Viewing cable 04PANAMA2362
Title: PANAMA FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS AMBASSADOR WATT

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
04PANAMA23622004-09-16 22:03:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Panama
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PANAMA 002362 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN 
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/15/2014 
TAGS: PREL PGOV ETRD PM POL CHIEF
SUBJECT: PANAMA FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS AMBASSADOR WATT 
 
 
REF: A. PANAMA 2273 
     ¶B. PANAMA 2289 
 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR LINDA WATT FOR REASONS 1.5 (B) AND (D). 
 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
¶1.  (C) In a September 7 meeting with Foreign 
Minister Samuel Lewis Navarro, Ambassador Watt 
discussed the Secretary's recent visit to Panama 
and President Torrijos' travel plans to the UN 
General Assembly in New York.  The Ambassador also 
discussed ways Panama could contribute to the 
corruption case of former Nicaraguan President 
Aleman, proposed Uighur resettlement, Panama's 
disrupted relations with Cuba and Venezuela, 
student visas, a U.S. Desk at the Ministry of 
Foreign Affairs (MFA), and Panama's opposition to 
whaling.  End Summary 
 
 
Secretary Powell's Visit 
------------------------ 

¶2.  (SBU) Accompanied by acting DCM, the 
Ambassador congratulated Foreign Minister Lewis 
September 7 on Secretary Powell's successful 
September 1 visit to Panama and highlighted the 
Secretary's positive reaction to President 
Torrijos' inaugural address.  She also shared the 
Secretary's impression of Panama's potential for 
achieving the goals -- pension reform, anti- 
corruption, economic growth, and Canal expansion) 
set out by President Torrijos.  Lewis shared the 
positive evaluation of the Secretary's visit and 
expressed appreciation for his attendance. 
 
 
Foreign Minister's Upcoming U.S. Travel 
--------------------------------------- 

¶3.  (SBU) Foreign Minister Lewis noted that 
President Torrijos and he would travel to New York 
for the U.N. General Assembly in September and 
they are planning to attend a reception hosted by 
President Bush.  Lewis added that he will be 
available for bilateral meetings in Washington if 
necessary, as he also plans to attend the 
swearing-in of Panama's new Permanent 
Representative to the OAS.  (NOTE: After the 
meeting, the Torrijos administration announced the 
appointment of former President Aristides Royo 
(1978-82) to the OAS seat.  END NOTE.) 
 
 
Torrijos Visit to Washington 
---------------------------- 

¶4.  (SBU) Recognizing that the U.S. Presidential 
election would present some complications, the 
Foreign Minister highlighted President Torrijos' 
interest in an early visit to Washington to meet 
President Bush to discuss matters of mutual 
interest, such as Canal Expansion, investment 
opportunities, and political and security 
cooperation. 
 
 
Agrement Request 
---------------- 

¶5.  (SBU) Foreign Minister Lewis presented 
Panama's formal request for Agrement for 
Ambassador-designate Humbert, noting that this was 
the first agrement request made by the Torrijos 
government.  Ambassador Watt promised to forward 
the request to Washington and to process it as 
quickly as possible.  (see Reftel A.) 
 
 
Nicaraguan Ex-President Aleman Corruption Case 
--------------------------------------------- - 

¶6.  (C) The Ambassador followed up on A/S 
Noriega's discussions during the Secretary's visit 
and provided additional background material on the 
corruption case pending in Panama against 
Nicaraguan ex-President Aleman.  The Ambassador 
urged Panama to move forward with its case against 
Aleman, noting that it would send a strong signal 
of Panama's interest in fighting corruption. 
Lewis said that President Torrijos had already 
told him that he wanted to pursue the matter and 
do "everything Panama could" in that regard.  The 
Ambassador and Foreign Minister agreed that on the 
need to convince Attorney General Sossa to move 
ahead.  Foreign Minister Lewis added that the 
Torrijos Government was following closely a 
developing corruption case involving Costa Rica's 
former President and another case involving Banco 
Nacion, an Argentine-owned bank.  With regard to 
the latter, the Foreign Minister expressed his 
concern about corruption allegations involving 
Panama's judicial system, in particular the 
Supreme Court. 
 
 
Uighur Resettlement 
------------------- 

¶7.  (C) The Ambassador asked the Foreign Minister 
for an update on Panama's thinking regarding 
possible resettlement of Uighur detainees from 
Guantanamo Bay, which she had discussed with him 
previously.  The Foreign Minister candidly replied 
that it would be difficult for Panama to agree to 
accept those individuals given the lingering 
controversy over former President Moscoso's pardon 
of the four Cubans accused of plotting to 
assassinate Cuban President Castro.  He said that 
in his view accepting the Uighurs would not be 
good for either Panama or the U.S. at this time. 
He feared that resettlement of the Uighurs would 
be seen as incompatible with the strong stand 
against terrorism that had been expressed by the 
Torrijos government in the wake of those pardons. 
The Foreign Minister said he hoped the USG would 
understand that position.  (See Reftel B.) 
 
