Viewing cable 05PANAMA1589
Title: PANAMA'S CSS NATIONAL DIALOGUE INCHES FORWARD,

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05PANAMA15892005-07-28 17:13:00 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 001589 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN 
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON PM POLITICS FOREIGN POLICY
SUBJECT: PANAMA'S CSS NATIONAL DIALOGUE INCHES FORWARD, 
TORRIJOS'S POPULARITY OFF ROCK BOTTOM BUT NO DEAL IS IN 
SIGHT 
 
REF: A. PANAMA 1184 
 
     ¶B. PANAMA 1377 
     ¶C. PANAMA 1415 
 
SUMMARY 
-------- 
¶1. (SBU) Four weeks into the 90-day National Dialogue on 
Social Security (CSS) Reform (reftels A and B), negotiations 
have produced few results other than threats of more strikes 
and demonstrations.  The National Front for the Defense of 
CSS (FRENADESO) is promising to demonstrate on July 28, in 
line with the beginning of the Caribbean Summit hosted by 
Panama, and the SUNTRACS construction union already has 
announced a strike to begin October 6, the day after the 
Dialogue is set to end.  Participants in the GOP-sponsored 
Dialogue, which include labor and civil society groups, have 
expressed doubt about the sustainability of the talks. 
Confirming GOP fears that their agenda is solely political, 
FRENADESO and SUNTRACS have successfully blocked productive 
negotiation thus far, insisting on their maximum programs. 
The GOP has begun to negotiate outside of the Dialogue with 
moderate labor groups such as teachers and doctors, but lacks 
a plan "B" in the event that negotiations fail.  A successful 
conclusion to the 90-day talks seems unlikely.  End Summary. 
 
FRENADESO Loses Ground but Holds Talks at Bay 
--------------------------------------------- 
¶2. (SBU) The GOP is counting on its ability to reach separate 
deals with teachers and physicians, who, it rightly reckons, 
have little in common with blue collar construction unions. 
Thirteen groups are represented in the Dialogue, now 
finishing its fourth week, with the Catholic Church as 
"guarantor" of any agreement reached.  Teachers unions, which 
allied themselves with FRENADESO during the initial May-June 
strikes, now can negotiate with the government as individual 
members at bargaining the table.  The teachers seem to have 
shed their direct links to FRENADESO as FRENADESO continues 
to create delays in the negotiating process.  Evidence of any 
actual progress toward a deal, however, is scanty. 
 
Is the Pot Calling the Kettle... 
-------------------------------- 
¶3. (SBU) Facing an October 5 deadline, the discussions have 
not moved beyond Article 1 of the 180-article law.  In one of 
the few advances made in the talks, participants created 
commissions on finance, pension, and health management to 
discuss CSS administration, with a report due within 30 days. 
 FRENADESO spokesman Andres Rodriguez accused the GOP and 
private sector of intentionally delaying discussions on the 
most controversial topics, such as retirement age and 
contribution quotas, so that the 90-day period would pass 
without those issues being touched upon or modified.  Labor 
Minister Reynaldo Rivera, the GOP's sole representative at 
the talks, responded by pointing out that FRENADESO had not 
presented any concrete proposals.  In the same week, 
FRENADESO also lost its bid to discuss CSS without reference 
to the Law 17 reform bill.  (Note:  Law 17 is the CSS reform 
package that National Assembly passed and subsequently 
suspended so that the National Dialogue could move forward. 
FRENADESO had refused to negotiate at the Dialogue unless the 
law was officially suspended.  End Note). 
 
GOP Machinations: No Plan B 
--------------------------- 
¶4. (SBU) On July 26, twenty-nine civil society organizations 
made a public statement addressed to the Dialogue's thirteen 
sectors to set aside "personal, sectorial, ideological and 
political interests" so that the Dialogue could move forward. 
 They also published a full-page communiqu to the nation a 
day later that asked Panamanian society to hold responsible 
those who create instability and obstacles to dialogue. 
 
¶5. (SBU) Minister of Government and Justice (MOGJ) Hector 
Aleman on July 21 told Pol Specialist that he had already 
begun private negotiations with the teachers' and doctors' 
unions.  His job is to find non-radical groups to negotiate 
with and to isolate the radicals.  According to Aleman, the 
GOP believes SUNTRACS will not accept any solution to CSS 
reforms.  When asked what the GOP would do if the deadline 
passes without an agreement, Aleman only responded:  "We are 
working hard to prevent that from happening."  In a separate 
conversation, Comptroller General Dani Kuzniecky expressed 
disappointment that Cabinet meetings and government 
committees were not discussing the National Dialogue at all. 
Kuzniecky said that the GOP had no plan "B" if the talks 
fail. 
 
Comment: Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire 
-------------------------------------------- 
¶6. (SBU) High public expectations for a National 
Dialogue-negotiated resolution to CSS reform with buy-in from 
all sectors will only create more trouble for the GOP if it 
is caught holding the bag should negotiations fail. 
According to a recent La Prensa poll, 62% of Panamanians hope 
that the Dialogue will come up with proposals to save CSS. 
On the other hand, public support for the National Dialogue 
also indicates that FRENADESO's stalling will not win public 
support.  The pendulum, at least for now, has swung toward 
the government:  in early July, President Torrijos's approval 
rating moved up to 39%, from a crushingly low, CSS-related 
24% in June (reftel C). 
 
DANILOWICZ