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Cablegate: Panama Adopts "Energetic Measures" Against

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PANAMA 000576

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


DEPT. FOR WHA/CEN/BRIGHAM, G/TIP, G, INL, DRL, PRM, IWI,
AND WHA/PPC/FALLS


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KCRM KWMN KFRD SMIG PM POL CHIEF
SUBJECT: PANAMA ADOPTS "ENERGETIC MEASURES" AGAINST
TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS


REF: A. PANAMA 0548
B. LINDERMAN-SANCHEZ EMAIL 7/28/2003


SUMMARY
-------
1. (SBU) In the past ten days (March 1-9) the Panamanian
government (GOP) organized an inter-agency anti-TIP working
group, set into motion a 45-day action plan, launched a
public awareness campaign, prepared tougher anti-TIP
legislation, readied a victims hotline, and announced that it
had identified members of TIP gangs and that arrests would
soon follow. In a public statement March 8, Minister of
Justice and Government (MOGJ) Arnulfo Escalona said that he
had ordered Immigration, the Panamanian National Police (PNP)
and the Judicial Technical Police (PTJ) to take "energetic
measures" against TIP. Legislative Assembly President Jacobo
Salas predicted to POL Counselor March 3 that the Assembly
would soon pass new anti-TIP legislation to include
anti-child pornography, unimpeded police investigations, and
stiffer sentencing requirements. MOGJ Escalona met with DCM
and POL Counselor March 5 to emphasize the GOP's wishes to
fully cooperate and comply with G/TIP requirements. We also
learned on March 5 that PNP Director Carlos Bares had met
several days before with Colombia's top police officials to
discuss how the two countries should coordinate anti-TIP
migration measures. These events follow POL Counselor's
March 1 meeting with Vice Foreign Minister (VFM) Nivia
Rossana Castrellon, who has mobilized the GOP at its highest
levels to focus on producing tangible anti-TIP results.
Castrellon will meet PPC Director Paul Trivelli March 11 to
discuss TIP, among other topics. End Summary.


Demarche to Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
--------------------------------------------
2. (SBU) In an effort to focus GOP attention on TIP, POL
Counselor met with VFM Castrellon March 1 to explain the
annual G/TIP report and the likelihood that, in the 2003
report (to appear in June 2004), Panama for the first time
would be listed as out of compliance with minimum TIP
standards.


POL Counselor emphasized that to improve Panama's anti-TIP
stance, GOP officials should


A) make anti-TIP public statements;
B) launch a public awareness campaign;
C) institute a victims' shelter and restitution program;
D) redouble efforts to arrest and prosecute traffickers;
E) pass tougher TIP legislation;
F) work toward regional anti-TIP cooperation; and
G) form an inter-agency working group to improve coordination.


3. (SBU) Castrellon assured POL Counselor that combating TIP
is a top GOP and a personal priority. She said she would
inform the GOP agencies with the power to influence TIP,
especially MOGJ which oversees Immigration, the PNP, the
Panama Judicial Police (the PTJ has the lead in TIP cases) of
our discussion. (Comment: Castrellon evidently moved
immediately to mobilize the GOP. PolOffs overheard her
several hours later telling Panama's Immigration chief, "We
need to meet very soon to discuss an urgent matter." MOGJ
Escalona contacted DCM McMullen shortly thereafter to request
a meeting to discuss TIP. End Comment.)


Demarche to Legislative Assembly President
------------------------------------------
4. (SBU) On March 3, POL Counselor met with Legislative
Assembly President Salas to explain Panama's likely status in
the USG's 2003 TIP report, to brief him on USG TIP minimum
requirements, and to give him a copy of the USG's model TIP
law. Salas, a member of the Arnulfista Party, introduced
fellow Arnulfista legislators Francisco Aleman and Jose
Blandon, Jr., author of the anti-TIP law now before the
legislature. Salas explained that there is no opposition to
the law and predicted it would pass by April. The bill began
as anti-child pornography legislation last October, Blandon
explained, but since has become a more frankly anti-TIP bill.
For instance, the new law will permit the police to
investigate TIP crimes without having to wait for a victim's
statement, which the police now do. Examining our model law,
Blandon commented that he would include as many provisions
from it as possible.


