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Cablegate: Panama Response to Blue Lantern Level 3

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 000837

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN
PM/DTCC PETER MAXWELL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETTC KOMC PM LABOR HUMAN RIGHTSPOLMIL
SUBJECT: PANAMA RESPONSE TO BLUE LANTERN LEVEL 3

REF: STATE 40241

1. (SBU) Summary. Fire Arms International Inc. is a
legimate business. While the present government would not
have approved the import request, it has no plans to revoke
it. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Per reftel request, PolOff visited Fire Arms
International Inc.'s President Vicente Banon Requena at the
company's office. PolOff also spoke with Ministry of
Government and Justice (MOGJ) Public Security Director Dr.
Luis Adames and confirmed the company's bona fides. The 300
revolvers the company requested are commensurate with the
legitimate local demand of its security firm customers.
While Fire Arms International is likely to abide by USML
restrictions, the MOGJ now believes the number of arms
requested (and approved in July 2004) is too high, given that
security firms often lose the guns to theft, a phenomenon
that Fire Arms International confirmed.

3. (SBU) Fire Arms International is located in a nice
residential neighborhood and is marked with the generic sign
"Armory." The company stores its model weapons and arms for
immediate pick up in a gun safe at its office. The company's
officers are Requena (President), Attorney Mariluz Taveras
Castillo (Secretary and Requena's wife), and Vilka Barrios
(Treasurer). Requena's father-in-law, Renaul Espinozo
Quintero, was company President from its incorporation in
1993 until his retirement in 2003.

4. (SBU) Requena provided the following information:

- Fire Arms International operated also as Precision
Security (formed 1990) and Merlisstan Investment (formed
1993), two now defunct companies. The Ministry of Government
and Justice (MOGJ) canceled Precision's re-export license a
few years ago when the GOP eliminated such licenses. The
company currently does not sell arms for re-exportation and
understands the restrictions on USML items.

- Fire Arms International's principal customers are private
security firms (60-70%). Other customers include the GOP,
department stores, shopping centers, banks, and private
citizens. Customers are located in Panama City and Panama's
provinces.

- The Panamanian market for revolvers and pistols is about
2,000-2,500 annually. In 2002, the company had about 25% of
the market but its sales decreased in 2003 because the GOP
had not approved as many importation requests.

- While few crimes are committed in Panama with registered
guns, security firms often need to replace guns that are
lost, stolen, or damaged.

- From 1991 to November 2002 Firearms International and its
predecessor companies sold about 5,200 revolvers, 2,600
pistols, and 900 rifles from a wide variety of international
manufacturers.

- Requena, a Spanish born naturalized Panamanian, is also
the Panamanian sales representative for Spanish companies
Sercobe and Defex.

- The Panamanian market for small arms is shared by eight
firms, only one of which (El Cazador, S.A.) is unreliable.

5. (SBU) Dr. Adames confirmed Fire Arms International's
bona fides and provided the following additional information:

- The former company president has a good reputation.

- He is unaware of any derogatory information regarding the
company.

- The Torrijos Administration is concerned with the
inability of security firms to safely handle and control
firearms and has begun revoking the licenses of some private
security firms.

- The Torrijos Administration (which took office after the
company's request was approved) is no longer authorizing
requests to import large numbers of firearms. A request for
300 revolvers is too large in the present context.
6. (SBU) Fire Arms International has an index card system
for tracking its customers that includes the purchaser's
photo, citizen identification number, weapon model and date
purchased, and address. The company makes monthly written
reports to the MOGJ on guns sold that contain most of this
information. PolOff requested access to the company's
accounts, but was told they had been sent out for a routine
audit.

WATT

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