Cablegate: Panama Post: Edition Iii


DE RUEHZP #1102/01 1802030
R 292030Z JUN 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 001102



E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/29/2017


Classified By: POLCOUNS Brian R. Naranjo. Reasons: 1.4
(b) and (d)


1. (C) The following are the top stories for the third
edition of the Panama Post:

-- Attorney General names new acting head of FBI-equivalent;
-- Fifth candidate announces run for presidency of governing
Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD);
-- Insights into why Panamanians join political parties;
-- A PRD women's advocate handicaps the race for the PRD
presidential nomination;
-- Sports corruption affects Panama's participation in
Pan-America Games; and
-- A cheat sheet of Panamanian political nicknames.

End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- ----
Attorney General Names New Head of FBI-Equivalent
--------------------------------------------- ----

2. (U) Attorney General Ana Matilda Gomez named prosecutor
Jose Ayu Prado to be the acting head of the Technical
Judicial Police (PTJ) on June 25. Gomez named prosecutor
Jose Almengor to replace Ayu Prado as the head of the PTJ's
counternarcotics unit. Ayu Prado and Almengor will hold
these position at least through December 2007 pending
resolution of PTJ reform legislation. Increasingly, the PTJ
has been under fire and under investigation, for example, in
the wake of revelations of efforts to promote PTJ officials
who were subject to disciplinary actions and the discovery
that weapons were being "leased" from the PTJ's ballistics

3. (C) Comment: Ayu Prado now has perhaps the most
unenviable position in the GOP, Panamanian law enforcement,
sources tell the Panama Post. Inheriting an organization
that has been under fire and is experiencing collapsing
morale, Ayu Prado will be expected to review all internal
affairs investigations, follow up on disciplinary actions and
ensure that the troubled PTJ is as administratively pure as
possible. Absent a series of successful, well publicized
cases, Ayu Prado faces rough seas ahead of him. For her
part, Gomez succeeded in doing two things that she had wanted
to do for some time: she put a prosecutor in charge of the
PTJ and moved Ayu Prado, with whom she often had contentious
relations, out of her office. To the outside world, however,
naming the highly capable and respected Ayu Prado to the PTJ
appears to be an astute step to fixing this troubled

------------------------- ----------------------
And Then There Were Five: Race for PRD President
------------------------- ----------------------

4. (U) Former Minister of Labor Laurentino Cortizo launched
his campaign for President of the Revolutionary Democratic
Party (PRD) on June 24. Laurentino -- the only minister to
have resigned from President Torrijos' cabinet -- broke with
Torrijos over the TPA negotiations and is a long shot
candidate. Other announced candidates include: former
President Ernesto "El Toro" Perez Balladares, Minister of
Housing Balbina Herrera, Panama City Mayor Juan Carlos
Navarro, and Alfredo Oranges.

5. (C) Comment: Cortizo has no chance of victory, but may
provide an opportunity for disgruntled cattlemen and rice
growers who are party members, primarily in Chiriqui and
Azuero provinces, to cast a protest vote. The Panama Post
understands that the fix for the top three internal PRD
positions is already in: Herrera for President, Torrijos to
remain Secretary General, and Navarro to be the First
Sub-Secretary of the PRD's National Executive Committee
(CEN). Indeed, Perez Balladares appears to have already
packed in his campaign for PRD President and has claimed
publicly that he is looking down the road to securing the
PRD's presidential nomination. Others in the race for the
PRD's presidential nomination include: Navarro, First VP and
FM Samuel Lewis, and possibly Herrera.

Why Join a Political Party?

6. (U) The majority of Panamanians joined a political party
to secure an economic benefit, according to a Dichter and
Neira poll, a portion of which was published June 24 in
Panama City daily La Prensa. Only 9.4 percent said they
joined a party because they liked politics, and 16.9 percent
said they joined because of ideology. In contrast, 37.8
percent told pollsters they joined a party to secure
employment, and 15.4 percent said they did so to secure
economic benefits such as scholarships or social benefits.
Slightly over one in five voters -- 20.5 percent -- had no
idea why they joined a party.

7. (SBU) Comment: These poll results are not surprising,
but rather underscore the relative unimportance of ideology
in Panamanian politics. Instead, highlighting the
"transactional" nature of politics in Panama, Panamanian
voters ask themselves, "What's in it for me?" This phenomenon
helps explain the massive turn-out of over 60,000 voters over
three days to register for the governing PRD: they expect
personal economic gain. It also explains why most Panamanian
voters do not belong to any party: they haven't found what
they are looking for or do not believe that they will benefit
from membership.

-------------------- -------------------------------------
PRD Women's Advocate Handicaps Internal Race for President
------------------------------ ---------------------------

8. (C) "There are many problems and a lot of uncertainty"
inside the PRD with respect to the race to secure the party's
presidential nomination, PRD activist and the President of
the Forum of Women in Political Parties Irasema de Ahumada
told the Panama Post on June 26. "El Perro (First VP and FM
Samuel Lewis (see para 12)) will never get traction in the
polls; that helps (Panama City Mayor) Juan Carlos Navarro."
She asserted though that Navarro was not paying any attention
to his municipality's services: trash was not being
collected, there were many rumors of bribes being passed to
secure construction permits, and kiosk tenants in the popular
markets were irate that the city was not attending to the
up-keep of the facilities. "The upper and upper-middle class
do not see this deterioration in public services, but the
lower-middle class and poor know that Navarro is not
collecting trash in their neighborhoods," de Ahumada said.

