A/S SHANNON MEETS PRESIDENT URIBE

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06BOGOTA4894 1 June 2006 Confidencial Embassy Bogota

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BOGOTA 004894

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/26/2016
TAGS: PREL, PTER, ECON, ETRD, ENRG, SNAR, CO
SUBJECT: A/S SHANNON MEETS PRESIDENT URIBE

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


Summary


1. (C) A/S Shannon and Ambassador Wood met with President
Uribe on May 26. Shannon emphasized U.S. policy in the
region was based on cooperation, not confrontation; promoted
democratic institutions and values; and addressed poverty,
social exclusion, and inequality. Shannon said European
officials praised Colombian diplomacy at the recent EU-Latin
America Summit, especially Colombia’s deft handling of
relations with Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, and Bolivia. Uribe
said he planned to intensify the fight against drug
traffickers after hearing that the Valle cartel was likely
responsible for the "assassination" by the Colombian military
of 10 police intelligence officers and a civilian informant.
Uribe characterized a recent U.S. Senate immigration vote as
positive, and asked for Shannon’s help in releasing English
and Spanish texts of the Free Trade Agreement. Turning to
regional issues, Uribe said, if reelected on May 28, he would
work to preserve the Andean Community, moderate conflict with
Chavez, and try to persuade Chilean President Bachelet to
back Guatemala’s bid for a UNSC seat. End summary.

2. (C) On May 26, A/S Tom Shannon and Ambassador Wood met
with President Uribe for over an hour at the presidential
palace (Casa de Narino). Uribe was accompanied by Foreign
Minister Carolina Barco and Communications Director Jaime
Bermudez. D/polcouns was notetaker.


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Uribe to Intensify Drug Fight in Wake of "Assassinations"


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3. (C) Uribe told Shannon that from preliminary information
it appeared that narcotraffickers from the Valle cartel were
responsible for the May 24 "assassination" of ten police
intelligence (DIJIN) officers and a civilian informant by a
Colombian military unit. The same criminals had apparently
also threatened attacks against the electoral process. If
the report is confirmed, Colombia would need to intensify the
fight against drug traffickers who had infiltrated certain
police and military units. Uribe said when he heard the news
about the likely culprits he was "very worried" and offered a
reward of one thousand million pesos (about $420,000) for
information leading to the capture of those responsible. He
also immediately asked the civilian, independent Fiscalia
(Prosecutor General’s office) to assume control of the
investigation, rather than the military justice system.
Uribe expected a briefing shortly from the National Police
Intelligence chief, General Oscar Naranjo, who was talking to
a witness to the murders.

4. (C) Uribe stressed the importance of Plan Colombia to the
anti-narcotics fight and expressed disappointment with
European assessments of Colombia’s "failure" to win the drug
war, saying such comments harmed Plan Colombia. Uribe said
Colombia was making "every possible effort" on aerial and
manual eradication and understood the importance of showing
successes. He was dismayed by reports that famous Colombian
singer Juanes had called for the legalization of drugs, which
Uribe said would be a "disaster."


Colombia’s International Image Improving


5. (C) Shannon told Uribe he had heard many positive
comments about Colombia from European officials on the
margins of the recent EU-Latin American Summit in Vienna.
Europeans were impressed with Colombian diplomacy and the
deft way Colombia had smoothed relations with Venezuela,
Peru, Brazil, and Bolivia. Shannon said Colombia was seen as
a confident country with a growing international presence.
Colombia’s contribution in Vienna was especially important
because further deterioration of the relationships among
Andean neighbors would have been unhelpful. Uribe said he
was pleased to hear this news, noting that Colombia tried to
be "prudent" and "sincere" in its diplomatic relations.
Colombia was not ashamed about Plan Colombia, the Free Trade
Agreement, or its alliance with the U.S. Rather than
stimulate conflict, Colombia tried to dampen it.


BOGOTA 00004894 002 OF 004

U.S. Policy in Latin America


6. (C) Shannon said U.S. policy in Latin America was based
on cooperation, not confrontation, and emphasized the
importance of democratic institutions and values, and the
need to address poverty, social exclusion, and inequality.
The U.S. favored concrete, practical cooperation to achieve
results. Colombia’s success helped the U.S. enormously
because Uribe focused on results rather than rhetoric. U/S
Hughes’ recent visit to Colombia was very important in
helping her understand Colombia’s success, which she
discussed with President Bush. Uribe said Colombia was a
loyal ally of the U.S,. and also maintained strong relations
with its Latin American neighbors.


