Viewing cable 07PANAMA1102
Title: PANAMA POST: EDITION III

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07PANAMA11022007-06-29 20:30:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Panama
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C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 001102 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/29/2017 
TAGS: PREL PGOV KCRM KJUS SNAR SOCI PM
SUBJECT: PANAMA POST:  EDITION III 
 
REF: PANAMA 1052 (NOTAL) 
 
Classified By: POLCOUNS Brian R. Naranjo.  Reasons:  1.4 
(b) and (d) 
 
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Summary 
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¶1.  (C) The following are the top stories for the third 
edition of the Panama Post: 
 
-- Attorney General names new acting head of FBI-equivalent; 
-- Fifth candidate announces run for presidency of governing 
Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD); 
-- Insights into why Panamanians join political parties; 
-- A PRD women's advocate handicaps the race for the PRD 
presidential nomination; 
-- Sports corruption affects Panama's participation in 
Pan-America Games; and 
-- A cheat sheet of Panamanian political nicknames. 
 
End Summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
Attorney General Names New Head of FBI-Equivalent 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
¶2.  (U) Attorney General Ana Matilda Gomez named prosecutor 
Jose Ayu Prado to be the acting head of the Technical 
Judicial Police (PTJ) on June 25.  Gomez named prosecutor 
Jose Almengor to replace Ayu Prado as the head of the PTJ's 
counternarcotics unit.  Ayu Prado and Almengor will hold 
these position at least through December 2007 pending 
resolution of PTJ reform legislation. Increasingly, the PTJ 
has been under fire and under investigation, for example, in 
the wake of revelations of efforts to promote PTJ officials 
who were subject to disciplinary actions and the discovery 
that weapons were being "leased" from the PTJ's ballistics 
lab. 
 
¶3.  (C) Comment:  Ayu Prado now has perhaps the most 
unenviable position in the GOP, Panamanian law enforcement, 
sources tell the Panama Post.  Inheriting an organization 
that has been under fire and is experiencing collapsing 
morale, Ayu Prado will be expected to review all internal 
affairs investigations, follow up on disciplinary actions and 
ensure that the troubled PTJ is as administratively pure as 
possible.  Absent a series of successful, well publicized 
cases, Ayu Prado faces rough seas ahead of him.  For her 
part, Gomez succeeded in doing two things that she had wanted 
to do for some time:  she put a prosecutor in charge of the 
PTJ and moved Ayu Prado, with whom she often had contentious 
relations, out of her office.  To the outside world, however, 
naming the highly capable and respected Ayu Prado to the PTJ 
appears to be an astute step to fixing this troubled 
organization. 
 
------------------------- ---------------------- 
And Then There Were Five: Race for PRD President 
------------------------- ---------------------- 
 
¶4.  (U) Former Minister of Labor Laurentino Cortizo launched 
his campaign for President of the Revolutionary Democratic 
Party (PRD) on June 24.  Laurentino -- the only minister to 
have resigned from President Torrijos' cabinet -- broke with 
Torrijos over the TPA negotiations and is a long shot 
candidate.  Other announced candidates include:  former 
President Ernesto "El Toro" Perez Balladares, Minister of 
Housing Balbina Herrera, Panama City Mayor Juan Carlos 
Navarro, and Alfredo Oranges. 
 
¶5.  (C) Comment: Cortizo has no chance of victory, but may 
provide an opportunity for disgruntled cattlemen and rice 
growers who are party members, primarily in Chiriqui and 
Azuero provinces, to cast a protest vote.  The Panama Post 
understands that the fix for the top three internal PRD 
positions is already in:  Herrera for President, Torrijos to 
remain Secretary General, and Navarro to be the First 
Sub-Secretary of the PRD's National Executive Committee 
(CEN).  Indeed, Perez Balladares appears to have already 
packed in his campaign for PRD President and has claimed 
publicly that he is looking down the road to securing the 
PRD's presidential nomination.  Others in the race for the 
PRD's presidential nomination include:  Navarro, First VP and 
FM Samuel Lewis, and possibly Herrera. 
 
