38TH OAS GENERAL ASSEMBLY: COLOMBIA SCORES A WIN

Código Fecha Clasificación Origen
08STATE64684 16 June 2008 Confidencial United States Secretary of State in Washington

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 STATE 064684

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/13/2018
TAGS: OAS, PREL, PHUM, ETRD, CO
SUBJECT: 38TH OAS GENERAL ASSEMBLY: COLOMBIA SCORES A WIN

REF: A. STATE 48046 B. LA PAZ 1189 C. STATE 62171 D. BOGOTA 2054 E. BOGOTA 2057 F. BOGOTA 2064 G. BOGOTA 2068

Classified By: Ambassador Hector Morales; Reason 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (SBU) Summary. The 38th OAS Regular General Assembly,
held June 1-3 in Medellin, Colombia, focused positive
international attention on the Colombian Government’s
progress in restoring "Democratic Security" in
previously-violent areas and helped promote regional support
for Colombia’s efforts against narco-terrorist groups. OAS
Secretary General Insulza in particular made a strong pitch
for member states to reject any association with terrorist
groups and to work in support of Colombia’s security.
Insulza also asserted — for the first time — that Cuba’s
reintegration into the inter American system should be
contingent upon the Cuban Government’s compliance with
hemispheric human rights instruments, including the Inter
American Democratic Charter. The renewed "Meeting of Foreign
Ministers" discussion regarding the Ecuador-Colombia dispute
was orderly; it stuck to a factual report on the state of the
negotiations between the two countries and helped advance the
restoration of diplomatic ties at the charge level. The
Deputy Secretary’s plenary intervention drew broad praise for
its attention to the difficulties faced by the youth of the
hemisphere, in line with the OASGA theme of "Youth and
Democratic Values." Venezuelan FM Maduro’s denunciation of
the Deputy the following day — and the U.S. rejection of
Maduro’s comments — got significant press play but did not
dominate the proceedings. The U.S. candidate to the Inter
American Juridical Committee, David Stewart, won a
narrowly-contested election, edging out the Paraguayan
candidate thanks in large part to the unanimous support of
Caricom delegations.

2. (SBU) Separately, the U.S. delegation helped turn back an
unhelpful declaration on food security that sought to blame
biofuels for the crisis and expressed support for export
controls; Argentine Permanent Representative Gil was
particularly unhelpful during negotiations to achieve a
consensus text on food security. The Haitian delegation
blocked efforts to obtain a General Assembly declaration
urging Haitian Government action to end the political crisis,
but a related consensus resolution was approved in plenary
without impediment. Bolivia sought unsuccessfully to obtain
a resolution condemning the harassment of pro-MAS activists
in Sucre. The "Private Sector Forum," the dialogue with
civil society, and the first OAS dialogue with labor
representatives succeeded in expanding discussions beyond the
government-to-government issues usually addressed during the
OASGA. Several of the 60 OAS observer countries announced
substantial financial contributions to the organization. As
a public diplomacy exercise, the OASGA was a resounding
success for Colombia in that the delegations witnessed first
hand the success of the Uribe Administration in it efforts
against the FARC. Medellin provided a perfect backdrop for
Colombia’s requests for regional support in its fight against
terrorism. End Summary.

//OAS URGES REGIONAL SUPPORT FOR COLOMBIA’S SECURITY//

3. (U) OAS SYG Insulza used the June 1 OASGA inaugural
session to call for regional solidarity with Colombia in its
fight against terrorism, underscoring that the FARC’s actions
met regional definitions for terrorism. He urged OAS member
states to reaffirm their commitments under the OAS Charter,
the OAS Declaration on Security, and the Inter American
Convention Against Terrorism to refrain from "direct or
indirect" intervention in the internal affairs of other
member states and to deny support or recognition to violent
organizations. He reviewed the work of the OAS, through its
Mission to Support the Peace Process (OAS/MAPP), to advance
the Colombian Government’s demobilization efforts. On the
laptops issue, Insulza emphasized that he had not received
any request as of that afternoon to investigate the matter.
(NOTE: Insulza made these comments as press reports were
emerging that Ecuadorean FM Salvador had issued a statement
earlier in the day calling for an OAS investigation into the
information contained in the laptops. Insulza later agreed
to review the information in the laptops, though it remains
unclear how the OAS will proceed on this matter. END NOTE.)

