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Cablegate: Gop Pitches Regional Health School As Way to Boost

VZCZCXYZ0006
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #1580/01 2232223
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 112223Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8735
RUEHC/USAID WASHDC PRIORITY
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 2391
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0308
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 0184
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1065
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 3190
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 0205
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0042
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 001580

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CEN AND WHA/PPC
HHS FOR OGHA AND OPHEP
USAID FOR LAC/CAM (LEDDY) AND LAC/RSD (LOUDIS)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/11/2016
TAGS: TBIO EAID PGOV PM
SUBJECT: GOP PITCHES REGIONAL HEALTH SCHOOL AS WAY TO BOOST
DEMOCRACY AND DEVELOPMENT

Classified By: Ambassador William A. Eaton - Reasons 1.4 (b and d)

1. (C) The GOP hopes for strong U.S. support to establish a
"School of Health for the Americas" in Panama. With students
and faculty drawn from throughout the hemisphere, the school
is aimed at improving healthcare delivery, particularly to
poor communities. In so doing, the GOP believes it could
also help to bolster democracy in the region by countering
Cuba's inroads through medical diplomacy. Minister of Health
Camilo Alleyne stressed the GOP's firm commitment to the
initiative and its hope to launch the school as early as
January 2007. As Panama offers several advantages with its
location and existing infrastructure, this proposal offers a
unique opportunity. Post stands ready to provide any support
necessary to advance further USG engagement on this
initiative. End summary.

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Fortifying Democracy through Health Education
---------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) On August 9, Minister of Health Camilo Alleyne told
Econ Chief, visiting HHS staff, and several GOP health
officials that the primary aim of a proposed "School of
Health for the Americas" is to fortify democracy and health
in Latin America by improving the delivery of healthcare and
boosting the development of poor communities throughout the
region. The GOP hopes that strong USG participation on what
would start as a bilateral effort will encourage subsequent
participation from other countries. Alleyne appreciated HHS
Secretary Leavitt's strong interest and said that Costa Rica,
Chile, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico, appear very
supportive. He also said that several Caribbean governments,
as well as private sector and academic institutions
(including Johns Hopkins) have expressed interest. He
stressed President Torrijos' support and the GOP's commitment
to deliver the infrastructure, know-how, and financing
(starting with $1.5 million) to open the school as early as
January 2007 and to ensure
long-term viability.

Panama's Perspective and Its Advantages
---------------------------------------

3. (U) Dr. Enrique Mendoza, former Dean of the University of
Panama's Medical School, presented the GOP's concept of a
bilingual school offering inter-disciplinary training for
both health care workers and policymakers drawn from
throughout Latin America. With faculty from various parts of
the region, the school would emphasize ways to meet
twenty-first century health challenges, poverty-related
diseases (e.g., TB and malaria), chronic disease (e.g.,
cardiovascular illnesses), and health crises brought on by
epidemics, natural disasters, or conflicts (e.g., Avian Flu
and HIV/AIDS). It would provide training for technicians
(e.g., support staff for nursing, emergency rooms, radiology,
etc.), particularly those drawn from poor and indigenous
communities. The school would also offer post-graduate
programs, clinical research, and basic research activities.

4. (U) Mendoza and Alleyne stressed that, in addition to the
GOP's strong support, Panama offers several unique
advantages, including:
-- using the former U.S. military hospital at the old Howard
Air Force Base as a "teaching hospital;"
-- linking the school to Panama's "City of Knowledge," which
already brings together academic, civil society, government,
and international development organizations;
-- further linkages to the Gorgas Memorial Institute (GMI),
Panama's Secretariat for Science, Technology, and Innovation,
and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI); and,
-- Panama's emergence as a regional aviation hub and the
presence of an existing airfield at Howard.

5. (SBU) GMI Director Jorge Motta maintained that the USG's
best legacy in Panama was not the Panama Canal, but instead
it was the promotion of clean water and public health. As

Panama contemplates the modernization of the Canal in an
upcoming referendum, he suggested that strong USG
participation in launching this regional health school could
represent a parallel effort to modernize the region's
healthcare and further cement the longstanding USG-GOP
partnership on public health.

Re-Framing the "School of the Americas?"
----------------------------------------

6. (C) Alleyne recognized that the "School of Health for the
Americas" name might conjure up negative connotations from
the old "School of the Americas." He appeared amenable to
some other formulation, but said he liked the name precisely
because it offers a chance to re-define the name. Moreover,
he said that Fidel Castro would undoubtedly jump at a chance
to get in on such an effort, if it offered him a chance to
show up the U.S. as an advocate for beating swords into
ploughshares.

7. (C) Alleyne was emphatic about the need to counter the
growing influence of Cuban-trained medical personnel in the
region. He said that these personnel return to their poor
communities from Cuba with their marginal medical skills and
strong Communist indoctrination. Alleyne maintained that
leftists have significantly increased their presence in
Panama's poor communities, suggesting that their penetration
has gone from only about 4% to some 25% in just the past few
years.

Comment: A Unique Opportunity
-----------------------------

8. (C) This proposal offers a unique opportunity to boost
U.S. transformational diplomacy in the region, which could
certainly help to promote security, democracy, and
prosperity. Post appreciates that Washington agencies are
looking closely at the idea and we stand ready to provide any
support necessary to advance further USG engagement. End
comment.
EATON

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