Surveillance violated human rights

Panameñista Deputy José Luis Varela was one of those who had his conversations monitored.

He said the government recorded private calls with his family.


No secret was safe due to the interception of phone conversations that took place during the Presidency of Ricardo Martinelli.

Sensitive conversations involving opposition politicians, journalists, trade unionists, business and civic leaders were in the hands of the National Security Council.

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Samuel Lewis Navarro, for example, had several conversations with "important figures" of the United States intercepted.

"They intercepted not only internal communications, but private conversations with important figures from abroad. Conversations that should never have been intercepted," said the PRD leader, who was one of the 150 people whose conversations were monitored.

Alejandro Garúz and Gustavo Pérez, two of the five former secretaries of the National Security Council under Martinelli, were charged yesterday with violating privacy and secrecy laws.

They were questioned yesterday at the Department of Judicial Investigation in Ancón, and investigators searched their residences. A number of weapons were reportedly found, which may result in more charges. Attorey General Secretary Rolando Rodríguez Cedeño reported that they did not have permits for the weapons.

Panameñista Deputy José Luis Varela, who also had phone calls intercepted, said they monitored calls with family members.

"There were discussions between my wife and my son. There was much information, not only of a political nature, but personal conversations in my office that were recorded," he said.

There are hundreds of pages of transcripts that have been seized, and the victims include opposition politicians Mitchell Doens, Francisco Sanchez Cardenas and former President Ernesto Pérez Balladares.

The issue has provoked international reactions.

"What is coming to public light in Panama must be investigated to the ultimate consequences. It is serious because it reflects that senior officials of the former government were apparently violating the right to privacy of dozens of people," said José Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch.



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