From Thu Apr 12 11:45:20 2001
Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2001 10:18:13 -0500 (CDT)
From: The Panama News <>
Subject: Plan Colombia flights to be based in Panama—Vuelos de Plan Colombia
Article: 118147
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Lead news story and editorial in upcoming edition of The Panama News Online (http:.//, which will be uploaded sometime tonight or this afternoon):

Plan Colombia supply and troop flights to operate from Panama

By Eric Jackson, 11 April 2001

Though it is the policy of both the Panamanian and US governments to deny any Panama connection with Plan Colombia and any significant US military presence in Panama, the following advertisement in the US government's Commerce Business Daily indicates otherwise. It seems that the Pentagon is looking for a civilian contractor to operate from Panama, flying military forces and supplies in and out of Colombia.

The text to the advertisement follows:

[Commerce Business Daily: Posted in CBDNet on April 4, 2001] [Printed Issue Date: April 6, 2001] >From the Commerce Business Daily Online via GPO Access []

CLASSCOD: V--Transportation, Travel, and Relocation Services
OFFADD: Department of the Air Force, Air Mobility Command, HQ AMC/DOY
Contract Airlift, 402 Scott Drive, Unit 3A1, Scott AFB, IL, 62225-5302

SOL F11626-01-R0015
DUE 051101
POC John Sheahan, Contracting Officer, Phone (618) 229-1180, Fax (618) 256-2804, Email—Donald Pierre, Chief, Support Airlift Section, Phone (618) 229-1180, Fax (618) 256-2804, Email

DESC: Cargo, passenger, and combi, air transportation services for US SOUTHERN COMMAND (Central and South America and the Caribbean) utilizing two (2) contractor furnished aircraft plus one (1) back up. The planes must be IFR equipped, multi-engine, turbine powered, short take-off and landing (STOL) aircraft capable of operating in/out of semi-prepared 3,000 ft airstrips with a minimum California Bearing Ratio (CBR) of 7. Cargo requirements include transporting 3,000 lbs of palletized foodstuffs, parts, and helicopter blades crated for shipment in 29'0" x 3'8" x 1'6" containers. Passenger requirements are the transportation of up to 19 passengers and baggage totaling 3,000 lbs. Combi operations require transporting passengers and cargo totaling 3,000 lbs. All flights must comply with FAA guidelines flying under FAR Part 121 or 135. The contractor must be able to operate multiple missions simultaneously, seven days per week, 24 hours per day. Contractor will have a minimum of 24 hours notice prior to a requested mission. Operations will be based in Panama with a majority of missions staged from Soto Cano, Honduras or Columbia. There will be approximately 1,800 hours of airlift flights per year. The contract will have a base year and four, one-year options.

LINKDESC: Visit this URL for the latest information about this notice
EMAILDESC: John Sheahan
CITE: (D-094 SN50I364)

Editorial: Time for the truth

All throughout the Moscoso administration's tenure in office, she and her subordinates have assured Panamanians that the era of US military bases is over, that Panama has nothing to do with Plan Colombia and won't during her administration, that the American troops have gone. Call it what you will, and try to explain that they never meant to say that if you must, but Mireya has taken a nationalist posture on this issue.

And now we see, through an ad on a US government website, that the US Southern Command will be conducting troop movements and supply missions into remote Colombian airstrips, using privately contracted aircraft based in Panama. It's well nigh impossible to believe that this public offer was made without President Moscoso's approval. And if she did assent, that means that her nationalist card was but a political ploy dealt insincerely from the bottom of the deck.

Now it so happens that plenty of Panamanians, maybe even a majority, would like to see the US military back in Panama. However, there has long been an understanding that after the end of 1999 it would take a public referendum to permit foreign military operations to be staged from Panama again. Those who want to see Panama become the staging area for Plan Colombia should come forward, make their case to the Panamanian people and muster the votes in the Legislative Assembly to put the matter to a vote. No secret policy can be justified when it comes to a question like this, which touches upon fundamental questions of Panama's historical experience, national identity and security interests.

The double dealing about Plan Colombia support flights is only the latest example of the Moscoso administration's lack of candor. Some farmers who don't want to be displaced by dams organized to oppose the canal watershed expansion, and as soon as their protests got much of a public hearing Mireya held a meeting to air bogus charges that Mexican Zapatista guerrillas have invaded Coclesito. An unregistered helicopter dropped out of the presidential entourage into the sea, the president's office gave conflicting accounts, and the next thing we heard Mireya telling the Panamanian people that she won't answer any more questions about it. And on and on.

Even though Panama's government is mostly opaque and one-third of Panama's journalists face prison terms for calumnia e injuria, government by secrecy hasn't worked very well. Instead of winning support, it has nurtured suspicion of and opposition to the president and her programs. Mireya needs to come clean about her administration's understandings with the United States with respect to Plan Colombia, and convince the Panamanian people that her policies are sound.