Cablegate: Panama/Cuba Relationship: Title Iii Libertad Act


DE RUEHZP #2357/01 3412144
R 072144Z DEC 06

O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 002357




E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/29/2016

REF: STATE 191752

Classified By: Charge d'Affaire Luis Arreaga for Reasons 1.4(b)(d)

1. (U) Post answers to reftel questions are based on
information obtained by the GoP's Comptroller General's
offices, the GoP Ministry of Foreign Relations, the
administrative offices of the Colon Free Zone, various
industry and third country publications and conversations
with various Panamanian business executives.

Nature of Panamanian Investments in Cuba

2. (C) Question 1: What are the nature of investments (and
names, if known) that host country businesses have in Cuba?

3. (U) According to an investment study prepared by Spain's
Society for Industrial Promotion and Reconversion (SPRI), of
the 43 foreign companies operating in Cuba, six are

4. (U) The SPRI study states that Panamanian companies
participate in 18 cooperative production projects in Cuba,
second only the Spain, which has 29 such projects.

5. (U) Copa Airlines maintains offices in Havana and has
approximately 20 weekly non-stops flights from Panama City to
Havana. According to various business executives, Copa
Airlines is the only major Panamanian company operating in

6. (U) According to the GoP's Ministry of Commerce and
Industry (MICI), Panamanian exports to Cuba have declined
from a high of $4.3 million in 1998 to $469,590 in 2005.
According to MICI, Panamanian exports to Cuba have rebounded,
totaling $429,038 for just the first six months 2006.
Principal exports to Cuba are cosmetics, beauty supplies,
juices, vegetable extracts and aluminum.

7. (U) According to MICI, Cuban exports to Panama have ranged
from a high of $1,151,673 in 2000 to a low of $142,877 in
2002. However, during 2005 Cuban exports to Panama jumped to
$15.7 million; of which $15.3 million was cement products
(fueled by Panama's construction boom). According to MICI,
Cuban exports have continued at this increased level during
the first six months of 2006, totaling $8.0 million.

8. (SBU) The bulk of Panamanian/Cuban commerce occurs through
the Colon Free Zone (CFZ). According to the CFZ, of the
approximately 2,400 companies operating in the CFZ,
approximately 95 do business with Cuba. Cuban companies and
Panamanian shell companies owned by Cubans or the GOC use the
Colon Free Zone as a transit point to import U.S. and other
goods to Cuba to circumvent the U.S. trade embargo. As of
2004, Cuban companies owed various companies in the CFZ
approximately $200 million for goods previously delivered.
According to the Colon Free Zone, during 2004, approximately,
$195 million of goods were re-exported to Cuba.

9. (U) The GoP does not compile statistics on the amount of
foreign direct investment made by Panamanian companies in
other countries.

Bilateral Trade Agreements

10. (C) Question 2: Are there bilateral trade agreements
between the host country and Cuba?

11. (U) On January 27, 1999, the GoP, under the Ernesto Perez
Balladares administration, and GOC signed an Agreement for
the Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments which,
among other things, guarantees that each country shall grant
the other investment protections and rights no less than
those received by any other third country.

12. (U) On August 31, 2000, the GoP, under the Mireya Moscoso
administration, and GOC signed an Agreement Relating to

Airlines Services between their Respective Territories and
Onward Destinations.

Exchange Programs

13. (C) Question 3: Are there any exchange programs between
host country and Cuba, including but not limited to:
scholarships for host country national to study in Cuba;
Cuban-paid medical travel for host country nationals; and
Cuban doctors working in host country?

14. (U) On February 16, 1999, the GoP, under the Balladares
administration, and GOC signed an Agreement for Cultural and
Educational Cooperation.

