Cablegate: Panama/Cuba Relationship: Libertad Act Response


DE RUEHZP #1831/01 3382053
R 042053Z DEC 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 001831




E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/01/2014

REF: A. STATE 158768


Classified By: Classified By: Econ Counselor Timothy Lattimer for Reaso
ns 1.4(b)(d)

1. (U) Post provides the following information in response to
Ref. A request. Responses are keyed to the specific
questions identified in Ref. A. Ref. B is Post's information
covering the December 2006- May 2007 time period. Post's
answers to
REFTEL A questions are based on information obtained from 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 to Spain, which has 29 such projects.

5. (U) Panama-based Copa Airlines maintains offices in Havana
and has approximately 20 weekly non-stop flights from Panama
City to Havana. On November 16, 2007, Copa Airlines announced
commencing in May 2008 it will increase its service to Havana
to four daily non-stops (for a total of 28 flights per week).
According to Panamanian business executives, Copa Airlines
is the only major Panamanian company operating in Cuba.

6. (U) According to the GOP's Ministry of Commerce and
Industry (MICI), Panamanian exports to Cuba declined from a
high of $4.3 million in 1998 to $469,590 in 2005. Panamanian
exports to Cuba rebounded during 2006, totaling $1.0 million.
During the first six months of 2007, Panama exported $1.4
worth of goods to Cuba; of which $920,000 was paper and
products. During all of 2006, Panama exported only $152,300
worth of paper and cardboard products to Cuba. Other exports
Cuba are cosmetics, beauty supplies, juices, vegetable
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 2006 Cuban exports to Panama jumped to
$20.7 million; of which $19.9 million was clinker (the
principal ingredient in most cement products), principally
for use in Panama's booming construction industry. During the
first six months of 2007, Cuba exported $12.2 million worth of
goods to Panama; of which $11.8 million was clinker..

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

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 then-President
Ernesto Perez Balladares' Administration, and GOC signed an
Agreement for the Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of
Investments that, among other things, guaranteed that each
country would 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 then-President
Mireya Moscoso's Administration, and GOC signed an Agreement
Relating to Airlines Services between their Respective
Territories and Onward Destinations.

13. (U) On November 5, 2007, under current President Martin
Torrijos, the GOP and GOC signed two transportation
One agreement increased the number of commercial flights
Panama and Cuba (see paragraph 5). The other was a maritime
agreement providing for information exchange, marketing
training, employment exchange and modernization.

Exchange Programs

14. (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?

15. (U) On February 16, 1999, the GOP, under the Perez
Administration, and the GOC signed an Agreement for Cultural
Educational Cooperation.

16. (U) On March 17, 2006, the GOP, under current President
Martin Torrijos' Administration, and the GOC signed a
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 stated that the purpose of eliminating the visa
requirement was to facilitate travel and exchanges between
officials of both countries in order to contribute to an
expansion in bilateral cooperation.

17. (U) The GOP actively supports the GOC's Operation Miracle
(Operacion Milagro) eye surgery program. According to the
GOP, approximately 15,000 Panamanians have been treated by
Cuban doctors in Panama and in Cuba. The GOC sponsors both
free travel to Cuba and free eye care. Operation Miracle has
received the active personal support of First Lady Vivian
de Torrijos, who has traveled to the airport to visit
Panamanians departing for Cuba. The First Lady, along with
GOP Vice Minister of Health Dora Jara, has supervised
and coordinated all Operation Miracle activities. The GOC has
two eye doctors working in Panama on a rotating basis. These
doctors perform pre-screening of Operation Miracle patients
at GOP health facilities. Both GOP and GOC officials
frequently discuss expanding the reach of Operation Miracle
in Panama. The GOP praised Operation Miracle, in presidential
speeches (including President Torrijos' annual September 1
"state of Panama" speech), by sponsoring full-page newspaper
ads extolling
the virtues of Operation Miracle, and on the websites of its
various government agencies. The GOP listed Operation
Miracle as one of the Torrijos Administration 's greatest
accomplishments in a full-page GOP-paid ad regarding its
social development achievements. On March 2, 2007, GOP FM
Samuel Lewis Navarro and GOC FM Felipe Perez visited the
jointly-operated Panamanian-Cuban Eye Surgery Treatment Center
in Veraguas, Panama to highlight the work of Operation

18. (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.

19. (U) On November 5, 2007, Cuban FM Felipe Peres
Roque promised to send 100 Cuban sport trainers to Panama
between January and March, 2008. See paragraph 24.

20. (U) The GOC also provides the GOP with a literacy program
in Panama called "Si Yo Puedo" (Yes I Can).

Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights

21. (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.

22. (C) The GOP has not made any public statements in support
of democracy or human rights in Cuba during 2007. 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 Operation Miracle. 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. While it claims to press the GOC in private to
facilitate democracy on the island, the GOP in its
conversations with USG officials emphasizes the need for
stability in Cuba and downplays encouraging democracy. The
GOP, however, advocates lifting the USG trade embargo on

Diplomatic Visits

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

24. (U) On November 4- 5, 2007, GOP First Vice President and
Foreign Minister Sameul Lewis Navarro lead the GOP delegation
the XXV International Fair of Havana. GOP officials included
Soloranzo, Administrator of the Panamanian Maritime Authority
Carmen Gislea Vergara, Vice Minister of the Ministry of
Commerce and
Industry. Navarro and Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage
the fair. Navarro also met with Cuban Chancellor Peres Roque.

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