 
Relations with Cuba and Venezuela 
--------------------------------- 

¶8.  (C) The Foreign Minister noted that he would 
make no more public comments about re-establishing 
relations with Cuba in the wake of the pardons. 
He added that the Torrijos administration had done 
a good job of distancing itself and the USG from 
Moscoso's decision to pardon the four individuals. 
At the same time, relations with Venezuela were 
back on track, and Panama was preparing an 
agrement request for its Ambassador-designate to 
Caracas. 
 
 
Student Visas 
------------- 

¶9.  (SBU) The Ambassador encouraged Lewis to 
consider extending the validity of visas issued to 
American students in Panama.  Reciprocally, the 
USG would be able to consider extending visa 
validity for Panamanians studying in the U.S. 
Lewis, a Georgetown University grad whose son 
studies at Georgetown, said he had already begun 
working on this and would follow up with concerned 
GOP agencies.  The Ambassador and Foreign Minister 
agreed that it would be beneficial to increase the 
number of U.S. students in Panama. 
 
 
Central America Chief of Mission Meeting 
---------------------------------------- 

¶10.  (SBU) Lewis reiterated his and President 
Torrijos' interest in meeting with participants in 
the upcoming CentAm Chiefs of Mission meeting.  He 
offered full cooperation in ensuring the success 
of the meeting. 
 
 
U.S. Desk at MFA 
---------------- 

¶11.  (SBU) Lewis said he would establish a United 
States Desk at the MFA, dedicated to responding to 
routine Embassy requests (such as diplomatic 
notes, extradition requests, etc.)  The Ambassador 
noted that she wanted to establish smooth working 
relationships between the Embassy and the Ministry 
but not overburden the Foreign Minister. 
 
 
Whaling Issue 
------------- 

¶12.  (SBU) Foreign Minister Lewis said that 
Panama's opposition to whale hunting was "non- 
negotiable."  He cited it as an example of the 
need for consistency in Panama's foreign and 
domestic policy.  Since Panama is trying to 
encourage tourism in the Bay of Panama (a breeding 
ground for whales) it would be inconsistent to 
encourage/allow hunting. 
 
 
Relations with the Dominican Republic 
------------------------------------- 

¶13.  (SBU) Lewis said that the meetings between 
Torrijos officials and the Dominican Republic 
delegation at the September 1 inauguration had 
gone very well.  The Ambassador and Foreign 
Minister agreed that the two new governments 
shared similar challenges and also had much in 
common that could be a basis for collaboration. 
 
 
Parlacen 
-------- 

¶14.  (SBU) Foreign Minister Lewis told the 
Ambassador that Parlacen is ineffective and very 
expensive but contained "all the vices" for 
Panamanians, including immunity for former 
officials.  He said that other Central American 
countries were also critical of Parlacen, with the 
exception of El Salvador, which saw the body as 
providing space for the political opposition. 
While the Torrijos Administration would consider 
proposals to reform Parlacen, Lewis thought major 
changes during the next five years are unlikely. 
 
 
Challenges of New Government 
---------------------------- 

¶15.  (SBU) The Foreign Minister said that the 
Torrijos Administration is confronting the 
challenges of governing and the need to maintain 
fiscal discipline.  He estimated that the Moscoso 
government had added 50,000 government jobs in the 
past five years.  Within the Foreign Ministry 
alone, he estimated 25% of the payroll was in 
excess of requirements.  He vowed to cut those 
positions despite the political pressures to 
provide as many jobs as possible to party 
supporters. 
 
 
Priorities for U.S. Assistance 
------------------------------ 

¶16.  (C) In response to a question from the 
Ambassador, Lewis predicted that Minister of 
Government and Justice Hector Aleman would be a 
good friend to the U.S.  The Foreign Minister 
encouraged the Embassy to work closely with Aleman 
and supported an early Aleman visit to Washington. 
He expressed interest in maximizing the 
effectiveness of USG assistance programs targeted 
at the Panamanian Public Forces and shared the 
Ambassador's desire for complementarity between 
U.S. and Panamanian resources devoted to security. 
 
 
ILEA 
---- 

¶17. (SBU) With regard to the proposed 
International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) for 
Central America, the Foreign Minister said he 
thought the best way forward would be for the 
academy to fall under the umbrella of the Ciudad 
del Saber (City of Knowledge).  The Ambassador 
said that the ILEA issue was currently on hold, 
but promised to keep this in mind.  The Ambassador 
and Foreign Minister agreed that the Ciudad del 
Saber could be more effective if it were better 
focused and marketed. 
 
 
¶18. (C) Comment:  This was VP/Foreign Minister 
Lewis' first bilateral courtesy call, taking place 
prior to his formal greeting to the diplomatic 
corps on September 10.  Throughout the tour 
d'horizon, Lewis emphasized the desire of 
President Torrijos to foster a very close and 
collaborative relationship with the United States. 
Reflecting that commitment, Lewis joined the 
Ambassador's 9/13 courtesy call to the Minister of 
Government and Justice and met separately with 
Embassy officers for a briefing on the nuts and 
bolts of extradition requests, force protection, 
and related issues. He intends to speak frankly 
and asks the same of us.  Lewis will capitalize on 
his family's business and political connections in 
Washington to promote Panama's interests.  We 
expect a more dynamic, well-run, and coherent 
foreign ministry and foreign policy under his 
direction. 
 
 
WATT