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Cablegate: Intelligence Chief Proposes Reform to Severely Restrict Usg

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #0901 3561957
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 221957Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0219
INFO RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHMFISS/COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
RUEHGT/AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 0057
RUEHMU/AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
RUEHSJ/AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
RUEHSN/AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR
RUEHTG/AMEMBASSY TEGUCIGALPA 0055
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

S E C R E T PANAMA 000901

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/12/22
TAGS: PREL SNAR EAID ASEC PM PINR
SUBJECT: Intelligence Chief Proposes Reform to Severely Restrict USG
Vetted Units

CLASSIFIED BY: David Gilmour, Deputy Chief of Mission, State, EXEC;
REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (U) This is an action message, see paragraph 5.

2. (S//NF) The head of Panama's Council for Public Security and
National Defense (Consejo, or CSPDN), Olmedo Alfaro, has told
Embassy officers that the GOP plans to introduce new legislation
soon that would make it unlawful for Panamanian government servants
to receive payments from a foreign government. In separate
meetings on December 15 and 16, Olfaro told the Embassy's ICE chief
and RSA chief that the GOP would institute the new measure as part
of its reform of GOP security structures. The Panamanian National
Assembly is currently sitting in extraordinary session until
December 31, and post believes that this new security legislation,
which is rumored to contain other controversial measures related to
wiretaps, could be introduced during this holiday period when
public scrutiny will be less than normal.

3. (S//NF) Such a measure, depending on how it is implemented,
could significantly reduce the effectiveness of our DEA, ICE and
other vetted units. As currently structured, the individual
members of some of those units receive payments from the USG that
supplement their base salaries. In other cases, the heads of the
units are given monthly amounts which cover minor expenses such as
tolls, fuel, meals and costs related to operations. Our ability to
pay the vetted units helps to recruit the best talent from within
the police and intelligence organizations. The vetted units are
absolutely vital to the success of USG law enforcement and
intelligence operations in Panama, which are responsible for more
cocaine seizures than any other country in the transit zone. Any
GOP action that restricts their operation will have an immediate
and potentially detrimental effect on both Panamanian and U.S.
security interests.

4. (S//NF) Post proposes to demarche senior GOP leadership in the
coming days with the following talking points:

- Skyrocketing violent crime is the number-one concern of
Panamanians, and the USG shares that concern and wishes to assist
the GOP in lowering crime levels.

- Sensitive investigative units (SIUs) are vital to the fight
against crime in Panama, and are helping to take violent criminals
off the streets and reduce the flow of drugs, money and weapons
that is fueling Panama's fast-rising crime.

- SIUs work directly with U.S. agencies but serve the interests of
Panama as well as the United States

- Restricting the ability to make payments to SIUs will make it
more difficult to recruit and retain good officers for these units
which have proven to be the most successful in fighting crime.

- The only other countries in this region that restrict payments to
SIUs are Bolivia and Mexico.

5. (C) Post welcomes input soonest from WHA on our approach to the
GOP concerning this matter.
STEPHENSON

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