4. (U) President Uribe spoke immediately after Insulza and
made an impassioned appeal for regional support against the
FARC and other narco-terrorist groups, so that Colombians
could "enjoy the same peace and security as other citizens of
the Americas." He reviewed the long history of the Colombian
conflict and emphasized Colombia’s desire to live in peace
and security with its neighbors. He said Plan Colombia was
squarely aimed at fighting narco-terrorism and would benefit,
not threaten, Colombia’s neighbors. Uribe also urged U.S.
Congressional support for a free trade agreement with
Colombia, noting all that his administration had accomplished
to achieve "democratic security."

//PROGRESS ON ECUADOR-COLOMBIA DISPUTE//

5. (SBU) Despite concerns prior to the OASGA that the
Colombia-Ecuador dispute would poison the atmosphere in
Medellin and impede progress on other matters, both Colombia
(as host) and the OAS handled the issue skillfully and
conveyed a sense of positive traction in achieving a
resolution. Colombia scheduled the resumed meeting of OAS
Foreign Ministers (MFM) for the end of the General Assembly
to keep it from dominating the rest of the event.
Furthermore, SYG Insulza secured an agreement for only
Ecuador and Colombia to comment on Insulza’s report to the
Foreign Ministers, thereby avoiding a drawn out debate on the
matter. Uruguayan FM Fernandez, who chaired the MFM, helped
keep the meeting short and tightly focused. Insulza’s
presentation consisted of a review of the meetings that have
taken place to establish a bilateral border security
mechanism. Insulza urged the two countries to re-establish
diplomatic relations at the charge level and kept the MFM
open to provide an update within two months.

6. (U) In his comments, Colombian FM Araujo reviewed
long-standing commitments by OAS member states to reject
terrorism and support Colombia’s security. He underscored
three key points stemming from the March 17 MFM:

— Multiple apologies by Colombia to Ecuador for the March 1
incident;

— Member state commitments in the March 17 MFM resolution to
combat "illegal armed groups" and criminal organizations; and,

— The work undertaken thus far by the OAS to re-establish
trust between Colombia and Ecuador.

Araujo said that the bilateral border security mechanism
being developed with the assistance of the OAS should include
both political and military components. He suggested that
both Colombia and Ecuador should work to improve social
conditions along the border.

7. (U) Ecuadorean FM Salvador adopted a somewhat tougher tone
in her comments, noting that the OAS had not yet succeeded in
implementing the objectives of the March 17 MFM resolution.
She emphasized OAS member state "rejection of Colombia’s
incursion" and Ecuador’s belief that the OAS had to address
the matter of Colombian reparations to Ecuador for the March
1 attack. FM Salvador expressed Ecuador’s solidarity with
the Colombian people for their suffering at the hands of
"irregular groups," but added that Colombia could not violate
its neighbors’ borders in responding to this problem. She
reviewed Ecuador’s actions to combat the FARC in its
territory and Ecuador’s acceptance of tens of thousands of
Colombian refugees as indicative of Ecuador’s commitment to
help Colombia. She listed three requirements for the
re-establishment of normal diplomatic relations:

— Colombia must stop insulting President Correa and end its
disinformation campaign against Ecuador;

— Colombia must recognize the measures Ecuador has taken
against the FARC;

— Colombia must reinforce its military presence along its
southern border.

FM Salvador urged an OAS presence to monitor any bilateral
security mechanism established between Colombia and Ecuador.
Colombian FM Araujo requested one minute to respond,
indicating that Colombia had not insulted President Correa,
but, to the contrary, it was Correa who had repeatedly
insulted President Uribe.

