President asked U.S. for wiretap help says Wikileaks report

120Views 0Comments Posted 25/12/2010

It has not been a good Christmas for Panama’s ruling coalition with the resignation of the head of the country’s scandal plagued prosecutor’s office followed by devastating Wikileaks report of a request to the U.S. for help with wiretapping.

President Martinelli and former U.S. Ambassador Barbara Stephenson

Earlier there had been embarrassing Wikileaks reports about comments by  President, Ricardo Martinelli, and Vice President Juan Carlos Varela about the widening of the Panama Canal.

The resignation of Attorney General Guiseppe Bonissi took place on Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Day, the Spanish newspaper El Pais, carried more revelations from Wikileaks, concerning a request by President Ricardo Martinelli to the former American Ambassador, Barbara Stephenson, for help with wiretapping.
The same day, the President's Office rushed in with an attempt at damage control with a statement saying the government "regrets the misunderstanding by the U.S. authorities. The request for assistance was made for the struggle against crime, drug trafficking and organized crime" .
Stephenson's comments on the president’s request are contained in a leaked cable from the Wikileaks web site
The State Secretariat of Communication said, in press release that the "one main reason" that led to the administration of Martinelli making application for U.S. aid was to "continue its relentless fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and crime. "
"We never asked for help to tap telephones of politicians. Any interpretation to such a request is completely wrong," said the official statement..
According to the leaked documents, dated in 2009 - U.S. officials told Panamanian authorities that the U.S. would not extend the program of wire taps through "Operation Matador" to include political objectives, as requested by the Government of Panama.
Stephenson said in her comments on the topic that Martinelli "was trying to establish its own surveillance program under the cover of the DEA [U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency]."
Despite the contradictions between the leaked documents and what the President said in his statement, the State Secretariat of Communication said that Panama reiterates the "excellent relations today" with the U.S says La Prensa.
Earlier reports said that Martinelli said via Stephenson’s Blackberry in July last year: "I need help with wiretapping".
In the leaked document, Ambassador Stephensons report harshly challenged Martinelli, saying that "the tendency to harassment and blackmail may have led to stardom in the world of supermarkets, but it is not typical for a statesman." She also said that the Head of State "is childish" to believe that "listenening in is the solution to all problems of criminality."
Stephenson asked for more explanations on this issue to the Panamanian presidency, and, according to the cable, the minister of the presidency, Jimmy Papadimitriu, said what they wanted was that the U.S. would help them establish a system to protect against eavesdropping by "individuals” threatened by the government’s fight against corruption and to protect themselves from potential destabilizing maneuvers by "leftist governments in the region."
Two U.S. officials, one representative of the DEA noted that, the DEA, developed along with Panama a wire tap program program through "Operation Matador." But this was destined to fight drugs, and the U.S. does not expand the program to include political objectives.  {jathumbnail off}

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