Cablegate: Panama: Torrijos Names New Cabinet


DE RUEHZP #1476/01 2432104
R 312104Z AUG 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 001476



E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/31/2017


Classified By: Ambassador William A. Eaton. Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d).

Summary and Comment

1. (U) Replacing five cabinet ministers, Panamanian President
Martin Torrijos named a total twenty-seven high-level
appointments to his administration. Torrijos' decisions were
announced by Secretary of State Communication Erich RODRIGUEZ
Auerbach on August 30 in a press release. On August 27, all
fourteen of Torrijos' cabinet ministers tendered their
resignations paving the way for Torrijos to act freely to
reshape his cabinet (REFTEL).

2. (C) There were no surprises among the five ministers who
are leaving the cabinet. Former Minister of Health Alleyne,
former Minister of Education Canizales, and former Minister
of Labor Rivera were all weak politically, ineffective
managerially, and had increasingly become burdens to the
Torrijos Administration. Former Minister of the Presidency
had told Embassy that he wanted to leave government and
return to private life. Political insiders were not
surprised to see former Minister of Government and Justice
Golcher depart, though her stepping down may have been a mild
surprise to the wider public. As for the new appointments,
post sees three caretakers who have risen from the back
benches one rising star, and one appointment made in the
spirit of coalition maintenance. The caretakers are:
Minister of Education Belgis Castro, Minister of Labor Edwin
Salamin, and Minister of Health Rosario Turner. The rising
star is Minister of Government and Justice Daniel Delgado.
Second VP Arosemena was named Minister of the Presidency
largely in a gesture to his Popular Party (PP), the PRD's
electoral coalition party.

3. (C) This new cabinet suggests that the days of grand
initiatives by the Torrijos Administration are over. Also,
his choices and the manner in which they were made suggests
that Torrijos appointments were made more out of a defensive
reflex than any effort to seek political advantage. This
cabinet will focus on completing tasks already begun,
cleaning up existing messes, and striving to ensure that new
problems do not crop up. Replacing over one-third of his
cabinet, yet announcing his action through anodyne press
statement, intentionally passed up an opportunity to make any
greater political statements.

The Cabinet: Who's Out/Who's In

4. (C) The following is a summary of the five new cabinet

Minister of the Presidency (Chief of Staff Equivalent):
-- Out: Ubaldino REAL
-- In: 2nd VP Ruben AROSEMENA Valdes
-- Comment: Real's departure for private life was
anticipated. Though no longer formally in the
Administration, Real -- a close personal friend of Torrijos
-- will undoubtedly remain an advisor and conduit to the
President. Press commentary has suggested that Arosemena's
appointment is a sop to the Popular Party (PP), the oft
forgotten ally of the governing Revolutionary Democratic
Party (PRD). Arosemena was Torrijos' primary representative
in brokering the 2006 social security reforms. Moving
Arosemena from the Maritime Authority of Panama (AMP) may
help Arosemena disassociate himself from that corruption
plagued organization. His departure from AMP will also
fecilitate the continuation of lucrative "profit sharing" of
consular spots among some elites within the Torrijos
Administration hierarchy. Though relatively young, Arosemena
has battled health problems recently and under went surgery
for fused vertebrae in the U.S. in 2006. It remains to be
seen whether he has sufficiently recovered to be able to
physically withstand the crushing workload of his new

Minister of Government and Justice:
-- Out: Olga GOLCHER
-- In: Daniel DELGADO Diamante
-- Comment: Though political insiders had speculated that
Golcher would depart, the announcement that Delgado would
replace her was probably the most surprising development to
most Panamanians. Golcher told Ambassador she will be
apointed as Panamenian Ambassador to Argentina. Embassy has
had extensive dealings with Delgado in his prior post has
Director of Customs, which reports to the Ministry of Economy
and Finance. Delgado improved customs operations and raised
the morale of customs personnel. A former Lieutenant Colonel
in the extinct Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF), Delgado may
come under some scrutiny for past associations with Noriega.
For example, he was the PDF's commander in San Miguelito
during Operation JUST CAUSE and a member of Noriega's
Strategic Military Council (CEM). His ascension to the head
of the Ministry of Government and Justice (MOGJ) may be cited
as evidence of "re-militarization." The U.S. should not be
distracted by this kind of white noise. Delgado was the
Secretary General of the MFA early part of the Torrijos
administration and in the administration of former President
Ernesto "El Toro" Perez Balladares. A Panamanian public that
increasingly demands more security is more likely to welcome
a strong hand than criticize a military past. Delgado may
benefit from a closer relationship with the Council for
Public Security and National Defense (CSPDN) than did Golcher
who grew frustrated as the CSPDN asserted influence and
control over security-related entities in the MOGJ. Embassy
has had extensive positive interaction with Delgado.

