Cablegate: Rumors, Observers, and Negative Advertising.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PANAMA 000791
DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN/BRIGHAM
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PM POL SPECIALIST
SUBJECT: Rumors, Observers, and Negative Advertising.
Panama Election Countdown #9: 4 weeks to go.
Ref: A. Panama 0715
B. Panama 0651
C. Panama 0613
D. 03 Panama 3294
E. 03 Panama 2451
Summary/Comment: One month out
1. (SBU) With the May 2 elections just one month away, the
campaigns and the candidates are entering the home stretch.
The Electoral Tribunal and the Ombudsman's office are
focused on Election Day logistics and observers. Panama's
media and civil society are investigating candidates'
backgrounds. Presidential candidates are campaigning hard
for votes and pulling out all the stops to find ways to
discredit their opponents. Embassy is scanning the horizon
for signs of potential problems, but has noted none. End
Latin American Ombudsmen to observe elections
2. (SBU) Ombudsmen from Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico,
Nicaragua, Peru, and Puerto Rico, Colombia's Deputy
Ombudsman, and the Secretary General of the Latin American
Institute of Ombudsmen (Colombian Isaac Hochman) have
accepted an invitation from Panama's Ombudsman to observe
Panama's May 2 General Elections. Panama's Electoral
Tribunal (ET) will finance travel for the guest observers,
who will arrive in Panama a few days before the elections.
The visiting Ombudsmen will observe polling in areas where
the ET and/or Ombudsman's office believe election results
could be controversial. Electoral Tribunal (ET)
authorities and Panama's Ombudsman advised EmbOffs about
the invitation in early March. (See Ref. C.) (NOTE: Six of
twenty-nine Embassy election observers will observe polling
and vote counting in the areas about which the Electoral
Tribunal has expressed concern. END NOTE.)
Press and TI-Panama inform voters
3. (U) NGOs and the press are working hard to brief voters
about presidential candidates so they can make informed
decisions on May 2. Though each presidential candidate has
published his campaign platform (plan de gobierno in
Spanish), the average Panamanian cannot or will not read
them. Therefore, El Panama America and La Prensa have
offered the public service of digesting and printing each
candidate's position on key issues. Topics range from
tourism, the environment, and the Panama Canal, to fiscal
reform, crime and the penitentiary system, sports, and
culture. Printed compilations are short and easy to read.
Panama's chapter of Transparency International announced on
March 29 that it will broadcast background information for
all presidential candidates and as many other candidates as
possible. TI's Executive Director Angelica Maytin
announced that TI will distribute information about
candidates through its website and some published media.
Targeting undecided voters
4. (SBU) Candidates are targeting independent voters.
Solidarity candidate Guillermo Endara, running second in
opinion polls, released another anti-PRD TV advertisement,
as did Arnulfista candidate Jose Miguel Aleman. Endara's
15-second spot highlights public scandals that involved PRD
leaders like PECC (Ref. D) and CEMIS (Ref. E) and reminds
viewers of the PRD ties to Panama's 21-year military
regime. The clever ad features a man intended to represent
PRD candidate Martin Torrijos making campaign promises
while a group of masked men behind him are busily cutting
up a cake shaped like Panama. Each has a sign on his
chest, including "buoys" and "lighthouses" (references to
the PECC scandal). When "Martin" turns around, he has the
word "Zemys" written on his back, pronounced "Cemis" in
Spanish, like the CEMIS scandal. At the end of the spot
Endara points angrily to the group and says, "don't let
them govern. These people [PRD] have never changed and
they will never change."
5. (U) Front-runner and PRD-PP Presidential candidate
Martin Torrijos has aired a new tactic in Panama City's
densely-populated 8-10 electoral circuit. Its almost
200,000 registered voters tend to support the Arnulfistas
or Endara, not the PRD. This past weekend, Torrijos and
his large, well-organized staff, brought a "medical tour"
to the district, offering free veterinary and legal
services as well. The PRD has offered free medical
services in other areas, but in Circuit 8-10 Torrijos took
special care to make sure that everyone had a favorable
memory of his visit.
Distracting rumors of secret pacts
6. (U) All four presidential candidates have set aside
substantive issues in favor of negative campaigning.
Cambio Democratico (CD) presidential candidate Ricardo
Martinelli's allegations of secret discussions between
Solidarity candidate Guillermo Endara and Arnulfista
candidate Jose Miguel Aleman made front-page news on 3/29.
On 3/30, Endara and Aleman both denied that they met each
other privately. Martinelli explained on 3/31 that the
Arnulfistas had invited him and Endara to a closed-door
meeting with Aleman, but he declined. Martinelli later
denied that he said Aleman and Endara had met, but insisted
that Endara and Aleman supporters had.
7. (SBU) Taking aim at Endara, whose consistently anti-
Torrijos TV advertising repeatedly alleges a MAMI (MArtin-
MIreya) mutual non-prosecution Pact, PRD-PP candidate
Martin Torrijos quipped that there must be an ENDALE
(ENDara/ALEman) Pact. Endara and his running mates all
come from the Arnulfista and MOLIRENA parties that support
Aleman. In colloquial Spanish, ENDALE means "to give to
him," and Torrijos implied that the agreement would commit
the winner to split May 2 spoils with his "friends" in the
other camp via ministerial and diplomatic appointments.
President Moscoso has publicly denied any such pacts.
What's that Attorney General up to?
8. (U) Rumors of a private meeting in the Western Province
of Chiriqui between PRD-PP Presidential candidate Martin
Torrijos and Attorney General Jose A. Sossa quickly became
a political football. Torrijos said on 3/29 it was "a
chance social encounter" and denied meeting privately with
Sossa. On 3/30, Arnulfista Presidential candidate Jose
Miguel Aleman published a full-page letter in print media.
The letter expressed his "concern" and asked Sossa to
dedicate himself to investigating corruption cases like
CEMIS and PECC and disappearances during the military
regime "instead of harassing journalists and well-reputed
citizens like Roberto Eisenmann (for libel)."