Torrijos habla de seguridad

19/4/11 - 05:23 PM


ID DOC: 121272
FECHA: 0000-00-00 00:00:00
FUENTE: Embassy Panama

C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 001497




E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/11/2017




1. (C) Summary: In a September 6 office call by SouthCom

Commander, ADM Stavridis, and Ambassador Eaton, an unusually

talkative Panamanian President Torrijos talked about a broad

range of security issues, but studiously avoided mentioning

the elephant in the room: his ongoing political crisis over

the election of Pedro Miguel Gonzales as President of the

Panamanian National Assembly. Torrijos previewed an

intensified campaign against drug lords, no change in

Panama's restrictive refugee policies, a commitment to

fulfill requirements necessary to re-start CNIES, pre-emptive

actions against violence planned by the SUNTRACS labor union,

improved wiretapping capabilities, frustration with the

Attorney General, changes in the Panamanian Police Force

leadership and structure, creation of a Coast Guard, and

comments on Colombia and Nicaragua. End summary.

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Torrijos goes after Colombian capos; gets armored limo

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2. (C) Torrijos announced that Panamanian Security forces had

identified 200 "capos" of the Colombian drug cartels that

were living and operating freely in Panama. He said that the

GOP was going after them and they expected the capos to

strike back. As a result of threats, Torrijos confided that

he is planning to buy an armored vehicle for himself. He

added that Drug Prosecutor Jose Abel Almengor (a close DEA

contact) had been whisked to a safe house with his family in

response to recent death threats. (DEA,s assessment was that

these threats were not credible). Nevertheless, Torrijos

asserted that his government would continue to fight

aggressively against drug trafficking in Panama before drug

cartels gained a permanent foothold here.

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We are not going to be pressured into taking more refugees

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3. (C) Part of the problem, Torrijos said, is that there are

large numbers of Colombian "refugees" in Panama. Costa Rica,

he said, had 50,000 Colombian refugees and 90 percent of

which are associated with drug trafficking and other criminal

activity. Torrijos said that Panama would not bow to UN

pressure to accept more so-called refugees from Colombia

since Panama didn't want to throw out the welcome mat for

criminals as Costa Rica had done.


Torrijos focuses on CNIES


4. (C) Ambassador pointed out that the Cooperating Nations

Information Exchange System (CNIES) is a tool that can help

both Panama and the United States in the fight against

illegal drug traffic. One of the remaining key steps before

that flow of information can resume is the issuance of a

Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) by Panamanian Civil Aviation

authorities. Torrijos seemed surprised that the NOTAM had

not been issued and promised to intervene personally to

ensure that it gets done quickly. Torrijos added that Panama

needs that flow of information and the cooperation it

represents in the fight against drug trafficking.


Troublesome labor union in GOP sights


5. (C) Torrijos praised the abilities of his newly appointed

Minister of Government and Justice (MOGJ), Daniel Delgado

Diamante (DDD), saying he had an excellent understanding of

security issues. Torrijos added that he now has a much

better flow of information from MOGJ since DDD calls him

every morning at 7 a.m. with a security briefing on

developments in the country. DDD, he said, was proactive.

He has great sources inside the restive trade union SUNTRACS

and finds out when they are planning demonstrations or

road-blocks and preempts the demonstrations by being on site

before the demonstrators. The demonstrators can demonstrate,

but they can no longer block the roads or incite violence.

6. (C) Torrijos said that SUNTRACS wants nothing less than to

overthrow the current political and democratic system by

violence, if necessary. "We cannot permit that," he said.

"Our national security is at stake," he added. Torrijos said

that SUNTRACS leaders had given one demonstrator a gun with

instructions to fire it into the air during a planned

demonstration to provoke a violent police response. This

worker, who was out of prison on parole, expressed to his

family his uneasiness about his role in inciting violence.

The family encouraged him to go to Panamanian authorities

with this information. He did and offered the GOP a list of

cell phone numbers of SUNTRACS leadership so that they could

tap them and hear for themselves the plotting of the union,s


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Wiretapping criminals is maddening even for the President

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7. (C) Torrijos said that he personally spent a day

negotiating with Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez to gain

authorization to tap these phones. Gomez, now in hot water

with the Supreme Court for allegedly tapping phones without

proper prior authorization, balked at Torrijos' request.

Torrijos, undeterred, went to the Supreme Court, where he

debated for another half day before getting permission to tap

two phones. The Public Ministry then released the two phone

numbers to SUNTRACS attorneys, as required by Panamanian law.

