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Cablegate: Panama: Resettlement of Cuban Migrants Protected

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #0520 1761937
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 241937Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2211
INFO RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0222

C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 000520

SIPDIS

STATE FOR PRM (RGEHRING AND RMACKLER), WHA/PPC, WHA/CCA,
AND WHA/CEN (ETELLO)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/23/2018
TAGS: PREF PREL SMIG CU IT PM
SUBJECT: PANAMA: RESETTLEMENT OF CUBAN MIGRANTS PROTECTED
ON GUANTANAMO

REF: STATE 43061

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

1. (U) This is an action request. Please see para 3.

--------------------------------------------- -----
Panama Inquires Into "Exceptional" Nature of Cases
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (C) The degree to which it could be demonstrated that the
Cuban migrants protected on Guantanamo are in an "exceptional
situation" would be a significant factor that Panamanian
President Torrijos would weigh in determining whether to
agree to resettle two Cuban migrants, as requested reftel,
MFA Senior Advisor Adolfo Ahumada informed POLCOUNS on June
23. Furthermore, Ahumada underscored several times that
under no circumstances could acceptance of these migrants be
understood as accepting a "precedence" to do so in the
future. Therefore, Ahumada requested additional information
regarding these migrants' families in Panama, information
that would assist the GOP in justifying a "socially
responsibly humanitarian decision" to resettle these
individuals in Panama. For example, if the family members in
Panama were the only ones capable of providing meaningful
support and constituted their sole family ties outside of
Cuba, Ahumada said he believed that an adequate case might be
made that Panama needed to agree to accept these migrants for
resettlement out of serious concern for their well being, as
requested by the U.S.

--------------
Action Request
--------------

3. (C) Post seeks Department's guidance in responding to this
request for additional information that would demonstrate the
"exceptional" nature of the request to resettle these two
protected migrants in Panama.

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

4. (C) The acceptance of any refugees -- particularly Cuban
refugees -- is an extremely sensitive matter for Panama, a
country that across administrations has posite its foreign
policy on sustaining friendly relations with all who seek
friendly relations with it, including Cuba. The Torrijos
Administration does not wish to draw the ire of the Cuban
regime for accepting these migrants. It is for this reason
that the GOP is highly appreciative of the discrete manner in
which these cases have been handled. It is also the reason
for which the GOP essentially seeks USG assistance to craft a
narrative to explain why these cases constitute "exceptional
situations" for which Panama needs to do the right thing in
accepting these migrants for resettlement. Panama's two
month delay in responding to Post's initial demarche
highlights the close scrutiny and high-level GOP attention
that these cases will receive. Ambassador raised this
demarche with First VP and FM Samuel Lewis on June 17, and
Lewis, aware of the substance of the demarche, said the
matter was under consideration. Ahumada's interim answer is
basically a request that the USG explain why Panama is really
the only reasonable hope for resettlement so that, if asked,
Panama can in the future say that it consulted extensively
with us and an understanding was reached that Panama was the
only option. Panama's last experience with a resettled
migrant a few years ago was not a happy experience and left
Panama reluctant to jump on board with future resettlement
requests.
EATON

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