Viewing cable 07PANAMA1722

07PANAMA17222007-10-30 19:27:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Panama

DE RUEHZP #1722/01 3031927
R 301927Z OCT 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 001722 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2017 
Classified By: Ambassador William A. Eaton.  Reason:  1.4 (d). 
¶1. (C) "The opposition must unite if it is to have a chance 
at defeating the (governing Revolutionary Democratic Party) 
PRD," former President Mireya Moscoso on October 29 during a 
lunch hosted by Ambassador at his residence.  Alberto 
Vallarino would be opposition's best candidate, though she 
was not overly enthusiastic in her support for this heavy 
hitting businessman and former presidential aspirant and was 
fully aware of his shortcomings.  Moscoso fingered former 
President Guillermo Endara and Ricardo Martinelli as the 
biggest obstacles to opposition unity. "One can negotiate 
though with Endara, but not with that 'loco' (Martinelli)," 
she said.  Somewhat frustrated, Moscoso perceived a 
leadership vacuum both within the governing PRD and the 
opposition.  "Nobody's leading this country.  The economy is 
going gangbusters, true.  But nobody -- definitely not 
(President) Martin (Torrijos) -- is holding the reins.  Yet 
nobody in the opposition appears ready to want to grab those 
reins."  Moscoso is clearly on the march within the 
opposition ranks actively striving to help determine who will 
be the opposition's (read: the Panamenista Party's and its 
allies') eventual presidential candidate.  End summary. 
Vallarino:  Opposition's Best Shot 
¶2. (C) Dismissive of fellow Panamenista party member Marco 
Ameglio's presidential campaign ("He's going nowhere and has 
no shot.") and disdainful of Panamenista Party President Juan 
Carlos Varela's desire to be president ("He has failed to 
lead the party; he doesn't do the work of the opposition, 
that is to oppose."), Moscoso clearly stated her preference 
for recently re-enlisted Panamenista and heavy-hitter 
businessman Alberto Vallarino.  Moscoso's enthusiasm for 
Vallarino was tempered:  "He's fickle," "He lacks the human 
touch, that ability to connect with people on the campaign 
trail,"  and "Too often, he's remote and cold."  While she 
said that Vallarino told her that he was committed to giving 
his all to campaign for president, Moscoso said that 
Vallarino had made a commitment to her to run for president 
and not step down as he did unexpectedly in 1999.  Moscoso 
also complained that Vallarino was doing little to get out on 
the campaign trail now.  "I organize events for him to 
re-introduce him to the party 'bases' -- for example, a 
dinner in Colon or a meeting in Boquete -- but he refuses to 
go."  When he campaigned in 1999, Vallarino at one meeting 
with constituents had to be pressed to do what for most 
politicians was natural following a speech:  grip and grin by 
mixing it up with the meeting's attendees.  "Polls do not 
count for anything; flesh and bone encounters and support 
count," Moscoso said.  In 1999 though, Vallarino got caught 
cleaning his hands with handi-wipes, the former president 
recounted.  "A politician cannot be afraid engaging the 
public personally.  I used to come in off the campaign trail 
with rough hands from all the shaking and red checks from all 
the kissing." 
PRD's Best Option:  Balbina Herrera 
¶3. (C) Minister of Housing Balbina Herrera, according to 
Moscoso, would be the PRD's best candidate.  "She has the 
human touch and is a natural politician."  Indeed, Moscoso 
said Herrera would defeat Vallarino in a head-to-head race. 
"Watch out with Balbina.  Ask the wrong question or prod her 
the wrong way and the old Balbina will quickly emerge." 
Still part of the PRD's "tendency" (tendencia) faction, 
Balbina's national, leftist, and aggressive side was still 
just below the surface.  "Remember that it was Balbina who 
organized the protests against former President George H. W. 
bBsh.  Current First VP and FM Samuel Lewis was "finished," 
she asserted. "He botched the (U.S.-Panama) trade agreement." 
 She added that it was beneath Lewis' dignity to chauffeur 
PMG to the meeting last month of the PRD Directorate. 
Regarding current Panama City Mayor (and Lewis' cousin) Juan 
Carlos Navarro, Moscoso said, "He wants to be president too 
badly.  That's his problem."  He threatened Torrijos' camp 
followers and was not trusted by the PRD's mid-rank party 

