Cablegate: Gop Previews New National Security Plan


DE RUEHZP #1402/01 1982009
R 172009Z JUL 06

S E C R E T PANAMA 001402



E.O. 12958: DNG: CO 07/17/2016

REF: (A) PANAMA 0919 (B) PANAMA 1371

Classified By: Ambassador William A. Eaton for Reasons 1.5(b and d).

1. (S) Summary: At the Ambassdor's request, Panama's
National Security Director Erick Espinosa, Minister of
Government & Justice (MOGJ) Olga Golcher, and other top GOP
security officials briefed Ambassador and Emboffs July 14 on
Panama's new national security strategy. The strategy is
premised on the notion that the U.S. withdrawal made Panama
responsible for its own security, as well as for security of
trade flows through the Panama Canal consistent with the
neutrality provisions of the 1977 Torrijos-Carter Treaty. It
is also based on the emergence of new "asymmetric" threats
and lays out three pillars: development of democratic
institutions, external security, and democratic citizen
protection. Espinosa and Golcher reaffirmed the GOP's
continued commitment to partnering closely with the U.S. in
ways that do not undermine the Panama Canal's neutrality.
They hope to do both "traditional" military-type PANAMAX
exercises, as well as a new type of exercise to boost
cooperation among law enforcement and inte
lligence agencies. The GOP offered reassuring words
regarding continued close ties to the U.S. Given the
apparent disconnect between recent GOP actions and the
high-minded aims of its new national security plan regarding
corruption and transparency, we will continue to press the
GOP to match its words with deeds. End summary.

--------------------------------------------- ------------
National Security: Torrijos' "New Vision for a New World"
--------------------------------------------- ------------

2. (S) Panama's Deputy National Security Director Marcel
Salamin briefed Ambassador and Emboffs on July 14 with a
90-minute powerpoint presentation on the GOP's emerging new
national security strategy. The plan is based on two
fundamental assumptions. First, that the USG's hand-over of
the Panama Canal and its related assets, together with the
withdrawal of U.S. forces, also meant that Panama must assume
responsibility for its own security. Moreover, the GOP
believes that it must ensure the Panama Canal's neutrality
for the benefit of global commerce and regional development
consistent with the neutrality provisions of the 1977
Torrijos-Carter Treaty.

3. (S) The plan's second underlying assumption is that
Panama must now cope with the emergence of new types of
"asymmetric" and "unpredictable" threats that demand
multilateral responses. Although the GOP recognizes the
continued threat of conventional military threats, the GOP
now emphasizes the civilian, rather than military, nature of
its response to these new threats, particularly in light of
Panama's constitutional demilitarization (following the 1989
ouster of Manuel Noriega).

4. (S) In presenting the plan, Salamin stressed President
Martin Torrijos' personal involvement in its development. He
said that the plan brings together more than a year's worth
of inter-agency discussions and coordination and that it
represents a "new scenario" for Panama and the international
community. Salamin concluded, "This plan is ambitious. But
we can dream, can't we? All we ask is to be respected."

--------------------------------------------- -----------
Three Pillars of the "Integrated National Security Plan"
--------------------------------------------- -----------

Development of Democratic Institutions

5. (S) With "human security" as the foundation of the GOP's
new national security plan, "democratic institutional
development" is the first of the plan's three main pillars.
Salamin said that the Torrijos administration has developed
the "Panamanian Initiative for Democratizing the Public
Space" ("IPDED" is its Spanish acronym) as a conceptual
framework to carry out this pillar. He said President
Torrijos will not seek another term, but aims to leave a
legacy of a stronger democracy by bolstering local
governments, boosting citizen participation, respecting press
freedoms, ensuring transparency in government, and
institutionalizing Panama's multi-ethnic population and
protecting minority groups. The GOP will implement IPDED
through various "governing plans" addressing a range of
issues, such as energy, housing and urban development,
training and education, cultural diversity, science and
technology, public services and infrastructure, health,
increased market openings (e.g., free trade agreements), and
dernization of institutions.

Panamanian External Security

6. (S) With this pillar, Salamin said that the GOP hopes to
make a "unique contribution to international peace and
security." He said President Torrijos has stressed Panama's
need to ensure international commerce in ways consistent with
the 1977 treaty, i.e., not through military means. Noting
that Panama effectively represents an "internal border for
many countries," the GOP developed its "Panama Secure Trade
and Transportation Initiative" (PST&TI) as a non-military
tool for multiple partners to use in securing trade flows
through Panama. Under PST&TI, the GOP envisions hosting an
annual conference of the program's partners, creating an
independent "board of advisors" for the President (akin to
that used by the Panama Canal Authority), implementing a
regime for non-intrusive container inspections, control of
dual use items, and restricting the trade and transportation
of weapons of mass destruction.

7. (S) The GOP is also developing "Biosecurity Programs"
under the leadership of its National Secretariat for Science,
Technology, and Innovation (SENACYT). These programs, which
include the ministries of health and agricultural and the
Gorgas Memorial Laboratory, are focused on combating the
re-emergence of tropical diseases, forming a "network of
bio-partners," establishing a regional center for
bio-medicine, and developing a network for handling
radioactive disasters.