15. (U) On March 17, 2006, the GoP, under the Torrijos
administration, and GOC signed a Memorandum of Understanding
eliminating the need for visas to travel between Panama and
Cuba for persons holding diplomatic, official, consular or
special passports. The Memorandum of Understanding states
that the purpose of eliminating the visa requirement is to
facilitate travel and exchanges between officials of both
countries in order to contribute to an expansion in bilateral

16. (U) Operacion Milagro Panama is actively supported by the
GoP. According to GoP figures, as of March 31, 2006, 655
Panamanians have bee treated by Cuban doctors in Panama and
750 more are scheduled for treatment. The GOC sponsors both
free travel to Cuba and free eye care. Operacion Milagro
receives the personal support of First Lady Vivian Fernandez
de Torrijos, who personally travels to the airport to visit
Panamanian departing for Cuba. The First Lady, along with
the GoP Vice Minister of Health, Dora Jara, supervises and
coordinates all Operacion Milagro activities. The GOC has two
eye doctors working in Panama on a rotating basis. These
doctors perform pre-screening of Operacion Milagro patients
at GoP health facilities. Both GoP and GOC officials
frequently discuss expanding the reach of Operacion Milagro
in Panama. The GoP goes out of its way to praise Operacion
Milagro, whether in presidential speeches, by sponsoring
full-page newspapers ads extolling the virtues of Operacion
Milagro and on the websites of its various government
agencies. The GoP lists Operacion Milagro as one of
greatest accomplishments.

17. (U) Panama and Cuba have student exchange programs.
There are currently approximately 400 Panamanian medical
students at the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba.

Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights

18. (C) Question 4: Has the host country, in Post's opinion,
worked to promote the advancement of democracy and human
rights in Cuba? This can include: public statements or other
governmental actions, such as resolutions in the national
assemblies condemning human rights abuses in Cuba; statements
in support of democracy following the July 31, 2006 handover
of power from Fidel to Raul Castro; actions in support of
civil society in Cuba through host country's diplomatic
missions or other fora.

19. (C) The GoP has not made any public statements in support
of democracy or human rights in Cuba during 2006. The GoP
appears to have done little to support the advancement of
democracy or human rights in Cuba. The GoP is strengthening
its relationship with Cuba through increased
government-to-government contact and through exchange
programs such as Operacion Milagro. The GoP does not support
any proactive steps to further democracy upon President
Castro's death or as a result of the transfer of power to
Raul Castro. The GoP, however, advocates lifting the USG
trade embargo on Cuba.

Diplomatic Visits

20 (C) Question 5: Have there been any high-level diplomatic
visits between Cuba and host country in the past six months?

21. (U) The GoP and GOC re-established diplomatic relations
on August 20, 2005 after diplomatic ties were severed in
August 2004.

22. (U) On March 16-18, 2006, GoP ForMin Navarro lead a
diplomatic and trade mission to Cuba. He was accompanied by
Health Minister Camilo Alleyne and Colon Free Zone Users
Association President Severo Souza.

23. (U) In July 2006, Civil Aviation Authority Director
Eustacio Fabrega visited Cuba to discuss bilateral aviation

24. (U) On September 14-16, 2006, President Martin Torrijos
and ForMin Samuel Lewis Navarro attended the 14th Non-Aligned
Nations Summit in Havana.

25. (U) Panamanian companies attended the 24th Annual
International Trade Fair in Havana, Cuba held October
30-November 4, 2006.

26. (U) On November 3-10, 2006, members of the Cuban Civil
Aviation Authority attended the Latin American Civil Aviation
Conference in Panama.

27. (U) During the week of November 13, 2006, the President
of Panama's legislature Elias Castillo visited Cuba during
which he and the President of the Cuban National Assembly
Ricardo Alarcon signed an accord to reinforce
inter-legislative relations.

28. (U) During the week of November 20, 2006, Alarcon visited
Panama to meet with President Torrijos, ForMin Navarro and
members of the Panama-Cuba Parliamentary Group. Alarcon also
attended the Latin America and Caribbean Congress for the
Independence of Puerto Rico held in Panama.

© Scoop Media

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