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Cablegate: Federico Antonio Humbert Arias to Be Next

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

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PANAMA 001849

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN, INR/B, AND INR/IAA/HOFFMAN


E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/18/2014
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PM POLITICS FOREIGN POLICY
SUBJECT: FEDERICO ANTONIO HUMBERT ARIAS TO BE NEXT
PANAMANIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE US

REF: A. PANAMA 0896
B. PANAMA 1537


Classified By: Ambassador Linda E. Watt for reasons 1.4 (b) & (d)


Summary: Torrijos assigns a friend to Washington
--------------------------------------------- ----

1. (C) President-elect Martin Torrijos has selected Federico
"Freddy" Antonio Humbert Arias to be Panama's Ambasador to
the United States as of September 1, 2004, but has not yet
announced the appointment. Foreign Minister-designate Samuel
Lewis Navarro told DCM that he already approached Foreign
Minister Harmodio Arias about requesting agrement from
Washington. Humbert was President of the Board of Directors
of La Prensa, one of Panama's best-selling dailies, from
March 2001 until July 2004. The US-educated Humbert is also
President of the Panamanian Trucking Company and runs a
profitable shrimp fishing business based in the port of
Vacamonte (about a 30 minutes by car southwest of Panama
City). As Ambassador, Humbert would take a pro-US stance,
following President-elect Torrijos lead in pursuing points of
convergence in our relations, particularly in security and
economic matters. End Summary.


"Generational Change" in U.S.-Panama Relations
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (C) During a July 12 meeting with Ambassador Watt,
Ambassador-designate Humbert said the U.S. could expect a
"generational change" in the new government's approach to
bilateral issues. He said that President-elect Torrijos and
Foreign Minister-designate Samuel Lewis Navarro were both
committed to looking forward in the relationship and would be
seeking ways to advance what they believe are key converging
interests between Panama and the United States. Humbert said
he had instructions from Lewis to pursue a coherent and
constructive policy with the US, which means closer
coordination on issues between Panama's three key envoys --
Humbert, their OAS Ambassador (still to be named), and their
UN Permrep (unofficially known to be former Ambassador to the
U.S. Ricardo Alberto Arias). In this regard, Ambassador Watt
stressed the importance of Panama pursuing a more
constructive policy in the UN by avoiding knee-jerk votes
with G-77 countries, particularly on complex and delicate
Middle East issues. Humbert took the point and also pledged
that the new government would work even more closely than the
current administration on matters of mutual interest such as
security, law enforcement, trade and investment.


Humbert's Personal background
-----------------------------

3. (SBU) Federico Antonio Humbert Arias is one of five
siblings. He is married to Daphne Rusodimos de Humbert and
the couple has four children. Humbert attended the Catholic
Colegio La Salle during high school and obtained a Bachelors
in Business Administration from Notre Dame University.


4. (SBU) Humbert's father, Federico Humbert Azcarraga, Jr.,
also a Notre Dame graduate, was the first individual
businessman to sign the USDOC-sponsored Panamanian Business
Ethics Compact (Pacto Etico Empresarial) because most
Panamanians consider him above reproach. The elder Humbert,
one of Panama's foremost philanthropists and a generous donor
to local charities, was a leader of the National Civic
Crusade efforts to persuade dictator Manuel Noriega to leave
Panama during the difficult period 1986-89. President of
Banco General, the elder Humbert is also a longtime supporter
(both financially and managerially) of the former Christian
Democratic Party (now the Popular Party (PP), that allied
with Martin Torrijos' Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD)
for the May 2004 elections). Ambassador-designate Humbert's
cousin is former Panama City Mayor (1989-90) and PP activist
Guillermo "Willy" Cochez, who is rumored to be a possible
candidate as OAS Ambassador.


Humbert at work
---------------

5. (C) Though not a politician himself, Ambassador-designate
Humbert (unlike his father) has a reputation as a hard-nosed
businessman who is not above using political connections with
whoever happens to be in government to gain an advantage over
his competitors. For instance, long-standing
Greek-Panamanian businesses owned by the Limberopolous and
Papadimitriu families have accused Humbert of using his
influence with Maritime Authority Director Bertilda Garcia.
Garcia's father Augusto "Onassis" Garcia (currently a close
advisor to President Moscoso) has recently tried to elbow his
way into the shrimp fishing industry. Ironically, Noriega
cronies used similar tactics against the elder Humbert in the
late 1980s, threatening to foreclose on fishermen's
outstanding National Bank of Panama loans if the fisherman
continued to do business with Humbert. In the run-up to
Panama's May 2 elections, Humbert and La Prensa board member
Ricardo Alberto Arias played a key role in blocking
publication of information regarding a potentially damaging
article that Torrijos' opponents tried to air during the
campaign. (See Reftel A).


Humbert and Torrijos
--------------------

6. (C) Humbert's political ties with Torrijos have been
based more on friendship than any party affiliation. (NOTE:
Humbert told the Ambassador that he was initially skeptical
of Torrijos, having opposed the PRD-military alliance in the
70s and 80s; however, Humbert said Torrijos' commitment to
changing business-as-usual in Panama had persuaded him to
support Torrijos' bid for the presidency. END NOTE.) For
instance, Humbert supported Torrijos' 1999 campaign for
President as leader of a group called the "Independents For
Martin Torrijos." Sources close to President-elect Torrijos
have told Emboffs that he selected Humbert to be his
Ambassador to the United States because he is young and
energetic, plus has strong connections with the U.S. media
and international organizations -- all of which the Torrijos
team feels will make Humbert good at networking Washington's
various power centers (the Hill, key lobbies, etc.).
Overall, Humbert appears committed to acting as a strong
advocate for Panama's interests in a manner consistent with
Torrijos' desire to forge an even closer relationship with
the United States centered on mutual security and economic
interests.


WATT

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