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Cablegate: Worried Torrijos Drops in On Ambassador

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #1662/04 2372208
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 252208Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/ECSTATE WASHDC 8837
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0049
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHMFISS/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHDC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC

S E C R E T SECTION 04 OF 04 PANAMA 001662

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN
PASS TO ELIA TELLO
NSC PASS TO DAN FISK

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/25/2016
TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON KCRM SNAR ETRD ELAB CU PM
SUBJECT: WORRIED TORRIJOS DROPS IN ON AMBASSADOR

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PANAMA 00001662 004.6 OF 004


much (if not more) of a referendum on his administration than
on the merits of the Canal project. However, the GOP has
done little in recent months to boost public trust in the
government's anti-corruption bona fides, in general, and on
the Canal project's cost estimates, in particular. A number
of AmCham members recently groused to the Ambassador and
other Emboffs that the GOP and the Panama Canal Authority
continue to fumble the PR campaign for the "Yes" vote and
have allowed opponents to seize the momentum. Recent
episodes, such as Torrijos' recent ouster of Bank
Superintendent Delia Cardenas (ref B) and a recent change in
Panama's capital gains tax law that enabled Banistmo's
well-connected shareholders to avoid some $400 million in
taxes, may exacerbate the public's mistrust of the GOP and
strengthen the hand of Canal expansion opponents.

14. (S) We share Torrijos' concern about the growing
traction of the "no" forces, which were, until recently,
virtually discounted. In today's politically charged
environment, every action, including those of the Embassy, is
analyzed in microscopic and sensationalized detail. It is in
the U.S. interest that the Panama Canal be expanded to
maintain and enhance its utility to global maritime commerce.
We are engaging key opposition leaders and other forces to
take their pulse on this matter of Panamanian national
importance. We will urge them to clarify their positions and
show leadership. End comment.

EATON

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