Cablegate: Panama: The Italian Butcher Hires a Campaign
DE RUEHZP #1824/01 3341915
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 301915Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1496
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 001824
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/01/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV PM
SUBJECT: PANAMA: THE ITALIAN BUTCHER HIRES A CAMPAIGN
Classified By: POLCOUNS Brian R. Naranjo. Reasons: 1.4 (b)
1. (C) "I have agreed to be campaign manager for Ricardo
(Martinelli) starting full-time on January 1," Jimmy
Papademetriu told POLCOUNS on November 27, though he said he
would eschew the title "campaign manager" as it "paints a
target on one's back." Papademetriu said that Patriotic
Union (UP) party VP Anibal Galindo was actively working to
promote Martinelli's campaign while Galindo's co-VP, Jose
Raul Mulino was working actively for Panamenista candidate
Alberto Vallarino and UP President Guillermo "Billy" Ford had
declared he would run for president. As campaign manager,
Papademetriu said he would first be working to get Martinelli
to do more outreach to key movers and shakers in the
opposition with the goal of "getting people comfortable with
him." "The one thing heavy hitter Panamanians fear the most
is that the next president won't answer their calls,"
Papademetriu explained. "I need to break down that fear and
help assure them that Martinelli will take their calls and
that they can work with him." Papademetriu also provided
some insights into what makes Martinelli tick. End summary.
Coalition Building Underway in Opposition
2. (C) Patriotic Union (UP) co-VP "Anibal Galindo is
actively working with Martinelli," Papademetriu said. "He is
proposing that a team from UP and a team from Democratic
Change (CD) work up a series of seven to ten position papers.
This joint effort would be one step toward a coalition."
Papademetriu was not confident though that Galindo could sell
this proposal to UP. Meanwhile, UP co-VP "Jose Raul Mulino
is definitely on (Panamamenista party prospective
presidential candidate) Alberto Vallarino's team." UP
President Guillermo "Billy" Ford's announcement that he would
run for president was intended to keep a lid on UP's VPs'
jockeying for position. "Patriotic Union is definitely in
play." Martinelli, in addition to working with Galindo, was
reaching out to "puppet master" Samuel "Don Sammy" Lewis
Galindo, the quasi-leader emeritus of UP. According to
Papademetriu, Don Sammy was like a horse owner who showed up
to the track with two of his own horses -- nephew First VP
and FM and PRD presidential prospect Samuel Lewis Navarro and
son-in-law and Panamenista Party presidential prospect
Alberto Vallarino -- but was not really satisfied that either
would win. "The Lewises had a family meeting and the
decision was made that Sam was out and the family would
support Alberto." (Note: Post has heard rumors that Don
Sammy, patriarch of the Lewis clan, hosted such a meeting,
but has no confirmation as to whether such a decision was
made.) Believing that there was considerable doubt that
Vallarino was fully committed to the race, Papademetriu said,
Martinelli was trying to urge Don Sammy to place his bet on
3. (C) "Ricardo needs to do more outreach. He needs to make
people comfortable with him. The one thing heavy hitter
Panamanians fear the most is that the next president won't
answer their calls," Papademetriu explained. "Ricardo needs
to dispel that fear." Noting that Vallarino and Martinelli
had recently completed a joint land deal, Papademetriu said
that in the coming months Martinelli would seek to seal an
undisclosed number of business deals in which he would be the
minority partner. "He's gotten a bad rap for being somebody
with whom it's difficult to do business and to make money,"
Papademetriu acknowledged. "I want to be able to show that
the movers and shakers in Panama can do business with
Martinelli." As for the persistent whisper campaign that
Martinelli was "bipolar" and "on lithium," Papademetriu
said, "Martinelli is the classic Italian butcher who likes to
come out from behind the counter to talk politics with his
customers. His manner is brash and direct. Some people
interpret that as crazy." Noting that he was working on
polishing Martinelli's image, Papademetriu said he had sent
Martinelli to public speaking classes with a consultant in
New York, something he hoped to be able to continue. Also,
he said that he would be working to find the best types of
formats and venues in which Martinelli would appear the most
natural and at ease.
Internal CD Dynamics
4. (C) "Democratic Change is dead if Martinelli loses,"
Papademetriu said. CD VP Roberto Henriquez was the only one
really interested in the party as an institution; "He'd make
a good Secretary General. I've been encouraging Ricardo to
give Roberto that job." Noting the need to open up
Martinelli's circle of advisors, Papademetriu said, "Most of
these guys around him work for him and are on his payroll."
Ricardo Quijano, administrative and logistics man, came to
work for Martinelli after failing in the shrimp business.
Economic Advisor and CD Treasurer Frank de Lima,
Papademetriu's roommate at Boston University, worked his way
up from a job in the Super99 grocery chain from "a job I got
him." CD VP and political advisor Roberto argues well on
radio and television, but he never delivers the "take away
message we want to get out there; he's a stuffed shirt."
Papademetriu, however, did not provide any insight into the
kinds of new advisors to which he would like to introduce
Insight into Martinelli the Person
5. (C) "Martinelli is a micromanager," Papademetriu
explained. "He wants to know how thinly the salami is being
sliced and on what shelf the bread is being displayed."
Brash and confident, Martinelli also did not like being
around older people, preferring to hang out with younger
individuals. "Look at his close advisors. Look at me.
We're all young." He was coachable and open to new ideas.
Not wanting to feel like he was dying was one of the reasons
for his relationship with his mistress, Aurora Muradas,
Papademetriu asserted. Asked whether Martinelli would ever
contemplate pulling out of the race, Papademetriu said,
"Absolutely not. He could be at zero percent in the polls,
and he would still spend millions on his campaign." He said
he believed that Vallarino's strategy to create a sense of
inevitability about his candidacy so that he could negotiate
businessman-to-businessman to get Martinelli to step down
lest a divided opposition lose to the PRD was fanciful.
Martinelli was worth in the neighborhood of USD 150 to 200
million, most of which was tied up in land, and was willing
to spend a significant amount of his own money on his
campaign. "He spent USD six million last time he ran."
6. (C) It is no surprise to post that Martinelli intends to
run and is unlikely to step down. In hiring his campaign
manager, Martinelli has taken the first step towards
establishing a formal campaign structure. His willingness to
take speech classes belies reputation as a brash and
headstrong multimillionaire businessman. Additionally, his
willingness to engage "old timers" like Don Sammy and to
conduct missionary work to put movers and shakers at ease
when he would rather run with the young and fun crowd suggest
that Martinelli is amenable to coaching. As Vallarino has
been ramping up his political activities, Martinelli has
become more isolated within an opposition where the
Panamenista Party remains the largest force. His outreach is
also therefore an effort to break down this isolation,
promote his candidacy, and remain on top of the polls.