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Cablegate: Staffdel Meacham and Toon Meet with Mogj Golcher

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #2102/01 2991507
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261507Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9226
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL//J5/J2/POLAD//

UNCLAS PANAMA 002102

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

WHA FOR CEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PM
SUBJECT: STAFFDEL MEACHAM AND TOON MEET WITH MOGJ GOLCHER

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Summary
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1. (SBU) "The United States is Panama's strategic partner of
choice on security issues, but Panama needs additional
resources to strengthen its security infrastructure,"
Minister of Government and Justice Olga Golcher told STAFFDEL
Meacham and Toon on October 18. Golcher lauded the bilateral
relationship while discussing areas for improvement and
outlined ongoing GOP projects including the planned
development of a Panamanian Coast Guard, programs to fight
trafficking in persons, and assistance to refugees. End
summary.

------------------------
A "Special" Relationship
------------------------

2. (SBU) Golcher emphasized the "special" relationship
between Panama and the United States, and the U.S. Embassy in
particular, at the meeting, also attended by MOGJ Secretary
General Danilo Toro and EMBOFFs. She said the Torrijos
Administration had a particularly strong relationship with
the United States that "couldn't be better," especially in
cooperation on security, counterterrorism, and
counternarcotics issues. Nevertheless, Golcher stated
several times both Panama's need for funding and resources on
these issues and the GOP's hope to strengthen the
relationship further, making an appeal for continued USG
assistance as a key component of the bilateral relationship.

3. (SBU) In response to a question on how Panama's purported
neutrality would affect the bilateral relationship, however,
Golcher cautiously replied that the GOP understood the need
for the Canal to be neutral while also understanding the
reality of the security environment. "Respecting neutrality
does not mean not recognizing threats," Golcher said. Toro
quickly added that Panama saw the United States as its first
choice in strategic partnership.

4. (SBU) Toro then outlined three areas to help strengthen
U.S.-Panamanian cooperation: maintaining the level of
cooperation without interference from internal politics and
processes; additional USG assistance on capacity building;
and improving communications and information flow. He added
that access to timely information and compatible technology
for security systems were essential.

--------------------------------------------- ------
Progress report- Coast Guard, trafficking, refugees
--------------------------------------------- ------

5. (SBU) Golcher used the GOP's proposed plan to build a
Coast Guard as an example of Panama's need to invest in
public forces and the need for resources to make such
investment happen. She said the proposed Coast Guard was
ideal for the country's security needs, adding that the
current system was antiquated and not suitable for what
Panama required.

6. (SBU) On trafficking-in-persons, Golcher said the GOP was
developing procedures and guidelines for the repatriation of
child victims trafficked into Panama. She emphasized that
the number of trafficking victims overall in Panama, as well
as the number of victims of Panamanian nationality, was very
small. Panama was also working with other Central American
countries, with the help of Spanish and Italian consultants,
to create a map of major trafficking routes in the region.
The map would help countries involved in the fight against
this illicit trafficking to be more vigilant on these routes,
Golcher said.

7. (SBU) On refugees, Golcher was optimistic that the
refugee intake system in Panama was working well. She
mentioned the summer arrival of a group of displaced
indigenous fleeing the conflict in Colombia, saying that
Panama's refugee commission would soon make a decision on
their final status. Golcher said the option of third country
resettlement was important, particularly in the case of
Cubans who did not really qualify as refugees.

8. (SBU) Overall, Golcher and Toro were very interested in
the staffers' questions and focused on the need to continue
to improve the strong bilateral relationship. They were
receptive to the staffers' emphasis on the bipartisan nature
of the Senate's work on security issues as well as the need
for a multinational approach.

9. (U) This cable has been cleared by Carl Meacham and
Bernard Toon.

ARREAGA

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