2011-01-16 Panama's Tourism Minister in hot seat over cable alleging drug ties

Image Courtesy of laestrella.com.paNewsroom Panama reports the Secretary General of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PDR) is calling  for the removal Salomon Shama, the country's Minister of Tourism, because of revelations in cable released by Wikileaks, wherein the US Ambassador Barbara Stephenson voiced suspicion Shama had "suspected links with drug traffickers." [Source]

Panama’s main opposition party has called for the removal from office of the head of the country’s tourism authority following Wikileaks revelations that the former U.S. Ambassador suspected links to drug traffickers.

Members of the governing administration, including Vice President Juan Carlos Varela have leapt to the defence of Colombian born Salomon Shamah who ambassador Barbara Stephenson had said in a cable she considered had 'suspected links with drug traffickers. "
...Reports of the ambassadorial cables concerning Shamah were carried On Saturday, January 18 in El Siglo, and the story was the main lead in La Estrella on Sunday.

El Siglo report:  [Source - english via google]


Un reporte de Wikileaks, supuestamente enviado el 18 de diciembre de 2009 por la entonces embajadora de Estados Unidos en Panamá, Barbara Stephenson, apunta al actual ministro de Turismo, Salomón ‘Salo’ Shamah, al que cita como sospechoso de tener vínculos con narcotraficantes.

Además de relacionar al aeropuerto de Tocumen con el lavado de dinero, el tráfico de indocumentados y el narcotráfico, en el cable, Stephenson, cuestiona la designación de Shamah en la junta directiva de la terminal aérea por sospechar de los vínculos del funcionario con narcotraficantes.

[ Source


A Wikileaks report, allegedly sent on December 18, 2009 by the then U.S. ambassador in Panama, Barbara Stephenson, says the current tourism minister, Solomon 'Salo' Shamah, who cites as suspected of having links to drug traffickers.

In addition to relating the Tocumen airport with money laundering, alien smuggling and drug trafficking in the cable, Stephenson, Shamah questioned the appointment of the board of the airport on suspicion of links with drug official.


La Estrella:


PANAMA. El opositor PRD exigió ayer que el administrador de la Autoridad de Turismo, Salomón Shamah, sea separado de su cargo para ser investigado por el Ministerio Público por supuestos vínculos con el narcotráfico, tal como señalara la ex embajadora de EEUU en Panamá, Barbara Stephenson, según WikiLeaks.
'Las acusaciones que le han hecho son realmente serias', apuntó Mitchell Doens, secretario general del colectivo.



PANAMA. The opposition PRD demanded yesterday that the administrator of the Tourism Authority, Solomon Shamah, be removed from office for investigation by the Public Prosecutor for alleged links to drug trafficking, as noted by the former U.S. Ambassador to Panama, Barbara Stephenson, by WikiLeaks.

'The accusations that have made are really serious," said Mitchell Does, secretary general of the collective.

[Source - english via Google]

Wikileaks Catalysed Reporting

 In an article posted by Wikileaks January  11, 2011 entitled Latin America - Panamá: Airport "tainted by a seamy underside of smuggling, trafficking and corruption," the contents of the cable are interpreted.

Wikileaks reports:

Tocumen international airport in Panama is fast becoming a major criminal hub in Latin America, according to a cable sent by the U.S. embassy from Panama City in December 2009.
"Tocumen’s legitimate status as a crux of Latin America’s passenger and cargo traffic is tainted by a seamy underside of alien smuggling, money laundering, narcotics trafficking and corruption," according to the memo that was signed by Barbara J. Stephenson, the last U.S. ambassador to Panama.”

This report goes on to describe the laundering of money through the mostly unregulated, duty-free shops.  Then in a section describing "archaic" paper-based Customs procedures, it reports the cable mentions Shamah:

The memo also says that "drug trafficking is a major problem at the cargo terminal, where DEA has seen an increase in 200 to 300 kilogram shipments moving via established cargo carriers. Such large shipments are impossible without the complicity of corrupt customs and law enforcement officials, and most likely cargo company employees as well."

The embassy notes that the board of directors at Tocumen includes Salomon Shamah, the tourism minister, who is "suspected of links to drug traffickers."


From The Cable: 09PANAMA893

Comment: There are signs that the GOP understands the importance of Tocumen to their status as a regional center for transit of goods and people. The board of directors at Tocumen includes the Deputy Finance Minister Frank De Lima and the Deputy Minister of the Presidency, Maria Fabrega, both of whose bosses are among the most powerful leaders in the Martinelli administration. Yet the board also includes Tourism Minister Salomon Shamah, suspected of links to drug traffickers.


Image Courtesy of La Estrella

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