Thursday 20th September 2022.

September 20, 2022

The Odebrecht case entered its sixth day of preliminary hearing this Monday, in the court chaired by Judge Baloísa Marquínez, of the Third Court for Liquidation of Criminal Cases. The day began promptly at 9:00 am, with the reading of opposition briefs to the tax hearing, in this case, that of the accused José Porta , who worked in the campaign team of José Domingo Arias , presidential candidate for Cambio Democrático (CD) in May 2014. Last Friday, the briefs presented by the defense attorneys of Danna Harrick, Francisco Pérez Ferreira and Navin Bahtka were read. Porta, Arias, Harrick, Pérez and Bahtka are in the group of 50 defendants for whom the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office requests a summons to trial for the alleged commission of the crime of money laundering. In his opposition brief, Porta acknowledged that he was a “nominee director” in a company that was used to raise funds for the Arias campaign. However, he pointed out that he had no responsibility in running the society. He also read statements by Mónica Maura, a publicist linked to Odebrecht, who presumably exempts him from responsibility. Next, the opposition brief of another defendant, the former Minister of the Presidency, Demetrio Jimmy Papadimitriu, was read, who asked the judge to declare the prescription of one of the two crimes charged against him (corruption of a public official). Last week, on the first day of the preliminary hearing, the judge already accepted a similar request in favor of Jaime Ford Lara. However, there is still a request for a summons to trial for Papadimitriu and Ford, for alleged money laundering. At 10:15 am, began the reading of the opposition brief prepared by the lawyer Alejandro Pérez, on behalf of his client María Sol Rivera Bigas, also charged in the case. Rivera, according to the tax hearing, had a close relationship with former president Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal and would have received money as “maintenance” from Odebrecht, as declared by the former mayor of the construction company in Panama, André Rabello . According to the lawyer Pérez, there is no documentary evidence that proves his client received that money. At 10:26 am, the judge decreed a 10-minute recess. Immediately afterwards, the opposition brief of the accused Michelle Lasso Barraza was read , who in her defense alleged that she did not act with “fraud” and alleges that the prosecution did not consider events that make her accusation unfeasible. She points out that her father, Jaime Lasso (also accused), managed all the bank accounts; that she only appeared as a signatory and that at all times she limited herself to following her father’s instructions. Subsequently, the opposition brief sent by Jaime Ford, former Minister of Public Works, and that of Aaron Mizrachi, Martinelli’s brother-in-law, were read.At 12:06 pm, the judge ordered a lunch break, until 2:00 pm Returning at that time, it resumed promptly, with the reading of the opposition of Importadora  Ricamar , the only company charged in this case. After this phase, the lawyers of Dana Harrick, Juan Francisco Mutio, Roberto Brin, José Domingo Arias, Federico Suárez, Francisco Pérez Ferreira, Javier Díaz, Evelyn Vargas, Aaron Mizrachi, Jaime Ford, Ricardo Alberto and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, José Porta , Riccardo Francolini, Angelina Valero de Gámez, Marcos Gámez, Franco and Alexander Castellaneta, Navin Bhatka, Michelle and Jaime Lasso, Fernando Carreiro Muradas, Úrsula Banz, Linda Gesto and Juan Antonio Niño asked the judge that the process be served in an abbreviated manner , without implying a declaration of guilt or acceptance of criminal responsibility. The majority based their request on the fact that the file is already “complete”. The judge pointed out that in the absence of most of the defendants, she cannot accept the request to submit the hearing to the rules of the abbreviated trial.

The Great National Alliance for Panama, made up of 150 groups, announced that it is ready to participate in the second phase of the single dialogue table for Panama. Although they have not yet been officially invited, he points out that, once seated at the table, he will propose to discuss issues on education and economic reactivation, as an engine to generate jobs, the group said at a press conference on Monday. The alliance also warns that it will request to review everything that was done in phase 1 of the dialogue, which took place in the Cristo Sembrador center, in Penonomé, in July, August and part of September. Only representatives of the Executive and three social groups participated in this table, which paralyzed the country with protests and street closures last July. Likewise, the Great Alliance made it clear that it does not agree with the threats of street closures and asked the Government to guarantee the freedom of transit to which every Panamanian is entitled.

