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Cablegate: Opposition Activist Gives Account Of

P 132221Z DEC 89
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7231
INFO SECDEF WASHDC
DIA WASHDC
USIA WASHDC 8099
USLO CARIBBEAN
USCINCSO QUARRY HTS PM
AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
AMEMBASSY TEGUCIGALPA

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 PANAMA 08566

E.O.12356: DECL:OADR
TAGS: PHUM PINR PGOV PREF PREL PM
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION ACTIVIST GIVES ACCOUNT OF
REGIME TORTURE

1. SECRET - ENTIRE TEXT.

2. SUMMARY. CHRISTIAN DEMOCRAT GUSTAVO CEDENO
(STRICTLY PROTECT), WAS ARRESTED BY REGIME
AUTHORITIES ON DECEMBER 5, DETAINED FOR 21 HOURS,
BEATEN, AND QUESTIONED ABOUT A POSSIBLE NEW COUP
ATTEMPT. HE WAS FORCED TO SIGN STATEMENTS AGAINST
THE CHURCH AND CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY (PDC)
PRESIDENT RICARDO ARIAS CALDERON, AND WAS
REPORTEDLY ENLISTED TO SPY ON THE OPPOSITION
BEFORE BEING RELEASED. CEDENO HAS SOUGHT REFUGE
AT A U.S. MILITARY FACILITY. END SUMMARY.

3. CEDENO, A CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC RATY ACTIVIST,
MET WITH POLOFF ON DECEMBER 9 TO REPORT HIS ORDEAL
AND DISPLAY HIS BRUISES (CEDENO COULD BARELY WALK
AND HAS SINCE SOUGHT REFUGE ON A U.S. BASE.)
ACCORDING TO CEDENO, ON DEC. 5, TWELVE ARMED MEN
TOOK HIM FROM HIS HOME IN PANAMA CITY. HE WAS
PLACED IN A CAR WHERE A FRIEND, HECTOR ANTONIO
ARROCHA RIVAS, HANDCUFFED AND HOODED, WAS
WAITING. IN SPITE OF THE HOOD, CEDENO CLAIMS HE
RECOGNIZED ARROCHA. ONE OF THE ARMED MEN SHOVED
CEDENO'S HEAD DOWN BETWEEN HIS KNEES. FROM THIS
POSITION, CEDENO COULD SEE THAT ARROCHA WAS NOT
WEARING SHOES AND HIS FEET WERE BLOODY BECAUSE HIS
TOENAILS HAD BEEN PULLED OUT.

4. A HOOD WAS THEN PLACED OVER CEDENO'S HEAD.
ALTHOUGH HE COULD NOT SEE, HE BELIEVES HE WAS
TAKEN TO FDP HEADQUARTERS IN DOWNTOWN PANAMA
CITY. THERE HE WAS STRIPPED TO HIS UNDERWEAR,
TAPE WAS PLACED OVER HIS EYES, AND HE WAS BEATEN
AND INTERROGATED CONTINUALLY FOR 20 HOURS (LARGELY
ON THE LOWER BACK, BUTTOCKS AND THIGHS) BY
DIFFERENT TEAMS OF MEN USING RUBBER HOSES. AT ONE
POINT, A HAMMER WAS USED TO SMASH THE MIDDLE TOE
ON BOTH FEET. A DOCTOR WAS PRESENT AND CUT OPEN
THE BLOOD BLISTER THAT FORMED ON ONE TOE AND TOLD
HIS TORMENTORS THEY COULD NOT HIT THAT TOE ANY
LONGER. AT ANOTHER POINT, HE WAS THROWN INTO A
TANK OF COLD WATER. TWICE HE LOST CONSCIOUSNESS.

5. CEDENO STATED THAT QUESTIONING CENTERED AROUND
AN ALLEGED COUP ATTEMPT HIS CAPTORS ASSUMED MIGHT
TAKE PLACE IN MID-DECEMBER. CEDENO SAID THAT IN
ORDER TO SATISFY HIS INTERROGATORS, HE MADE UP A
STORY SAYING THAT SUCH A RUMOR MIGHT HAVE GOTTEN
STARTED BECAUSE PEOPLE BELIEVED NORIEGA WAS HAVING
TROUBLE PAYING THE FDP.

6. CEDENO, WHO ONCE WORKED IN THE NATIONAL
INVESTIGATIVE POLICE (DENI) BETWEEN 1968-70,
CLAIMED HE WAS ABLE TO RECOGNIZE A NICKNAME USED
FOR PANAMA DEFENSE FORCES (FDP) COL. AROSEMENA
KING, NOW HEAD OF G-5 (CIVIC AFFAIRS). CEDENO
BELIEVES AROSEMENA KING WAS ONE OF THE MEN WHO
THREATENED HIM AND TRIED TO ENLIST HIM TO REPORT
ON THE OPPOSITION.

7. CEDENO SAID HE WAS PROMISED HIS RELEASE AND
THAT HIS PARENTS AND BROTHER WOULD NOT BE HARMED
IF HE WOULD AGREE TO SPY ON THE OPPOSITION. HE
CLAIMS HE AGREED AND, TO LEND CREDIBILITY TO HIS
PROMISE, BARGAINED FOR AND SECURED A MONTHLY
STIPEND OF USDOLS 1,000. (CEDENO SAID HE INFORMED
PDC PRESIDENT ARIAS CALDERON OF THIS "ARRANGEMENT".)

8. BEFORE HIS RELEASE, CEDENO SAID HE WAS
REQUIRED TO SIGN A NUMBER OF STATEMENTS. ONE
ACCUSED ARIAS CALDERON OF COMPLICITY IN A COUP
PLOT. ANOTHER ACCUSED PANAMA CITY'S CATHOLIC
ARCHBISHOP MARCOS MCGRATH OF RUNNING AN ILLEGAL
PRINTING PRESS IN THE SAME LOCAL CATHOLIC
SECONDARY SCHOOL.

9. CEDENO SAID THAT IT WAS HIS IMPRESSION THAT
THE G-2 HE HAD KNOWN WHEN HE HAD WORKED AT THE
DENI SOME 20 YEARS AGO NO LONGER EXISTED. IN HIS
VIEW, THE CURRENT G-2 CONTAINED "DANGEROUS AND
STUPID" ELEMENTS.

10. COMMENT. EXCEPT FOR THE BRUISES ON HIS BODY
AND THE DAMAGED TOES, WE HAVE NO WAY OF VERIFYING
ALL OF CEDENO'S STATEMENTS. HIS PHYSICAL
CONDITION, HOWEVER, AND THE DETAIL WITH WHICH HE
WAS ABLE TO DESCRIBE HIS EXPERIENCE PROVIDES ADDED
INSIGHT INTO SOME OF THE THINKING AND METHODS OF
NORIEGA'S THUGS.

BUSHNELL

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