Minister of Education:
-- Out: Miguel Angle CANIZALES
-- In: Belgis CASTRO Jaen
-- Commet: Canizales' departure is not a surprise and
indeed has been urged by many Panamanian political
commentators for some time. Castro was previously the
Director of the Institute for Human Resources Development
(IFARHU), which distributes and supervises university and
post-graduate scholarship programs. For thirty years, she
has been a professor of history and philosophy. A PRD
activist in Chiriqui Province, Castro previously served as
Vice Rector of the Autonomous University of Chiriqui, which
is party of the University of Panama system. Castro takes
the helm of a dilapidated educational system that is in
desperate need of reform if it is to produce adequately
prepared workers in sufficient quantities to ensure a skilled
Panamanian work force to meet the continuing demands of
Panama's booming economy.

Minister of Labor:
-- Out: Reynaldo RIVERA
-- In: Edwin Salamin
-- Comment: Rivera was on most Panamanian political
observers' short list of those who would get the ax.
Salamin, for the past three years, has served as Rivera's
number two as Vice Minister of Labor and Secretary General of
that ministry. A lawyer and PRD member, Salamin played a key
role in brokering a deal between Panama's business community
and labor leaders that paved the way for the 2005 social
security reforms. Salamin inherits a tense GOP relationship
with the radical SUNTRACs construction union, a relationship
that has been marked by violent clashes that resulted in the
deaths of two SUNTRACS members, one at the hands of private
security guard and the other of the National Police of Panama
(PNP). The Embassy has enjoyed a good relationship with
Salamin, who has been active in addressing labor issues
related to the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA)

Minister of Health
-- Out: Camilo ALLEYNE
-- In: Rosario TURNER
-- Comment: Alleyne's political future was on the ropes in
the run-up to this cabinet shake-up. Alleyne's popularity
nose-dived in the wake of the deaths of over 100 Panamanians
who were poisoned with CSS-produced medicines contaminated
diethylene glycol, an ingredient commonly used in
anti-freeze. A PRD loyalist and Mexican-educated
pediatrician, Turner previously was the Medical Services
Director at the Social Security Fund (CSS). Turner
represented the Torrijos Administration on health issues in
the UN Development Programme (UNDP)-facilitated national
dialogue on development. It remains to be seen whether
Turner will retain Alleyne's staffers who had forged strong
ties with their U.S. Department of Health and Human Service
(HHS) counterparts, ties that were instrumental in launching
the Regional Healthcare Worker Training Center with U.S. and
Central American partners. Coming from the CSS, Turner will
also need to grapple with the political baggage of the
diethylene glycol tragedy.

Other High-Level Appointments

5. (U) Rodriguez also announced the following additional
high-level appointments:

-- Vice Minister of Labor Felipe CANO
-- Vice Minister of Economy Gisela ALVAREZ de Porras
-- Vice Minister of Social Development Diana MOLO
-- Vice Minister of Agricultural Development Adonai RIOS
-- Director of the Authority of Transit and Ground
Transportation (ATTT) Heraclio BATISTA (Note: By naming a
full-time ATTT Director, MOGJ Viced Minister Severino Mejia
can now return undistracted to his regular ministerial job.)
-- Sub-Director of the Authority of Transit and Ground
Transportation (ATTT) Armando Fuentes
-- Director of the National Air Service (SAN) Rigoberto
GORDON Saldana
-- Director of the Social Investment Fund (FIS) Carlos
Alberto GARCIA Molino
-- Director of the Agricultural Development Bank (BDA)
-- Manager of the Tocumen S.A. (International Airport) Orcila
-- Secretary of the National Secretariat of Food and
Nutrition (SENAPAN) Mery ALFARO de Villageliu
-- Director of Immigration Clovis SINISTIERRA (Note:
SINISTIERRA was previously a senior CSPDN functionary.)
-- Sub-Director of Immigration Tayra BARSALLO
-- Director of the Aquatic Resources Authority (ARAP)
Reynaldo PEREZ Guardia
-- Director of the Maritime Authority of Panama (AMP)
Fernando SOLORZANO (Note: Replaces 2nd VP Ruben Arosemena.)
-- Director of the Institute of Agricultural Research (IDIAP)
Jorge AUED
-- Director of the Agricultural Insurance Institute (ISA)
-- Director of the National Institute of Arts and Culture
-- Commissioner of the National Securities Commission (CNV)
Juan Manuel MARTANS Sanchez
-- Commissioner of the National Securities Commission (CNV)
-- Director of the Institute for the Formation and
Advancement of Human Resources (IFARHU) Samuel BUITRAGO
(Note: Buitrago is the youngest member of the PRD CEN.)

6. (U) Rodriguez also announced that Juan Jose "Tres
Palitos" Amado, III had resigned as Director General of the
National Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN) and asked
the Board of Directors to submit to him its nominee to
replace Amado. (Note: Amado is also a member of the PRD
CEN.) Rodriguez's announcement also stated that Leonel SOLIS
Benavides, Executive Secretary of the Presidency, would be
assuming responsibility for supervising the public
transportation modernization process.

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