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Cablegate: Panama: Patriotic Union Vp Backs Martinelli

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #1840/01 3402301
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 062301Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1517
INFO RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 001840

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/06/2017
TAGS: PGOV PM
SUBJECT: PANAMA: PATRIOTIC UNION VP BACKS MARTINELLI

REF: PANAMA 1824

Classified By: POLCOUNS Brian R. Naranjo. Reasons: 1.4 (d).

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Summary
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1. (C) "I think the opposition needs to start unifying behind
Martinelli," Patriotic Union (UP) VP Anibal Galindo told
POLCOUNS on December 6, confirming rumors that Galindo was
coordinating his political activities with Martinelli. "One
has to respect the hard work that (Democratic Change (CD)
party President and presidential candidate) Ricardo
Martinelli has done to sustain his high level of support and
to oppose the Torrijos Administration." Galindo asserted
that the idea of holding an inter-party primary among
opposition parties was dead as it was generally believed that
such a primary would weaken, not strengthen the opposition.
Ultimately, taking advantage of Panamanians' propensity to
bandwagon politically, the opposition would negotiate the
formation of a broad coalition, Galindo said. In response to
Galindo's remark that the U.S. Embassy would need to talk
former President Mireya Moscoso into supporting an opposition
coalition that was not led by the Panamenista party, POLCOUNS
told Galindo that the U.S. would not play such a role. End
Summary

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Martinelli is the Opposition's Best Shot
----------------------------------------

2. (C) "Martinelli is the best option that the opposition
has," Galindo said. The opposition should recognize the
broad base of support that Martinelli has sustained over the
past year and a half. "Martinelli has defied predictions
that his poll numbers would fall, yet he sustains up to forty
percent approval in some polls." Asked how an outsider was
to understand the Patriotic Union (UP) party's direction
given UP VP Jose Raul Mulino's active public support of
Panamenista Party candidate Alberto Vallarino, Galindo's
increasingly public support for Martinelli, and UP President
Guillermo "Billy" Ford's announcement of his presidential
candidacy, Galindo said that there was an on-going internal
debate inside UP on the way ahead.

3. (C) Ford, with the agreement of Mulino, Galindo, and
other key UP leaders, announced his presidential candidacy
with the intention of elevating this newly formed party's
public profile. Galindo conceded that some portion of Ford
truly aspired to be President, but added that Ford wanted the
broader opposition panorama to evolve around him so that he
could emerge as a unifying leader, much the same way he
secured the Presidency of UP. "If the opportunity presents
itself and Billy's candidacy takes off, great. All the more
power to him. But this is unlikely, and Billy won't hinder
opposition efforts to back a stronger candidate who can win,"
Galindo asserted.

4. (C) Mulino has long-standing business ties with
Vallarino; "He's done a lot of legal work for Vallarino,"
Galindo explained. He asserted that Mulino had not had much
success in convincing UP members to follow him in support of
Vallarino. "Vallarino jerked us around when he was trying to
decide which party to join. He came to us and told us he
wanted to sign up with Patriotic Union. We were even trying
to decided on which day Vallarino would do it. Vallarino was
even calling us back to tell us which days were bad because
he would be traveling out of the country. Then all of a
sudden the calls stopped. Next thing we know, Vallarino is
publicly re-enlisting with the Panamenista Party," Galindo
recounted. "That hurt a lot of feelings and sowed mistrust."
Galindo then went into the frequently heard belief that
Vallarino was not "committed" to running for president. "Why
should we back a man who might not want to be president?"

5. (C) "I'm looking to maximize the Patriotic Union's
political investments," Galindo said. UP could try to launch
its own candidate, but realistically would only garner four
or five percent in the elections. Join up with a strong
candidate like Martinelli though, and for the same amount of
money and political capital invested, Galindo said, and UP
could be part of government. Galindo, who acknowledged that
Martinelli had asked him to be his vice presidential nominee,
said that UP would develop four to five "well-defined and
focused proposals" that UP would ask prospective coalition
partners to endorse. (Note: Martinelli campaign advisor
Jimmy Papademetriou told POLCOUNS that Galindo was working
closely with Martinelli advisors to shape such proposals
(RETEL).)

6. (C) The unification of the Solidarity and Liberal parties
to form UP was intended to create a new force in Panamanian
politics. "This was my idea, and my intent was to create a
new kind of politics." Martinelli has succeeded in
positioning himself as a new kind of politician who was
prepared to do away with politics as usual. "It's only
natural that Patriotic Union should seek an alliance with
Martinelli. The traditional parties in the longer-term
should fear what Martinelli is trying to do." In the end, UP
would end up reaching agreement on who to back. Galindo
added that UP's "small committee" of leading UP luminaries
would be meeting on December 10 to continue discussions on
UP's way ahead.

------------------------ --------------------------
Inter-party Primary Dead; Will Negotiation Coalition
------------------------ --------------------------

7. (C) "Nobody talks about the inter-party primary any more,"
Galindo said. "That idea is dead." Panamanians wanted to
support a winner, not be labeled losers. In an inter-party
primary, Galindo explained, "The losers would not overcome
their egos and support the winner of an inter-party primary.
Instead, they'd go off and sulk." An inter-party primary,
following each party's own primaries, would only deplete the
opposition parties' treasuries, wear out their political
activists, and leave behind too many bruised egos. Negotiate
an alliance, Galindo said, and you can mobilize Panamanians'
"desire to bandwagon" behind a winner, "Martinelli." If
Martinelli could continue to build up momentum he could
secure the support of UP and the Movement of Liberal Republic
Nationalists (MOLIRENA) and even of the Panamenista Party.
"A Martinelli-Varela alliance would be very formidable."

8. (C) Former President Guillermo Endara would go nowhere
without Panamenista support, and his Moral Vanguard of the
Nation (VMP) party was merely a vehicle to make money.
According to Galindo, "Endara saw that the Solidarity Party
received USD 80,000 after it ran Endara as its candidate in
2004. Endara wants his cut of that money. When Solidarity
wouldn't give it to him, Endara set up his own party."

9. (C) Former President Mireya Moscoso was the driving force
behind Vallarino. Moscoso would never accept second billing
for the Panamenista Party on the opposition ticket. Galindo
said, "We may need the U.S. Embassy to talk Moscoso down and
explain to her the need for the Panamenistas to settle for a
vice presidency or less on the opposition ticket." POLCOUNS
explained to Galindo that the Embassy would not play such a
role. Nonetheless, Galindo said he believed that the
"inevitability" of Martinelli would compel other parties to
form up behind him.

-------
Comment
-------

10. (C) Three people have been mentioned as vice
presidential running mates for Martinelli. Martinelli
previously told POLCOUNS that he had offered a vice
presidential slot to Panamenista Party President Juan Carlos
Varela. CD VP Roberto Henriquez told POLCOUNS that
Martinelli had offered him the opportunity to be vice
presidential running mate. Now Galindo is asserting the
same. Eventually, Martinelli -- who will definitely run for
president -- will need to show his hand and pick a running
mate. While Galindo has clearly bought into Martinelli's
vision for building an opposition coalition, it is not
entirely clear that Galindo can deliver the goods that
Martinelli will need. UP has been hemorrhaging members in
recent months, Ford may not have entirely signed on to
announcing his presidential candidacy only to fold his tents
later to form a coalition, and Mulino is reportedly not
entirely happy with his new home in UP. A weakened and
divided party may not be the force multiplier that Martinelli
is seeking. That said, Galindo's comments offer interesting
insights into a campaign season that will open in earnest in
January.
ARREAGA

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