WikiLeaks: Martinelli’s groupies and the futility of DEA efforts

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Only the lamest of the Martinelli groupies are still coming out in defense of their supermarket idol. When WikiLeaks revealed cables quoting president Martinelli and VP Varela as saying that the Canal expansion project was a "disaster" and accusing Canal administrator Aleman Zubieta of rigging the bid for the lock building contract, the response of both was that they wholeheartedly supported the ACP and the Canal expansion, with Martinelli adding that he had never said anything to the US ambassador that was mentioned in the diplomatic cable.

Now, with new cables having been released in which Martinelli and his people are said to have demanded that the DEA facilitate domestic political espionage for them, only his staunchest supporters come out in his defense.

On Christmas Day, the Presidency issued a statement saying that the US ambassador and its staff had "misunderstood" the request for illegal wiretapping, while the New York Times, based on cables that have not yet been published, reported:

Eventually, according to the cables, American diplomats began wondering about Mr. Martinelli’s motivations. Did he really want the D.E.A. to disrupt plots by his adversaries, or was he trying to keep the agency from learning about corruption among his relatives and friends?

One cable asserted that Mr. Martinelli’s cousin helped smuggle tens of millions of dollars in drug proceeds through Panama’s main airport every month. Another noted, “There is no reason to believe there will be fewer acts of corruption in this government than in any past government.”

Today, minister of the presidency Jimmy Papadimitriu and tourism minister Salomón Shamah - a Colombian with reported links to arms trafficking whose political career is characterized by invisible tourism policy and him getting into regular fistfights - addressed the media on the subject. Shamah said that the ambassador was "angry" with Martinelli because he wouldn't do as she said. According to Shamah, the ambassador disagreed with the appointment of a former Noriega hitman as the chief of police. Shamah did not explain why, if the ambassador would somehow be seeking revenge, she would do so only in a diplomatic cable classified "secret" and "not for foreigners" instead of going public.

Although: The embassy DID leak documents to El Panama America about Gustavo Perez's criminal past.

Papadimitriu, in his turn, followed the same "reasoning" and added that they would no longer respond to any of the cables being published by WikiLeaks. That of course doesn't appear to be a very smart move: He might be able to hide scandal from the public, but not from those sectors in Panamanian society on which this government depends for support.

Furthermore, the cables refer to correspondence through various other channels on the illegal wiretapping desires of Martinelli, Papadimitriu and now Supreme Court judge Almengor, plus meetings were held with a number of embassy people present. It wouldn't be difficult at all for the US to debunk the dumb denials of the Martinelli clique.

Talking about dumb, the inevitable Don Winner - who himself works for arms traffickers to the Colombian paramilitaries -  had of course something to say about WikiLeaks too:

Still Like Wikileaks? Now the bad guys - if they didn't already know - have confirmation that the DEA has a deployed network of cellular telephone intercept stations located throughout Latin America. Without a doubt, the release of these cables will cause incalculable damage to our ability to catch and prosecute the drug traffickers and money launderers of the world. The nuts and bolts of the bickering between Stephenson and Martinelli don't mean a damn thing in the grand scheme of things - however the confirmation of the existence of "Operation Matador" is potentially very damaging.

For those who didn't know: The drug cartels are far more sophisticated, better funded and more innovative in their communications than the DEA can ever hope to intercept, and any narco kingpin with half a brain will simply assume that his cellphone is not secure. Just check this story from 2002 about what investigators found when busting a communications headquarters in Cali, Colombia:

On a rainy night eight years ago in the Colombian city of Cali, crack counter-narcotics troops swarmed over the first floor of a low-rise condominium complex in an upscale neighborhood. They found no drugs or guns. But what they did find sent shudders through law enforcement and intelligence circles around the world.

The building was owned by a front man for Cali cocaine cartel leader José Santacruz Londono. Inside was a computer center, manned in shifts around the clock by four to six technicians. The central feature of the facility was a $1.5 million IBM AS400 mainframe, the kind once used by banks, networked with half a dozen terminals and monitors. The next day, Colombia's attorney general secretly granted permission for U.S. agents to fly the mainframe immediately back to the United States, where it was subjected to an exhaustive analysis by experts from the Drug Enforcement Administration and various intelligence agencies. The so-called Santacruz computer was never returned to Colombian authorities, and the DEA's report about it is highly classified. But Business 2.0 has ferreted out many of its details. They make it clear why the U.S. government wants the Santacruz case kept quiet.

