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Cablegate: Charge Discusses Colombia-Panama Border Cooperation With

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/12/16
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER SNAR PINR ASEC PM CO
SUBJECT: Charge Discusses Colombia-Panama Border Cooperation with
Police Chief

REF: PANAMA 877

CLASSIFIED BY: Brian A. Nichols, Charge' d'Affaires; REASON: 1.4(B),
(D)

Summary

-------

1. (S/NF) Charge d'Affaires met with General Oscar Naranjo,
Director of the Colombian National Police (CNP), on December 15 to
discuss Colombia - Panama law enforcement cooperation. Naranjo
repeatedly stressed that cooperation with Panama would be
completely coordinated with the USG, and that the CNP would pull
back if the USG was ever uncomfortable. He was relieved to hear
that the USG welcomed GOC-GOP law enforcement cooperation, provided
it was coordinated with USG activities. Naranjo said that the
following lines of cooperation were discussed during his December 9
meeting with Panamanian President Martinelli: coordinated border
patrols; GOC participation in a GOP intelligence and operational
facility; intelligence sharing to capture Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC) leaders; lessons learned from combating
urban crime in Colombia; and sharing the CNP's criminal database
with the GOP. Naranjo assured the Charge that the GOC has never
discussed bombing FARC camps in Panama with Martinelli's
government. Naranjo warned Martinelli of Venezuelan involvement in
drug trafficking and support for the FARC. End Summary.

2. (C) Charge d'Affaires met with General Oscar Naranjo, Director
of the Colombian National Police (CNP), and Colonel Jose Luis
Vargas, CNP Intelligence (DIPOL) Chief, on December 15 to discuss
Colombia - Panama law enforcement cooperation, particularly along
the border. DEA Regional Director, ORA Chief, and Deputy Political
Counselor (notetaker) also attended.

Law Enforcement & Intel Cooperation

-----------------------------------

3. (S) Naranjo explained that during a conversation between
President Alvaro Uribe and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli,
Martinelli invited Naranjo to visit Panama to discuss law
enforcement cooperation in the border area. Naranjo noted that
during the Ibero-American Summit in Portugal at the end of
November, Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez and Vice
President / Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Varela had agreed to
negotiate a framework document for law enforcement cooperation,
under the existing bilateral police agreement. Naranjo and Vargas
traveled to Panama December 9, and met with Martinelli, Varela,
Secretary General of the Council of Public Security and National
Defense Olmedo Alfaro, National Police Director Gustavo Perez,
National Border Service (SENAFRON) Director Frank Abrego, and
others. Naranjo noted that Martinelli's presidency provided a
great opportunity for improved bilateral collaboration compared
with Torrijos' presidency.

4. (S/NF/rel Panama) During the December 9 meeting, the following
lines of cooperation were discussed:


-- Coordinated patrols along the border: patrols could be simply
notified to the other country, in parallel on their respective
sides of the border, or with combined units. The GOC would be
comfortable with whatever the GOP wanted;

-- Colombia participating in a GOP intelligence analysis and
operational command facility on Pino Island (which has a GOP
landing strip);

-- Martinelli's request for intelligence sharing to capture
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) 57th Front leaders
(specifically alias "Silver," alias "el Becerro," and alias
"Nader"). GOC agreed and had already sent 26 CNP to Panama on
December 2 to administer polygraphs, expand intelligence sharing,
and help verify the location of FARC camps to determine possible
operational targets;

-- Martinelli told Naranjo that urban crime was booming in Panama,
and was a bigger problem than the FARC. He asked for information
on lessons learned from the GOC's Citizen Security program; and

-- Naranjo offered to share the CNP's criminal database with the
GOP so that the GOP can know if Colombians entering or found in
Panama have criminal records. Naranjo expects this database
sharing to be online within a month.

Warnings re. Corruption and Venezuela

-------------------------------------

5. (S/NF) Naranjo said he warned Martinelli that increased
cooperation could lead him to identify corruption within the GOP,
and Martinelli accepted that. Naranjo also cautioned that
Venezuela plays an increasing role in the drug trade and
counternarcotics cooperation might well bring Panama into frictions
with the BRV. Naranjo cited Amilcar Figueroa as an example.
Martinelli had the same impression regarding BRV ties to
narcotrafficking and Venezuela's threat to Panama. He said
Panamanian authorities might have been able to act against Figueroa
if the Colombian government had advised the Panamanian government
sooner of Figueroa's activities and the arrest warrant against him
in Colombia (Naranjo told us he doubted Martinelli would have been
able to pull anything off). Naranjo agreed to share the GOC's
information on Venezuelan ties to the FARC.

No Plans for Bombings in Panama

-------------------------------

6. (S/NF) In response to Charge's questions on operations against
the FARC, Naranjo and Vargas said that bombings have never been
discussed with the Panamanians. There is no identified target

location yet, and the GOC would defer to the GOP's preference as to
whether any operation would involve solely Panamanian forces
(perhaps those trained in Colombia's Junglas Special Forces
school), GOC advice, or joint forces. This decision has not yet
been made; only target individuals have been identified. Naranjo
added that a bombing operation would likely have politically
problematic ramifications. Coordinated activities along the lines
above would be far more useful.

GOC Will Not Proceed Without USG Blessing

-----------------------------------------

7. (S) Naranjo repeatedly stressed that Colombian cooperation with
Panama would be completely transparent and coordinated with the
USG. The GOC would not take any action with Panama that would
interfere with USG operations in Panama or make the USG
uncomfortable. If the USG did not completely accept the CNP
working with Panama, Naranjo would not do so -- the relationship
with the USG was too important.

8. (S/NF) Though it was a Colombian/Panamanian decision, the Charge
welcomed Colombian - Panamanian security cooperation, as long as
activities were fully coordinated with USG operations in the area.
He said the information Naranjo had just provided would ease any
concerns. DEA Regional Director and ORA Chief also stressed that
direct Colombian - Panamanian police cooperation was welcome and
that their agencies in Colombia and Panama were coordinating.
Naranjo was visibly relieved.

9. (S/NF) The CNP Commander said he had not heard from the GOP
since the GOP's December 10 meeting with Ambassador Stephenson
(reftel). During their December 9 meeting, Naranjo urged
Martinelli to inform the U.S. Embassy in Panama, as he regularly
does the U.S. Embassy in Bogota. Naranjo said that during the
meeting, Alfaro stated that Colombia - Panama cooperation should be
autonomous, with no need to involve the USG. However, Naranjo said
he replied that the USG was Colombia's key partner, and must be
kept informed (especially on any efforts involving high value
targets). Martinelli instructed Varela to inform the U.S. Embassy
in Panama.
NICHOLS

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