//VENEZUELA ATTACKS DEPUTY SECRETARY’S REMARKS ON
VENEZUELA-FARC//

8. (U) Deputy Secretary John D. Negroponte’s June 2 plenary
address focused on the OASGA theme of "Youth and Democratic
Values." The Deputy Secretary highlighted the need to
promote flourishing democracies and to pursue economic and
social progress and stronger rule of law. He noted the
Administration’s strong record on development assistance,
debt forgiveness, free trade, security, and public safety.
The Deputy Secretary applauded OAS assistance to Haiti and
focused on the need to support Haiti’s rapid selection of a
new Prime Minister and organization of overdue Senate
elections. Numerous delegations approached the U.S. to
express support and appreciation for the Deputy’s
intervention.

9. (U) In a subsequent press conference later on June 2, the
Deputy Secretary addressed media queries regarding Venezuelan
involvement in providing safe haven to the FARC by noting
that, "... as far as the government of Venezuela is
concerned, I don’t think there is any doubt that there are
FARC who have sought sanctuary on Venezuelan soil, across
from the territory of Colombia... and I would suggest that
those who are in a position to do something about that need
to think about the long-term bilateral relationships between
the two countries and whether it really is in their interest
to allow that type of situation to continue."

10. (U) Venezuelan FM Maduro used Venezuela’s June 3 plenary
address to issue a long personal attack against the Deputy
Secretary, calling the Deputy’s statements to the media
"irresponsible and abusive," demanding that the "U.S. elites
acknowledge the new realities in the hemisphere," and calling
the U.S. the greatest threat to regional peace. U.S.
Permanent Representative Morales took the floor to reject FM
Maduro’s characterization of the Deputy Secretary and the
Deputy’s remarks. Ambassador Morales also noted that
Venezuela had not answered multiple calls at the OASGA to
reject terrorism. FM Maduro responded that Venezuela
condemned terrorism and called on the USG to demonstrate its
own commitment by surrendering accused terrorist Luis Posada
Carriles to face justice in Venezuela.

//FOOD SECURITY DECLARATION STUMBLES//

11. (C) One of the most contentious issues at the OASGA was
the negotiation of a draft declaration on the world food
crisis. Prior to the General Assembly, Central American
delegations led by El Salvador had presented a draft text
which was not formally negotiated in Washington, but had
informal consensus. However, South American delegations, led
by Argentina and Venezuela, attempted to introduce a
completely new text at the OASGA. The South American text
included unacceptable language blaming biofuels for the food
shortages, establishing food security as a human right,
defending food export bans, and attacking agricultural
subsidies. (COMMENT: USOAS learned that Colombia and Brazil
had opposed the Argentine draft in difficult negotiations
within the South American group, but Brazil supported
criticism of grain-based ethanol production as long as
cane-based ethanol was not addressed. It also became clear
that SYG Insulza was a driving force behind the tougher South
American text. END COMMENT).

12. (C) The U.S. delegation, accompanied by Canada and some
Caricom members, especially Barbados, argued that other
organizations with responsibility for food and agriculture,
such as FAO, were meeting to address the food crisis; it did
not make sense for the OASGA to cut across the efforts being
undertaken by experts. USOAS also pointed out that we could
support the carefully crafted text presented by the Central
American delegations and that the South American text
contained language that the U.S. delegation would not be able
to support under any circumstances. After late-night
negotiations on June 2, the participating delegations agreed
on a succinct consensus text, but Argentina scuttled the text
(much of which had been drafted by the Argentine delegation)
on June 3 by adding unacceptable new language on agricultural
subsidies. The U.S., Canada, and Barbados opposed the new
text and El Salvador ultimately withdrew the draft
declaration entirely. SYG Insulza is likely to convoke an
OAS Permanent Council session soon to take up the matter up
again. (COMMENT: The Central American delegations were
incensed at what they saw as South American disregard for
their work to achieve a consensus text and heavy-handedness
in pursuing the Argentine draft. END COMMENT).

