Cablegate: Panama: Pmg's Day of Mourning Resolution "Will Not


DE RUEHZP #1867/01 3472207
R 132207Z DEC 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 001867



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/12/2017

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


1. (C) "Pedro Miguel's bill to declare December 20 a National
Day of Mourning will not pass," First VP and FM Samuel Lewis
assured Ambassador in a December 13 telcon. The day before,
National Assembly Deputy Juan Manuel Peralta, at the behest
of National Assembly President Pedro Miguel Gonzalez (PMG),
presented draft legislation to establish December 20 -- the
anniversary of the initiation of OPERATION JUST CAUSE -- as a
National Day of Mourning. (Note: PMG is under federal
indictment on several counts in connection with the 1992
murder of a U.S. serviceman.) Ambassador expressed his
relief at Lewis' reassurance, adding that such a bill signed
by President Torrijos would complicate our bilateral
environment. Lewis said he fully agreed, reiterated that
this resolution would be stopped, and noted that this latest
incident highlighted the difficulties that the Torrijos
Administration faced in dealing with PMG. Post strongly
recommends against any effort to take PMG head on as it is
precisely a clash with the U.S. that PMG seeks to propel
himself politically.

Justification for the Bill

2. (SBU) In six paragraphs, the justification (exposicion de
motivos) required by National Assembly rules to accompany any
proposed draft bill (anteproyecto) goes on a polemical,
anti-American tear. The opening paragraph, presenting Panama
as a jilted U.S. ally, provides a good sample of the vitriol
behind PMG's initiative:

"During a historical period of our national life fraught with
political and social transformation, homes pummeled by the
economic crisis caused by the economic siege imposed by our
ever ally, the United States of America, and at a time when
thousands of Panamanian homes were preparing to celebrate,
with the best that they had within their reach, the birth of
the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ, the most powerful army
in the world, in an irresponsible manner, lashed out vilely
against the men, women, and children of El Chorrillo (a
neighborhood in Panama City) and nearby areas, that at the
moment in which they were dreaming of presents from the
heavens jumped to their feet."

3. (U) The justification goes on to assert, "Blows when they
come from friends or relatives hurt for all eternity." The
purpose, therefore, of the proposed resolution is to give an
outlet for the mourning "in the hearts of the Panamanian
people," and to reflect on the facts and circumstances that
led to JUST CAUSE so that "no such act is ever repeated." To
achieve these goals -- mourning and reflection -- the bill

-- order the flag to be flown at half-mast;
-- prohibit the sale of liquor;
-- urge all churches to pray for "justice and peace;"
-- dedicate one hour of class time to the "study and
analysis" of the events of December 20; and
-- ask that "murals alluding to the date" by displaying the
"culture of peace among all Panamanians" be displayed.

The Bill

4. (U) The National Assembly promptly admitted the draft
proposed bill (anteproyecto) as a draft bill (proyecto) on
December 12 and referred it to its first of three required
debates. The draft bill would decree that December 20 be
declared annually to be a Day of National Mourning during
with the Panamanian flag would be flown at half-mast on which:

-- Radio and television broadcasters would not broadcast
"raucus" music;
-- The sale and consumption of alcohol would be banned;
-- Public music "spectacles" not be allowed;
-- It would be also a Day of Reflection;
-- Public offices would display "murals" underscoring "the
culture of peace and fraternity among all inhabitants of the
Panamanian isthmus;

The draft bill also calls for the Statistics and Census
Directorate of the Comptroller General's Office, for the 2010
census, to provide the number of Panamanians that perished in
the "December invasion" and for the Attorney General's Office
to investigate whether "other" mass graves exist in which the
fallen from the invasion are buried and, if they are found,
exhume the bodies to account for these fallen individuals.
(It would, however, be a work day.)

Negative Reactions

5. (SBU) Opposition Panamenista Party members are considering
a bill to make June 10 a Day of National Mourning. (Note:
June 10, 1987 -- known as Black Friday -- was the date on
which Noriega thugs lashed out at a peaceful demonstration by
the Civil Crusada with clubs, dogs, tear gas and live
gunfire.) Some business groups are upset that this National
Day of Mourning would quickly become a paid, day-off only
five days before Christmas.


6. (C) . In addition to pushing his National Day of Mourning
resolution, PMG yesterday also called for the abrogation of
the Salas-Becker Maritime Cooperation Agreement, a
cornerstone of the U.S.-Panamanian counternarcotics
cooperation, on the grounds that it "unconstitutionally"
allowed a foreign power to seize Panamanian nationals aboard
Panamanian flagged ships.

7. (C) . PMG is desperate for attention. Since discussion
here of the impact of PMG's election on the U.S.-Panama Trade
Promotion Agreement (TPA) has ebbed away, PMG has found
himself unable to sustain the public profile that he desires.
Taking shots at the U.S. and striving to put Torrijos in an
awkward position with respect to his relationship with the
U.S., PMG is attempting to recuperate a measure of public
notoriety. Most Panamanians are scratching their head about
PMG's shenanigans and accept, though perhaps not as vocally
as they could, that JUST CAUSE removed a dictator and
restored democracy. PMG's political maneuverings will also
test the patience of PRD deputies who wished to exert the
independence of the National Assembly by electing PMG
president to the consternation of Torrijos but who are not
comfortable with PMG's retrograde and backward looking
antics. Finally, this incident also highlights the depths to
which legislative-executive relations have sunk since PMG's
election. Post recommends strongly against any frontal
assault on PMG's antics. If pressed for comment, a pithy
reminder that the U.S. wishes to look forward, not backward,
and is very heartened to have had a democratic partner for
these past seventeen years to work with on a a broad, deep,
and mutually shared agenda should suffice.


© Scoop Media

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