Viewing cable 04PANAMA995
Title: Rallies, a ceremony, and transition planning.

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
04PANAMA9952004-04-29 20:59:00 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 03 PANAMA 000995 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN/BRIGHAM 
 
 
E.O. 12958:N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PM POL SPECIALIST
SUBJECT: Rallies, a ceremony, and transition planning. 
Panama Election Countdown #13: 2 days to go. 
 
 
Ref: A. Panama 0975 
     ¶B. Panama 0936 
 
 
Summary/Comment: Almost Showtime 
-------------------------------- 
¶1.  (SBU) Presidential candidates staged campaign closing 
rallies throughout the final week before Panama's Sunday, 
May 2 General Elections.  EmbOffs met OAS observers to 
discuss Election Day plans on April 27.  Electoral 
authorities announced final logistical arrangements and 
accepted control of Panama's Public Forces from President 
Moscoso in an April 26 protocol ceremony.  On Election Day, 
Embassy will log and report observer feedback from the field 
and keep Washington abreast of preliminary and final 
results, as well as provide background on the presidential 
and vice-presidential winners. 
 
 
Aleman's last shebang 
--------------------- 
¶2.  (SBU) In a packed but listless gathering in downtown 
Panama City, the Administration-backed alliance candidate, 
Arnulfista Jose Miguel Aleman held his final rally on 
Sunday, April 24.  While the event was crowded and colorful, 
the masses liked the concerts more than the speeches.  At 
least 200,000 Arnulfista, National Liberal Republican 
(MOLIRENA) and Liberal National Party (PLN) followers were 
bussed in from throughout the country to participate. 
Responding to PRD claims that the Arnulfistas would try to 
manipulate voting results (an extremely remote scenario), 
Aleman shot back that the PRD were the "masters of electoral 
fraud" and insisted that Arnulfistas be attentive on 
Election Day. 
 
 
¶3.  (SBU) First Presidential candidate Jesus Rosas reminded 
the multitudes of the opposition PRD's history of 
wrongdoing, even mentioning names of people who disappeared 
during the military regime of late General Omar Torrijos, 
Martin Torrijos' father.  EmbOffs spoke to several GOP 
authorities at the event, many of whom were surprisingly 
enthusiastic about an Aleman win.  On the other hand, GOP 
legislative candidates were positive about being re-elected, 
but confided that Aleman's is losing on their turf. 
 
 
Torrijos says "yes we can" 
------------------------- 
¶4.  (SBU) As well as successful 4/24 and 4/25 rallies 
outside the capital, Martin Torrijos and the PRD staged an 
energetic 4/28 campaign-closing rally in the same Panama 
City venue that their Administration opponent Jose Miguel 
Aleman used just 3 days earlier.  PolOff spoke to several 
Torrijos team members at the event, who were unanimously 
optimistic about a Torrijos win and relieved that the 
campaign is almost over.  None of the mud that opponents 
have thrown at Torrijos in the past weeks has stuck, they 
claimed.  Everyone, including Torrijos supporter, salsa 
superstar, and aspiring cabinet member Ruben Blades, used 
the campaign slogan "yes we can" (si se puede in Spanish) to 
animate the crowd. 
 
 
¶5.  (SBU) Martin's speech was full of crowd-pleasing sound 
bites, but many critics, particularly his Arnulfista 
opponents, considered it devoid of substance.  Torrijos took 
aim at the Arnulfistas, but insisted that he wants to defeat 
corruption, poverty, and unemployment, not just the 
Arnulfistas.  Torrijos' evident appeal to the crowd of over 
100,000 (but not bussed in from other parts of the country) 
exceeded that of highly popular Panama City Mayor Juan 
Carlos Navarro, who spoke first.  Martin's support among 
young Panamanians is unmatched by any of his opponents. 
Several PRD legislative candidates in their early 30s 
remarked to PolOff that they represent the new face of the 
PRD.  One expressed concern that, much like in the U.S., 
young Panamanians are most likely not to vote.  (Comment: 
The untested supposition is that they would vote for 
Torrijos if they do show up at the polls. End Comment.) 
 
