Cablegate: Panama Post: Edition Viii


DE RUEHZP #1346/01 2222004
R 102004Z AUG 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 001346



E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/09/2017


Classified By: Charge d'Affairs Luis Arreaga.
Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d)


1. (C) The latest edition of the Panama Post reports on a
relatively slow week in Panamanian politics, though with some
important movement on efforts to block a terrorist from
becoming National Assembly President. Highlights include:

-- President Torrijos gets message on Pedro Miguel Gonzalez,
will "take care of it;"
-- "oriega: A Closed Case?" panel focuses on cases in
Panama, not on extradition to France;
-- Update on to and fro of Presidential Candidates; and
-- Celebrations on September 3 to commemorate the thirtieth
anniversary of the signing of the Panama Canal treaties and
to launch canal expansion project.

End Summary.

"Taking Care" of a Terrorist

2. (C) "I passed your message concerning (candidate for
President of the National Assembly) Pedro Miguel Gonzalez to
President Torrijos, and he will take care of it," First VP
and FM Samuel Lewis told Charge on August 6. Charge had
earlier shared with Lewis USG concerns regarding the
prospects that Gonzalez, wanted in the U.S. for the 1991
murder of U.S. serviceman Zak Hernandez and ineligible for a
U.S. visa on terrorism grounds, would become the next
legislative leader. Comment: Post will remain engaged to
ensure follow-through on this commitment.

3. (C) Presidential Palace insider Lionel Solis told the
Panama Post on August 8 that
Torrijos had not yet spoke with Gonzalez about the National
Assembly Presidency. Solis asserted to the Panama Post, "On
my own initiative, I told Pedro Miguel that he should keep in
mind his problems with the U.S. government and he should not
try to corner the President on this matter. I later heard
that Pedro Miguel was telling others that he 'would' become
President of the National Assembly were it not for the
gringos. Pedro Miguel does not want to look like a loser,
but rather a victim."

Noriega Extradition: Panama Looks At Itself

4. (SBU) The August 8 "Noriega: A Closed Case?" Forum in
Panama City focused primarily on Panamanian cases pending
against the former dictator, not on the current deliberations
in the U.S. regarding his extradition. This forum, billed
widely in the media, served as an opportunity to examine
Panama's own recent history under Noriega. La Prensa's
Washington-based correspondent Betty Brennan's review of
Noriega's extradition deliberations in the U.S. were
overshadowed by Robert Brenes' discussion of the Civil
Crusade (Crusada Civilista), the civil society group that
galvanized broad opposition to Noriega and the military.
Indeed, leaders of the Civil Crusade were out in force,
including Guillermo "Billy" Ford, Ruben "Chinchorro" Carles,
Aurelio Barria, and Roberto "Bobby" Eisenmann. Attorney
General Ana Matilde Gomez grabbed La Prensa's headlines the
following day with her statements that there were still
several extradition requests pending against Noriega,
including for the decapitation of Hugo Spadafora and the
"Albrook Massacre" of Panamanian Defense Force (PDF) officers
who attempted to overthrow Noriega. Comment: While there is
a nationalist in nearly every Panamanian that would like to
see Noriega face Panamanian justice as soon as possible, each
Panamanian also has a pragmatic stripe that, worried that
Panamanian justice would falter or fail, would rather see
Noriega be extradited to France where he would definitely
remain in prison. Even former Civil Crusade leader and
founder of La Prensa Roberto "Bobby" Eisenmann acknowledged
in a recent opinion piece that it would be best for Noriega
to go to France. Fellow Civil Crusade leader Aurelio Barria
continues to press the GOP to more actively work for
Noriega's extradition to Panama, but even he is resigned to
Noriega's extradition to France and his arguments get little

--------------------------------------------- --
Update on to and fro of Presidential Candidates
--------------------------------------------- --

5. (C) The Panama Post observed little forward motion among
presidential candidates: Torrijos stood by Samuel Lewis,
Alberto Vallarino appeared to have decided to join the
Panamenistas, Mireya Moscoso continued her scheming, Jose
Miguel Aleman advocated for Endara, and Endara and Martinelli
continued to oppose participating in an interparty primary.
Here are the highlights:

-- First VP and FM Samuel Lewis banned from discussing
politics while on the clock: The Electoral Tribunal (TE)
ruled recently that Article 30 of the Electoral code
prohibited Lewis from discussing politics during work hours.
In making its ruling, the TE determined that Lewis' status as
FM prevailed over his elected position as First VP so that
therefore Article 30 of the Electoral Code, which forbids
discussing politics during work hours, applied to Lewis.
Asked by the press for his reaction to this ruling that only
became public on August 6, Lewis glanced at his watch and
demurred, "We are still on the clock."