8. (S) In addition, the GOP is focused on training programs
for its merchant marine personnel and to develop security
specialists for ports, airports, immigration, and customs

Democratic Citizen Protection

9. (S) This pillar is aimed at ensuring public safety and
restoring the credibility of Panama's Public Forces through
implementation of programs for social development, public
security, and democratic institution building. Torrijos has
issued several Presidential Directives aimed at, inter alia,
improved hiring and training of Public Forces personnel,
creating specialized units to address youth gangs, organized
crime, and family violence, and creating a "Special Frontier
Service" that essentially merges traditional police and
military functions in border areas. Salamin mentioned the
need for Panama's security services to have their own
academies since officers who have studied overseas come back
with "different ideas."

10. (S) In addition, the GOP plans to fuse its Maritime and
Air services into a single Coast Guard, create a National
Immigration Service, and establish a National Customs
Service. The GOP is also using a $22 million IDB loan to
strengthen and modernize the National Police and to fully
complete the transition of Panama's former military forces
into an effective police force.

Implications for U.S. Engagement

"Neutrality" vs. "Alliance"

11. (S) Ambassador pressed Panamanian officials for clarity
on whether Panama planned to pursue a new policy of
"strategic neutrality" vs. Panama's more traditional
"strategic alliance" with the U.S. National Security
Director Espinosa and MOGJ Golcher reaffirmed the GOP's
continued commitment to partnering closely with the U.S. in
ways that do not undermine the Panama Canal's neutrality.

Military Training & PANAMAX

12. (S) Espinosa and Golcher blamed GOP "improvisation" and
"internal miscommunication" for Panama's late cancellation of
recent training exercises programmed earlier with DoD. They
acknowledged the financial and other problems this caused for
the USG and stressed their intent to improve GOP coordination
with the DoD. They also stressed that the GOP recognizes the
importance of PANAMAX and remains committed to it, but noted
that, in keeping with their new strategic vision, the GOP
would like to also develop a second type of PANAMAX-like
exercise focused on addressing emerging "new threats" (e.g.,
terrorism and organized crime). Their hope would be to do
both "traditional" military-type PANAMAX exercises, as well
as this new type of exercise to boost cooperation among law
enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Planned SMN-SAN Merger and PTJ Changes

13. (S) The GOP has yet to set a date for its announced
merger of the National Maritime Service (SMN) and the
National Air Service (SAN) into a Coast Guard-like entity,
although President Torrijos told Ambassador June 9 that it
would be sometime after October 22, the date of the Panama
Canal referendum. The administration is developing a new
"maritime security doctrine" that would reflect this new
entity and appears to have just started drafting the new
"organic law" required to effect the merger. Salamin said
the GOP wants its new Coast Guard to function primarily as a
police agency, but recognized that its "other functions"
would likely warrant military training. The same can be said
for the creation of a Special Border Service, which will be
separate from the Panamanian National Police (PNP). This
service would answer to the MOGJ and would have combined
police/military-type functions.

14. (S) As for planned changes to the "Judicial Technical
Police" (PTJ - Panama's FBI equivalent), Golcher stressed
that the GOP's plans to modernize the PTJ, along with
Panama's other law enforcement agencies, would not
"undermine" the USG's significant investment in training for
PTJ personnel. Stressing that "public safety is the top
priority," Espinosa said that fifteen years of PTJ's
existence has "clearly shown" the need for changes in the
organization's mission and human resources management, but
that the decisions do not rest entirely with the executive

--------------------------------------------- ----------
Comment: If Not in Deed, GOP at Least Reassures in Word
--------------------------------------------- ----------

15. (S) The Ambassador had sought this meeting to seek
clarification of GOP intentions, given a series of recent
mishaps involving planned USG-GOP military training
exercises, as well as hints that the Torrijos government may
seek to distance itself from the U.S. for "neutrality"
purposes. Although we don't discount the likelihood that
old-guard PRD party types will continue to try and push
Torrijos toward an "arm's length" relationship with the U.S.,
we were re-assured by Espinosa's and Golcher's recognition of
Panama's historically close ties to the U.S. and their
forward-leaning commitment to improving the GOP's
coordination with us on military and law enforcement
training. Given the ambitious scale and the heavy investment
the GOP's new national security plan would likely require,
they will need considerable help to carry it out. When we
begin planning for the next budget cycle, the GOP will likely
scrutinize closely the training we offer to see how it fits
with their new plan, which clearly de-emphas
izes military elements in favor of police work.

16. (S) Nonetheless, we are struck by the apparent
disconnect between the growing influence of Noriega-era
holdovers and recent GOP backsliding on anti-corruption
(reftels) and the high-minded aims set forth in Torrijos'
National Security Plan to, inter alia, promote democratic
institutions, guarantee transparency, and respect freedom of
the press. Though mindful of what the GOP says on this
score, we will continue to watch closely what it does and
will press the GOP to match its words with deeds. End

© Scoop Media

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