 
Endara tops off his tank 
------------------------ 
¶6.  (SBU) Former President Guillermo Endara refuted claims 
by his Arnulfista and PRD opponents that he is physically 
and electorally weak.  Garnering popular support for his 
frugal campaign, Solidarity candidate Guillermo Endara ended 
his six-day caravan on April 27 in Colon, his strongest 
province, by repeating that he is not beholden to campaign 
donors, unlike his opponents.  Endara, who started the 
caravan in the Western Province of Chiriqui, transited the 
provinces of Veraguas, Herrera, Los Santos, Cocle, and 
Panama before arriving in Colon.  Though not a glitzy 
extravaganza, Endara's caravan drew a significant following 
along its course despite a slow start.  Turnout in Colon was 
strong, but small compared to Torrijos and Aleman's Panama 
City rallies. 
 
 
¶7.  (SBU) Panamanians old enough to remember Endara's 
presidency tend to recall him fondly, identify with his 
"ordinary guy" image and respect his reputation for honesty. 
Random EmbOff taxi-driver polls still show him as the 
frontrunner.  In his final speech, Endara shouted, "I'm 
going to win damn it!" ("Voy a ganar, carajo!")  That sort 
of vulgarity is an advantage with Panamanian masses, but 
cause for others to worry about the international image that 
Endara would project.  In his promise to be accountable, 
Endara told voters to "yank on my ears," ("jalar mis 
orejas") if as President he does not live up to his campaign 
promises. 
 
 
OAS Observers discuss plans with Embassy 
---------------------------------------- 
¶8.  (SBU) Chief of OAS' Observer mission to Panama Moises 
Benamor met Ambassador Watt on 4/27 to discuss observation 
plans.  The OAS intends to focus on two issues: (i) hard to 
access areas of the country, and (ii) the role of collective 
actors like the government, the political parties, and the 
press in the electoral process.  In addition to a quick- 
count for TE consumption of presidential votes, the OAS will 
interview voters and electoral officials on their views 
about the electoral process.  Benamor and his colleagues 
also trained OAS international observers and Panamanian 
electoral authorities on election observation.  Emboffs 
exchanged numbers with Benamor and his team and will 
communicate with the OAS delegation throughout Election Day. 
 
 
TE in command of Panama's Public Forces 
--------------------------------------- 
¶9.  (SBU) On 4/26, President Moscoso and Minister of 
Government and Justice Arnulfo Escalona transferred control 
over Panama's Public Forces (National Police (PNP), National 
Maritime Service (SMN), National Air Service (SAN) and the 
Institutional Protection Service (SPI)) to the Electoral 
Tribunal (TE) in a ceremony attended by the entire Moscoso 
cabinet as well as political party and Public Forces 
representatives.  As set forth in Electoral Code Article 197 
control over Public Forces will revert to the executive 
branch after the TE has issued credentials to the President- 
elect (usually a few days after Election Day).  This part of 
Panama's electoral process is a holdover of the transition 
from dictatorship to democracy.  Since the TE has 
coordinated every step of the electoral process with the 
Public Forces, the transfer ceremony was just a formality. 
 
 
Final Electoral Data 
-------------------- 
¶10.  (U) Panama's seven political parties have accredited 
57,766 of their members nationwide to represent them at the 
polls.  Also, 20,124 electoral volunteers will staff polls 
throughout the country.  The Electoral Tribunal (TE) has 
hired, trained, and accredited 4,162 management and support 
staff and 3,243 members of vote counting boards.  Finally 
the TE has rented 7 helicopters, 5 small planes, 8 large 
boats, 160 smaller boats, 1,219 horses and 1,843 vehicles to 
transport staff and materials on election weekend. 
 
 
Moscoso promises smooth transition 
---------------------------------- 
¶11.  (SBU) President Mireya Moscoso announced that soon 
after Election Day she would appoint a commission to 
coordinate transition issues with the President-elect's 
representatives.  Former President Endara appointed a 1994 
transition commission that worked closely with his 
successor, Ernesto Perez Balladares (EPB), but EPB did not 
do the same in 1999 for Moscoso representatives.  Perez 
Balladares' commission ignored meeting and information 
requests, generating a bitter transition.  EPB even used the 
Legislative Assembly he controlled to pass a law exempting 
him from attending Moscoso's inauguration.  (Note: Prior to 
1999, the outgoing President participated in installing the 
new President by transferring the official sash and 
delivering a farewell speech.  End Note.)  When the Moscoso 
government took over they found erased hard drives in 
several government offices and had to hire computer 
specialists to restore lost data. (Comment: Embassy plans to 
press GOP leaders to fulfill Moscoso's pledge to ensure a 
smooth transition.) 
 
 
WATT