According to former and current DEA, military, and State Department officials, the cartel had assembled a database that contained both the office and residential telephone numbers of U.S. diplomats and agents based in Colombia, along with the entire call log for the phone company in Cali, which was leaked by employees of the utility. The mainframe was loaded with custom-written data-mining software. It cross-referenced the Cali phone exchange's traffic with the phone numbers of American personnel and Colombian intelligence and law enforcement officials. The computer was essentially conducting a perpetual internal mole-hunt of the cartel's organizational chart. "They could correlate phone numbers, personalities, locations -- any way you want to cut it," says the former director of a law enforcement agency. "Santacruz could see if any of his lieutenants were spilling the beans."

The WikiLeaks cables on anti-narcotics efforts show more than anything else the futility of the so-called "war on drugs". There are cables on how druglords have taken over African countries to use them as a hub to Europe. The DEA wiretapping endeavors are easily compromised by rogue leaders like Martinelli (and in Paraguay there was a similar situation) while more sensible regional leaders see their reasons for kicking the DEA out of their countries confirmed by the WikiLeaks releases.

The Panamanian drug interdiction efforts are especially ludicrous, as nobody can really explain how Panama's streets become safer (as per former ambassador Stephenson's statement) by putting most efforts and budget towards intercepting drug transports at sea which, as they are in transit to the north, wouldn't even touch the Panamanian shores.

Needless to say, the Panamanian media as usual excel in failing to explore any of these angles.

14 thoughts on “WikiLeaks: Martinelli’s groupies and the futility of DEA efforts

  1. Why does Panama think that it can still become the choke point for the Drug trade?

    It is just a another Pawn of the Narco’s and the Governments that profit from this war on drugs!

    I have always wondered why they never fully test the quality of the drugs that are always in the same colored plastic wrap Kilo’s(mostly tan, with a few blue and a little yellow plastic Kilo wrappings thrown) which they claim to confiscate and then burn.

    The Police always seem to confiscate the same drugs and/or weapons over and over!

    Just go back for the last six years and review the Videos from TVN and Telemetro!

    Since when has the Panamanian Media ever followed up on any thing of Value!

    Now with the top three newspapers and the two largest TV stations are owned and operated by the Rico friends of this Panamanian Government!

    Wikileaks just demonstrates that those that have watch and warned of this now illegitimate government, were not crying wolf!

    This new Government has become far more depraved than even Tony would have dreamed in Exile!

    “Panama where the numbers never add up”

    Julian Assange has become one the true messenger of the free press and the Internet!

    They are too camps emerging from this Wikileaks phenomenon those that truly believe in a free equal Press and the Corrupted governments and Corporations that want to dominate the world at any cost!

    Corrupted governments and Corporations that want to dominate us and to control us at our own expense!

    It took Daniel Ellsberg seven months to copy the Pentagon papers, now all of this can happen in mere minutes and seconds!

    They can no longer hide behind large government data bases and so-called secret cables that amount to nothing more than personal hatreds, prejudices, and insidious bipolar opinions!

    We made not see big changes here in Panama but the Panamanian Government can no longer hide the truth as before!

  2. Nobody with a functioning brain could support Martinelli if just because supermarkets are supposed to sell all US products containing aspartame
    http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/aspartame/
    and also all products containing MSG
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glutamic_acid_%28flavor%29

    A president is supposed to improve well-being of citizens instead, whereas the two above food issues increase direct suffering (obesity, diabetes) and indirect suffering because the cost of healthcare continues to increase although in a country like Panama they could and should be next to zero.

    According to definition, coffee is a drug as well (because kicking the coffee drinking habit results in withdrawal symptoms) so from that perspective the so called “war on drugs” is another scam from Washington to increase prices, required for its illegal CIA operations (including those in Panama).

    Hence any govt with the interest of “the people” in mind abandons the “war on drugs” because as long as that war is supported, prices of drugs remain so high that corruption on all levels is an absolute certainty, which prevents democratic development, a necessity to adapt and survive in the post-peak-oil era.

    Drugs only are a problem of countries where govts fail to provide their citizens with a happy_enough life (USA, Russia, EU). Despite poverty, there’s no basis for drug addiction in Latin America.

    Surely there must be quite a number of “top secret” Wikileak cables regarding Panama’s expected (pro-Washington) role in the drugs trade as well – if just to keep prices for Washington high.

    Panamanian streets will only be safe again when selling borojo is more profitable than trafficking coca products (including cola).

