Cablegate: Panama Post: The First Open Source Center

Published: Wed 3 Dec 2008 07:32 PM
DE RUEHZP #0897/01 3381932
R 031932Z DEC 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PANAMA 000897
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/20/2018
B. B) PANAMA 725
Classified By: Classified by POLCOUNS Brian R. Naranjo. Reasons 1.4 (b)
, (c) and (d).
1. (SBU/NF) Welcome to the revamped Panama Post,a new
collaborative effort between Embassy Panama's Political
Section (POL) and the Open Source Center (OSC). POL and OSC
are cooperating to highlight the most salient story lines in
recent OSC reporting, incorporate key insights garnered from
POL's own reporting activities, and enhance the effectiveness
of both POL's and OSC's products. In this edition of the
Panama Post, our headlines are:
- Cabinet shake-up leaves Minister of Government and Justice
Daniel Delgado Diamante (DDD) down, but not out for good;
- Democratic Change (CD) presidential candidate Ricardo
Martinelli surging;
- Governing Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) too busy
infighting to respond to attacks;
- PRD presidential primary loser Juan Carlos Navarro talking
to Martinelli; and
- Panamenista Party presidential candidate Juan Carlos
Varela playing nice.
Those not familiar with OSC's excellent unclassified
summaries of open source media should log on to and set up an account for daily updates on
issues, regions or countries of your choice. OSC analysts
follow open source material on a daily basis providing
translations of timely news stories and analysis. OSC can
also be a partner in providing contributions across the
Hemisphere and around the world. END SUMMARY.
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DDD out in cabinet shake-up, but not down for good
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2. (SBU//NF) President Torrijos removed Minister of
Government and Justice Daniel Delgado Diamante (DDD) and
replaced him with Dilio Arica, who had been Minister of the
Presidency (the rough equivalent of a palace chief of staff),
on November 17. DDD's removal was part of a larger cabinet
shake-up in which the Ministers of the Presidency, Commerce
and Industry (MICI) and Agriculture were also replaced. This
announcement comes less than a month after revelations that,
thirty-eight years ago, DDD killed one of his subordinates
(REFTEL A). DDD, who did not dispute the basic facts in the
case, consistently asserted that this case had been
judicially reviewed and that he had been found innocent of
murder. Panama City daily La Prensa, which broke the story,
insisted that there was no evidence of such a finding of
innocence. DDD lashed out at the newspaper with a libel and
slander suit, though he was unable to produce any paperwork
attesting to his innocence. In his latest move, DDD,
asserting that his case file had been destroyed in a fire
that had destroyed judicial archives, requested relief as the
time period to reconstruct lost files had expired. Torrijos
has made no statement on DDD's removal. Attorney General Ana
Matilde Gomez announced that since DDD was no longer a
government official, the case against him would be
transferred from her office to that of a lower level
prosecutor. (COMMENT: This may be a blessing in disguise
for DDD, since the notoriously slow Panamanian justice system
might not get to his case for years.)
4. (C) COMMENT: DDD's removal has emboldened the Citizen
Democracy Network and others who have been beating the drum
for the repeal of the security decrees, which they call "the
DDD laws" (reftel B). New MOGJ head Arcia has said that his
priority in this new post would be to reinforce the
government's agenda on public security, and noted that the
controversial security laws had been approved "according to
the legal and political framework." Further, he noted that
the fate of the laws was not in the hands of the executive
branch, but rather the National Assembly. Arcia's position
is disingenuous as the National Assembly is dominated by the
governing PRD party and will not take action on anything
without close coordination with the Executive Branch,
PANAMA 00000897 002 OF 003
particularly with respect to the security decrees. Arcia is
a lifelong member of the governing PRD party and an
end-of-administration placeholder for Torrijos. He can be
expected to hew to the party line on all matters. END
Martinelli surging
5. (U) Democratic Change (CD) presidential candidate Ricardo
Martinelli leads the polls with 36.7 percent support,
according to a poll conducted by Ipsos for Channel 13 and
Panama America. He is trailed by PRD presidential candidate
Balbina Herrera at 31.2 percent, and by the Panamenista
presidential candidate Juan Carlos Varela at 11.4 percent.
6. (C) COMMENT: Martinelli's campaign continues to be the
most dynamic, innovative and determined so far in this
election contest. Martinelli, whose goal for the remainder
of the year is to knock Varela out of the race, has very
effectively relegated Varela to a distant third place. This
supermarket magnate apparently has no financial problems in
terms of implementing a well-articulated publicity campaign
strongly attacking the PRD in general, the current overnment
in particular, or Varela. Martinelli asserted to the Panama
Post on November 21 that many inside the PRD e.g., Panama
City Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro) and Panamenista parties
(e.g., Alberto Vallarino) were beating a path to his door.
