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Cablegate: Darien Activity Update

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OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #0883/01 3491915
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 151915Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0183
INFO RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC
RUEHGT/AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 0042
RUEHMU/AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
RUEHSJ/AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
RUEHSN/AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR
RUEHTG/AMEMBASSY TEGUCIGALPA 0040
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

S E C R E T PANAMA 000883

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
NOFORN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2034/12/15
TAGS: PREL PGOV SNAR PTER PM
SUBJECT: DARIEN ACTIVITY UPDATE

CLASSIFIED BY: STEPHENSON, AMB; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

FAST Team added to the mix

1. (S/NF) Embassy Panama is advancing on many fronts in our
Darien strategy to deny the FARC and other Drug Trafficking
Organizations (DTOs) safehaven in the Darien. Built around our 1207
funding request, the strategy now includes significant additional
resources from SOUTHCOM, JIATF-South, and DEA that have been
structured to support the overall goal of the strategy. Post is
particularly pleased about DEA's dedication of one of their FAST
teams (Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Team) to Panama to
begin direct counter-narcotics missions in the Darien and other
areas of Panama. This team will work in the Darien with Panamanian
law-enforcement elements to develop sources, evaluate the drug
routes and flow through the region, and support direct law
enforcement action to seize narcotics and arrest traffickers. The
team will also evaluate the possibility of carrying out a joint
arrest mission against FARC 57th Front Deputy Commander Luis
Fernando Mora-Pestana, aka "Silver", indicted in U.S. Federal
Courts for kidnapping an AmCit, and for material support for a
terrorist organization. Four FAST team members are in Panama now
working with the Country Team to define their mandate and examine
existing intelligence. Post has set up an inter-agency working
group to ensure seamless cooperation in the complex intelligence
and logistical challenges the mission will present.

2. (S//NF) Country Team has decided that the FAST team should
initially concentrate on breaking the drug trafficking routes
through the Darien, which have grown exponentially in importance
during the last few months. There are growing indications that DTOs
are storing large amounts of drugs on Panamanian soil, as indicated
by a recent 2.5 ton seizure on the Caribbean coast, and the
discovery of GPS on a captured go-fast with what are believed to be
the coordinates of stash sites. The Gulf of San Miguel in Darien
has become a central node of drug trafficking activity in the
country, and the FAST team will give the DEA the capacity to extend
its activities into the Darien in a more aggressive manner, and
also provide the GOP with an end-game capacity it lacks in such
remote areas.

SEAL Training

3. (S//NF) Post's Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) is
supporting this initiative by having the Counter-Narco Terrorism
Training Team (CNT), manned by SEALs from Special Operations
Command South (SOCSOUTH), shift its training mission to a select
group of the GOP National Frontier Service (SENAFRONT) elite
Reconnaissance Unit. This group would then work with the FAST team
on counter-narcotics missions and on any possible High Value Target
arrest mission. This will entail giving this group more high level
training, and pushing the SEALS (who, along with other U.S.
military trainers, were banned from entering the Darien just two
years ago) deeper into the area. In keeping with their mandate as
trainers, the SEALs will not participate directly in operations.
SENAFRONT has also received training for the last two years from a
SOUTHCOM Joint Planning Assistance Training (JPAT) team that
regularly deploys to the Darien. This unit, which was the first
group of uniformed trainers to enter the Darien, is focused on
basic skills (medical, communications, logistics, maintenance and
basic planning).

MIST

4. (S//NF) ODC also has a SOCSOUTH Military Information Support
Team (MIST) in Panama to support Post's Darien strategy. This team
has conducted a psyop campaign in the Darien in support of
SENAFRONT, encouraging voluntary demobilization of FARC members and
offering rewards for information leading to the capture of key FARC
57th Front leaders, including Silver.

Civil Affairs

5. (S//NF) Post is also awaiting the deployment of Civil Affairs
elements from SOUTHCOM. The initial team of up to three planners
will be sent to assist the GOP elements in charge of the
government's activities in the Darien, both in Panama City and in
La Palma, the capital of Darien. Together with a planner in the
Embassy, they will provide a tremendous boost to the GOP, which
historically is not good at strategic planning and has no recent
counter-insurgency experience, while also giving the Embassy Darien
Working Group day-to-day visibility on the GOP's efforts.

6. (S//NF) In the near future, Post expects to welcome a civil
affairs team that will be able to accompany GOP officials and 1207
contractors deep into the Darien to assure that GOP and 1207-funded
activities are following best practice learned in recent
counter-insurgency operations, to prevent efforts from losing their
focus on reducing the ability of the FARC and DTOs to operate in
the Darien.

Beyond the Horizon

7. (S//NF) SOUTHCOM will have significant military personnel in
the Darien from April to September of this year executing
humanitarian assistance exercises, "Beyond the Horizon," and "New
Horizon" (reprogrammed from Paraguay). These exercises will consist
of Medical Readiness Training Exercises (MEDRETES) and engineering
projects, including construction of schools and health clinics by
U.S. military personnel. This could entail the presence of U.S.
helicopters in the province for the first time, and will probably
represent the largest U.S. military presence in the Darien in 20
years. Post is tying this opportunity into our 1207 strategy, as it
will provide direct benefits to the population, while increasing
the GOP's comfort factor with having U.S. forces in the Darien.
Post believes this will make it easier in the future to get
permission for air assets to operate in the Darien, as may be
required in support of the operations mentioned above.

GOP Coordination

8. (S//NF) The Ambassador has met twice with Minister of the
Presidency Jimmy Papadimitriu to push for robust GOP efforts to
provide better governance in the Darien, and has raised the issue
repeatedly with Vice President/Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Varela.
The Government is committed to working with us, but due to the lack
of any real security or development experts in the government, Post
is seeking a highly competent lower level official to take the
lead. Danna Harrick, Secretary General of the National Council of
Sustainable Development (an IADB-funded economic development
E

investment organization in the Ministry of the Presidency, which
has worked extensively in the Darien), is emerging as a likely
candidate. Harrick has identified a preexisting development
strategy for the Darien, that was completed last year. The plan,
which Harrick estimates would require $25 million in funding and
close inter-agency coordination to succeed, is being analyzed now
in the Embassy and the GOP.
STEPHENSON

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