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Cablegate: Names Floated, a Blast From the Past, and A

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PANAMA 000715

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN/BRIGHAM


E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PM POL SPECIALIST
SUBJECT: NAMES FLOATED, A BLAST FROM THE PAST, AND A
SHOOTING. PANAMA ELECTION COUNTDOWN #8: 5 WEEKS TO GO


Ref: A. Panama 0651
B. Panama 0613
C. 03 Panama 3294)


Summary/Comment: Simmer to rolling boil
---------------------------------------
1. (SBU) Panama's electoral campaign suddenly became more
interesting with a bristling 3/23 confrontation between
Arnulfista youth and Endara supporters and a 3/24 shooting
incident in a depressed area. From here forward, campaign
tensions will mount, primarily in the form of mudslinging
and editorials rather than violent confrontations. Thus
far, there have been few surprises in cabinet nominations
or endorsements. We doubt that any of the candidates want
to identify possible Cabinet members this early, since the
potential ministers could become a lightning rod for public
criticism. Furthermore, none of the candidates want to
offend key members of their campaign by excluding them from
possible top jobs. See septels for reports on each of the
three major campaigns. End Summary/Comment.


Campaigns' brush with violence
------------------------------
2. (SBU) Aside from vandalized political posters, election
campaigning had been peaceful until this week. A March 23
Arnulfista youth gathering on a main street in Panama ended
with a strident, though not physical, confrontation between
mainstream Arnulfistas and Endaristas. Arnulfista youth
gathered at noon on the Transistmian highway near
presidential candidate Guillermo Endara's campaign center.
The Endaristas, who consider that area their turf, exited
the center and confronted the Arnulfistas. After the
yelling and cursing began, an Endarista called the
Electoral Tribunal and Electoral Delegates where sent to
the area to calm the waters. No damage or injuries were
reported. (NOTE: Former President Guillermo Endara, a
lifelong Arnulfista, is running on the Solidarity ticket
because he asserts the party has strayed from its roots
under President Moscoso's leadership. END NOTE)


Activist shot
-------------
3. (SBU) In a violent incident, on March 24 a political
activist that supports Arnulfista legislator Francisco
Reyes was shot in her left thigh while she was campaigning
door to door. Reyes was participating in the event, so
questions remain on whether the attack was aimed at him.
Witnesses reported that the perpetrator was a minor and
Police are investigating this incident. We believe this
was an isolated case of violence and not a harbinger of
worse things to come.


Former campaign manager re-appears
----------------------------------
4. (U) PRD Martin Torrijos' first cousin and former
campaign manager Hugo Torrijos re-appeared on a live TV
interview campaigning for Martin. Hugo Torrijos, who had
been "separated" from the campaign early in January 2004
due to his links with the PECC scandal (reftel C), has
returned as "electoral promoter" ("encargado de oferta
electoral"). In that capacity, Hugo's two main
responsibilities are making sure party promoters ask voters
to vote for the entire party slate ("voto en plancha") and
that voters nationwide gets transportation to voting
centers on Election Day. Hugo Torrijos announced that the
PRD wants to a get a solid legislative majority to avoid
the need for alliances with smaller parties. (This comment
probably did not sit well with the Partido Popular, which
is a PRD ally and hopes to secure as many as seven seats,
which would give them greater leverage in a PRD
government.)


Potential Cabinet members
-------------------------
5. (U) During a TV interview, Solidarity presidential
candidate Guillermo Endara announced that his First Vice
Presidential candidate Guillermo Ford would become his
Minister of Economy and Finance. Endara also said Second
Vice Presidential candidate Alejandro Posse would be his
Agriculture Minister. Former Foreign Minister Jose Raul
Mulino would Endara's Foreign Minister again, and current
Alternate Attorney General Mercedes A. de Grimaldo would
become the new Attorney General when current Attorney
General Jose Sossa's term expires in December 2004. El
Panama America confirmed these names in a 3/25 article
about potential cabinet members.


6. (SBU) El Panama America had approached all candidates
asking for names of likely Cabinet ministers in the next
government. Arnulfista candidate Jose Miguel Aleman
mentioned only campaign manager Carlos Raul Piad as a
future Cabinet member. Torrijos refused to give names to
the newspaper, but in a TV interview on 3/25, he finally
announced that actor/singer Ruben Blades will be part of
his cabinet, along with his two Vice Presidents, Samuel
Lewis Navarro and Ruben Arosemena. Strong rumors are that
Lewis Navarro would also serve as Torrijos' Foreign
Minister. Arosemena allegedly would be in charge of anti-
corruption plans within the Cabinet. Cambio Democratico
Ricardo Martinelli recited a list of mostly well-known,
well-reputed Panamanians that might end up in his Cabinet.
The voluminous list even included highly successful banker
Alberto Vallarino, who obtained 17% of the popular vote as
a 1999 presidential candidate, but would likely refuse a
job in anyone's Cabinet.


Martin Torrijos to void his vote
--------------------------------
7. (SBU) In an interview hosted by popular boxing
journalist Juan Carlos Tapia, Torrijos, the last of the
four candidates to appear, said if he were not running that
he would void his vote. Tapia just laughed when Torrijos
dodged the question. Tapia has been linked to the PRD for
many years and traditionally his political comments before
his boxing show criticize whoever is in power. Tapia did
not turn the screws on Torrijos to answer the question, as
he did for Martinelli and Endara, or criticize his
evasiveness, as he did with Aleman. Tapia told Torrijos on
air that he is the only candidate he, "considers a friend,"
providing more reason to believe allegations of his bias
toward Torrijos.

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