----
Post-Election Consultations with U.S., Free Trade


----

7. (C) Uribe said he would have to start work right away if
reelected on May 28 because he did not expect a traditional
honeymoon period; Shannon and Wood noted the U.S. was
prepared to send a high-level team to Bogota at a mutually
convenient time to discuss U.S.-GOC cooperation during a
second term. Uribe asked Shannon for U.S. assistance during
discussions the week of May 29 to wrap up discrepancies on
the English and Spanish versions of the FTA, saying he
defended FTA but faced significant domestic criticisms. Both
leading opposition candidates attacked him repeatedly on the
issue.


Immigration, Domestic Politics


8. (C) Uribe regarded the U.S. Senate’s recent vote on
immigration legislation as very positive and asked Shannon
about next steps. Shannon said the key to securing positive
legislation lay in the Conference process with the House of
Representatives, where the White House would seek to preserve
as much of the Senate bill as possible. Turning to Colombian
politics, Uribe said he was concerned at news the opposition
Polo Democratico Alternativo had hired 3,000 taxis in
Barranquilla to shuttle voters to the polls throughout the
day on May 28. He said opposition candidates had outspent
him significantly during the campaign due to legislative
spending limits imposed on an incumbent president seeking
reelection.


Regional Issues - Venezuela


9. (C) Uribe told Shannon that every time he sees Chavez the
Venezuelan President complains he has no dialogue with the
U.S. Shannon said the U.S. was interested in cooperation
with Venezuela on at least four concrete issues (trade,
energy, counter-narcotics, and counter-terrorism) but had not
been able to obtain Venezuelan agreement; the Venezuelans had
even attacked our Ambassador. Uribe said he would offer to
facilitate Chavez’s communication with the U.S. on such
issues when he saw him, probably not long after the May 28
election. (FM Barco said she would see Venezuelan FM Ali
Rodriguez on June 14.) Uribe characterized Colombia’s
approach to relations with Venezuela as "prudent," then noted
Chavez’s recent positive statements about the Chavez-Uribe
relationship. Uribe said Chavez was pragmatic and likely was
stung by criticisms in Europe that he was a polarizing
figure. Uribe criticized "deinstitutionalization" of
democracy in Venezuela, saying that a modern state cannot be
run by a "caudillo" but rather should be managed through
stable, predictable institutions. When Chavez leaves office
one day he will bequeath Venezuela a state without
institutions. Unlike Chavez, who could order the Central
Bank and State Television to do whatever he wanted, Uribe
said he was a "subordinate" who had to follow democratic
processes.

10. (C) In response to Uribe’s question, FM Barco said
Venezuela was persisting in its decision to leave the Andean
Community of Nations. Withdrawal would take place over 5
years, however, unlike Venezuela’s withdrawal from the G3
(comprising Colombia, Mexico and Colombia), which would be
effective after 180 days. The FM said there were discussions
among Colombia, Panama, and Mexico about expanding the G3 to
include Central America. Mexico had suggested continuing the

BOGOTA 00004894 003 OF 004

discussions after its own elections, scheduled for July 2.

11. (C) Uribe said he had received contradictory information
about the Venezuelan economy: some said Chavez is attracting
investment and tackling poverty, but others contended the
investment was mostly in the oil sector, and that poverty
statistics were not trustworthy. Shannon said Chavez had
undermined the efforts of successive Venezuelan governments
to strengthen competitiveness and productivity, focusing
instead on controlling economic and political activity.
Chavez had launched anti-poverty programs but they created
dependence on the state (and therefore on Chavez), instead of
enabling citizens to become independent and productive.
Chavez used the power of the state to grant and retract
privileges; his desire to control everything meant that those
who stood in his way faced suffering. Uribe said the GOC’s
Minister of Energy and Mines did not believe Venezuela was
pumping at the high rate Chavez claimed; Wood said it was
ironic that Chavez’s nationalist emphasis at PDVSA (and
failure to reward competence and professionalism) meant
PDVSA’s share of oil production appeared to be falling.

