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Cablegate: Technical Judicial Police (Ptj) to Be Disbanded

VZCZCXYZ0014
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #1893 3541656
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 201656Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1572
INFO RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUCNFB/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHDC

UNCLAS PANAMA 001893

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR KJUS PGOV PM
SUBJECT: TECHNICAL JUDICIAL POLICE (PTJ) TO BE DISBANDED

REF: PANAMA 400

1. (SBU) Summary: On December 18, the National Assembly adopted a
bill to dismantle the Technical Judicial Police (PTJ) and transfer
most of its investigative personnel from under the jurisdiction of
the Attorney General (AG) to the Panamanian National Police (PNP).
President Torrijos is expected to sign the legislation, which has
been a top 2007 priority, into law promptly. The Torrijos
Administration argued that the PTJ was riddled with corruption and
that Panama would be best served by a strong, well-equipped criminal
investigative arm within the PNP. AG Ana Matilde Gomez strongly
opposed the move, arguing that the Constitution mandated that
criminal investigation belonged under her control. The bill
indicates that personnel within the new investigations division of
the PNP would be under day-to-day control and direction of
prosecutors. Minister of Government and Justice Daniel Delgado
assured the Ambassador in late September that the excellent level of
cooperation U.S. law enforcement agencies enjoy with the PTJ would
continue under the new GOP framework. End Summary.

2. (U) The PTJ, until this legislation is implemented an arm of the
semi-autonomous AG's Office, is Panama's rough FBI equivalent. The
PTJ had traditionally seen itself caught in bureaucratic turf
battles between the Executive and the AG. With passage of this
bill, the Torrijos Administration, through a commanding
Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) majority in the National
Assembly, effectively dismantled the PTJ and placed most of its
functions and personnel (roughly 85 percent) into an investigations
division of the PNP, to be called the Judicial Investigation
Directorate (DIJ). Current PTJ officials moved into the PNP will be
subject to administrative and personnel rules of the PNP. However,
the bill indicates that day-to-day control over the activities of
those PNP personnel will be in the hands of prosecutors. A small
group of forensic and specialized PTJ personnel (some 15 percent)
will remain under the control of the AG, serving largely as crime
scene investigators.

3. (SBU) Formal debate by the National Assembly on the GOP bill was
minimal, and the only strong voice of opposition was AG Gomez, who
argued that Panama's Constitution mandated that the PNP be charged
with crime control and prevention and the AG with criminal
investigation and prosecution. Opposition legislators have
threatened to challenge the constitutionality of the new framework
in the courts. Prospects for such challenges are unknown at this
time, however. The issue was before the public for over a year,
beginning with the dismissal of former PTJ director Jaime Jacome in
December 2006. So far there has been no significant showing of
public concern over the move to replace the PTJ. Media coverage of
the debates has been fairly objective, although the amount of
coverage given to the AG's position indicates the media's support
for her views. There has been no editorial reaction to the new law,
but at least one popular tabloid led with the headline: "The Terror
Returns: The DENI re-born." (Note: The DENI was the Noriega
dictatorship's secret police. End Note.) President Torrijos, who
made this legislation a top priority for 2007, is expected to sign
the bill into law promptly.

4. (SBU) Comment: Post has strong working relationships with
virtually all elements of the PNP and PTJ. Post is actively working
with senior GOP and AG interlocutors to ensure continued smooth
functioning of our key sensitive units, currently within the PTJ.
The GOP's changes have the potential to streamline the process for
U.S. law enforcement agencies' interaction with police entities. As
always, it will depend on the caliber of the individuals in key
management positions, and the resources they dedicate to train their
officers. It remains to be seen whether the GOP will adopt a
structure that maintains much needed checks and balances on the
Executive Branch. Our message will continue to focus on the
importance of investigative and prosecutorial results. Post's Law
Enforcement and Security Working Group (LESWG), headed by the
Ambassador, conveyed that message in a late September session with
Minister of Government and Justice Daniel Delgado.

EATON

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