Viewing cable 04PANAMA791
Title: Rumors, Observers, and Negative Advertising.

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
04PANAMA7912004-04-02 21:42:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Panama
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PANAMA 000791 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN/BRIGHAM 
 
 
E.O. 12958:N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PM POL SPECIALIST
SUBJECT: Rumors, Observers, and Negative Advertising. 
Panama Election Countdown #9: 4 weeks to go. 
 
 
Ref: A. Panama 0715 
     ¶B. Panama 0651 
     ¶C. Panama 0613 
     ¶D. 03 Panama 3294 
     ¶E. 03 Panama 2451 
 
 
Summary/Comment: One month out 
------------------------------ 
¶1. (SBU) With the May 2 elections just one month away, the 
campaigns and the candidates are entering the home stretch. 
The Electoral Tribunal and the Ombudsman's office are 
focused on Election Day logistics and observers.  Panama's 
media and civil society are investigating candidates' 
backgrounds.  Presidential candidates are campaigning hard 
for votes and pulling out all the stops to find ways to 
discredit their opponents.  Embassy is scanning the horizon 
for signs of potential problems, but has noted none.  End 
Summary/Comment. 
 
 
Latin American Ombudsmen to observe elections 
--------------------------------------------- 
¶2. (SBU) Ombudsmen from Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, 
Nicaragua, Peru, and Puerto Rico, Colombia's Deputy 
Ombudsman, and the Secretary General of the Latin American 
Institute of Ombudsmen (Colombian Isaac Hochman) have 
accepted an invitation from Panama's Ombudsman to observe 
Panama's May 2 General Elections.  Panama's Electoral 
Tribunal (ET) will finance travel for the guest observers, 
who will arrive in Panama a few days before the elections. 
The visiting Ombudsmen will observe polling in areas where 
the ET and/or Ombudsman's office believe election results 
could be controversial.  Electoral Tribunal (ET) 
authorities and Panama's Ombudsman advised EmbOffs about 
the invitation in early March. (See Ref. C.)  (NOTE: Six of 
twenty-nine Embassy election observers will observe polling 
and vote counting in the areas about which the Electoral 
Tribunal has expressed concern. END NOTE.) 
 
 
Press and TI-Panama inform voters 
--------------------------------- 
¶3. (U) NGOs and the press are working hard to brief voters 
about presidential candidates so they can make informed 
decisions on May 2.  Though each presidential candidate has 
published his campaign platform (plan de gobierno in 
Spanish), the average Panamanian cannot or will not read 
them.  Therefore, El Panama America and La Prensa have 
offered the public service of digesting and printing each 
candidate's position on key issues.  Topics range from 
tourism, the environment, and the Panama Canal, to fiscal 
reform, crime and the penitentiary system, sports, and 
culture.  Printed compilations are short and easy to read. 
Panama's chapter of Transparency International announced on 
March 29 that it will broadcast background information for 
all presidential candidates and as many other candidates as 
possible.  TI's Executive Director Angelica Maytin 
announced that TI will distribute information about 
candidates through its website and some published media. 
 
 
Targeting undecided voters 
-------------------------- 
¶4. (SBU) Candidates are targeting independent voters. 
Solidarity candidate Guillermo Endara, running second in 
opinion polls, released another anti-PRD TV advertisement, 
as did Arnulfista candidate Jose Miguel Aleman.  Endara's 
15-second spot highlights public scandals that involved PRD 
leaders like PECC (Ref. D) and CEMIS (Ref. E) and reminds 
viewers of the PRD ties to Panama's 21-year military 
regime.  The clever ad features a man intended to represent 
PRD candidate Martin Torrijos making campaign promises 
while a group of masked men behind him are busily cutting 
up a cake shaped like Panama.  Each has a sign on his 
chest, including "buoys" and "lighthouses" (references to 
the PECC scandal).  When "Martin" turns around, he has the 
word "Zemys" written on his back, pronounced "Cemis" in 
Spanish, like the CEMIS scandal.  At the end of the spot 
Endara points angrily to the group and says, "don't let 
them govern.  These people [PRD] have never changed and 
they will never change." 
 
 
¶5. (U) Front-runner and PRD-PP Presidential candidate 
Martin Torrijos has aired a new tactic in Panama City's 
densely-populated 8-10 electoral circuit.  Its almost 
200,000 registered voters tend to support the Arnulfistas 
or Endara, not the PRD.  This past weekend, Torrijos and 
his large, well-organized staff, brought a "medical tour" 
to the district, offering free veterinary and legal 
services as well.  The PRD has offered free medical 
services in other areas, but in Circuit 8-10 Torrijos took 
special care to make sure that everyone had a favorable 
memory of his visit. 
 
 
Distracting rumors of secret pacts 
---------------------------------- 
¶6. (U) All four presidential candidates have set aside 
substantive issues in favor of negative campaigning. 
Cambio Democratico (CD) presidential candidate Ricardo 
Martinelli's allegations of secret discussions between 
Solidarity candidate Guillermo Endara and Arnulfista 
candidate Jose Miguel Aleman made front-page news on 3/29. 
On 3/30, Endara and Aleman both denied that they met each 
other privately.  Martinelli explained on 3/31 that the 
Arnulfistas had invited him and Endara to a closed-door 
meeting with Aleman, but he declined.  Martinelli later 
denied that he said Aleman and Endara had met, but insisted 
that Endara and Aleman supporters had. 
 
 
¶7. (SBU) Taking aim at Endara, whose consistently anti- 
Torrijos TV advertising repeatedly alleges a MAMI (MArtin- 
MIreya) mutual non-prosecution Pact, PRD-PP candidate 
Martin Torrijos quipped that there must be an ENDALE 
(ENDara/ALEman) Pact.  Endara and his running mates all 
come from the Arnulfista and MOLIRENA parties that support 
Aleman.  In colloquial Spanish, ENDALE means "to give to 
him," and Torrijos implied that the agreement would commit 
the winner to split May 2 spoils with his "friends" in the 
other camp via ministerial and diplomatic appointments. 
President Moscoso has publicly denied any such pacts. 
 
 
What's that Attorney General up to? 
----------------------------------- 
¶8. (U) Rumors of a private meeting in the Western Province 
of Chiriqui between PRD-PP Presidential candidate Martin 
Torrijos and Attorney General Jose A. Sossa quickly became 
a political football.  Torrijos said on 3/29 it was "a 
chance social encounter" and denied meeting privately with 
Sossa.  On 3/30, Arnulfista Presidential candidate Jose 
Miguel Aleman published a full-page letter in print media. 
The letter expressed his "concern" and asked Sossa to 
dedicate himself to investigating corruption cases like 
CEMIS and PECC and disappearances during the military 
regime "instead of harassing journalists and well-reputed 
citizens like Roberto Eisenmann (for libel)." 
 
 
MCMULLEN