Even former President Mireya Moscoso, a Panamenista, was
seeking accommodation with Martinelli, according Martinelli:
"She wants two things: not to be named in the campaign and
not to be indicted." Presently, Martinelli appears to be
benefiting from the traditional bandwagoning effect in
Panamanian politics. END COMMENT.
PRD too busy infighting to respond
7. (SBU) As Martinelli rolls along, an uncharacteristically
public and bitter spat within the PRD is keeping the ruling
party off-balance and off-message. Panama City Mayor Juan
Carlos Navarro (JCN) recently came out against the
controversial new security laws and has unleashed a string of
criticisms and accusations at President Torrijos'
administration over the increased crime rate. The offensive
began on November 3, when Navarro said that a "tough hand"
(mano dura) was necessary to deal with crime, and blamed
Torrijos personally for his administration's failure in the
fight against crime. Navarro later said that if the PRD
loses the 2009 elections it would be Torrijos' fault. The
usually disciplined and on-message PRD machine is
uncharacteristically reeling from these accusations.
8. (C) COMMENT. The reasons for Navarro's outbursts are
unclear, but theories abound. Recently, it has been reported
that Torrijos is quietly pushing a constitutional amendment
that would shorten the period of time during which a
president would have to wait to run for reelection from 10 to
5 years, thus bringing Torrijos back in to the political mix
in 2014, when it is otherwise assumed that Navarro would be
the next PRD leader in line to run for the Presidency.
Martinelli told the staff of the Panama Post that he and
Navarro have formed an informal alliance with Navarro based
on the shared objective of a PRD lose in 2009, which would
remove Herrera and Torrijos as PRD leaders, leaving the road
open to Navarro. "Navarro has nowhere to go," Martinelli
explained. "If Balbina wins, he loses. If Torrijos succeeds
in shortening the period before which he can run again to
five from ten years, then Navarro also loses." This could
explain Navarro,s outbursts. Panamanista presidential
primary also-ran Marco Ameglio told the Panama Post, "That
Navarro has no scrupples, absolutely none. He,s a complete
opportunist and would split the PRD and ally with Martinelli
simply to save his own skin and keep open options to run in
the future. He,s been screwed too many times by the PRD,
including by Torrijos and Balbina, to remain loyal." To the
surprise of virtually all political observers, on November 26
Navarro announced that he would be Herrera's VP running mate,
an announcement that Herrera herself promptly confirmed with
her own announcement. END COMMENT.
PANAMA 00000897 003 OF 003
Navarro talking to Martinelli
9. (C) Navarro had spoken with Martinelli about creating an
alliance, the Panama Post learned from Jimmy Papadimitriu, a
Martinelli advisor. Sporadic press reporting indicated some
known Navarro followers have been seen about town conspiring
with Martinelli's advisors. Indeed, in his public
exhortations against Torrijos, Navarro echoed Martinelli's
campaign themes: the need for a "tough hand" against crime
and complaints about the high cost of food. Navarro has
publicly denied any intention of leaving the PRD or that he
is negotiating with Martinelli, but acknowledged receiving
"many political offers." Herrera, for her part, was guarded
in her comments, saying that she had no plans to choose a
running mate until December. Navarro, though, gave Herrera
until December 1 to make her choice. Reportedly, the
National Executive Committee (CEN) of the PRD had an
eight-hour conciliation meeting in which Navarro reiterated
his support of the party, and his willingness to serve as
Herrera's running mate. Needless to say, Panamanian
political observers were stunned to learn on the afternoon of
November 26 that Navarro had been chosen as Herrera's VP
running mate.
Varela playing nice
10. (SBU) The "clean hands" (manos limpias) strategy of
Panamenista presidential candidate Juan Carlos Varela has
been lost in the maelstrom of Martinelli attacks and PRD
infighting. He is losing credibility and hasn't won over
many voters. Various Panamenista party leaders are openly
proposing the need to seek unity with the CD in order to
achieve victory and gain an opposition legislative majority.
12. (C) "Where is he? What is he doing?" lamented Ameglio
to the Panama Post. Ameglio, who is now working on Varela's
campaign platform committee, complained that Varela was
playing too nice and was incapable of attacking the PRD. "He
focuses his fire on Martinelli, not the PRD. Why is he too
ready to take on Moscoso, who flawed as she is was
nonetheless the last Panamenista to hold the presidency, and
yet refrains from attacking Torrijos?" Ameglio asked.
Ameglio also asserted that Varela was broke; "He and his
brother Popi spent over USD 1 million on the (November 23)
Panamenista convention. Sure he,ll get a bounce, but how
will they sustain it? Varela has no strategy and is waiting
until January while Martinelli continues to run a smart
campaign and has never lost his focus."
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