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Volume 16, Number 9
August 19, 2010


news

Also in the news section:
Genaro López steps down as SUNTRACS chief to concentrate on politics
Police raid international surf tournament
Strip mining dispute coming to center stage here
Ferrufino claims that he has been absolved in scandals
Government shuts down Bocas water taxis
The strange case of Valentín Palacio
Toned down PANAMAX 2010 war games
Panamanian-style gun control politics and how the Americans here react
Ana Matilde Gómez convicted
International Indigenous Peoples Day in Panama City
Low intensity power struggle over Law 30

Many things that used to be in a Panama News Briefs feature of the website have now migrated to our constantly updated Facebook page

Panama, August 17: US Navy Diver 2nd Class David Orme, right, assigned to company 2-6 of Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2, signals to Colombian divers Captain Camilo Cifuentez, left, and Chief Technician Aurelio Alonso, to swim left during a Navy Diver-Southern Partnership Station underwater gear familiarization. Navy Diver-Southern Partnership Station exercise is a multinational partnership engagement designed to increase interoperability and partner nation capacity through diving operations. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jayme Pastoric

This year's annual US-led regional war games scaled back amid changing conditions
PANAMAX 2010
by Eric Jackson, with photos and captions from SouthCom

When first announced early this year, the 2010 PANAMAX war games were going to be held in Panama and would be larger than ever. Since then, however, a number of events have intervened:
  • Europe fell into an economic crisis. The hardest hit countries had not planned to participate in the PANAMAX games in any event, but the hard times or threats of hard times are rippling across the continent, so the tentative plans of Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands to participate were cancelled.

  • Except for the stock market and bank profits, the United States did not emerge from its crisis, and economic recovery in Latin America has also come slowly. Thus the cost to the remaining countries of sending ships became a burden and the live naval exercise aspect that has always characterized the PANAMAX games since their inception in 2003 was greatly reduced, in favor of classroom and computer simulations.

  • Despite all smiles and denials, US relations with Panama cooled, most probably over allegations of drug cartel infiltration of Ricardo Martinelli's government and political party. Thus the big naval show off of Panama was toned down, while other naval games similar to what had taken place here before were held in the waters and on the coasts of Colombia and Peru.

  • Just before the PANAMAX games were to begin, Colombia's Constitutional Court struck down a treaty that would allow US forces --- up to 800 military personnel and up to 600 "civilian contractor" mercenaries --- to use seven bases in Colombia. The court held that the treaty would need to be ratified by the Colombian Congress, and while there seems to be no insurmountable obstacle there, the country's new President Juan Manuel Santos has moved to put the rowdy arguments of his predecessor Álvaro Uribe with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez in the past. The problem is that the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador consider those bases to be aimed at them, and some of the region's more moderate governments also consider them unseemly and divisive. Within Colombia there are parts of the treaty, particularly the one that makes the Americans immune from Colombia's laws, which are politically controversial. Santos vows that cooperation with the United States, and US military assistance, will not be affected by the court's ruling, but it seems likely that there will be a renegotiation of some of the treaty's terms before it goes to the Congress.

Thus PANAMAX 2010 is not as originally conceived, but a series of lower-keyed war games in Norfolk, Virginia; Mayport, Florida; Panama and Colombia. The spectacular pictures of games past in Panama will mostly not be seen. There will be fewer foreign sailors, cops and soldiers getting a few hours or a day of leave coming into Panama City to spend a bit of money.

And what will be practiced here? On their website, the US Southern Command describes it as:
  • Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS)

  • Entry Control Point training

  • Riverine patrols

  • Open water diving operations

However, the Panamanian National Aeronaval Service (SENAN) chief of operations, Jesús Rodríguez, described this year's PANAMAX war games as predicated on defending the canal from a "campesino threat." It does seem that provoking rural uprisings by dispossessing communities in order to make way for strip mines and hydroelectric dams is one of the risks that the Martinelli administration is ready to take, but it also seems likely that the politicians and military commanders in Washington would be annoyed by the characterization.

The 18 nations participating in this year's maneuvers are Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the United States and Uruguay.


Colombia, August 13: Chief petty officer selectees lead the chief's mess in morning physical training in the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) as the ship performs counter illicit-trafficking operations off the coast of Colombia during Southern Partnership Station 2010. Southern Partnership Station is an annual deployment of US military training teams to the US Southern Command area of responsibility. US Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Robert Winkler



Also in the news section:
Genaro López steps down as SUNTRACS chief to concentrate on politics
Police raid international surf tournament
Strip mining dispute coming to center stage here
Ferrufino claims that he has been absolved in scandals
Government shuts down Bocas water taxis
The strange case of Valentín Palacio
Toned down PANAMAX 2010 war games
Panamanian-style gun control politics and how the Americans here react
Ana Matilde Gómez convicted
International Indigenous Peoples Day in Panama City
Low intensity power struggle over Law 30




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