The delinquency in tolls of the users of the north, south and east corridors with the National Highway Company (ENA) amounts to $6.5 million. These are drivers who use the highways without a balance in their accounts to make the respective payment. The accumulated debt up until August of this year compared to the same period in 2021 has grown by nearly $100,000. Compared to two years ago, before the pandemic, it has grown between $1.5 million and $2 million. In this period it fluctuated between $4.5 million and $5 million. “We have a recovery in delinquent account balances that exceeds $500 thousand per month, but it is dynamic because some accounts are recovered and others become delinquent,” said ENA’s Collection Manager, Eric Zambrano, These are about 140,000 delinquent user accounts out of a total of 550,000 who are affiliated with ENA to use brokers. Of that total, 100,000 accounts belong to people with delinquencies of less than $10. The remaining 40,000 owe more than $10 in tolls. The non-payment began to grow with the economic crisis generated by the pandemic even though payment arrangements were made more flexible, Zambrano said. The company has more than 30 people who are dedicated to managing collections mainly through emails, sending text messages to cell phones and making phone calls. Likewise, a payment system was enabled to make it easier for delinquent customers to catch up with arrangements through installment letters for a period of time. If the negative balance with ENA is less than $10, the booth barrier will open in 10 seconds, but if the debt is greater than $50, the barrier will open in 45 seconds. In addition, a fine is applied. “The main consequence of those who do not pay is that we report them to the Land Transit and Transportation Authority when the vehicles pass through the toll booths without balance so that fine number 71 is applied, which is $10 for each toll booth they pass. no balance”, explained Zambrano. In addition to this management for those who owe more than $10, when there are higher delinquencies, ENA channels the collections through the Legal Department. But how come there are defaulters who owe thousands of dollars in tolls to ENA? In many cases they are vehicle fleets of companies that have postpaid accounts. “That means that if the payment is rejected, the negative balance that will appear on the screen refers to the entire fleet, not just the car that is passing at that moment, which is why the balances can be thousands of dollars,” according to ENA.

Some 300 officers, cadets and sailors applied for the call made by the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP), through the General Directorate of Seafarers (DGGM), to embark with the international general cargo transport company in Colombia , the shipping company Navesco, SA This call, according to the shipping company, was addressed to first officers (deck and engine), chief engineer and cooks, among others, with previous experience. However, other positions that appeared at the meeting were interviewed, reported the AMP. This project is developed after an agreement signed in March 2020, said the general manager of the shipping company Navesco, Guillermo Solano. He added that they are satisfied with the professionalism and competence shown by the Panamanian seafarers, hired on board their ships and who number about 40 who sail in their fleet.According to the director of Seafarers of the AMP, Juan Maltez, this shipment will have a positive impact on the economy, by bringing in fresh foreign currency; in turn, “it brings us closer to the established goal of creating mechanisms that facilitate the hiring of Panamanian seafarers who need to work on board ships.” In the maritime sector, in addition to technical knowledge, proficiency in English is urgent. Navesco, founded in 1980, transports solid bulk such as cement, lime, salt, fertilizers, coal, sugar, steel and pipes.

Melchor Herrera, the deputy of the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) and who proposed Law 314 of 2022, the rule that allows excessive tax benefits to hotel investors, tries by all means to stop its repeal, as determined by the president Laurentino Cortizo. On September 7, the deputy presented a preliminary bill, with which he intends to reaffirm the right to receive the tax incentive to anyone who has started the process, without specifying which of its stages it is in, despite the fact that the proposed repeal by the president, in a bill, is purportedly intended to be retroactive. If Herrera’s plans prosper, it means that the State, that is to say, the citizens, will reimburse the investors for all the money that they allocate to tourist infrastructures outside the district of Panama. Carlos Barsallo, lawyer and president of the then National Securities Commission of Panama, warned that it would be the third modification to the norm, considering Law No. 122 of 2019, which he considers a kind of “unusual negotiation” of percentages and characteristics of tax credits by law. In his opinion, this shows that the original plan has no basis and that it may be subject to changes in the future.

A total of 30 young people from all over the country were selected to be part of the fifth version of the Climate Change Academy for Young Leaders, a program that seeks to prepare this valuable group of the population in environmental and climate policies. This is an initiative of the Ministry of the Environment, through the Climate Change Directorate, with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Foundation (KAS). On this occasion the academy will emphasize climate change and food security. Selene Orozco, climate change analyst and one of the organizers of the academy, explained that this will be for four weeks from Yesterday, Monday,  until October 14, strengthening their capacities for action and participation in climate change issues. adaptation, mitigation, and climate action. In this context, the training will be delivered in five modules distributed as follows: science and governance of climate change, mitigation and actions against the climate crisis, adaptation, youth participation in climate action and initiatives against climate change.

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