Torrijos expressed his exasperation with his inability, as

the nation's chief executive, to initiate these sorts of

wiretaps when national security is at stake. He said he

wanted to tap the phones of not just these 20 SUNTRACS

leaders but any other SUNTRAC telephone number he could find.

He said that he didn't want to waste time getting judicial

approval for it either. He then quickly added that he, of

course, would never tap phones for political ends.

8. (C) Torrijos said that these anecdotes show how the Public

Ministry now "is a mess." He criticized the Attorney General

for firing her most experienced prosecutors, leaving in their

place a well-meaning but unprepared second or third string

team. (We share Torrijos, concern).

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Torrijos committed to reform security apparatus

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9. (C) Part of the solution, Torrijos, will be merging the

Technical Judicial Police (PTJ) into the National Police

(PNP). Although the Attorney General opposes this, Torrijos

said he'd push this through the National Assembly before the

end of December. "That will give us a year to make

adjustments so that we can institutionalize these changes

before I leave office," he said. He acknowledged that the

Attorney General and others believe he is "trying to recreate

a dictatorship," but added that he just needed a single and

clear chain of command in the police.

10. (C) Torrijos said that he planned to announce shortly a

change in National Police leadership. Although he praised

the leadership of current Police Chief Rolando Mirones, he

said that the uniformed police wanted and deserved to have

one of their own lead their institution. He did not say when

or by whom Mirones would be replaced. (Note: Rumors have

long circulated of a fierce antipathy between Mirones and new

MOGJ Minister DDD.)

11. (C) Torrijos said that he would also shortly break the

frontier division out of the National Police and create a

separate entity with the specialized training and equipment

they need. "You can't expect someone to protect the frontier

in the jungles of Darien one day and be a beat cop in Panama

City the next." Torrijos anticipated that creation of this

new entity would resuscitate allegations that he's trying to

"remilitarize" Panama.


Panama to establish a Coast Guard


12. (C) Torrijos reaffirmed his commitment to create a Coast

Guard, merging the Maritime and Air Services. Acknowledging

that this merger would create heartburn initially among

members of both services, he proposed naming a Coast Guard

chief who would then oversee the two separate services and

gradually work towards full integration. Torrijos gave no

indication of potential nominees or the timing of this merger.

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Uribe visit could lead to more border cooperation

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13. (C) During Colombian President Uribe's brief visit to

Panama to participate in the September 3, formal ceremony

launching the canal expansion and commemorating the 30th

anniversary of the canal treaty, Uribe crowed to Torrijos

about the recent killing of FARC drug lord Tomas Medina aka

&El Negro.8 Torrijos said that Uribe thought this was a

significant accomplishment and the panic heard in subsequent

FARC radio transmissions demonstrated its significance.

Torrijos further reported that Uribe had felt compelled to

accept Venezuelan President Chavez's offer of support in

negotiating hostage releases from the FARC. However, Uribe

said that he had carefully circumscribed the limits of

Chavez's authority, and Chavez had accepted those

limitations. Torrijos said that Uribe felt that Chavez, who

some have charged with aiding FARC and being a destabilizing

element in the region, was now on the hook to produce results.

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Nicaragua not ripe for change yet; wait a year

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14. (C) Torrijos praised the quick and generous assistance

the USG has provided Nicaraguans in the face of the

devastation of Hurricane Felix. "It's not just the right

thing to do for humanitarian purposes, but also for US

political purposes." He said that Nicaraguan President

Ortega and the Nicaraguan people understand and appreciate

the value of this much-needed assistance. Torrijos said that

we all have a stake in moderating Ortega's politics. "He

still sees the world through the eyes of the 1980s," Torrijos

said. "It will take him a year to understand the world has

changed." Torrijos said that Panama can and should play a

role in that conversion. That's why, he said, he

participated in the anniversary celebration for the

Sandinista revolution. "I had a role in that (revolution),"

he added sheepishly. Torrijos said that the INCAE Director

recently told him that his staff believed that Martin

Torrijos was uniquely positioned to influence Ortega. "I

want to do what I can," Torrijos said. He then announced,

seemingly to Sam Lewis' surprise, that he planned to conclude

a free trade agreement within 30 days with Nicaragua.

"Ortega doesn't like free trade, but he can call this

whatever he wants." He told Lewis that he planned to give in

to the last Nicaraguan demand: free importation of

Nicaraguan meat into Panama. Meat costs are rising in

Panama, he said, and this will help lower our costs.




15. (C) Torrijos seemed to pick up steam as he began talking,

perhaps because he could finally talk about subjects he

enjoyed rather than the current political crisis created by

the election of accused assassin Pedro Miguel Gonzalez as the

new President of the National Assembly.