//INSULZA: CUBA SHOULD MEET HEMISPHERIC STANDARDS ON
DEMOCRACY//

13. (C) Another interesting development at the OASGA was SYG
Insulza’s public assertion during the inaugural ceremony that
Cuba’s re-integration into the inter-American system was
contingent upon its acceptance of regional standards on
democracy and human rights. Insulza expressed his desire to
see Cuba brought back into the regional system, but said that
he had no wish to see the OAS divided over the Cuba issue and
that, for Cuba to rejoin the community, it would have to meet
all obligations under OAS instruments, such as the
Inter-American Democratic Charter. (COMMENT: This is the
first time that Insulza has explicitly linked Cuba’s
re-integration to compliance with the Democratic Charter.
This is an important, positive development and it serves as a
clear condition to OAS member states that would like to end
Cuba’s suspension without any preconditions. END COMMENT).

//ELECTION OF U.S. CANDIDATE TO JURIDICAL COMMITTEE//

14. (SBU) In one of the closest elections in recent OASGA
history, U.S. candidate David P. Stewart, Assistant Legal
Adviser for Private International Law (L/PIL) was elected to
one of three vacancies on the Inter American Juridical
Committee. (NOTE: The Inter-American Juridical Committee is
an eleven-member advisory body to the OAS on matters
pertaining to international law and legal jurisprudence. Its
members are elected in their personal capacity and serve a
4-year term. END NOTE). The Canadian incumbent Jean-Paul
Hubert was re-elected and Peruvian national Fabian Novak
Talavera also won a seat. Paraguay’s Felix Hernandez
Estibarriba lost. Canada received 26 votes; Peru, 25; the
U.S., 24; and Paraguay 22. Caricom representatives told us
that they had voted as bloc in favor of David Stewart, a
crucial factor in Stewart’s victory. USOAS is deeply
appreciative of the hard work by posts throughout the region
to rally support for Stewart.

//NO NEW DECLARATIONS ON BOLIVIA, HAITI//

15. (C) Prior to the start of the GA, the U.S. delegation
picked up rumors that the Bolivian delegation would seek a
resolution condemning the harassment of pro-MAS indigenous
activists by a mob in Sucre (REF B). The U.S. delegation and
senior OAS figures quietly expressed opposition to the
negotiation of a resolution on this internal Bolivian matter,
particularly since the negotiation of a Bolivia resolution
would have distracted from negotiations already underway on
other important matters. Also, the Bolivian draft called for
an investigation of the matter by the Inter American
Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), a role the IACHR told us
that it was not prepared to undertake. OAS secretariat
members and the Colombian OAS Perm Rep eventually convinced
the Bolivian delegation to drop the notion of a resolution in
exchange for Insulza’s mention of the incident during his
inaugural statement.

16. (SBU) Efforts to obtain a General Assembly Declaration on
the political situation in Haiti floundered due to the
resistance by the Haitian delegation to such a document.
Haitian representatives had already accepted an OAS consensus
resolution on the political situation in Haiti (as in past
years), but did not want an additional declaration issued at
the General Assembly. In addition, Argentine delegates
termed the draft General Assembly declaration as
"interventionist" (COMMENT: Argentine OAS Perm Rep Rodolfo
Gil is generally suspicious of OAS democracy promotion
efforts. END COMMENT). Haitian FM Clerisme conveyed Haiti’s
gratitude to hemispheric donors for their commitment to
Haiti’s development and political stability. He acknowledged
that Haiti’s "insufficient public policies" in promoting
socio-economic growth, improved sanitation, health care, and
food security. Clerisme asserted that Prime
Minister-designate Robert Manuel had the "support of the
entire legislature," which had convened a special session to
address his nomination. Regional media picked up the Deputy
Secretary’s remarks on Haiti in his plenary statement,
including his call for expeditious Senate elections and the
confirmation of a PM as soon as possible.

17. (U) Despite rumors of problematic new text in Argentina’s
annual Falklands/Malvinas Declaration and a potential
Bolivian resolution on access to the sea, there were no
dramatic developments on either issue and they were addressed
in a similar vein as in previous General Assemblies.