Biggest Obstacles to Opposition Unity 
¶4. (C)  "(Former President Guillermo) Endara and (Democratic 
Change (CD) Party President Ricardo) Martinelli are the 
biggest obstacles to opposition unity," the former president 
asserted.  "To beat the PRD, the opposition must be unified." 
 It was possible to deal and negotiate with Endara; "Just be 
careful what deals you strike with his wife, Ana Mae."  In 
the end though, Moscoso assesses that Endara would do what 
was right for the opposition.  She also added that Endara had 
no money and no party structure to mobilize support.  "That 
loco, Martinelli, is another matter.  He's got deep pockets 
and a sharp tongue. He's nothing more though than a 
neo-liberal Chavez."  Without a real party of his own, 
Moscoso said that she did not believe that Martinelli would 
be able to win the elections, but he could damage the 
opposition's prospects of unseating the PRD. "If Varela runs 
as Martinelli's vice presidential candidate, the opposition 
will be finished.  Panamenistas will not support Varela in 
such circumstance." 
PMG, TPA and Torrijos 
¶5.  (C) "Torrijos is the sole person to blame for Pedro 
Miguel Gonzalez (PMG)," Moscoso said.  (Note:  Gonzalez, 
elected President of Panama's National Assembly on September 
1, is under federal indictment on five counts in connection 
with the 1992 murder of a U.S. serviceman.) Torrijos 
encouraged PMG, allowed him to get out of control, and failed 
to stop his election, according to the ex-president. 
"Torrijos was only thinking of this party, not the impact 
Pedro Miguel's election would have on Panama, all of it." 
Now, PMG was being used by populist, nationalist, and 
anti-American elements within the PRD.  "Pedro Miguel is 
weighing running for President of the PRD and might even be 
considering running for President of Panama," Moscoso said. 
"The Venezuelans are working with him.  Hopefully, we are not 
seeing the rise of another Chavez."  (Comment:  Post has no 
evidence to corroborate that PMG is working with PMG.)  PMG's 
election, Moscoso said, had put the U.S.-Panama Trade 
Promotion Agreement (TPA) in jeopardy.  "My administration 
worked hard on this agreement, that's why I sent a letter to 
U.S. congressional leaders urging them to approve this 
treaty."  Nonetheless, Moscoso she fully understood why U.S. 
Senators and Representatives would be reluctant to vote for 
the TPA while a "terrorist" headed Panama's legislature. 
¶6.  (C) Moscoso -- La Dona as she is affectionately and not 
so affectionately known in Panama -- was frank in her 
comments, tough in her analysis, and clear about her 
intention to shape the opposition.  She appeared to be 
frustrated that the opposition was not better positioned to 
capitalize on what she perceived to be the lack of leadership 
by Torrijos, absence of serious PRD contenders (other than 
Herrera), and the Torrijos Administration's recent missteps. 
Moscoso also appears to be interested in a serious dialogue 
with the Embassy in general and the Ambassador in particular. 
 Prior to this meeting, post passed the message that the 
Embassy would not seek to publicize this meeting, had no 
objection should Moscoso wish to do so, but asked that 
comments be kept to a minimum.  The word back:  Moscoso would 
not want much, if any, publicity from this meeting, and 
welcomed the opportunity to establish a strong relationship 
with the Ambassador as Panama entered a more political 
period.  News of this lunch hit Panama's newspapers' rumor 
columns now (October 30); it is helpful that the political 
set knows about the meeting.  The Embassy will be looking, 
however, to see if there is more significant press as a keep 
factor in assessing how serious La Dona is in serious 
relationship with the Embassy.