  3. What is the big deal about the WikiLeaks revelations? So, President Ricardo Martinelli asked Ambassador Barbara Stephenson in an “off-the-record” conversation, to take advantage of DEA’s “Matador” wiretapping system already in place and operating in Panama (whose official justification is to tape narco dealers and money lauderers’ conversations) to also listen to cellphone conversations of some of his “most dangerous” political ennemies. After all it was thanks to such a cellphone “pinchazo” that the Government was able to clearly established the linkage between the PRD headquarters and the Frenadeso union leaders rioting during the Bocas del Toro events. As the editor says here above, today’s smart criminals do not use cellphones anymore when communicating among each others. Actually, cellphones are not even used by cheaters with half a brain to date their “queridas” to a push button. Incidentally, gizmos to help evesdropping and GPS locating are on sale in every spy shop here in Panama and elsewhere in the world… So, again, what is the big deal?

  4. @XIO The government never established a link between PRD headquarters and the protests in Bocas. They said they did, but didn’t. The only “proof” they had was a highly edited conversation between one of their agents and someone from the PRD, which proved nothing. Every report – even that of the government commission itself – has since blamed the government for the deaths and wounded. So what are you talking about?

    That you see nothing wrong with tapping phones of political and business opponents – as in the DAS scandal in Colombia with its campaign of harassment and stalking – only tells me something about your ethics. Nothing else.

  5. Xio is nothing more then the wanker himself!

    He wants to be and thinks he is a mouth piece for this Right wing overly corrupted Government here in Panama!

    He states facts, figures, polls that he Plagiarizes from so-called legitimate sources which can never be verified or believed, his so-called editorial comments lack originality and most of all the complete and udder lack of any form Journalistic integrity or respect.

    xio brand of journalism is ingenuous disinformation which he always states as fact!

    His only Ethics are his Pocket book!

  6. @Dr. Dias: As per a request from the Editor, I promised a while ago to refrain from attacking YOU as a person, but only attacking your MESSAGES, when I don’t agree with them (which, admitedly, is most of the time). In return, I would expect YOU to abide by the same rule and extend the same courtesy to ME. Name calling like “Xio is nothing more than the wanker himself” is inacceptable among civilized people and has no place in this forum. Actually, this may come as a surprise to you, but I claim to be a moderate liberal in the US meaning of the term, or, if you prefer, a social democrat in the European meaning of the term; but I am certainly not “a mouth piece for this right wing overly corrupted Government here in Panama”. As to the rest of your message, it is so way over-the-top, that it does not even deserve rebuttal. Insults are the weapons of the weak and so are the biased prejudices of the mentally challenged.

  7. @Editor: My source of information is to be found on Youtube in series called “la verdadera realidad” . For those of you who understand Spanish, here is the link:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zq2yw69PmUg&NR=1

    Fransisco Sanchez Cardenas (“Pachi”) by denouncing the “pinchazo” of his cellular phone conversation actually admitted having had the incriminating conversation with the drunkard Suntracs leader in Bocas. Facts are stubborn.

  8. I know that YouTube. But it doesn’t prove anything. An opposition leader talking to a union leader, so?

    I repeat: Each and every commission, international body, and even the government’s OWN commission blamed Martinelli & Co for the riots and the death and wounded. Not SUNTRACS, not the PRD, not the indigenous people, not the banana workers. If this “evidence” you quote is so convincing and conclusive, why has NOBODY taken it seriously, not even Martinelli’s own commission?

    You’re just trying to repaint history, but on these pages we don’t have the short memory span you apparently count on.

  9. @Editor: I never denied the fact that the police killed and wounded rioters in the rightly-so-called Bocas del Toro masacre. Denying that fact would indeed be stupid and a hopeless attempt to “repaint history”. What I am saying is that it is a fact, as evidenced by the different YouTube videos titled “La verdadera Realidad” that the workers did not demonstrate peacefully. They were actually quite violent and it is clear that Pachi encouraged them to “hang in there” even when the union leader told him that “there will be many dead people” and that “they had taken policemen prisoners”. It is a FACT that the rioters provoked the police in a most violent manner (i.e.: look at the video in which they prepare and throw Molotof cocktails at them) and yes it is a FACT that the police overreacted by killing and wounding many rioters and some inocent by-standers as well. But the masacre could have been avoided if Pachi would have told the union leader to stop riotting and instead sit down with Martinelli to negociate with instead of telling him “hang in there”.

