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Friday, August 22 2014 @ 01:53 AM EDT

Alejandro Garuz Is Now The New Top Spy In Panama

Panama NewsAlejandro Garuz, who was appointed as the Vice Minister of Government and Justice in 2009 and then as the Vice Minister of Security a year later, was named on Thursday as the Executive Secretary of the National Council of Security and Defense. This was confirmed yesterday by Garuz himself, who, however, declined to give further details, saying he was in a meeting, and then later he did not answer his phone.

Garuz replaces Gustavo Perez in office. Perez was made the Executive Secretary of the Security Council on 11 March 2012, after being moved from his former position as the Director of the National Police, in the midst of a dispute with the Security Minister, Jose Raul Mulino.

Garuz is the fifth person to hold the post since the start of the administration of Ricardo Martinelli, in 2009. He was preceded by Jaime Trujillo, who served between July and August 2009; Olmedo Alfaro, from August 2009 until July 2010; Julio Moltó, who was the Secretary from July 2010 to March 2012; and finally Gustavo Perez, from March to September 2012.

Garuz was named to the post one week after his daughter Marelisa married the youngest son of the President of the Republic, Luis Enrique Martinelli. As of yesterday, sources close to the state security agencies had not confirmed the reason why this change was taking place. Some indicated the change is taking place in response to certain flaws in matters of intelligence attributed to the Security Council during Perez's administration, while others said Garuz asked for the position and the president gave it to him.

However, sources reported that Perez would now become the Vice Minister of Government, replacing Javier Tejeira, and that Tejeira wound now become the Vice Minister of Security, replacing Garuz. Tejeira was also mentioned as the possible new Director of the Panamanian Sports Institute. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: The National Council of Security and Defense is the highest ranking intelligence organization within the Panamanian government, and the Executive Secretary is in charge of that organization. They receive and have access to all of the most important and sensitive classified information in the government. For example, any intelligence information shared by the United States on matters related to drug trafficking, money laundering, arms smuggling, human trafficking, and other international crimes would be passed directly to the National Council of Security and Defense. It is their job to handle and analyze the intelligence information, and to turn it into "actionable" information which can be used by the officers of the National Police, the detectives of the Direction of Judicial Information (DIJ), the National Naval Air Service, and the National Border Service who are on the ground and in the field. And of course the National Council of Security and Defense also has operational control over Panama's domestic intelligence collection apparatus - things like their capability to monitor cell phones in the country - so they also generate their own domestic intelligence products.

Gustavo Perez has clearly fallen out of favor with Ricardo Martinelli. He started off as the Director of the National Police, a high profile position which he loved, managing a multi million dollar annual budget. But after a public dispute with his boss the Minister of Public Security Jose Raul Mulino over issues related to the control and discipline of the police officers, Perez was fired and moved to head the National Council of Security and Defense. This is obviously a position of trust for Ricardo Martinelli, and by moving Perez there, he expressed his continued confidence in him.

But (and, this is a really big BUT), the United States does not trust Gustavo Perez, due to his participation in "Plan Barricada" as a Lieutenant in the "Unidad Especial Anti Terror" (UESAT) (Special Anti Terror Unit) during the Just Cause invasion in 1989. Gustavo Perez participated in the kidnapping of US Citizens in order to be used as pawns and negotiating chips by the then military dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega (See: Panama's Attorney General Opens Investigation Into Gustavo Pérez, UESAT, and "Plan Barricada" and Police Chief Gustavo Perez Denies Kidnapping US Civilians During Just Cause Invasion.)

Obviously, Garuz is one of Martinelli's most trusted advisers, even more now that their respective children have married. With this move Perez sinks even further on the food chain. As the Vice Minister of Government he will be responsible for things like the Fire Department, the National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC), and the Post Office. Not nearly as glamorous as being the Chief of Police, or the top spy in the country. But hey, he's still in the game. I suspect he will be back, sooner or later, one way or the other.

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