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Cablegate: Panama Tackles Trafficking in Persons (Tip)

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 000608

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN PIERCE, G/TIP RACHEL OWEN, G, INL,
DRL, PRM, IWI, WHA/PPC/PUCCETTI FALLS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/16/2015
TAGS: KCRM PHUM KWMN SMIG KFRD ASEC PREF ELAB PM LABOR HUMAN RIGHTSPOLMIL
SUBJECT: PANAMA TACKLES TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS (TIP)
CORRUPTION

REF: 04 STATE 273089

Classified By: DCM CMCMULLEN for reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

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SUMMARY
-------

1. (C) Armed with Panama's tough March 2004 anti-TIP law,
Darien province Prosecutor Arnesia Janeth Torrero recently
arrested indigenous National Police (PNP) officers for their
alleged commercial sexual exploitation of indigenous minor
girls in the remote Darien province. In January, Torrero
finished investigating a similar case against PNP captains
and majors. To protect Torrero's personal security, Attorney
General Gomez transferred the case to Anti-Corruption
Prosecutor Maribel Cornejo. To date, Prosecutor Cornejo has
not ordered any further arrests. The GOP has worked to
protect the victims and to educate officials in the Darien
about the issue. Nonetheless, victims, their families, and
Torrero have received threats of physical harm. High-ranking
GOP officials, including President Torrijos, are aware of and
concerned about the issue. End summary.

OFFICERS TARGETED DARIEN MINORS
-------------------------------

2. (C) Prosecutor Torrero recently told EmbOffs that local
police (PNP) officers in Darien province targeted indigenous
minor girls, offered them alcohol, and threatened to imprison
them if they did not have sex with them. Darien Social
Worker Maria J. de Culiolis told PolOff March 9 that the
officers sometimes offered the girls suggestive clothes,
money, or school supplies. Social worker Culiolis also
claimed that officers recruited minor girls to work in Panama
City dance clubs.

LOW-RANKING OFFICERS DETAINED
-------------------------------

3. (C) Prosecutor Torrero told PolOff she had immediately
detained approximately five low-ranking PNP officers for
commercial sexual exploitation. These cases are pending.

CASE TRANSFERRED TO CORRUPTION PROSECUTOR
-----------------------------------------

4. (C) Fearful for her life and safety, on January 27
Prosecutor Torrero gave up responsibility for her case
against higher-ranking PNP officers (six captains and four
majors) and handed it over to the Attorney General's Office.
In early February, Attorney General Gomez transferred the
case to Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Cornejo, who is currently
reviewing the file. To date, Cornejo has made no arrests and
the case is now delayed. In spite of this security measure,
Prosecutor Torrero reported receiving death threats. In late
February, Attorney General Gomez removed Torrero temporarily
from Darien province for her own safety.

LACK OF FUNDING DELAYED CASE
----------------------------

5. (C) In effect, lack of funding in the remote Darien
province has caused the delay in the case against the
higher-ranking officers. Because of funding constraints, the
GOP's presence in the sparsely populated Darien province
consists almost entirely of the PNP. The Attorney General's
office does not have sufficient resources to send a Technical
Judicial Police (PTJ) contingent large enough to protect the
Darien prosecutor if the source of the threat is the PNP.
Prior to temporarily withdrawing Torrero, the Attorney
General's Office assigned one PTJ detective to the Darien to
protect Torrero. Nonetheless, Torrero still received death
threats.

PARENTAL COMPLICITY
-------------------

6. (C) According to Culiolis and Torrero, parents are in
some cases are complicit. For example, Culiolis described
one case in which a mother was involved with a PNP officer
and brought her minor daughter along for another officer.

SHOTGUN-WEDDING LOOPHOLE
-------------------------

7. (C) According to Prosecutor Torrero and Social Worker
Culiolis, to thwart prosecutions, officers have in some cases
married the minor girl. According to Prosecutor Torrero,
Panamanian law calls for the dismissal of sex crime cases
against minors, including cases of commercial sexual
exploitation, when the suspect marries the victim.
Prosecutor Torrero believes PNP lawyers help arrange these
sham marriages with the consent of the girls' families,
apparently for the social security pension that marriage to a
civil servant brings. According to Torrero and Culiolis,
despite warnings from the Attorney General to municipal
judges not to marry individuals under investigation, one
detained officer solicited and received permission to leave
jail to marry one of the minor girls.

HIGH-LEVEL CONCERN
------------------

8. (C) Darien province contacts told PolOff that the
Attorney General, Youth Ministry (MINJUMFA) Minister
Calderon, the First Lady, Minister of Government and Justice
(MOGJ) Aleman, and President Torrijos all are aware of PNP
sexual abuse and commercial exploitation or minors in the
Darien. Culiolis and other Darien contacts said that the
Attorney General, Minister Calderon, and the First Lady have
taken a special interest in addressing the issue. Darien
contacts are hopeful that officials will take a hard line on
the issue of PNP abuse in the Darien, but are aware that
negative publicity about PNP abuse in the Darien could
Torrijos politically. (Note: The media and Torrijos
opponents could raise the specter of national guard abuses
during the military dictatorship of Torrijos's father).

PREVENTION AND PROTECTION RESPONSE
----------------------------------

9. (C) In November, shortly after these cases became known
to the Torrijos administration, MINJUMFA conducted an
awareness seminar in Darien province with GOP officials,
including the PNP, that addressed the issue of commercial
sexual exploitation of minors. MINJUMFA continues to provide
protection, shelter, social workers, legal assistance, and
other services to the victims. Nonetheless, victims, their
families, and the Darien prosecutor have received threats of
physical harm. With almost no PTJ presence in the Darien and
few places to shelter victims, the GOP struggles to protect
victims and their families, unable to count on the Darien
PNP.

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COMMENT
-------

10. (C) In a great step forward for anti-TIP efforts, the
GOP succeeded in uncovering and prosecuting TIP-related
corruption among the PNP in the Darien. The GOP so far has
refrained from a highly public crackdown in the province,
apparently amid political concerns and the reality that the
GOP's practically exclusive representative in the Darien is
the PNP, which has de facto control of the province.
Nonetheless, the investigations themselves and the attention
the GOP has brought to the issue of commercial sexual
exploitation in the Darien are a milestone for anti-TIP
efforts in Panama and demonstrate the momentum created by the
March 2004 anti-TIP law.

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

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