Anti-TIP Legislation
--------------------
5. (SBU) Speaking with a legislative staffer March 8,
Embassy political specialist reported that the bill before
the Assembly will include the following provisions:


A) The police will no longer need a victim's statement to
investigate TIP crimes;
B) Victims who make police statements will have immunity from
prosecution;
C) Victims will be indemnified;
D) Sexual tourism will be penalized;
E) Increased sanctions for TIP crimes; and
F) Anti-child pornography will be penalized, especially
internet child porn.


The legislation is due for a second debate soon. It can
become law only after three debates, so further improvements
could be made before then, the legislators said. (Comment:
Embassy political specialist learned from a MOGJ source that
MOGJ is drafting a more general anti-TIP legislative
proposal. Embassy will ensure that the drafters have access
to the USG's model law. The GOP also has proposed changes to
Immigration statutes to eliminate the "Alternadora" visa,
used by entertainers and sex workers. End comment.)


Meeting with MOGJ and PNP
-------------------------
6. (SBU) DCM McMullen and POL Counselor met with PNP chief
Bares, National Security Chairman Ramiro Jarvis, and MOGJ
Escalona on Friday, March 5, at Escalona's request. POL
Counselor briefed the officials on minimum G/TIP requirements
and on the likelihood that in June 2004 Panama would be
listed as out of compliance with minimum standards for the
first time. Escalona informed us that that week the GOP had
formed a high-level anti-TIP working group to coordinate
anti-TIP initiatives among MFA, MOGJ, the Legislative
Assembly, Immigration, and Ministry of Youth, Family, and
Minors and had launched a 45-day action plan to produce rapid
results. PNP Chief Bares said he had just returned from a
visit to Colombia where he had met with top Colombian police
officials to discuss how Panama and Colombia would coordinate
cross-border anti-TIP activities. Escalona said Panama
President Mireya Moscoso, as a woman head of state, was
particularly troubled that Panama had not yet taken effective
anti-TIP actions and therefore could be cited in the G/TIP
report. "Just tell us what you want us to do on TIP and
we'll do it," Escalona said. Bares informed EmbOff March 9
that he had appointed a retired PNP officer to head an
internal anti-TIP group within the PNP.


Information from Dominican Republic
-----------------------------------
7. (SBU) Saying that Embassy was disturbed by reports from
the Dominican Republic Foreign Ministry via G/TIP that a
Panamanian diplomatic official was facilitating the
trafficking of Dominican women to Panama (See Ref B), DCM
passed the official's name to Escalona. Glancing at the
name, Escalona replied that the official in question, former
Consul General Otilio Miranda Melendez, had been fired and
left the DR months ago. Escalona did not specify why Miranda
had been fired. (Comment: Further research by Embassy
political specialist revealed that Miranda had been fired six
months ago on September 3, 2003 by Executive Decree 211.
Escalona has asked Foreign Minister Arias to update MFA's
webpage which still lists Miranda as CG. End Comment.)


MOGJ Acts
---------
8. (SBU) Following up on the March 5 meeting, POL Counselor
spoke with MOGJ Escalona on Monday, March 8 to reiterate that
while Friday's news regarding anti-TIP GOP activities was
very good, concrete and public actions (such as statements,
arrests, victim sanctuaries, etc.) are much better. Escalona
replied that he expected to make a public statement on TIP
that day and that arrests would follow. Escalona,
accompanied by PNP Bares, appeared later in a March 8 news
conference in which he announced to the public media,
including television news, that the GOP had ordered a series
of "energetic measures" against TIP and would investigate and
break up TIP rings, pass more effective anti-TIP legislation,
and collaborate with other countries to close down TIP.
Escalona said a new victims hotline is operating and he
encouraged victims to come forward to denounce their
tormentors.


COMMENT
-------
9. (SBU) The GOP has introduced, in little over a week, a
breathtaking array of anti-TIP plans and measures, which will
make parts of our G/TIP report input obsolete (Ref A). Our
message on TIP has clearly gotten through to the GOP. We
will report changes and new developments on TIP as they
occur. Embassy will remain vigilant to ensure that the new
GOP measures and actions bring real results.


WATT

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