Friday 10th February 2023.

February 10, 2023


More voices joined this Thursday, February 9, 2023, against the action taken by former President Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal to try to kidnap the assets of Annette Planells and Mauricio Valenzuela, from the digital media outlet Foco . “We want to express our rejection of the use of the judicial system to intimidate the media, journalists, activists and citizens,” said the Coalition for Panama Pro Transparency and Anti-Corruption, through a statement. The coalition indicated that the “frustrated” procedure, carried out by judicial officials, adds to the long list of complaints and lawsuits against anyone who points out acts of corruption and in an open violation of freedom of expression. “There is no democracy without human rights,” stressed the coalition, made up of non-governmental organizations and citizen movements. The National Journalism Council, the Journalists Forum, the Panamanian Broadcasting Association and the Chiriquí Journalists Association expressed their concern about the use of legal actions as a mechanism to threaten freedoms. “It is not the first time in our country that a former president of the Republic denounces and sequesters assets of the media or of people linked to the exercise of journalism,” they added. Earlier, the United States Embassy in the country expressed its “concern over the attacks against the media in Panama.” On its Twitter account, the embassy wrote that these attacks are “part of an alarming trend.” “When the law is used to intimidate the media, citizens are deprived of their right to be informed,” the embassy said.

This Thursday, Foco warned that Judge Ana Isabel Terán Gomila , head of the Sixth Civil Court, is a cousin of Carlos Carrillo Gomila , one of Martinelli’s lawyers. For his part, the independent deputy Gabriel Silva announced that for weeks he has been working on drafting a law to prevent intimidation and judicial harassment of the media, activists and content creators.

“Whether we like what they say or not, they are important to strengthen democracy and fight corruption. We will present it soon”, added the deputy.

Three appeals for reconsideration against the resolution of the National Executive Committee (CEN) of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) , through which 114 spaces were reserved for possible alliances, were presented this Thursday, February 9. It was done by the former general secretary of the PRD, Pedro Miguel González, who explained that now the leadership will have the opportunity to reconsider that decision within a period of 30 days. If the original resolution is maintained, González said, he will present the respective appeals before the plenary session of the Electoral Tribunal. According to González, this resolution “is not about exceptions for alliances, but to favor members of the CEN and favorite leaders.”

Amid strong criticism from various sectors, the Finance Commission of the Municipal Council of Panama discussed on Thursday, February 9, the controversial Municipal Agreement that increases taxes in the capital district, but without the presence of the business sector. After the meeting on Thursday, it was reported that a commission from the Municipal Council will meet with representatives of business associations to present their considerations for the measure. Yoira Perea, president of the Finance Commission, confirmed that they will meet with the private sector, on a date to be announced, and that after the meeting with business associations, the commission should meet again.

After a short discussion, the plenary session of the National Assembly approved, on the morning of this Thursday, February 9, 2023, in the third and last debate, bill No. 890 that allows mayors and corregimiento representatives to choose what salary they want receive if at the time of being elected they already held public office. The proposal received 37 votes in favor and five against, informed the Undersecretary of the Assembly, Dana Castañeda. No abstention votes were recorded.The proposal allows, for example, if at the time of being elected, a mayor earned $5,000 as an official and the salary that corresponds to him in the municipality is lower, he will be able to continue receiving the  salary he had before being elected, even if he does not work in that entity but in the commune.

The Panama Fire Department reported that in January of this year 3,135 emergencies were attended, a figure that represented 54% more than what was reported in the same month of 2022, when 2,035 were registered. Between January 1 and 31, 2023, the Fire Department reported that the highest number of responses to emergency calls were for the presence of Africanized bees and for grass fires. The institution’s data reflects that 1,112 calls were answered for the presence or attack of Africanized bees; this represented an increase of 40% compared to the 635 incidents in January of last year. The regions most affected by these incidents were Veraguas (233), Panama (205) and Los Santos (135). Regarding the grass fires, it is detailed that 581 incidents were attended last January, an amount that exceeded those of January 2022, which were 497.

The decision of the Supreme Court of Justice regarding the unconstitutionality claims that weigh on Law 314 of 2022 will be decisive for the future of the tax credits that are intended to be granted to investors in tourist infrastructure outside the district of Panama. Since last December 15, 2022, the deadline for any interested person to present arguments in the case expired, after which the law gives the rapporteur magistrate (Olmedo Arrocha) 10 days to present a draft decision. A ruling on the merits of the lawsuit could be expected if the Court, indeed, pronounces itself before the promulgation of the revived bill 888, approved by insistence in the National Assembly on February 6, after President Laurentino Cortizo vetoed it for inconvenience.

The Cordillera de Coiba Managed Resources Area, in the Pacific Ocean, won the prestigious Blue Park award for the exceptional conservation of its marine wildlife. The award was announced at the International Congress of Marine Protected Areas, which was held in Canada. This global forum brings together ocean conservation professionals and high-level officials to inform, inspire and act on behalf of marine protected areas. For Panama, José Julio Casas, director of Coasts and Seas of the Ministry of Environment, received the award at the beginning of February. While the award was presented by representatives of the Blue Parks Science Council, an international council of marine conservation experts that determines which marine protected areas meet award criteria, and the president of the Marine Conservation Institute, Lance Morgan.

The Ministry of Energy announced the new fuel prices that will apply as of this Friday, February 10. The entity reported that both 91 and 95 octane gasoline will drop two cents each, remaining at $1.06 and $1 per liter, respectively. Low sulfur diesel will lower its price by eight cents, remaining at $1.02. With these new prices, the savings per subsidized gallon in the 95 octane will be 77 cents; in the case of 91 gasoline it will be 54 cents; and on the gallon of diesel, the savings would be 62 cents. It must be remembered that until now a gallon of 91 and 95 octane gasoline and subsidized diesel is $3.25.



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