9. (C) Returning to Lewis, de Ahumada said, "He is my
candidate, but he is not going anywhere." "What's up with
this guy?," she complained, explaining that he attended a PRD
political event in Herrera Province with Minister of Health
Alleyne, the most unpopular member of Torrijos' cabinet.
"How could he do that! Doesn't he realize that nobody wants
Alleyne?" Asked who his political advisors were, de Ahumada
said that presidential foreign affairs advisor (and former
Noriega era FM and UN PermRep) Jorge Ritter and her
brother-in-law (Lewis' closest advisor at the MFA and former
left-wing radical) Adolfo Ahumada. "They are intellectuals.
What do they know about getting votes? When have they
dirtied their shoes during a campaign?" de Ahumada asked

------------ ----------------------
PanAm Games: Panamanian Flag Banned
------------ ----------------------

10. (U) The Pan-American Sports Organization (ODEPA) ordered
June 27 that Panamanian athletes would compete under the
"umbrella of the organization" at the Fifteenth Pan-America
Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro. ODEPA assumed control of
the management of the Panamanian team; announced that
Panama's team would compete under the ODEPA's flag, not the
Panamanian flag; and banned the playing of the Panamanian
national anthem. Any medals won by Panamanians would also
would not be recorded as having been won for Panama. ODEPA
said it would also ask the International Olympic Committee
(IOC) to sanction the Olympic Committee of Panama (COP) with
a temporary suspension of its recognition until it was proven
that "interference in the internal affairs of the COP had
ceased." The Chairman of the COP's board of directors, Roger
Moscote, promptly resigned.

11. (SBU) Comment: ODEPA's unanimous expulsion of the COP
and appeal to the IOC is but the latest and loudest vote of
no confidence in the COP, an organization riddle with
corruption. Recently, Panama's national baseball team struck
in protest of Panamanian Baseball Federation's President
Franz Wever's habit of skimming significant sums from the
travel stipends each player receives for meals and incidental
expenses when the team is on the road. Also, the Panama Post
has learned from its sources in Major League Baseball (MLB)
that, contrary to First VP and FM Lewis' June 27
announcement, MLB would not be undertaking any activities
with beyond periodic baseball clinics. Concerned with the
level of corruption and mismanagement in Panama's baseball
federation, MLB corporate headquarters told the Panama Post
that it would not be investing in a baseball academy as Lewis
had asserted. Lewis appeared to have overstated agreements
that Panama's Embassy in Santo Domingo reached with MLB
Commissioner for Latin American and the Caribbean Ronaldo

--------------------- --------------------------------
What's in a Nickname? A Political Gossip Column Primer
--------------------- --------------------------------

12. (U) Each of Panama City's newspapers -- broad sheets
like La Prensa, Panama-America, or La Estrella and tabloids
like El Siglo or La Critica -- has a political gossip column.
These columns -- religiously read by Panamanians -- offer up
snippets of political gossip, but are written in often
utterly impenetrable code replete with Panamanian-Spanish
colloquialisms, obscure references to current events and pop
culture, and nicknames. La Estrella publisher Avraham Musvat
explained to the Panama Post that the papers use these gossip
columns to stir the pot by offering tidbits to see who reacts
in the hopes of filling out stories for which they only have
partial information. Musvat also said that the nicknames
helped protect the papers from libel and slander accusations
as they obscured the target of the gossip. To aid our
readers, the Panama Post provides the following cheat sheet
to decipher the nicknames of key political leaders:

-- President Martin Torrijos: El Mister, Chiqui (Chicky), El
Muneco or El Mune' (boy doll), or El Muneco Que Pasea (the
boy doll that struts)

-- First Lady Vivian de Torrijos: La Jefa (the boss), La
Mandamas (the one who orders somebody around the most), la
Presidenta (the female president)

-- First VP and FM Samuel Lewis: El Perro (the dog), Wataco
(nonsense nickname), El Compadre or El Compa' Casimiro (the
godfather or buddy; Casimiro is Lewis' middle name; also a
reference to Lewis' loyalty and affable nature)

-- National Assembly Deputy Hector Aleman: HB (Aleman's
middle name is Bolivar), Norieguita (Little Noriega, a
reference to this former Noriega aide's resemblance to the
dictator as well as his conspiratorial, strong arm management
style), or Pina 2 (Noriega was known as the pineapple, so
Aleman is pineapple 2.)

-- Minister of Housing Balbina Herrera: Lady B, La Chola
(half-civilized, peasant-like person)

-- Attorney General Ana Matilda Gomez: Didi (reference to
the mother of the popular cartoon Dexter who routinely
destroys everything), La Chica Superpoderosa (the super
powerful girl)

-- Former President Ernesto Perez Balladares: El Toro (The
bull, a reference to Balladares size and brash manner.), Mr.

-- Former President Mireya Moscoso: La Dona (the titled Lady)

-- Former President Guillermo Endara: Chuchungo (nonsense
nickname acquired in grade school), Pichulo (nonsense
nickname given by the press), or Pan de Dulce (Sweet bread, a
reference to Endara's rotund figure and jovial nature.)
-- Former FM and Patriotic Union (UP) leader Jose Raul
Mulino: Stalin (Reference to his thick brushy mustache,
stalinesque haircut, and leadership style)

-- Democratic Change (CD) Party President Ricardo Martinelli:
Ricky Casi Cien or Casi Cien (Almost One Hundred, a
reference to the name of this supermarket magnate's chain:

-- Panamenista Party President Juan Carlos Varela: Seco
Varela, Juan Seco, Johnny Dry (Varela's family owns Panama's
largest distillery, the best-selling product of which is
seco, a liquor distilled from sugar cane. "Seco" also means

-- Tia Josefa -- This literally means "Aunt Josefa." There
is no Aunt Josefa, however, rather this nickname refers to
whomever leaked information to a columnist. Aunt Josefa is
the proverbial know-it-all aunt who sees, hears, and passes
on everything.

© Scoop Media

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