    • None of what you state as fact is actually fact. Each and every independent investigation has shown that it was the police that started the violence, against banana workers who were being screwed over by a Chiquita subsidiary. It was that idiot Alma Cortés who intigated the protests with her arrogant dismissal of any of the claims.

      “Hang in there” doesn’t prove anything, and less so that the PRD was behind it. That’s just nonsense, and the audio on that YouTube is heavily edited on top of that. So, every serious investigator has ignored it, including Martinelli’s own commission – a fact indeed that you seem unable to grasp.

      You presenting this load of total crap here as some sort of legitimization of Martinelli demanding that the DEA helps him with his political espionage schemes is even more ludicrous. In your view, it would be okay for him to do something highly illegal because you believe in Martinelli’s lies and spin about his people killing protesters in Bocas. With Panamanians like you, no wonder we don’t have rule of law in this country.

  10. What i call a fact you call a lie and vice-versa. As a general rulel, I strive to make reasonably balanced comments, but a balanced point of view is obviously not the leading line of this medium. By the way, since you lived in Panama for some time now, why do You still wonder about Panamanians’ disregard for the rule of law?
    Admitedly, we Panamanians are not politically correct or hypocrites. We cherish our freedom much more that the rule of law imposed on us by Gringos. So what?

    • @XIO: There is nothing “balanced” about disseminating facts that are not facts. I mean, I only have to point at the various reports by the various investigative organizations – from all sides of the political spectrum – to prove you wrong. NOBODY but some hardcore Martinelli groupies supports your views, simply because what you say isn’t true.

      And maybe you need to study a little history. No country has ever gotten anywhere without rule of law. Or maybe you think Panamanians should take Somalia as an example.

  11. The only Balance point from this whole Bocas del Toro Fiasco is this government through it National Police force blinded over 100 individuals in one eye and over ten individuals permanently Blinded !

    By shooting Directly into their Faces at very close range! (Sources: La Prensa, Panama America, La Critica, La Estrella, TVN, & Telemetro)

    Indirect deaths at Ten that are conceded by this Government and direct deaths at two? (Sources: La Prensa, Panama America, La Critica, La Estrella, TVN, & Telemetro)

    The National Police fired Buck shot and bird shot directly into the faces of the Demonstrators!(Sources: La Prensa, Panama America, La Critica, La Estrella, TVN, & Telemetro)

    The National Police in Panama have never fired on any strikers or Demonstrators since the Invasion of 1989.

    Even when the Nation Police where assaulted by Construction workers who threw sharpen rebar spears, rocks, bottles, Cement blocks, and cement bags thrown from five or more stories above them on Ave. Balboa, March of this year!
    (Sources: La Prensa, Panama America, La Critica, La Estrella, TVN, & Telemetro)

    Some how the National Police manage to round up over 400 policemen, then flew then to Bocas del Toro with live ammunition and full riot and combat gear .

    Since the local Citizens of Bocas del Toro where exercising their Panamanian Constitutional rights to free assembly and free speech!

    Why did the Government send in over 400 heavily arm riot police?(Sources: La Prensa, Panama America, La Critica, La Estrella, TVN, & Telemetro

    Why was this Panamanian Government so afraid of a few Banana workers and indigenous peoples of Bocas del Toro?

    The answer is so very simple, this Panamanian Government just like the rest of the Corrupted Governments of this planet can no longer Kill, assassinate, steal, kidnap , and imprison individuals at will, without consequences.

    Big brother has a bigger Brother now, the world now views them through the Internet!

    You can still do the dirty deed, only now you better smile cause some one has a Cellular camera, Video, or pen camera.

    With out the Internet Bocas del Toro would be nothing but a riot put down by the National Police!

    The truth is that it this Police Riot which used live ammunition against unarmed citizens whuch was ordered by the National Police chief by the Minister of Government and Justice with the full Blessings of the Presidential cabinet weeks before!(Sources: La Prensa, Panama America, La Critica, La Estrella, TVN, & Telemetro

    Wikileaks, now has shown this Panamanian Government has tried and succeeded in using it influence to circumvent the law and to enslave it own Citizens by outright, Deceit, outright corruption, the unlawful use of the Ministries(personnel, equipment & Property) of this Government.

    “Panama where the numbers never add up”

  12. Pingback: To Mrs. Tracy McCormick, of that Twitter WikiLeaks subpoena | Okke Ornstein

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