Viewing cable 05PANAMA437
Title: CODEL TAYLOR MEETS PANAMANIAN PRESIDENT MARTIN

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05PANAMA4372005-02-25 20:43:00 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 000437 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN 
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD 
VANCOUVER FOR CG ARREAGA 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PM POL CHIEF
SUBJECT: CODEL TAYLOR MEETS PANAMANIAN PRESIDENT MARTIN 
TORRIJOS, INSPECTS DARIEN BORDER REGION, VIEWS JCET AT 
FORMER FT. SHERMAN 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
¶1.  (SBU) In a 48-hour visit during February 20-22, Codel 
Taylor toured the Darien border region by helicopter, met 
with senior Panamanian officials (including President Martin 
Torrijos) and viewed a joint combined training exercise 
(JCET) in Chagres National Park (former Ft. Sherman) that 
included U.S. Navy SEALS and members of the Panamanian Public 
Forces (PPF).  Rep. Taylor told Torrijos that he is very 
favorably impressed by the stronger border police presence 
and improved scope of its mission, compared with several 
years ago.  He also was impressed by Canal maintenance and 
modernization plans, commenting separately to Canal 
Administrator Alberto Aleman Zubieta on the "symbiotic" 
economic relationship between Canal expansion and U.S. Gulf 
states (such as Taylor's home state of Mississippi).  End 
Summary. 
 
GOP Goes All Out 
---------------- 
¶2.  (SBU) The Panamanian government (GOP) worked hard to make 
Codel Taylor a success.  Vice Foreign Minister Ricardo Duran, 
Panama Canal Administrator (ACP) Alberto Aleman Zubieta, and 
Ambassador to the U.S. Federico Humbert briefed the Codel 
shortly after its Feb. 20 arrival.  Minister of Government 
and Justice (MOGJ) Hector Aleman accompanied the Codel during 
its Feb. 21-22 tour of the Darien border province, where 
Panama City Mayor (and presidential hopeful) Juan Carlos 
Navarro joined the group.  Panamanian National Police (PNP) 
and National Maritime Service (SMN) Director Generals Gustavo 
Perez and Ricardo Traad escorted the Codel during its trip to 
Ft. Sherman.  Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis attended the 
impromptu Feb. 22 courtesy call with President Torrijos.  And 
Torrijos lent the Codel the Presidential helicopter for 
Taylor's trip to the Darien. 
 
Codel Taylor 
------------ 
¶3.  (U) (Note: The four-member Codel comprised Rep. Gene 
Taylor (D-Mississippi); House Armed Services Committee (HASC) 
counsel Jim Schweiter; U.S. Special Operations Command 
(SOCOM) legislative director Col. Chris Perkins; and U.S. 
Army legislative liaison LtCol Mike Legg.  Charge and POL 
Counselor accompanied Codel on its visit to Darien.  End 
note.) 
 
In the Darien 
------------- 
¶4.  (SBU) Codel Taylor's objective in Panama was to monitor 
conditions in Panama's Darien border region with Colombia, a 
sparsely populated (circa 50,000 inhabitants) but 
ecologically rich province, which has suffered from 
instability in recent years due to spillover from Colombia's 
civil war and from environmental degradation.  The GOP's 
presence in the region, aside from security forces, is weak. 
Codel (accompanied by MOGJ Aleman and PNP Commissioner 
Modesto Sauri) flew Feb. 21 in two rotary wing aircraft 
(including the presidential Sikorsky) to Meteti (Darien's 
largest town) to refuel, Puerto Obaldia (on the Caribbean 
coast at the Colombian border), the riverside interior 
village of Boca de Cupe, and Darien administrative capital La 
Palma on the Tuira River.  Codel visited PNP police garrisons 
at each location and received briefings on the local security 
situation. 
 
¶5.  (SBU) Small contingents of Colombian FARC (and also AUC) 
guerrillas have used Darien province over the years as a 
resupply and rest area, PNP officials told the Codel.  In 
recent years, reinforced militarized police border 
contingents in population centers, such as Puerto Obaldia 
(with around 80 police) and Boca de Cupe (around 140 police), 
have countered the FARC and pushed it into unpopulated areas. 
 The PNP (with U.S. training and equipment) has brought 
greater stability to the border region, although it is not 
strong enough to drive the FARC out of Panama altogether.  In 
a place without roads, travel on foot in difficult and time 
consuming.  PNP officials said that they often apprehend 
Ecuadorian, Peruvian, Chinese, and other migrants who try 
pass through the border region on their way to the United 
States.  Also, narcotraffickers use the Atlantic and Pacific 
coastal seas to move narcotics.  PNP officials said they had 
seized hundreds of kilograms of cocaine recently and that 
interrogations of suspects had aided the PNP to seize arms 
shipments in other parts of Panama. 
 
From Nature Lodge To Ft. Sherman 
-------------------------------- 
¶6.  (SBU) After meeting with Darien governor Juana Lopez and 
La Palma Mayor Benigno Ivarguen, Codel proceeded from La 
Palma via the Tuira River by NAS-donated 29-foot patrol craft 
to an isolated nature lodge at Punta Patino to spend the 
night, where Panama Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro joined the 
group.  On Feb. 22 Codel returned to Panama City where it 
boarded a UH-60 U.S. military (Blackhawk) helicopter for the 
30-minute flight to former Ft. Sherman to view the Ft. 
Sherman JCET in Chagres National Park.  The exhibition 
consisted of simulated firing and the extraction of troops 
via motor launch from the far bank of the Chagres as the 
Codel watched from Fort San Lorenzo, a 17th century Spanish 
fort and tourist site.  After returning to Panama, Codel met 
with President Torrijos. 
 
Meeting With Torrijos 
--------------------- 
¶7.  (SBU) Rep. Taylor told Torrijos that he had followed the 
Colombian civil war closely and was interested in border 
conditions in Colombia's neighbors, including Panama.  Taylor 
praised the PNP's substantially greater numbers, especially 
compared with what he saw during his previous visit to the 
Darien several years before, and said the caliber of the PNP 
forces was "outstanding."  Taylor also praised Panama Canal 
maintenance and modernization plans, adding that the 
"naysayers" on the subject of the Canal transfer had been 
proven wrong.  Taylor urged the GOP to make known its 
specific construction plans so that U.S. ports can make 
adjustments.  For instance, ACP Administrator Aleman had 
mentioned plans to increase lock depth to 50 feet (from 36 
feet), which will have implications for Gulf ports, Taylor 
said.  FM Lewis told Taylor of GOP plans to send teams to 
U.S. ports to explain the Canal plans once they are made 
public and approved by Panamanian voters in a referendum that 
is expected to take place in late 2005 or early 2006. 
 
¶8.  (SBU) Mentioning fiscal and social security reforms and a 
planned late-2005 Canal referendum, Torrijos said his 
government is engaged in making structural changes for the 
benefits of the population.  Panama could become a key 
anti-terrorism partner of the United States, he added.  On 
the Free Trade Agreement, Panama wants treatment at least 
equal to CAFTA.  FM Lewis argued that Panama is hardly a 
trade threat to the United States, adding that the GOP's 
biggest preoccupation at the FTA talks is how to protect its 
key sectors of rice, poultry, pork, and sugar.  Torrijos 
asked for Taylor's vote on the FTA when it comes to the U.S. 
Congress. 
 
¶9.  (U) Codel Taylor did not have the opportunity to clear 
this message. 
 
Watt