C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BOGOTA 000267
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/22/2017
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PTER PREL VZ VT FR SP SZ CO
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT URIBE'S NEXT STEPS ON HOSTAGE RELEASE
Classified By: Ambassador William R. Brownfield
Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1.(C) President Uribe has developed a four-part strategy to
move ahead on hostages and take some of the initiative away
from Chavez: support the Catholic Church facilitation effort,
resurrect the European initiative, welcome unilateral release
arranged by any other government, and organize an
international medical mission to visit the hostages. END
2.(C) At a Jan 19 meeting with ONDCP Director and
accompanying codel, President Uribe offered his most detailed
presentation to date concerning the next steps on hostage
release and a possible humanitarian accord. Following the
meeting, Uribe pulled Ambassador aside and said this reflects
GOC thinking on how to proceed. It was the line he would
take in his Jan 19-23 trip to Europe; the GOC would also take
this stance with the press to reassert the initiative in the
face of Chavez' public posturing.
3.(C) Uribe said the GOC has decided on a four-step process
to move on the hostage crisis:
--Support efforts of the Colombian Catholic Church. GOC
would reiterate in both public and private channels its
willingness to engage in dialogue with the FARC on hostages
through the Church. At the request of the Church, Uribe
would also authorize some sort of "meeting location" (zona de
encuentro). He emphasized that this would not be a repeat of
the Pastrana government's demilitarized zone (despeje), and
would be subject to precise conditions--rural area; no local
population; no GOC armed or security force presence in the
area; no larger than 150 square kilometers.
--Reactivate European initiative. Nearly two years ago, the
governments of France, Spain, and Switzerland led an
initiative to engage the FARC in dialogue over the hostages.
Uribe has given the Europeans the green light to reengage.
He expects them to coordinate with, and meld into, the
--Accept unilateral release. In order to neutralize Chavez,
Uribe and GOC would welcome any unilateral release of
hostages produced by other governments (read: Venezuela).
"Unilateral," to Uribe, means a release that is not
negotiated with or by the GOC.
--International medical mission. Uribe at some point expects
to be able to pinpoint specific areas where hostages are
being held. Once located, he would reach out to the ICRC and
international community to organize and seek approval from
the FARC for an international medical mission to visit the
hostages and treat those with severe health concerns. Uribe
thought recent releases of proof of life (POL) showing
obviously ill and mistreated hostages would give this
initiative serious international support.
4.(C) Codel members were sympathetic to Uribe's desire to
take the initiative from Chavez, and make progress on the
hostages. Several reminded him that over the past 40 years,
we have learned that to negotiate with or make concessions to
hostage-takers only encourages more kidnapping and hostages.
Uribe agreed. He noted that he would still insist on three
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--No demilitarized zone. Uribe is willing to offer a meeting
location, but not a despeje.
--Released FARC prisoners could not return to the field.
Uribe noted that the FARC members released by the GOC last
May at French request had not returned to the field. In
fact, it was his opinion that few FARC members, once outside
of FARC care and custody, would have any desire to return to
--All hostages to be treated as a whole. Uribe would not
permit the GOC to discuss the release of some hostages, but
5.(C) COMMENT. Uribe has been wrestling for two weeks with
the question of how to respond effectively to Chavez' verbal
attacks and continued engagement in the FARC hostage crisis,
despite being asked by the GOC to withdraw. He believes this
four step plan will attract international support, is
ambitious enough to be taken seriously, covers his left flank
if Chavez produces more hostage releases, and offers some
prospects for success without engaging Chavez.