U.S. Government Blacklists Panamanian Officials
PANAMA CITY, Panama (AP) _ The United States placed Panamanian officials on a blacklist Monday, forbidding U.S. companies and government agencies from buying from them or their businesses.
U.S. Embassy officials said the action was intended to ″hurt the pocketbooks″ of people associated with Panamanian strongman Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega.
The measure affects Panamanian officials who own companies that sell millions of dollars to the U.S. Southern Command military installations or to the Panama Canal Commission, a U.S. government agency that administers the Panama Canal.
The list released by the U.S. Embassy contains more than 150 names, including all members of the Cabinet and the 14 members of the Defense Forces’ Strategic Command, the officials said.
U.S. government agencies in Panama spend almost $900 million on goods and services in Panama.
Embassy officials said they plan to release a list of companies owned by Noriega or people near to him within days.
The U.S. government does not recognize the provisional president, Francisco Rodriguez, who took office Friday. The United States considers Rodriguez a puppet of Noriega, the Defense Forces leader who has been indicted by two federal grand juries in Florida on drug trafficking charges.
Rodriguez filled the vacuum created when the Panamanian government annulled the May 7 elections, which international observers say the opposition was winning by a 3-to-1 margin.
Rodriguez, who swore in his Cabinet on Monday, said he would govern with an appointed legislative commission. Six of the 11 Cabinet members were re- appointed.
Opposition leaders, who refused to participate in the new government, last weekend turned down an offer to participate in the 41-member legislative commission.
″Our fight is for the democratization of our country and not for bureaucratic spoils or for political spaces,″ said Ricardo Arias Calderon, a vice presidential candidate in the May elections.
The list released Monday includes Fortunato Magravita, owner of a meat market that counts the Southern Command among its principal customers. Magravita is a director of the National Bank of Panama.
The U.S. Army also is the biggest customer of the company Firmas Efficientes, a computer paper and forms distributor owned by Angel Modesto Jaen, an official of the National Sports Institute and one of those on the list.
″U.S. companies cannot sell to these people or their companies or extend any credit,″ said embassy spokesman Terry Kneebone.
Still in effect are U.S. government sanctions imposed on Panama more than a year ago that withhold payment of canal fees and taxes on Panama Canal Commission salaries. The sanctions also freeze Panamanian government funds in the United States and forbid U.S. companies from dealing with Panamanian government agencies.
U.S. officials and opposition leaders acknowledge that the sanctions had not achieved the desired effect: Noriega’s ouster.
Sources indicated that U.S. companies and others were violating the sanctions through intermediaries.
″This time the Treasury Department will be more vigorous in the application of the sanctions,″ a U.S. source said on condition of anonymity.
Many of those on the list were reported to have bank accounts and properties in the United States and U.S. officials said the Treasury Department ″was not discounting″ further action regarding those assets.
The U.S. government’s displeasure with those associated with Noriega will also mean revoking the U.S. citizenship of Panamanian Finance Minister Orville K. Goodin, the sources said. Goodin, who also holds Panamanian citizenship, held the same post in the previous Cabinet.
Officials confirmed the United States acted to remove Goodin’s citizenship on the grounds he is an official of a foreign government.