Viewing cable 05PANAMA1688
Title: PANAMA USAID BOOSTS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05PANAMA16882005-08-12 20:03:00 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 001688 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN 
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM EAID PREL PGOV PM POL OMS
SUBJECT: PANAMA USAID BOOSTS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN 
DARIEN REGION 
 
Summary 
------- 
¶1. (U) Now in its second year, the USAID-funded Darien 
Development program can boast significant achievements. 
The local community sees the USAID programs as the most 
successful aid effort in the area.  It has boosted micro 
enterprises, improved market access, and advanced 
sustainable forestry in the region.  The three-year, $6 
million dollar program is nearing its ending point in FY 
¶2006.  End Summary. 
 
Successful USAID Efforts Reach More Darien Communities 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
¶2. (U) On Tuesday, August 2, POLINTERN met with USAID 
Officials to discuss the Agency's ongoing work in Darien 
Province. USAID originally selected 55 communities to 
take part in its Darien Program, although that number has 
grown to 63.  Communities selected are small and 
isolated, with populations comprising rural dwellers, 
indigenous groups (Embera, Wounann, Kuna, and Choco), 
Afro-Darienitas and Colombian refugees.  In an effort to 
determine local needs and development goals, USAID 
representatives sit down to plan ideas with community 
leaders.  USAID provides materials, technical assistance, 
and training to build, for example, aqueducts, schools, 
tree nurseries, etc. while communities provide their own 
labor.  Additionally, USAID has assisted fledgling micro 
enterprises to sell handicrafts and artisan products. 
 
¶3. Among many achievements, rehabilitation of market 
roads has helped residents of remote villages reach 
Meteti, the Darien's biggest town, in two days instead of 
three, encouraging more economic exchange on both ends. 
USAID also helps farmers to manage, warehouse, and export 
a popular root crop called nyame.  Best from the Darien, 
the root is used for soups and purees.   USAID is 
promoting eco-tourism as another income generator for 
parts of the province.  Moreover, USAID is working with 
indigenous communities to promote sustainable community 
forestry and cattle ranching in an effort to slow 
deforestation. 
 
Darien Gap Poses Security and Transportation Constraints 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
¶4. (SBU) USAID selects communities along passable roads 
and navigable rivers to more easily meet with leaders and 
provide construction materials.  USAID has some programs 
within 50 kilometers of the Colombian border.  In part, 
the choice of locations is due to the Darien Gap in the 
Pan-American Highway.  However, President Martin Torrijos 
has been non-committal in public regarding Colombian 
President Uribe's request to complete the Panamanian 
Highway through the Darien Gap.  In private, senior GOP 
officials tell us that approval of the Colombian proposal 
is unlikely. 
 
¶5. (SBU) Security issues in the Darien near the Colombian 
border involve the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia 
(FARC) and other paramilitary groups crossing into the 
border regions.  Chu stated that USAID has avoided 
involving communities near the border in the Darien 
Program due to the security threat to project 
implementers.  She noted that communities closer to the 
border sell goods and livestock to FARC members.  She 
claimed that trade is a purely economic exchange not due 
to sympathy with the FARC. However, the trade attracts a 
greater FARC presence and risks occasional threats from 
opposition paramilitary forces operating in the area such 
as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). 
 
Security Regarding Police Redeployment 
-------------------------------------- 
¶6. (SBU) Recently, PNP Director Perez redeployed police 
from the Darien region to help quell recent strikes in 
Panama City against President Torrijos' Social Security 
reforms.   Chu said this had not affected local security 
because few of the communities where USAID operates have 
a daily police presence.  As Embassy has reported 
elsewhere, however, these deployments have placed a 
strain on the PNP including morale of units stationed in 
Darien. 
 
The Outlook for Future Programs: Deforestation 
Jeopardizes San Miguel's Shrimpers 
------------------------------- 
¶7. (SBU) USAID officials noted that the Gulf of San 
Miguel, an inlet of the Gulf of Panama on the Pacific 
Coast, is of particular importance to Panama as it is 
home to nearly 80% of Panama's shrimping industry. 
Deforestation in this area could have an impact on 
coastal water quality, dealing a serious blow to the 
shrimpers. However, neither public officials nor the 
private sector have made watershed protection a priority. 
USAID has no current plans for San Miguel but would like 
to support a potential program spearheaded by a local 
business, NGO, etc. 
 
 
 
Comment 
------- 
¶8. (SBU) Programs that encourage lasting infrastructure 
in the Darien such as roads and water pipelines are 
essential for the economic and political integration of 
this isolated area.  Those priorities are even more 
relevant considering that President Torrijos and other 
GOP officials have made it clear they will make no 
decision in the short-term to complete the Darien Gap in 
the Pan-American Highway System.  In addition, a greater 
capacity to interact with larger, neighboring communities 
is a key defense for smaller communities against possible 
spillover from the Colombian conflict.  During 
POLINTERN's July 14 trip to the Darien, most villages on 
the Metiti Police map showed a pushpin indicating drug 
trafficking, people trafficking, FARC presence, or AUC 
presence. 
 
¶9. (SBU) Deforestation is obvious in and around the Pan- 
American Highway.  The tree line has receded visibly from 
the road while livestock and ranches dot much of the 
landscape.  Not only does this pose a continuing risk to 
the region's ecology, it could also hinder Panama's 
attempt to mirror Costa Rica's eco-tourism boom. 
 
ARREAGA