Viewing cable 06PANAMA320
Title: PANAMA: G/TIP AND WHA/PPC VISIT TO PANAMA FEBRUARY

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06PANAMA3202006-02-17 21:11:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Panama
VZCZCXYZ0031
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #0320/01 0482111
ZNR UUUUU ZZH (CCY  ADX 94A1D4/MSI0592)
R 172111Z FEB 06
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 7422
UNCLAS PANAMA 000320 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
G/TIP LINDA BROWN 
WHA/PPC MIKE PUCCETTI 
WHA/CEN GREG SCHIFFER 
 
------C O R R E C T E D  COPY-----ADDING CAPTION 
 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM PM
SUBJECT: PANAMA: G/TIP AND WHA/PPC VISIT TO PANAMA FEBRUARY 
8-9, 2006 
 
 
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 SUMMARY 
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¶1.  (SBU)  Embassy greatly appreciated the visit of GTIP 
Reports Officer Linda Brown and WHA/PPC Senior Advisor Mike 
Puccetti.  Meetings with Government of Panama (GOP), EmbOffs, 
and visits to NGO were productive and helpful.  Embassy looks 
forward to working with GTIP to complete the annual 
Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.  End summary. 
 
¶2.  (SBU)  GTIP's February 2006 visit to Panama began with 
the Pol Counselor and DHS/ICE Attache providing an in-depth 
overview of the trafficking situation in Panama.  Brown and 
Puccetti accompanied by EmbOffs then visited three shelters 
for trafficking and abuse victims.  Hogar Malambo, the first 
shelter visited, was the most impressive.  Hogar Malambo 
shelters 160 children from infants to age 18 in small group 
homes.  Seven nuns, 70 employees, and volunteers create a 
warm and caring environment for the children.  Hogar Malambo 
receives 85% of its funding through private donations.  The 
remainder of its funding is a $160,000 grant from the GOP's 
Ministry of Social Development (MIDES).  Panama recently 
received a $126,000 GTIP ESF grant to assist trafficking 
victims and Hogar Malambo will receive $50,000 of this award 
to construct a shelter for TIP victims.  The grant will 
nearly match the GOP's annual funding to Hogar Malambo. 
 
¶3.  (SBU) The NGO portion of the visit continued with a tour 
of Casa Esperanza, an NGO funded children's center in 
Panama's gritty Curundu neighborhood.  The center provides a 
broad range of services in a difficult neighborhood including 
preschool programs to prepare children for kindergarten, 
after school programs for older children, and even "Parenting 
101" classes.  Casa Esperanza operates 41 centers throughout 
Panama including 14 school programs on coffee plantations. 
Although Casa Esperanza does not specifically help 
trafficking victims, its work illustrates the strong 
partnership between the GOP and NGOs in addressing social 
problems.  The last shelter visited was Casa Hogar, a center 
for juveniles who committed petty offenses.  Casa Hogar's 
environment is different from the other shelters visited. 
MIDES will use $10,000 of the GTIP ESF grant to remodel a 
shelter at Casa Hogar for TIP victims. 
 
¶4.  (SBU)  GTIP and WHA/PPC also met with Panama Attorney 
General Ana Matilde Gomez during the first day of the visit. 
Gomez serves as President of the National Committee to 
Prevent Sex Crimes (CONAPREDES), which coordinates the GOP's 
overall anti-TIP efforts.  CONAPREDES draws on membership 
from MIDES, the Ministry of Government and Justice, the 
Director of the Judicial Technical (Investigative) Police, 
and the Ministries of Education and Health.  Gomez spoke 
about a variety of anti-TIP programs and answered questions. 
She also emphatically stated her opposition to Panama's 
"alternadora" visa for prostitutes.  In February, she plans 
to write a formal letter to President Torrijos asking him to 
sponsor legislation to abolish the visa.  (Note: During the 
meeting, Gomez also asked to meet with GTIP Ambassador Miller 
during her March visit to Washington.) 
 
