Panama denies WikiLeaks report of canal trouble

Thursday, December 23 2010 @ 05:47 PM UTC

Contributed by: Don Winner

(AFP) Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli says he had total confidence in the expansion of the critical Panama Canal, denying it was a "disaster," as a US ambassador said in a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks. "We are here to show our support for all the work that has been done to date by the Canal Administrator and his entire team. This is a project that will benefit the country and the entire world," Mr Martinelli said in a statement issued after a visit to the site. His comments were the first government reaction to a leaked diplomatic cable in which then-US ambassador to Panama Barbara Stephenson described the vice president's deep concerns over the project.

According to a January 2010 memo, Vice President and Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Varela told the US representative: "The canal expansion project is a disaster." "In two or three years, it will be obvious this was all a failure," he said, adding he was worried about the financial stability of the consortium expanding the canal. Ms Stephenson also reported that Mr Martinelli himself had "grimaced" when asked how the project was going and had indicated he was worried the construction bid had been tipped to a group that included the canal administrator's cousin.

An international consortium, led by Spain's Sacyr, won a $3 billion bid in 2009 to expand the canal's locks. - AFP

Editor's Comment: And now, when high ranking Panamanian politicians talk to the US Ambassador, they will only discuss the weather ... "My, these crumpets are delightful. Have you tried the shrimp dip?" The President then "grimaced" and said "the last time, they gave me gas." No doubt, this whole Wikileaks thing is going over like a fart in church.

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