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Cablegate: Alleged Kidnap Plot Shows Intel Chief's Hostile Intent,

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DE RUEHZP #0061/01 0402146
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R 092145Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0423
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
RUEHMU/AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
RUEHSJ/AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
RUEHSN/AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR
RUEHTG/AMEMBASSY TEGUCIGALPA 0075
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

S E C R E T PANAMA 000061

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/09
TAGS: PGOV PREL ASEC SNAR PINR KCRM PM CASC
SUBJECT: Alleged Kidnap Plot Shows Intel Chief's Hostile Intent,
Serious GOP Security Flaws

REF: PANAMA 39; 2009 PANAMA 881; 2009 PANAMA 817; 2009 PANAMA 777

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

1. (S//NF) Summary: The head of Panama's intelligence service,
Olmedo Alfaro, has again demonstrated his anti-U.S. bias in his
handling of an alleged kidnapping attempt against President Ricardo
Martinelli. Although Martinelli requested the Embassy's help in
the investigation, Alfaro refused assistance from our law
enforcement and intel team. We later learned that Alfaro
complained to Martinelli that the USG had provided no help.
Embassy Panama believes the alleged plot was a hoax, but the
episode did expose vulnerabilities in the GOP's VIP protective
service and provided an opening for Alfaro to reengage Israeli
security consultants to advise the GOP. End summary.

2. (S//NF) President Martinelli called Ambassador on January 14 to
tell her of a conversation between former State WHA Assistant
Secretary Roger Noriega and Panamanian ambassador to Washington
Jaime Aleman. According to Martinelli, Noriega told Aleman that
the Venezuelan government was planning to assassinate Martinelli,
in a plot directed by GOV intel chief Hugo Carvajal. Martinelli
asked for the Embassy's assistance in providing any information
that might corroborate Noriega's story. The Ambassador tasked our
law enforcement and intelligence team to check. While no evidence
of any plot was found, the law enforcement team found significant
derogatory information on Pedro Ruiz Martin Olivares, whose name
had been provided to RSA by Alfaro. We shared the information and
provided a photo of Martin Olivares so that Panamanian authorities
could either deny him entry or put him under surveillance. When
the president called the Ambassador again the evening of January
14, she advised him that the name check indicated Martin Olivares
was a seriously bad actor. Martinelli asked repeatedly for advice
on whether the GOP should deny entry to Martin Olivares or put him
under surveillance. The Ambassador explained that there were pros
and cons to each course of action, and suggested that the
president's security experts should weigh in before he made a
decision.

3. (S//NF) At the same time that the info on Martin Olivares was
passed to Martinelli, RSA chief relayed an offer to Alfaro from DEA
to make available the Matador wiretap capability to assist in the
investigation. Over the next several days, RSA chief and LEGATT
were in regular contact with Alfaro and repeatedly offered
assistance, including wiretaps. In each case, Alfaro said he had
the investigation under control and did not need any assistance.

4. (S//NF) On January 17, Alfaro informed RSA chief that the GOP
had apprehended three suspects: Isaac Polanco, a U.S. citizen from
Puerto Rico resident in Panama; Javier Guzman, a member of the
GOP's Institutional Protection Service (SPI) assigned to
Martinelli's security detail; and Benjamin Guzman, brother of
Javier. Alfaro believed that Polanco had possibly been a DEA
source, and contacted RSA chief who relayed the information to our
law enforcement team. DEA and ICE officers advised that Polanco is
known locally as an information peddler. He has had limited
contact with the ICE vetted unit, but has never worked as a source
for DEA or ICE. RSA chief passed that information to Alfaro.
Alfaro also believed that Polanco intended to kidnap Martinelli and
sell him to the FARC, who would demand a $10 million ransom.


5. (S//NF) After extensive questioning of Polanco and the Guzman
brothers, Alfaro told RSA chief that all three suspects had
confessed, and Alfaro believed the plot was a hoax. According to
Alfaro, Polanco had concocted the story of a plot and recruited the
Guzmans, and then had offered to sell information about the alleged
plot to the Panamanian intel service. Embassy law enforcement
officers believe the story tracks with what we know of Polanco's
style of operation, and we agree that it was almost certainly a
hoax.

6. (S//NF) Despite the hoax, it appears true that Polanco was able
to recruit Javier Guzman, a member of Martinelli's security detail,
to participate in a plot that Guzman believed was real. This
reveals a serious vulnerability in the GOP's ability to protect
senior officials. According to press reports, Guzman's salary was
$390/month, the typical starting pay for a Panamanian policeman.

7. (S//NF) Meanwhile, Martin Olivares, the subject of the original
name check, never appeared at any Panamanian port of entry.

8. (S//NF) On February 2, Vice President Varela told Ambassador
that Alfaro had complained to Martinelli that the Embassy had not
provided any help in the kidnap investigations. Alfaro believed
this demonstrated that the USG is not a reliable security partner.
As a result, Varela said, Alfaro had moved to bring in Israeli
security consulting firm Global CST to advise on setting up a new
protective detail for Martinelli. Senior GOP leaders had
previously engaged Global CST in late 2009 to conduct a security
study, but disengaged from the company after being advised of the
USG's experience with Global CST in Colombia and Ecuador (ref B).

9. (S//NF) Comment: From the very first time Ambassador met with
Martinelli in early 2009, he displayed an obsessive concern with
being the target of a kidnapping. When Martinelli and his advisors
began lobbying the Embassy in July 2009 for help in setting up a
wiretap operation, the Martinelli kidnap scenario was a recurring
theme. Curiously, Martinelli and his security experts seem not to
realize that Panama City is full of super-wealthy businessmen who
provide ample targets for potential kidnappings, and any of them
would be far easier to abduct and ransom than a head of state who
possesses a multi-layered security apparatus. Alfaro has cleverly
used this episode to feed Martinelli's natural paranoia, throwing
in additional creative elements like a fabricated FARC threat.
Martinelli and Alfaro meet every morning, and by all accounts are
consumed with plots and threats both real and imagined. One source
told us recently that Alfaro has tapped Martinelli's phone, and
another source informed us that Martinelli has appointed a new
number-two at the intel service to keep tabs on Alfaro. At the
same time, Embassy law enforcement officers have detected several
instances of surveillance (ref A) which they believe to be the work
of the CSPDN intel service. Alfaro is increasingly open about his
agenda to replace U.S. law enforcement and security support with
Israelis and others, which not only poses specific threats to our
extensive law enforcement work here, but also bodes ill for
Panamanians' expectations of effective GOP action against
skyrocketing crime.
STEPHENSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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