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Cablegate: Panama: Pmg Tells Prd Leadership Won't Run For

VZCZCXYZ0016
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #0355/01 1262102
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 052102Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2011
INFO RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 2682
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUCNFB/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 000355

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/05/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL ETRD ECON PM
SUBJECT: PANAMA: PMG TELLS PRD LEADERSHIP WON'T RUN FOR
RE-ELECTION


Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Luis Arreaga. Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (
d)

-------
Summary
-------

1. (C) Panamanian National Assembly President Pedro Miguel
Gonzalez (PMG) informed President Martin Torrijos in writing
on May 4 of his "irrevocable decision to decline any
aspiration on his part to preside over the National Assembly
as of September 1." (Note: PMG remains under U.S. federal
indictment in conjunction with the 1992 murder of a U.S.
serviceman.) First VP and FM Samuel Lewis provided Charge a
copy of this letter on May 4. The letter was addressed to
Torrijos in his capacity as Secretary General of the
governing Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD). PMG is the
PRD CEN 2nd Sub-Secretary. On May 4, previewing this news
with POLCOUNS, PRD National Executive Committee (CEN) 5th
Sub-Secretary Rodrigo "Rod" Diaz said that the PRD would
begin the process of looking for a new National Assembly
President and hoped to have identified PMG's successor by
late June/early July. Washington should gird itself for a
full-court press by the Panamanians led by President Torrijos
to move the U.S.-Panama TPA forward for congressional action.
End summary.

------------------------------------------
Torrijos: Washington Visit to Promote TPA
------------------------------------------

2. (C) The purpose of the visit to Washington was "to promote
the trade agreement with the United States," President
Torrijos announced as he departed a ceremony at which he
signed a contract with Caterpillar to establish a Caterpillar
facility at the former Howard U.S. Air Force Base outside
Panama City. Lewis passed a copy of PMG's letter to Charge
on the margins of this event. Answering journalists
questions, Torrijos commented that PMG would not run for
reelection as President of the National Assembly.

------------------------
Choosing PMG's Successor
------------------------

3. (C) PRD CEN 5th Sub-Secretary Rodrigo "Rod" Diaz told
POLCOUNS on May 4 that the CEN had unanimously agreed that
PMG would not run for re-election as President of the
National Assembly. Diaz underscored the unanimity of the
decision, noting that PMG, the CEN's 2nd Sub-Secretary, had
supported the decision as well. Diaz explained that the PRD
National Assembly deputies, who hold 45 of the chambers 75
seats, would begin the process of selecting a successor to
PMG. "We hope to have selected a new National Assembly
President by the end of June or early July," Diaz said. "We
don't want to leave this hanging until a couple of weeks
before the National Assembly is re-opened on September 1 as
we did last year." (Note: Given the PRD's dominance of the
legislature, PRD deputies can hand pick the chamber's
president.)

----------
The Letter
----------

4. (SBU) Begin text of unofficial translation:

Panama, May 4, 2008
Comrade
Martin Torrijos Espino
Secretary General
Democratic Revolutionary Party

Esteemed comrade:

This letter's purpose is to state to the party's directorate
my irrevocable decision to decline any aspiration to preside
over the National Assembly starting next September 1.
Therefore, I consider it necessary that the National
Executive Committee assess the possibility of bringing
forward the selection of our party's proposal for late June
or early July.

As it is known, our party is immersed in the selection
process of our candidacies to all popularly elected positions
for next year's general elections and, although we have not
adopted a formal decision, we have agreed in principle to
carry out this exercise during the month of August. Due to
various reasons, I think it would be most prudent to
differentiate the timing of both exercises, so we may prevent
as much as possible, that the competition for national
leadership positions be reflected internally in our party at
the moment of making such an important decision.

Thanking my party for the support that it provided me during
the difficult moments that I faced when assuming such an
important responsibility and with the satisfaction of having
endured with determination and steadfastness the attacks to
our sovereignty and democratic institution, I remain,

/signed/
Pedro Miguel Gonzalez Pinzon
Third Deputy Secretary (Sub-Secretary) General

cc: Members of the National Executive Committee

End text of unofficial translation.

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

4. (C) Torrijos is clearly striving to remove PMG as an
impediment to U.S. congressional action on the pending
U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) on the eve of his
May 5-8 visit to Washington. Washington audiences can expect
to hear that now that the PMG issue has been resolved, the
U.S.-Panama TPA should be moved to the Hill, including
jumping the queue ahead of the U.S.-Colombia TPA. To the
best of post's knowledge, a written promise not to run for
election or re-election is unprecedented in Panamanian
politics. In securing this extraordinary written commitment
from PMG, Torrijos is hoping to breath new life into this
marquee objective for his administration in the hope of
seeing the TPA implement before he leaves office on July 1,
2009, but more ideally before Panama's May 3, 2009 general
elections. Washington should gird itself for a full-court
press by the Panamanians to move the U.S.-Panama TPA forward
for congressional action.
ARREAGA

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