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Cablegate: Torrijos to Move Comptroller Kuzniecky to Canal

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #0563/01 1031943
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 131943Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0152
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUENAAA/SECNAV WASHDC
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 000563

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR STATE WHA/CEN TELLO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/01/2015
TAGS: ECON PGOV EWWT
SUBJECT: TORRIJOS TO MOVE COMPTROLLER KUZNIECKY TO CANAL
AFFAIRS


Classified By: Ambassador William Eaton for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

1. (U) SUMMARY: On April 12, 2007, President Martin Torrijos
announced that Dani Ariel Kuzniecky would be the new Minister
for Canal Affairs and President of the Panama Canal
Authority's (ACP) Board of Directors replacing Ricaurte
"Catin" Vasquez. Kuzniecky is currently Panama's
highly-regarded Comptroller General. For numerous reasons,
Vasquez had been seeking to leave government for over a year.
The consensus among Panamanians with whom Post has discussed
the matter is that move was not a surprise, Kuzniecky has
done a good job as Comptroller General, and while his
re-assignment to the ACP is beneficial for the ACP, it may
portend problems for the Comptroller General's offices
depending on whom is selected to replace him. END COMMENT.


2. (U) On April 12, 2007, Torrijos announced that Kuzniecky
would be the new Minister for Canal Affairs replacing
Vasquez. Subject to the National Assembly's (likely)
ratification, Kuzniecky would also be President of the ACP's
Board of Directors. Kuzniecky is currently Panama's
highly-regarded Comptroller General. Kuzniecky will present
his resignation to the Panamanian Assembly on April 12, but
will remain as Comptroller General until a successor is
chosen. Although Minister of Economy and Finance Carlos
Vallarino is rumored to succeed Kuzniecky as Comptroller
General, Torrijos is legally prohibited from publicly making
such an announcement. Under Panamanian law, the National
Assembly selects the Comptroller General, though in practice
it is the President.

3. (C) Publicly, Torrijos said Vasquez had expressed a desire
to return to the private sector for some time. A former
Governor of Panama told EmbOff that Vasquez had been looking
to leave government for over a year. According to this
source, Vasquez has complained that he did not have Torrijos'
support, was disliked by the legislators and was being used
to deliver tough decisions. The source said Vasquez did not
actively seek out his removal but waited for Torrijos to act.
Vasquez believed that his unpopularity would force Torrijos
to remove him. Vasquez may now seek to serve as a consultant
to groups seeking to do business with the ACP. Vasquez has
yet to make an announcement as to his future plans.

4. (C) Prior to the announcement, Kuzniecky told EmbOff that
he was not seeking the Canal position. He said he was upset
at hearing rumors of the re-assignment before anyone from
Torrijos's office had contacted him. Kuzniecky said he sent
a message to Torrijos saying that he, if requested by
Torrijos, he would accept a new position but that he "would
be the same Kuzniecky and he (Torrijos) should carefully
consider where he would ask me to serve." Kuzniecky said he
made it clear he would attack corruption in whatever agency
he served.

5. (C) Angelica Maytin, Executive Director of the Foundation
for the Development of Civil Liberties (Panama's chapter of
Transparency International) told PolOff that Kuzniecky's
resignation was not a surprise. According to Maytin, it was
common knowledge in the transparency community that Kuzniecky
wanted to leave, but his reasons were unknown. "It is a
shame that Kuzniecky is leaving. He did a good job," added
Maytin. However, Maytin did not speculate on the
ramifications of Kuzniecky's departure on the future of the
GOP's anti-corruption campaign. "It all depends on who they
choose to be the next Comptroller," said Maytin. Similar
comments have been received from other political figures in
Panama.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: Kuzniecky has long wanted the leave the
Comptroller General post. Given his solid anti-corruption
credentials, this change could be beneficial for the ACP.
However, depending who replaces him as Comptroller General,
this move could portend weaker GOP resolve to combat
corruption in the central government.

7. (U) Bio Note: Kuzniecky has served as Comptroller General
since November 22, 2004. Previously, he was a lawyer at
Kuzniecky & Co. Kuzniecky lead Torrijos' transition team

from May to September 2004. Kuzniecky's only prior political
experience was during the 1999 presidential campaign where he
served as vice-president of the "Pro-Martin (Torrijos)
Independents" with current Panamanian Ambassador to the US
Ferederico Humbert Arias. Kuzniecky holds a law degree from
Universidad Santa Maria La Antigua (1984), a Masters in
Jurisprudence from New York University's International Law
Institute (1986) and has done postgraduate coursework at
Harvard University. He is married with two daughters and
speaks fluent English.
EATON

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