Cablegate: Focusing Panama's Effort to Combat Trafficking In

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. 03 PANAMA 3170
C. 03 STATE 305932

1. (SBU) The January 18-21 G/TIP visit to Panama helped
refine Embassy and GOP anti-TIP efforts approach to
strategies (Ref A). The Embassy will push the GOP to focus
its anti-TIP improvements on public awareness campaigns,
victims assistance, and increased training. In the short
term, legislation to update and strengthen anti-TIP and
anti-child pornography statutes and to eliminate sex-worker
("alternadora") visas for Colombians theoretically could be
passed in the March legislative session. However, the
upcoming May 2 elections could slow Embassy and GOP efforts.
The recent bust of a child prostitution ring (Ref B) and
attendant publicity provides an opportunity to move Panama
"ahead of the curve" combating both TIP and the broader issue
of child sexual exploitation. End Summary.


2. (SBU) Embassy used the January 18-21 investigative trip
of G/TIP officer Phillip Linderman to develop an abundance of
information for G/TIP, Embassy, GOP officials, and others.
Linderman shared the Washington perspective on TIP with a
diverse audience. Panama likely surpasses G/TIP's informal
100 victims threshold; on the other hand, meetings with
various GOP officials demonstrated that the GOP is willing to
address the issue. GOP efforts are hampered by a lack of
resources. Several NGOs are combating TIP, especially
commercial sexual exploitation of minors, within the broader
context of stopping forced child labor.


3. (SBU) Embassy TIP working group (POL, NAS, INS, Customs,
CONS), chaired by DCM, meet on January 29 to discuss findings
and to map updated Embassy anti-TIP strategies (Ref A). The
working group's agreed that GOP efforts to combat TIP can be
improved by: A) improving training, B) strengthening victim
assistance C) starting a public education campaign, and D)
proposing legislative changes. Training, victims assistance,
and educational campaigns, and legislation are viable
near-term goals.


4. (SBU) A common refrain heard from the GOP and NGOs is
the desire for more training. Currently, two USG-sponsored
training sessions are planned. The "Paul and Lisa" training,
partially subsidized by G/TIP (REF C), will bring together a
diverse group of GOP officials, NGOs, and the press. The
training will be held in late March 2004 and will focus on
identifying and preventing of TIP. The Department of Justice
(DOJ) is planning anti-TIP training in Panama for early
summer 2004. The training would focus on the legal issues
related to combating TIP. In addition, DHS/ICE are active in
training focused on sexual exploitation of minors via the
Internet and identifying potential TIP victims in transit to
and/or through Panama.


5. (SBU) TIP victims and/or those who know them need a
place to report this crime. A victims' hot line is just such
a place. The Embassy TIP working group believes that the hot
line should operated by a NGO or independent GOP agency (i.e.
the Ombudsman). A hot line separate from the GOP is less
likely to be manipulated for policy or political reasons.
Funding for such a hot line would be a joint venture between
the GOP and the Embassy, using NAS funds.


6. (SBU) A public education/awareness campaign on TIP makes
a good link with a victims hot line. PTJ detectives already
conduct informal sessions at schools and universities.
Embassy support for a GOP TIP public relations campaign will
expand to a broader public relations campaign. Print and
visual media will be used. State, INS, and Customs brochures
and other informational resources will be included in this
campaign. Embassy also plans to work with high-level GOP
officials on public announcements and speeches that will help
Panamanians further understand the importance of stopping


7. (SBU) Legislative and statutory changes are proposed for
anti-TIP, anti-child pornography and immigration laws.
Panama's current anti-TIP statues can hamper investigations
because of the need for a formal complaint. Current
proposals would eliminate that provision, and strengthen
other parts of the law. To reinforce the anti-child
pornography law, a broad cross-section of the GOP and civil
society proposed a new law to update the definitions of child
pornography and prostitution. Increased jail sentences and
acknowledgment of the pervasive effects of the Internet in
child pornography and prostitution are contained in this
proposal. Finally, as part of a sweeping change in
immigration policy, the director of Immigration is proposing
to eliminate the sex worker ("alternadora") visa program.
(NOTE: The "alternadora" visa is granted to approximately
400-500 Colombian women annually to work in the sex trade in
Panama. End note.). A limiting factor is the current
election season, but the upcoming March legislative session
could provide an opportunity to turn at least some of these
proposals into law.


8. (SBU) Sexual exploitation of minors is not limited to
TIP-related circumstances. Poverty, drug abuse, alcoholism,
and a "keep quiet" culture all contribute to child sexual
exploitation and abuse. Embassy believes a broader
perspective is needed to address this issue. Legitimate
questions are raised about why the USG focuses so much time
and effort in Panama on TIP when it likely affects relatively
few (50-100) children. Panama faces a much larger problem of
sexual abuse within families and communities that has no
commercial context and the effects on young minds and bodies
is no less devastating. The importance of combating TIP
cannot be understated but applying our full efforts to
problems that take deeper root and are more widespread in
Panama might prove to be a more effective use of USG funds
and time.


9. (SBU) Panama is fighting TIP and already has a good
anti-TIP base. GOP and Embassy near-term goals of enhanced
training, victims assistance, and educational campaigns will
help place Panama ahead of the anti-TIP curve. Strengthening
anti-TIP and anti-child pornography statutes, as well as
eliminating sex worker ("alternadora") visas are ambitious
but realistic goals as legislators broadly support these
ideas. Embassy believes that a broader perspective and
action plan to combat child sexual exploitation is needed.
As the recent dismantling of a child prostitution ring shows
(Ref B), the GOP can and will take action against TIP. With
USG support, the GOP and Panamanian NGOs can take further
action to ensure Panama limits the spread of TIP reduces its


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