--------------------------- 
Why Join a Political Party? 
--------------------------- 
 
¶6.  (U) The majority of Panamanians joined a political party 
to secure an economic benefit, according to a Dichter and 
Neira poll, a portion of which was published June 24 in 
Panama City daily La Prensa.  Only 9.4 percent said they 
joined a party because they liked politics, and 16.9 percent 
said they joined because of ideology.  In contrast, 37.8 
percent told pollsters they joined a party to secure 
employment, and 15.4 percent said they did so to secure 
economic benefits such as scholarships or social benefits. 
Slightly over one in five voters -- 20.5 percent -- had no 
idea why they joined a party. 
 
¶7.  (SBU)  Comment: These poll results are not surprising, 
but rather underscore the relative unimportance of ideology 
in Panamanian politics.  Instead, highlighting the 
"transactional" nature of politics in Panama, Panamanian 
voters ask themselves, "What's in it for me?" This phenomenon 
helps explain the massive turn-out of over 60,000 voters over 
three days to register for the governing PRD:  they expect 
personal economic gain.  It also explains why most Panamanian 
voters do not belong to any party: they haven't found what 
they are looking for or do not believe that they will benefit 
from membership. 
 
-------------------- ------------------------------------- 
PRD Women's Advocate Handicaps Internal Race for President 
------------------------------ --------------------------- 
 
¶8.  (C) "There are many problems and a lot of uncertainty" 
inside the PRD with respect to the race to secure the party's 
presidential nomination, PRD activist and the President of 
the Forum of Women in Political Parties Irasema de Ahumada 
told the Panama Post on June 26.  "El Perro (First VP and FM 
Samuel Lewis (see para 12)) will never get traction in the 
polls; that helps (Panama City Mayor) Juan Carlos Navarro." 
She asserted though that Navarro was not paying any attention 
to his municipality's services:  trash was not being 
collected, there were many rumors of bribes being passed to 
secure construction permits, and kiosk tenants in the popular 
markets were irate that the city was not attending to the 
up-keep of the facilities.  "The upper and upper-middle class 
do not see this deterioration in public services, but the 
lower-middle class and poor know that Navarro is not 
collecting trash in their neighborhoods," de Ahumada said. 
 
¶9. (C) Returning to Lewis, de Ahumada said, "He is my 
candidate, but he is not going anywhere."  "What's up with 
this guy?," she complained, explaining that he attended a PRD 
political event in Herrera Province with Minister of Health 
Alleyne, the most unpopular member of Torrijos' cabinet. 
"How could he do that!  Doesn't he realize that nobody wants 
Alleyne?"  Asked who his political advisors were, de Ahumada 
said that presidential foreign affairs advisor (and former 
Noriega era FM and UN PermRep) Jorge Ritter and her 
brother-in-law (Lewis' closest advisor at the MFA and former 
left-wing radical) Adolfo Ahumada.  "They are intellectuals. 
What do they know about getting votes?  When have they 
dirtied their shoes during a campaign?" de Ahumada asked 
sarcastically. 
 
------------ ---------------------- 
PanAm Games: Panamanian Flag Banned 
------------ ---------------------- 
 
¶10. (U) The Pan-American Sports Organization (ODEPA) ordered 
June 27 that Panamanian athletes would compete under the 
"umbrella of the organization" at the Fifteenth Pan-America 
Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro. ODEPA assumed control of 
the management of the Panamanian team; announced that 
Panama's team would compete under the ODEPA's flag, not the 
Panamanian flag; and banned the playing of the Panamanian 
national anthem.  Any medals won by Panamanians would also 
would not be recorded as having been won for Panama.  ODEPA 
said it would also ask the International Olympic Committee 
(IOC) to sanction the Olympic Committee of Panama (COP) with 
a temporary suspension of its recognition until it was proven 
that "interference in the internal affairs of the COP had 
ceased."  The Chairman of the COP's board of directors, Roger 
Moscote, promptly resigned. 
 
¶11. (SBU) Comment:  ODEPA's unanimous expulsion of the COP 
and appeal to the IOC is but the latest and loudest vote of 
no confidence in the COP, an organization riddle with 
corruption.  Recently, Panama's national baseball team struck 
in protest of Panamanian Baseball Federation's President 
Franz Wever's habit of skimming significant sums from the 
travel stipends each player receives for meals and incidental 
expenses when the team is on the road.  Also, the Panama Post 
has learned from its sources in Major League Baseball (MLB) 
that, contrary to First VP and FM Lewis' June 27 
announcement, MLB would not be undertaking any activities 
with beyond periodic baseball clinics.  Concerned with the 
level of corruption and mismanagement in Panama's baseball 
federation, MLB corporate headquarters told the Panama Post 
that it would not be investing in a baseball academy as Lewis 
had asserted.  Lewis appeared to have overstated agreements 
that Panama's Embassy in Santo Domingo reached with MLB 
Commissioner for Latin American and the Caribbean Ronaldo 
Peralta. 
 
