US embassy cable - 89PANAMA8566

OPPOSITION ACTIVIST GIVES ACCOUNT OF REGIME TORTURE

Identifier: 89PANAMA8566
Wikileaks: View 89PANAMA8566 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Panama
Created: 1989-12-13 22:21:00
Classification: SECRET
Tags: PHUM PINR PGOV PREF PREL PM
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 132221Z DEC 89
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7231
INFO SECDEF WASHDC
DIA WASHDC
USIA WASHDC 8099
USLO CARIBBEAN
USCINCSO QUARRY HTS PM
AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
AMEMBASSY TEGUCIGALPA
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 PANAMA 08566 
 
E.O.12356: DECL:OADR 
TAGS:  PHUM, PINR, PGOV, PREF, PREL, PM 
SUBJECT:  OPPOSITION ACTIVIST GIVES ACCOUNT OF 
          REGIME TORTURE 
 
1.  SECRET - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  SUMMARY.  CHRISTIAN DEMOCRAT GUSTAVO CEDENO 
(STRICTLY PROTECT), WAS ARRESTED BY REGIME 
AUTHORITIES ON DECEMBER 5, DETAINED FOR 21 HOURS, 
BEATEN, AND QUESTIONED ABOUT A POSSIBLE NEW COUP 
ATTEMPT.  HE WAS FORCED TO SIGN STATEMENTS AGAINST 
THE CHURCH AND CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY (PDC) 
PRESIDENT RICARDO ARIAS CALDERON, AND WAS 
REPORTEDLY ENLISTED TO SPY ON THE OPPOSITION 
BEFORE BEING RELEASED.  CEDENO HAS SOUGHT REFUGE 
AT A U.S. MILITARY FACILITY.  END SUMMARY. 
 
3.  CEDENO, A CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC RATY ACTIVIST, 
MET WITH POLOFF ON DECEMBER 9 TO REPORT HIS ORDEAL 
AND DISPLAY HIS BRUISES (CEDENO COULD BARELY WALK 
AND HAS SINCE SOUGHT REFUGE ON A U.S. BASE.) 
ACCORDING TO CEDENO, ON DEC. 5, TWELVE ARMED MEN 
TOOK HIM FROM HIS HOME IN PANAMA CITY.  HE WAS 
PLACED IN A CAR WHERE A FRIEND, HECTOR ANTONIO 
ARROCHA RIVAS, HANDCUFFED AND HOODED, WAS 
WAITING.  IN SPITE OF THE HOOD, CEDENO CLAIMS HE 
RECOGNIZED ARROCHA.  ONE OF THE ARMED MEN SHOVED 
CEDENO'S HEAD DOWN BETWEEN HIS KNEES.  FROM THIS 
POSITION, CEDENO COULD SEE THAT ARROCHA WAS NOT 
WEARING SHOES AND HIS FEET WERE BLOODY BECAUSE HIS 
TOENAILS HAD BEEN PULLED OUT. 
 
4.  A HOOD WAS THEN PLACED OVER CEDENO'S HEAD. 
ALTHOUGH HE COULD NOT SEE, HE BELIEVES HE WAS 
TAKEN TO FDP HEADQUARTERS IN DOWNTOWN PANAMA 
CITY.  THERE HE WAS STRIPPED TO HIS UNDERWEAR, 
TAPE WAS PLACED OVER HIS EYES, AND HE WAS BEATEN 
AND INTERROGATED CONTINUALLY FOR 20 HOURS (LARGELY 
ON THE LOWER BACK, BUTTOCKS AND THIGHS) BY 
DIFFERENT TEAMS OF MEN USING RUBBER HOSES.  AT ONE 
POINT, A HAMMER WAS USED TO SMASH THE MIDDLE TOE 
ON BOTH FEET.  A DOCTOR WAS PRESENT AND CUT OPEN 
THE BLOOD BLISTER THAT FORMED ON ONE TOE AND TOLD 
HIS TORMENTORS THEY COULD NOT HIT THAT TOE ANY 
LONGER.  AT ANOTHER POINT, HE WAS THROWN INTO A 
TANK OF COLD WATER.  TWICE HE LOST CONSCIOUSNESS. 
 
5.  CEDENO STATED THAT QUESTIONING CENTERED AROUND 
AN ALLEGED COUP ATTEMPT HIS CAPTORS ASSUMED MIGHT 
TAKE PLACE IN MID-DECEMBER.  CEDENO SAID THAT IN 
ORDER TO SATISFY HIS INTERROGATORS, HE MADE UP A 
STORY SAYING THAT SUCH A RUMOR MIGHT HAVE GOTTEN 
STARTED BECAUSE PEOPLE BELIEVED NORIEGA WAS HAVING 
TROUBLE PAYING THE FDP. 
 
6.  CEDENO, WHO ONCE WORKED IN THE NATIONAL 
INVESTIGATIVE POLICE (DENI) BETWEEN 1968-70, 
CLAIMED HE WAS ABLE TO RECOGNIZE A NICKNAME USED 
FOR PANAMA DEFENSE FORCES (FDP) COL. AROSEMENA 
KING, NOW HEAD OF G-5 (CIVIC AFFAIRS).  CEDENO 
BELIEVES AROSEMENA KING WAS ONE OF THE MEN WHO 
THREATENED HIM AND TRIED TO ENLIST HIM TO REPORT 
ON THE OPPOSITION. 
 
7.  CEDENO SAID HE WAS PROMISED HIS RELEASE AND 
THAT HIS PARENTS AND BROTHER WOULD NOT BE HARMED 
IF HE WOULD AGREE TO SPY ON THE OPPOSITION.  HE 
CLAIMS HE AGREED AND, TO LEND CREDIBILITY TO HIS 
PROMISE, BARGAINED FOR AND SECURED A MONTHLY 
STIPEND OF USDOLS 1,000.  (CEDENO SAID HE INFORMED 
PDC PRESIDENT ARIAS CALDERON OF THIS "ARRANGEMENT".) 
 
8.  BEFORE HIS RELEASE, CEDENO SAID HE WAS 
REQUIRED TO SIGN A NUMBER OF STATEMENTS.  ONE 
ACCUSED ARIAS CALDERON OF COMPLICITY IN A COUP 
PLOT.  ANOTHER ACCUSED PANAMA CITY'S CATHOLIC 
ARCHBISHOP MARCOS MCGRATH OF RUNNING AN ILLEGAL 
PRINTING PRESS IN THE SAME LOCAL CATHOLIC 
SECONDARY SCHOOL. 
 
9.  CEDENO SAID THAT IT WAS HIS IMPRESSION THAT 
THE G-2 HE HAD KNOWN WHEN HE HAD WORKED AT THE 
DENI SOME 20 YEARS AGO NO LONGER EXISTED.  IN HIS 
VIEW, THE CURRENT G-2 CONTAINED "DANGEROUS AND 
STUPID" ELEMENTS. 
 
10.  COMMENT.  EXCEPT FOR THE BRUISES ON HIS BODY 
AND THE DAMAGED TOES, WE HAVE NO WAY OF VERIFYING 
ALL OF CEDENO'S STATEMENTS.  HIS PHYSICAL 
CONDITION, HOWEVER, AND THE DETAIL WITH WHICH HE 
WAS ABLE TO DESCRIBE HIS EXPERIENCE PROVIDES ADDED 
INSIGHT INTO SOME OF THE THINKING AND METHODS OF 
NORIEGA'S THUGS. 
 
BUSHNELL 

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