had discussed or
agreed. Third, and the final straw, occurred when Chavez
reached out directly to Montoya despite Uribe's having
specifically asked him not to do so.
Â¶5. (C) Araujo said the GOC believed, and would state
publicly, that Chavez meant well, but the manner in which he
conducted his efforts was unacceptable. Uribe decided to end
the effort before the bilateral relationship suffered in
areas beyond the hostages. The GOC hoped this decision would
not affect the bilateral relationship with Venezuela, and
Araujo said he would take steps to make sure that did not
Â¶6. (C) The Ambassador asked Araujo how the GOC would pursue a
possible humanitarian solution to the hostages from this
moment on. Araujo confirmed that Restrepo would manage the
process and attempt to engage the FARC. While the GOC would
accept advice and support from the international community,
it would not ask any third country to intervene.
Â¶7. (C) Araujo then asked how the USG would react to this
decision, and whether we would engage the French. The
Ambassador responded that this was a sovereign decision for
the GOC. We had our own concerns about Chavez' intentions,
and the GOC decision was consistent with those concerns. The
Ambassador emphasized that it remained important to keep the
hostage families in mind as the GOC announced and implemented
decisions on the hostages. It was important not to permit
Chavez to blame others besides the FARC for this decision.
The Ambassador told Araujo that we had communicated our views
to the French several times on the hostage issue, and added
that he could make a recommendation to Washington to contact
the French again if the GOC thought it necessary.
Â¶8. (U) Numerous contacts in Congress and civil society--many
of whom thought inviting Chavez into the process a bad idea
to begin with--said Uribe's decision to cut off the Chavez
line was a good one, but a blow to hostage families. Media
commentators highlighted whether the "humanitarian solution"
phrase indicated a prohibition on negotiation with the FARC
or on international involvement. Meanwhile, a newly
released Gallup poll for November shows Uribe with a 78
percent approval rating.