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07PANAMA7182007-05-03 18:47:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Panama

DE RUEHZP #0718/01 1231847
R 031847Z MAY 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 000718 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/03/2017 
Classified By: POLCOUNS BRIAN R. NARANJO.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
¶1.  (C) "Over five thousand former members of the (Liberal 
Republican Nationalist Movement) MOLIRENA have joined 
Patriotic Union (UP)," Delia Cardenas told POLCOUNS during 
their May 3 during.  Cardenas, one of the more notable 
ex-MOLIRENA members to join UP, asserted that UP would be the 
primary beneficiary of MOLIRENA's collapse.  While she noted 
that UP's current co-presidents Jose Mulino and Anibal 
Galindo would run for the party presidency, Cardenas said she 
hoped a consensus candidate could be identified.  She 
acknowledged that former First VP Billy Ford would be an 
ideal consensus candidate:  he would be best equipped to 
consolidate this new party and to gain the support of 
independent voters who were essential to any election victory 
in Panama.  Increasingly dissatisfied with politics as usual 
and were looking for new options, something UP -- the newly 
formed conglomeration of the old Solidarity party and the 
National Liberal party -- hoped to provide, she explained. 
Cardenas stated that UP had to enter into alliance to support 
an opposition candidate since to field its own presidential 
candidate would split the field and hand the governing 
Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) a victory. 
UP Primary Beneficiary of MOLIRENA Exodus 
¶2.  (C)  Cardenas, who was Panama's Superintendent of Banks 
until forced out in August 2006 by President Torrijos, 
asserted that UP would be the primary beneficiary of 
MOLIRENA's collapse.  The fusion of the Solidarity and the 
National Liberal parties into UP, Cardenas explained, opened 
up new opportunities and would ensure a future for former 
MOLIRENA activists.  Cardenas was very confident that UP 
would make significant progress adding to its ranks.  She 
herself was actively traveling across Panama, at times along 
with Ford, to enlist new UP supporters.  Though this lifetime 
MOLIRENA member lamented the fate of her party, Cardenas 
acknowledged that MOLIRENA had ceased to be a political 
force.  While the infusion of new MOLIRENA blood into UP was 
important, Cardenas said that MOLIRENA, though a always a 
small party, had consistently secured significant support 
from independent voters.  In a country where sixty percent of 
voters were not affiliated with any party, Cardenas 
explained, this capability to appeal to independents was 
essential to victory at the ballot box, a capability that 
former MOLIRENA members hoped to sustain in UP. 
UP Party Convention:  Opportunity to Unity 
¶3.  (C) Cardenas repeated the common street wisdom that 
former Liberal National president Anibal Galindo and former 
Solidarity party president Jose Mulino would run against one 
another to be president of UP, the result of the fusion of 
the two previous parties that they led.  Ideally though, 
Cardenas said, a consensus candidate would be identified 
before the August 19 UP convention.  A victory by Mulino or 
Galindo would run the risk that significant sectors of UP 
would be alienated if the former head of their former party 
lost.  Asked whether ex-MOLIRENA luminary and former First VP 
Billy Ford would run for the UP Presidency, Cardenas smiled 
and commented that Ford would be an excellent consensus 
choice.  Ford was charismatic, had a proven track record of 
securing support from independent voters, and was widely 
respected throughout UP.  Separately, UP Treasurer told 
POLFSN that party leaders were considering Ford as a possible 
consensus candidate to assume the party presidency.  She said 
that she would accompany Ford to La Chorrera on May 8 and to 
Colon on May 10, visits aimed at enlisting UP supporters. 
UP Looks to Presidential Race 
¶4.  (C) UP had to enter into an alliance to support an 
opposition presidential candidate, Cardenas said.  She 
dismiss the idea that Billy Ford would seek to run for the 
presidency.  "It would be a folly for UP to further divide 
the opposition vote by fielding its own candidate and to 
squander its new found unity and electoral weight," Cardenas 
explained.  Asked how a party that now had significant 
ex-MOLIRENA membership -- including significant anti-Noriega 
activists like Billy Ford -- could remain with UP should it 
endorse prospective PRD presidential candidate and current 
First VP and FM Samuel Lewis, Cardenas said flatly that it 
would be difficult for UP's MOLIRENA refugees to support the 
PRD.  (Note:  Lewis' uncle, Samuel Lewis Galindo, is 
essentially the godfather of UP.  There has been much 
speculation that Lewis' uncle would steer the UP to support 
Lewis.)  Separately, Ford told POLCOUNS that he would walk if 
UP endorsed Lewis. 
¶5.  (C) Panamenista Party President Juan Carlos Varela, who 
stopped by the table, commented that he had been impressed 
during a recent swing through the interior by high degree of 
pressure among local level opposition party members for a 
unified opposition candidate.  While Varela remained on 
message advocating for his desired inter-party opposition 
primary, Cardenas agreed, after Varela departed, that across 
opposition parties at the local level there was significant 
impatience with the opposition's perceived inability to unify 
behind a single challenger to the PRD.  Opposiion parties, 
she said, had gone and were continuing to go through a 
healthy process of renewal.  The Panamenistas had 
consolidated last summer behind Varela, though Varela 
squandered this unity with his "strange" position against the 
October 2006 referendum on canal expansion.  Solidarity and 
the Liberal Nationals had united, while MOLIRENA was slowing 
fading away. 
¶6.  (C) Continuing, she explained that, responding to 
increasing voter discontent with politics as usual, 
prospective presidential candidates were trying to position 
themselves as new and as breaks with the past.  Varela 
portrayed himself as a new Panamenista and clashed with 
former President Mireya Moscoso who was widely discredited 
for mismanagement and corruption.  Though previously a 
Moscoso administration minister, Democratic Change (CD) 
President Ricardo Martinelli was the most stark example of a 
candidate positioning himself as a rejection of politics as 
usual.  UP would emerge after its August convention renewed 
and positioned to capitalize on voters search for something 
¶7.  (C) Cardenas portrayed the exodus of former MOLIRENA 
members to UP as a search for a new lease on political life. 
It remains to be seend whether ex-MOLIRENA members will 
succeed in securing their political futures in UP.  Presently 
the second largest oppostion party with over 125,000 members, 
UP will have an interesting role to play in the upcoming 
campaign season that Cardenas said would begin in earnest in 
September or October.  Cardenas and Ford clearly hope to keep 
UP in the opposition fold and to prevent it from partnering 
with the PRD should Lewis securing its presidential 
nomination.  If it stays in the opposition, UP will likely 
play a decisive role in helping unify the opposition.