---------------------  -------------------------------- 
What's in a Nickname?  A Political Gossip Column Primer 
---------------------  -------------------------------- 
 
¶12.  (U) Each of Panama City's newspapers -- broad sheets 
like La Prensa, Panama-America, or La Estrella and tabloids 
like El Siglo or La Critica -- has a political gossip column. 
 These columns -- religiously read by Panamanians -- offer up 
snippets of political gossip, but are written in often 
utterly impenetrable code replete with Panamanian-Spanish 
colloquialisms, obscure references to current events and pop 
culture, and nicknames.  La Estrella publisher Avraham Musvat 
explained to the Panama Post that the papers use these gossip 
columns to stir the pot by offering tidbits to see who reacts 
in the hopes of filling out stories for which they only have 
partial information.  Musvat also said that the nicknames 
helped protect the papers from libel and slander accusations 
as they obscured the target of the gossip.  To aid our 
readers, the Panama Post provides the following cheat sheet 
to decipher the nicknames of key political leaders: 
 
-- President Martin Torrijos:  El Mister, Chiqui (Chicky), El 
Muneco or El Mune' (boy doll), or El Muneco Que Pasea (the 
boy doll that struts) 
 
-- First Lady Vivian de Torrijos:  La Jefa (the boss), La 
Mandamas (the one who orders somebody around the most), la 
Presidenta (the female president) 
 
-- First VP and FM Samuel Lewis:  El Perro (the dog), Wataco 
(nonsense nickname), El Compadre or El Compa' Casimiro (the 
godfather or buddy; Casimiro is Lewis' middle name; also a 
reference to Lewis' loyalty and affable nature) 
 
-- National Assembly Deputy Hector Aleman:  HB (Aleman's 
middle name is Bolivar), Norieguita (Little Noriega, a 
reference to this former Noriega aide's resemblance to the 
dictator as well as his conspiratorial, strong arm management 
style), or Pina 2 (Noriega was known as the pineapple, so 
Aleman is pineapple 2.) 
 
-- Minister of Housing Balbina Herrera:  Lady B, La Chola 
(half-civilized, peasant-like person) 
 
-- Attorney General Ana Matilda Gomez:  Didi (reference to 
the mother of the popular cartoon Dexter who routinely 
destroys everything), La Chica Superpoderosa (the super 
powerful girl) 
 
-- Former President Ernesto Perez Balladares:  El Toro (The 
bull, a reference to Balladares size and brash manner.), Mr. 
Bull, 
 
-- Former President Mireya Moscoso:  La Dona (the titled Lady) 
 
-- Former President Guillermo Endara:  Chuchungo (nonsense 
nickname acquired in grade school), Pichulo (nonsense 
nickname given by the press), or Pan de Dulce (Sweet bread, a 
reference to Endara's rotund figure and jovial nature.) 
-- Former FM and Patriotic Union (UP) leader Jose Raul 
Mulino:  Stalin (Reference to his thick brushy mustache, 
stalinesque haircut, and leadership style) 
 
-- Democratic Change (CD) Party President Ricardo Martinelli: 
 Ricky Casi Cien or Casi Cien (Almost One Hundred, a 
reference to the name of this supermarket magnate's chain: 
Super99.) 
 
-- Panamenista Party President Juan Carlos Varela:  Seco 
Varela, Juan Seco, Johnny Dry (Varela's family owns Panama's 
largest distillery, the best-selling product of which is 
seco, a liquor distilled from sugar cane.  "Seco" also means 
dry.) 
 
-- Tia Josefa -- This literally means "Aunt Josefa."  There 
is no Aunt Josefa, however, rather this nickname refers to 
whomever leaked information to a columnist.  Aunt Josefa is 
the proverbial know-it-all aunt who sees, hears, and passes 
on everything. 
LATTIMER