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Viewing cable 06BOGOTA1302, PARTY LEADERS ON BOGUS REPORTS LINKING THEIR U.S.

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06BOGOTA1302 2006-02-10 20:08 2011-02-20 12:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bogota
VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #1302/01 0412059
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 102059Z FEB 06
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2157
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 6551
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 7162
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ FEB 7683
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 3239
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 3843
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 3437
C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 001302 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/07/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER CO
SUBJECT: PARTY LEADERS ON BOGUS REPORTS LINKING THEIR U.S. 
VISA STATUS TO PARAMILITARY LINKS OF CANDIDATES 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood 
Reason: 1.4 (b,d) 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1.  (C) Ambassador Wood met separately with three Colombian 
political party leaders, at their request, to address their 
concerns about a recent Cambio magazine article naming the 
leaders and saying the U.S. would consider revoking their 
U.S. visas if they did not remove from party lists 
prospective candidates with ties to paramilitary 
organizations.  The leaders handled the meetings in starkly 
different manners: Colombia Democratica leader Mario Uribe 
appeared the most concerned, handing the ambassador a list of 
his suspicious candidates and asking which he should remove. 
Conservative leader Carlos Holguin outlined the procedures he 
was following to ensure that his list was clean.  Alas-Equipo 
Colombia leader Luis Alfredo Ramos highlighted his party's 
pro-U.S. stance and ties to the private sector.  The 
Ambassador told all three politicians the U.S. was not 
involved in reviewing candidate lists, which were the 
responsibility of party leaders; was implementing its visa 
issuance procedures normally, with no special process 
associated with Colombian elections; but could not offer 
guarantees about any specific candidates if derogatory 
information appeared that might affect their visa 
eligibility.  End summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
Mario Uribe: Please Review List of Suspicious Candidates 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
 
2.  (C) On February 1, Colombia Democratica leader Mario 
Uribe handed the Ambassador a list of 11 candidates who hoped 
to run for office under his party's banner in the March 12 
elections and asked the Ambassador to tell him which 
candidates he should remove.  Uribe said he would remove all 
candidates to which the U.S. had an objection.  He said he 
was seeking the Ambassador's views because of the Cambio 
article, which said the U.S. was paying careful attention to 
political party lists and would hold leaders accountable for 
any candidates on lists who had paramilitary links.  The 
article said the U.S. "Sword of Damocles" was the withdrawal 
of the leaders' U.S. visas.  (Uribe earlier told D/Polcouns 
that he could not afford to lose his U.S. visa because he had 
three children in the U.S., two studying and one working; he 
anticipated spending "more and more" time in the U.S. in 
coming years.  He added he would give up his Senate seat and 
political career if that was the only way to keep his visa. 
Uribe said he had talked to President Uribe, Interior and 
Justice Minister Pretelt, and Ambassador Pastrana about the 
matter.)  Uribe said he was a friend of the U.S. and 
respected U.S. law. 
 
---------------------------------------- 
Carlos Holguin: I'm Doing the Best I Can 
---------------------------------------- 
 
3.  (C) On February 6, Conservative Party leader Carlos 
Holguin told the Ambassador he was "worried" about the Cambio 
article and wanted to inform the U.S. of the steps he was 
taking to ensure his party's list was clean.  He described 
his extensive efforts to modernize the Conservatives and 
ensure the party had a strong constitution and internal 
rules.  Holguin said all prospective Conservative candidates 
had to present their resumes to the party leadership and 
swear that they had no links with illegal armed groups or 
legal accusations pending against them.  Holguin said the 
party had investigated its candidates to the best of its 
ability and had submitted its lists to the Supreme Court and 
Fiscalia (prosecutor general) for review (to date, without 
response).  Holguin reported his concern about one candidate 
whom the media had identified as linked to paramilitaries 
(Hector Alfonso Lopez, the son of Enilse Lopez, AKA "La 
Gata," a Bolivar businesswoman who is widely regarded as 
being in league with paramiltaries) but said he was not able 
to remove candidates from lists because the party had to 
follow certain due process guidelines.  However, Holguin said 
the party would remove any prospective candidate it he 
received "firm evidence" of wrongdoing. 
 
4.  (C) Holguin said he understood the U.S. position on "no 
interference" in Colombia's election campaigns.  He said he 
has the "greatest respect" for the U.S. and its partnership 
 
with Colombia. 
 
-------------------------------- 
Luis Alfredo Ramos: I'm pro-U.S. 
-------------------------------- 
 
5.  (C) On February 7, Alas-Equipo Colombia (A-EC) party 
leader Luis Alfredo Ramos (a former Commerce Minister and 
Ambassador to the OAS) stressed to the Ambassador that his 
party was pro-U.S., closely allied with prominent Colombian 
industrialists, and totally free from AUC influence.  Ramos 
noted that A-EC only accepted donations from leading business 
members, and that he had personally taken out a large private 
loan from a major bank to help finance the party's 
Congressional candidates.  He reaffirmed that a press report 
of former General Rito Alejo del Rio joining A-EC was 
unfounded.  (Alejo del Rio's visa was canceled on suspicion 
of drug trafficking activity.)    Ramos stated he would not 
tolerate any individual with questionable ties in the ranks 
of A-EC.  Prior to the meeting, Ramos told poloff he felt 
Mario Uribe had dug himself a deep hole over time by being 
excessively open to receiving any electorally viable 
individual into his Colombia Democratica party. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
Ambassador States U.S. Position on Candidate Lists 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
6.  (C) Per guidance from the Department, the Ambassador told 
Uribe, Holguin, and Ramos that the U.S. was concerned about 
the possibility of illicit paramilitary involvement in 
electoral campaigns through intimidation, corruption, and 
violence.  However, the U.S. was not involved in reviewing 
party lists (and had declined suggestions from some party 
leaders that it do so).  Selection of candidates was the 
responsibility of party leaders, who know the candidates 
best.  It would be prudent for leaders to act on their own 
suspicions to avoid having to address accusations if 
controversial candidates were elected.  The Ambassador said 
the U.S. visa issuance process remained the same, as set by 
U.S. law; the U.S. had not, and would not, change its visa 
procedures or criteria for any reason associated with the 
Colombian elections.  He noted that U.S. law has provided for 
some time that ties to terrorism or terrorist organizations 
could result in the denial of a visa.  The Ambassador 
emphasized that he could not offer guarantees about specific 
cases; if derogatory information came to light on an 
individual, the U.S. might deny a visa request.  Even in such 
cases, however, the U.S. would not make the matter public, 
but could not guarantee that others might not do so. 
WOOD 

=======================CABLE ENDS============================