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Volume 16, Number 10
September 21, 2010


news

Also in this section:
Bosco says he has an atom bomb
Martinelli wants a better bunker
Cop slain in Arraijan hostage situation
Investigations against current and former police directors shelved
Gay rights debate
New wiretaps controversy
Guantanamo news restrictions eased
Far right wins GOP primaries, becomes focus of Democrat attacks
Crime scene in Perejil
Toro beats corruption charge due to double jeopardy
Protests and lawsuits against Law 30 continue
War declared


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

Delgado gets to travel abroad while murder case is pending, while Pérez gets his investigation dropped
Bonissi grants impunity to current and former police chiefs
by Eric Jackson

Delgado's case

On February 8, 1970 Daniel Delgado Diamante, then a lieutenant in the old Guardia Nacional, shot and killed Corporal Andrés García in the latter's home in Panama Viejo. There were two surviving witnesses to the act, Delgado and García's widow, Jean Black. Delgado's story is that he went to the home because of a domestic violence complaint against García, who confronted him with a weapon. Black denies that her late husband was armed and accuses Delgado of executing him in cold blood.

Those were the days of the dictatorship, when army officers did not have to account for their abusive actions. Yes, there were puppet courts and docile prosecutors, but a year and a half after the 1968 coup these hardly mattered and the subsequent compelling reasons for some pretense of the rule of law had not yet manifested themselves to General Omar Torrijos.

Delgado said that the shooting had been investigated and he had been cleared by prosecutors and the courts. However, no document and no witness has ever been produced to support this claim.

Nearly four decades after the homicide, in 2008, it became a public again. Delgado had gone on to be the lieutenant colonel in charge of the Panama Defense Forces' San Miguelito garrison, one of the military units that put up a fight during the 1989 US invasion, and then a political prisoner of the new government. He got out, and after the late dictator's son Martín Torrijos remilitarized Panama's police forces and got homicidal with labor militants, he hired Delgado as director of the National Police. Critics said that a murderer was commanding the police and despite attempts to silence the criticism by abuse of the criminal defamation laws, Delgado couldn't shake the criticism and a criminal investigation was begun.

The opening of an official investigation obliged Delgado to step down temporarily, and ultimately his ouster was made formally permanent. In 2009 there was a reconstruction of the incident at the scene of the shooting. But first Ana Matilde Gómez, and then Giuseppe Bonissi, took their time with the controversial case.

The general rule is that one who is the subject of a formal investigation for murder spends the time when the case is grinding through the slow gears of Panamanian justice behind bars. But that didn't happen with Delgado. The general rule is also that one who is not being held in preventive detention but who is still facing investigation for a serious crime does not get to leave the country.

However, the Second Superior Tribunal, which is still pondering whether and when to set a trial date, gave Delgado a 10-day permit to leave the country from September 10 through 20 to attend an event at El Salvador's Academy of Military History. The prosecution, which some time ago requested that Delgado be bound over for trial, did not object.

Pérez's case

Back in Noriega times, the dictator's once-close relationship with the Americans soured and he got rid of his US security advisors and brought in an Israeli, the Mossad's Mike Harari. Harari organized and effectively directed an elite unit, the Anti-Terror Service Special Unit (UESAT), to terrorize opponents within and outside of the Panama Defense Forces and organize some sort of defense against the Americans. The number two man in that unit (not counting Harari), was one Gustavo Pérez De La Ossa.

In the run-up to the 1989 invasion, UESAT planned to take a number of Americans as hostages in the event of a US attack. The plot was dubbed "Plan Barricada." The attack came and UESAT moved into action, kidnapping two Americans --- Panama Canal College professor Raymond Dragseth and US Embassy employee Fernando Braithwaite --- from the Sonesta building in Paitilla. As the US forces quickly gained the upper hand, the two hostages were killed and the UESAT dispersed. Later, several members of the unit were tried for the murder and while most maintained their silence, a captain testified that Dragseth and Braithwaite had been abducted in accordance with Plan Barricada. Two enlisted men were ultimately convicted for the crime.

Gustavo Pérez was one of the former Panama Defense Forces officers who was taken into the post-invasion Public Force. His objective before his capture was the old Marriott hotel (now the Sheraton) near ATLAPA. It turned out to be one of the staging grounds for US forces and the plan to kidnap a number of Americans at that hotel was aborted.

But not too many months later, as the tales of UESAT were coming out in various investigations, Pérez was fired from the police over it. He claims now, and apparently claimed then, that despite being the number two man in UESAT he was out of the loop and knew nothing about Plan Barricada.

So, what were the findings of the probe that resulted in Pérez being sacked? That's unknown to the public, because the police file on the matter has "disappeared" and nobody who knows about the case is talking about it. (During the Torrijos administration Pérez's father, who has a similar name, served as National Police director and would have had access to that file.)

In any case, when Ricardo Martinelli appointed the younger Pérez to head the police, there was a great hue and cry, particularly from activists who had been bullied by Noriega's security forces. An investigation about Pérez and Plan Barricada was begun.

Bonissi conducted a two-month "investigation" that found that there were no victims of Plan Barricada, so there was no crime committed. None of Dragseth's or Braithwaite's friends, neighbors or relatives were consulted. Apparently there was no reference to the trial testimony that linked their deaths to Plan Barricada. The failure of the US government to file charges against anyone was cited as proof of Pérez's innocence. Upon Bonissi's request, the Supreme Court's Penal Bench thus ended the "investigation" of  Gustavo Pérez. "No crime was proven, there were no victims and nobody emerged accused," Bonissi told La Prensa.



Also in this section:
Bosco says he has an atom bomb
Martinelli wants a better bunker
Cop slain in Arraijan hostage situation
Investigations against current and former police directors shelved
Gay rights debate
New wiretaps controversy
Guantanamo news restrictions eased
Far right wins GOP primaries, becomes focus of Democrat attacks
Crime scene in Perejil
Toro beats corruption charge due to double jeopardy
Protests and lawsuits against Law 30 continue
War declared




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