12. (C) Shannon said Venezuela was a "superhighway" for drug
trafficking. Colombia and Brazil had solid interdiction
programs and Venezuela lacked enforcement, which meant
criminals used Venezuelan rivers and air space to ship drugs
to and through the Caribbean to the U.S. U.S. assistance to
Venezuela on customs and port security was hampered by
extensive Venezuelan corruption; it was especially difficult
to work with the police. (FM Barco interjected that Guyana
and Trinidad and Tobago had approached the GOC seeking
counter-narcotics assistance.)


Regional Issues - Brazil and Bolivia


13. (C) Shannon told Uribe Brazil was surprised and
disappointed with Bolivia’s nationalization of the
hydrocarbon sector; Brazil’s patience in public did not
reflect its lack of patience in private. Brazil made it
clear to Morales that Bolivia needs Brazil more than Brazil
needs Bolivia. Brazil also told Chavez he had damaged
Morales with his interventions in Bolivia. Shannon said
neither Brazil nor the U.S. wanted to abandon Morales to
Chavez. The U.S. relationship with Morales started out
reasonably well but became harder. Morales was surprised by
his first round election victory and was worried about the
upcoming Constituent Assembly. Shannon said Morales had not
expected a first round victory, and originally saw the
Constituent Assembly as necessary to seize control of the
state. Now, however, Morales feared that the Assembly would
be used by his enemies, and therefore was intent on winning a
majority of seats. In general, Shannon said, Morales
retained significant support and his nationalization decision
was popular. However, his government lacks resources and
capacity. Wood asked Uribe if GOC Energy and Mines Minister
Mejia could reach out to Morales, but FM Barco responded that
the GOC can hardly get its phone calls to La Paz returned.
Barco said she thought Petrobras would continue to manage
Bolivian fields.


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Regional Issues - Mexico, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Peru


-----

14. (C) Shannon answered Uribe’s question about the state of
the Mexican presidential race by saying Felipe Calderon is
leading and might win if he can solidify middle class support
through June. Manuel Lopez Obrador had made some campaign
mistakes. On Ecuador, Uribe said he had talked on May 25 to
President Palacio, who said he had been "forced" to take the
decision to cancel Occidental Petroleum’s contract in Ecuador
and seize the company’s assets. Uribe asked how this action
had affected U.S. FTA talks with Ecuador. Shannon said Oxy
"had almost had a solution" to its dispute with the GOE
(which would have maintained the Ecuador reserves — 15% of
Oxy’s worldwide reserves — on the company’s books) but
Palacio made a political decision to act against the company.
This put in doubt FTA talks and APTDEA. The U.S. was trying
not to inflame the situation but this was a "very tough"
problem. Palacio’s decision to send FTA negotiators to
Washington was not easy for him, but his Oxy action had
created a "great obstacle" to progress on trade. With regard
to Peru, FM Barco noted Alan Garcia’s lead had shrunk to
eight points, according to the most recent poll, and Garcia
was taking nothing for granted in advance of the June 4

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election.


Support for Guatemala at UNSC


15. (C) Uribe said the GOC supported Guatemala’s bid for the
available Latin American seat on the UNSC but had heard that
Chile would support Venezuela. In Shannon’s view,
Guatemala’s positive showing at the recent Human Rights
Council vote (elected, better total than Venezuela, which was
defeated) was a good omen. Guatemala is making its case
well. The problem, he said, is that Mercosur countries
apparently believe they have an obligation to support
Venezuela. President Bachelet has not found a way to break
Mercosur consensus. Shannon said Secretary Rice had recently
told Chilean FM Alejandro Foxley in strong terms that a
Chilean vote for Venezuela would be a disaster. Chile had a
different, more responsible, international profile than other
Mercosur countries. It should demonstrate that it had an
independent voice. Foxley appeared very uncomfortable and
gave the impression he was thinking of ways to persuade
Bachelet to change her mind. U.S. pressure would likely not
help at the moment. Shannon emphasized that Chavez was
undesirable not only because of his unpredictable behavior or
his alliances with countries such as Iran, but because he
would use the UNSC platform to try to divide the U.S. from
Latin America and would purport to speak for the region.
Ambassador Wood noted that at the UNSC Chavez would have
daily opportunities to confront the U.S. Uribe planned to
visit Chile soon and would raise the UNSC issue.

16. (U) A/S Shannon cleared this message.
WOOD