Cablegate: Panama Arrests Eight Darien Police in 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 000959



E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/22/2015


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

1. (C) In a vital advance of Panama's anti-TIP agenda, in
late March Anti-corruption Prosecutor Maribel Cornejo
detained eight National Police (PNP) officers and one private
citizen on charges of rape, commercial sexual exploitation,
and corruption of minors in Darien Province. The alleged
victims were under-age indigenous girls. By indicting
several high-ranking officers, the GOP signaled that the PNP
must respect anti-TIP norms. The case also has focused GOP
attention on indigenous cultural practices that may encourage
sexual exploitation. Attorney General Gomez, a staunch
anti-TIP ally and human rights advocate, showed moral resolve
and political finesse in pursuing a sensitive case (see
reftel). Despite and perhaps because of the potential for
bad press, the Ministry of Government and Justice (MOGJ),
which oversees the PNP, proactively cooperated with the
Attorney General's office in the investigation and
apprehension of the officers. Embassy immediately
congratulated the Attorney General and her office both
publicly and privately, stressed to the MOGJ and the PNP the
seriousness of the charges and the need for continued
cooperation, and pushed PNP and MOGJ to pursue activities to
prevent future abuses. Embassy continues to provide
substantial material and technical support to the PNP in the
Darien and will closely monitor this key TIP case. End

Officers Accused of Corruption of Minors, Rape
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (C) In late March, Prosecutor Cornejo demonstrated the
Attorney General's moral resolve in combating TIP and PNP
corruption by ordering the detention of eight PNP officers
and one civilian in a sensitive internal sex trafficking
case. (Note: The Attorney General had transferred the case
to Prosecutor Cornejo in February from Darien Prosecutor
Arnesia Janeth Torrero, who later received death threats
(reftel). End Note.)

3. (C) Prosecutor Cornejo charged a PNP major, three
captains, a second lieutenant, a corporal, and two unranked
officers with committing sex crimes against some 10
indigenous minor girls. Cornejo told PolOff that seven of
the eight officers committed "corruption of minors" because
they met the girls in bars, gave them alcohol, and then had
sex with one or more of them. Cornejo detained the other
officer for statutory rape because the victim was under 12
years old. The PNP officers are not from indigenous

4. (C) While Prosecutor Cornejo told PolOff she could not
disclose the names of the accused, she did not refute the
involvement of the following individuals identified by the
press: Major Javier Arauz, Captain Reymundo Barroso, Captain
Julio Aizprua, and Captain Anibal Prado.

Civilian Woman Acted as Madam

5. (C) Prosecutor Cornejo also charged a 24-year-old
civilian woman for pimping. The woman allegedly paid the
girls to have sex with Darien teachers, police officers, and
others. The Attorney General's office did not charge any of
these offenders as part of the immediate case.

Indigenous Leaders' Cut?

6. (C) While Prosecutor Cornejo denied having evidence
against indigenous leaders, MOGJ Minister Aleman told EmbOff
that Darien indigenous leaders commonly offer minor girls for
sex for $100. Aleman said that the initial complaints in
this case came after local indigenous leaders did not receive
their expected pay-offs from the PNP.

7. (C) Other Darien contacts claim indigenous families see
minor girls as a means to generate income for the family
through marriage or sexual encounters. However, Prosecutor
Cornejo denied that her case involved parents offering their
daughters for sex.

Full MOGJ Cooperation

8. (C) Prosecutor Cornejo told Embassy that the MOGJ
cooperated fully with the Attorney General's office in the
lead-up to the arrests. MOGJ Minister Aleman told EmbOff
that Attorney General Gomez initially had planned to fly to
the Darien for high-profile arrests but called off her plans
when MOGJ convinced her to let it pursue its own
investigation first. That would allow MOGJ to take a
proactive stance against PNP corruption.

9. (SBU) Aleman noted that he immediately sent a National
Maritime Service (SMN) Intelligence Unit to the Darien to
investigate. Subsequently, the PNP's Investigations Office
(DIIP) detained the officers and insured that they arrived at
the Attorney General's Office to provide Cornejo with their
initial statements on March 28. In the end, the MOGJ was the
first GOP agency to inform the press, issuing a press release
on March 29. PNP Internal Affairs (DRP) handed over its own
case against the officers to the PNP Disciplinary Board on
March 31.

Embassy Commends Attorney General

10. (SBU) Once the case became public on March 29, Embassy
took swift action. EmbOffs personally congratulated Attorney
General Gomez and her staff on the arrests. Ambassador Watt
also commended the Attorney General in a formal letter. The
Ambassador publicly highlighted the GOP's work in combating
TIP at Embassy's April 7 Women's Day event, which the
Attorney General attended.

Embassy Encourages MOGJ, PNP Cooperation

11. (SBU) In addition, EmbOffs told MOGJ Minister Aleman,
MOGJ Secretary General Danilo Toro, Ministry of the
Presidency Security Council Director Javier Martinez Acha,
and PNP Subdirector Cerezo that the U.S. views the charges
against the PNP officers as extremely serious, underscored
the importance of the PNP's full cooperation at all stages of
the prosecution, and offered technical and financial
assistance in implementing prevention measures.

Embassy Support for Prevention Activities

12. (SBU) To that end, Embassy's Narcotics Affairs Section
agreed to fund a MOGJ pamphlet designed to put all PNP
officers on notice that sexual abuse of and corruption of
minors will be swiftly and severely punished. The pamphlet
will be attached to the paycheck of every PNP officer, who
will be required to sign a statement acknowledging they
understand the pamphlet's contents.

13. (SBU) MOGJ Secretary General Toro also told Embassy
that MOGJ will place notices in all PNP barracks warning that
committing sex crimes against minors will be punished to the
fullest extent of the law.


14. (C) Thus far, the GOP has proactively pursued this
sensitive case. The Attorney General's Office has vigorously
investigated and prosecuted the accused. Similarly, the MOGJ
and PNP leadership has supported the Attorney General's
Office and taken steps to prevent any recurrences of PNP
abuse. So far, public outcry over the case has been muted,
as the press and public seem to recognize the GOP's
initiative. Embassy will continue to follow up to ensure
that GOP commitment to the case does not wane over time.


© Scoop Media

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