//ENGAGEMENT BY PRIVATE SECTOR, LABOR UNIONS, CIVIL SOCIETY//

18. (U) Meetings with non-governmental representatives are
becoming an increasingly important element of OAS General
Assemblies. The "Fifth Private Sector Forum" met May 28-29,
with 400 businessmen from 26 countries participating in the
sessions. Business representatives presented their
recommendations to the OAS heads of delegation on May 30,
focusing their remarks on the need to improve primary
education and technical training, to increas linkages between
universities, government, and the private sector, and to
create business "incubators" to foster innovation.

19. (U) The first OAS Dialogue with Labor Representatives was
deemed a success, with the workers’ groups focusing on the GA
theme of youth and democratic values. The labor
representatives delivered a "Declaration on Youth" to the
member state heads of delegation, calling for an end to
employment discrimination against youth, the involvement of
young people in policy formulation, and the creation of
national policies to help generate first jobs. U.S. Deputy
Permanent Representative Manzanares noted in his comments the
success of the May 20-21 "Seminar on Youth Employment" in Rio
de Janeiro, an event organized jointly by the Department of
Labor, WHA/USOAS, the Brazilian Government, and the OAS.

20. (SBU) Two civil society dialogues, one with SYG Insulza
and another with heads of delegations to the OASGA, took
place during the Assembly. During the informal session with
Insulza, regional NGOs pressed him to expand space for civil
society at the OAS and in the Summits process. Speakers
pressed Insulza to use his role to advance stalled OAS
indigenous declaration negotiations, implement country visits
by OAS anti-corruption review mechanism (MESICIC) experts,
deepen OAS programming dealing with access to public
information, and create OAS space for lesbian, gay, bisexual,
and transgender (LGBT) discrimination issues.

21. During the second formal dialogue with member state
delegations, the same issues were raised. U.S. Deputy
PermRep Manzanares noted the progress achieved by the OAS
over the past year with regard to expanded space at the
Permanent Council for NGOs. Along with Canada, he reiterated
strong U.S. support for civil society and human rights
defenders, and encouraged NGOs to participate more actively
in the regular meetings of the OAS. In its intervention,
Venezuelan NGO Asociacion Civil Consorcio Desarrollo y
Justicia criticized the Chavez government over harsh NGO
restrictions and limits to freedom of expression, which
resulted in a strong rebuke by Venezuelan Deputy FM and OAS
PermRep Jorge Valero. (NOTE: In advance of the formal
dialogue, a USOAS-supported side event in Medellin hosted by
Freedom House in which the rise of regional NGO restrictions
was discussed. END NOTE.)

//SPAIN, OTHER DONORS PLEDGE ADDITIONAL FUNDS TO OAS//

22. (U) OAS Permanent Observers engaged in their own
"dialogue" with the OAS leadership at the GA, a session that
is traditionally used by donors to announce new initiatives.
Spain, already one of the largest donors to the OAS,
announced a contribution of nearly $14 million to support
unspecified OAS programs, while Germany pledged more than
EUROS 2 million for OAS human rights promotion, disaster
mitigation, and environmental projects. Italy announced
$300,000 for OAS anti-landmine projects and France said it
would provide $100,000 for human rights activities. Israel
offered training to in emergency response through the
Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE). Serbia
called for OAS member states to withhold recognition of
Kosovo’s sovereignty. Iceland, the newest OAS Observer,
touted its UNSC candidacy and expertise in geothermal energy.

//COMMENT//

23. (C) Most OAS delegations had expected a very tense
General Assembly, given the events of the last several months
in Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Bolivia, but the main
story line turned out to be Medellin’s and Colombia’s obvious
and successful recovery from years of violence. The
selection of Medellin as the site for the OASGA had raised
eyebrows among the delegations, but it resulted in a public
diplomacy coup for the Colombian authorities. The OASGA was
also notable for what did not happen: Venezuela refrained
from embarrassing Colombia on its home turf. The sense among
OAS delegations was that Venezuela was too worried about the
potential fallout from the laptops issue to risk a direct
confrontation with Colombia. Even the exchange between
Venezuela and the U.S. over FM Maduro’s comments did not
garner as much attention as it could have, given the
expectations of a much more contentious OASGA than actually
transpired. Overall, it was a very good GA for the U.S. and
a clear win for Colombia.

RICE