¶5.  (SBU)  On the second day of their visit, Brown and 
Puccetti had a two-hour meeting the Vice Minister of 
Government and Justice (MOGJ) Olga Golcher and the Director 
of Immigration Ricardo Vargas.  The meeting featured an 
in-depth discussion of the "alternadora" visa program. 
Vargas outlined the administrative details of the program. 
The  owner of a business, their attorney, and the applicant 
for the visa must appear in Immigration to initiate the visa 
application.  The business must post $350 to guarantee its 
compliance with the employment contract.  The alternadora 
visa recipients are then required to come to Immigration by 
themselves every three months with their passport and visa. 
The quarterly visits also allows Immigration to verify their 
safety and well being.  Brown inquired about situations where 
business owners had confiscated women's passports.  Vargas 
replied he had not seen any situations like that since he 
began his work in Immigration.  Vargas did describe a 
situation in 2003 where a club owner was holding the 
passports of alternadora visa holders.  The Ombudsman's 
Office, where Vargas worked at that time, received a report 
about the situation.  Immigration intervened to ensure the 
passports were returned to the women. 
 
¶6.  (SBU)  Vargas spoke about the overall immigration 
situation in Panama.  Approximately 150,000 Colombians live 
in Panama, a country of only 3 million people.  Colombians 
hold 90% of the alternadora visas, a reflection of the 
traditional migration patterns and information sharing in 
this community.  Puccetti asked Vargas how the GOP controls 
the inflow of alternadora applicants since Colombians do not 
require visas to enter Panama.  Vargas responded that 
Colombians arriving at the airport must have $500 to show 
solvency or they are returned to their country.  Immigration 
also controls the issuance of the alternadora visas.  Visa 
holders must leave the country after one year.  Immigration 
does not issue new alternadora visas until a current holder 
departs Panama.  Vice Minister Golcher was receptive to 
Brown's suggestion that Panamanian "visa cards" sold for $5 
in Colombia should include TIP information along with phone 
numbers to relevant Panamanian authorities. 
 
¶7.  (SBU)  The remainder of the second day was spent visiting 
other GOP officials.  MFA Legal Director Iani Quadri gave the 
visitors a printed report on Panama's anti-TIP efforts with 
statistical information.  Quadri spoke about plans to 
strengthen Panama's anti-TIP law and ongoing cooperation 
between the GOP, UNESCO, and IOM to stop TIP.  UNESCO 
recently developed a map of routes used by traffickers 
throughout Central America.  Also, in March the seven nation 
Central American Integration Committee (SICA) will discuss 
regional TIP issues.  MIDES Vice Minister Doris Zapata 
thanked Brown and Puccetti for the recently approved TIP 
grant and spoke of its importance to Panama.  The final 
meeting occurred at the Judicial Technical (Investigative) 
Police (PTJ) Sex Crimes Unit.  PTJ Inspector Ortega described 
how TIP reports are received form hotline calls, citizen 
complaints, Interpol, and international cooperation. 
Ortega's office concentrates their efforts on sexual 
exploitation and human trafficking.  Once his unit receives a 
complaint, they have 60 days to investigate it and forward 
their opinion to the Public Ministry.  During January 2006, 
the PTJ hotline  received over 200 calls. 
 
¶8.  (SBU)  Panama appears to be making sincere efforts to 
stop trafficking and to enhance its current programs and law 
enforcement efforts.  Embassy believes the GOP should 
dedicate more resources to anti-TIP efforts, improve 
interagency coordination, and inform the public about the 
often hidden dangers of the problem.  Although Panama enacted 
a strong anti-TIP law in 2004, the courts have not yet 
convicted anyone.  However, this is not surprising since on 
average, a court case in Panama takes two years to move from 
the initial arrest to conviction.  In March a preliminary 
hearing will take place for a massage parlor owner accused of 
trafficking.  Successfully prosecuting and convicting a 
Panamanian under the 2004 anti-TIP legislation would send a 
strong signal that Panama means business. 
 
 
EATON