-- Torrjos stands by Lewis: Presidential Palace insider
Lionel Solis told the Panama Post on August 8 that Torrijos
"insisted" on supporting Lewis for the governing Democratic
Revolutionary Party (PRD) presidential nomination though
Torrijos understood that Lewis was "not too popular in the
party." Solis said Torrijos would nonetheless include Panama
City Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro in his activities to ensure
that he gets sufficient exposure. According to Solis, while
Minister of Housing Balbina Herrera was still riding high,
"Torrijos resents her close political relationship with
Hector Aleman," a long-time PRD enforcer, currently a
National Assembly Deputy, and former Minister of Government
and Justice.

-- Alberto Vallarino to join with Panamenista Party:
Expelled from the Panamenista party in 2004 for having
accepted the presidential nomination of the now extinct
Christian Democrats, Alberto Vallarino is expected to re-join
the Panamenista Party on August 15, Jose Miguel Aleman
confirmed for POLCOUNS on August 9. Seen as a coup for
former President Mireya Moscoso, Vallarino's return to the
fold was characterized as a move "to facilitate an opposition
party alliance" by Moscoso aide Eduardo Quiros. Comment:
Vallarino is a notoriously cautious and calculating
politician. It remains to be seen whether he will indeed
seek the party's presidential nomination.

-- Alberto Vallarino and former President Guillermo Endara
accompany former President Mireya Moscoso to former President
Arnulfo Arias' grave: Flexing her political muscle, Moscoso
asked Vallarino and Endara to join on August 10 at the grave
of her husband and Panamenista party founder Arnuflo Arias.
Vallarino and Endara are expected to be the keynote speakers
at this commemoration organized by the Arnulfo Arias Madrid
Foundation, headed by Moscoso. As other Panamenista leaders
urge party president Juan Carlos Varela to reconcile himself
with Moscoso, there has been much speculation as to whether
Varela will even attend this commemoration. According to
press reports, Varela will attend with his own posse in tow.

-- "Interparty primary to select Martinelli's running mate:"
Democratic Change operatives are putting out the word, echoed
in political rumor columns, that the interparty primary would
be an excellent way to choose Martinelli's vice presidential
running mate. For his part, Varela failed to convince
Martinelli of the merits of an interparty primary during
their August 8 breakfast.

-- Jose Miguel Aleman: Strong Endara Supporter: In his
August 9 conversation with POLCOUNS, Panamanenista Party
member, former FM, and former Panamenista presidential
candidate Jose Miguel Aleman: (a) pointedly did not/not
reject the idea that he sought to be Endara's vice
presidential running mate, (b) confirmed that Endara had
offered the position to him, and (c) said that Endara had to
win Panamenista support by participating in an interparty
opposition primary. Clearly surprised by POLCOUNS's inquiry,
Aleman reiterated that he and Endara had been in discussions
since they both lost to Torrijos in 2004. "We need to unify
behind Endara if the opposition is to have a shot at
defeating the PRD," Aleman said. While Martinelli would
definitely run, the rest of the opposition had to unify. "If
it is more than a three-way race, the opposition will
definitely lose." Aside from Martinelli, Aleman said that
only Endara and Alberto Vallarino had the wherewithal to win.
"Moscoso is currently backing Vallarino," Aleman asserted.
Endara, Aleman confirmed, remains steadfast in his opposition
to participating in an interparty primary. Comment:
Vallarino's enrollment in the Panamenista Party will likely
constrain Aleman's own prospects as Vallarino consumes more
Panamenista political oxygen thereby reinforcing Aleman's
proclivity to advocate strongly on Endara's behalf.

--------------------------------------------- ----
30th Anniversary of Panama Canal Treaties Signing
--------------------------------------------- ----

6. (C) "To avoid 'conflicts,' Panama would only be inviting
the Presidents of Costa Rica and Colombia -- our bordering
neighbors -- to the festivities to commemorate the thirty
anniversary of the signing of the Panama Canal treaties,
Presidential Palace insider Lionel Solis told the Panama Post
on August 8. Solis, who will be the GOP coordinator for this
September 3 celebration, said that President Arias and
President Uribe had confirmed their attendance. The main
event would be held at the canal's Pedro Miguel Locks to
which the 50,000 PRD members would be invited. "We have to
make a big deal out of this event as on January 31, 1999 we
did not have the chance to receive the canal, rather Moscoso
did." Former President Carter would join Torrijos in
ceremonially detonating charges that would set off a
"symbolic explosion" in the small hills across the canal from
the ceremony to begin the excavation for the canal expansion
project. To encourage "celebration of this sovereign act,"
the GOP would close for the day on September 3 as well as
"encourage" the private sector to do the same and close
public schools too.

© Scoop Media

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