Friday 10th May 2024.

May 9, 2024


The plenary session of the Electoral Tribunal (TE) maintained the decision to reject a complaint that sought to disqualify the candidacy for the free nomination of Betserai Richards , who won a seat in the 8-6 circuit in the May 5 elections.

In a resolution released this Thursday, but dated April 29, and bearing the signatures of judges Eduardo Valdés Escoffery, Alfredo Juncá and Luis Guerra , the TE confirmed the decision of the Third Administrative Electoral Court to dismiss the complaint filed by lawyer Neftalí Jaén, who accused Richards of not having resigned his position in the State Radio and Television Educational System (Servv) within the period established by law.

According to the ruling of the TE, in this case it was established that article 33 of the Electoral Code was not violated, which provides that public servants who have served, at any time, since six months before, are not eligible for elected positions. of the election, the positions of director, deputy director, general secretary, administrator and other management positions of autonomous and semi-autonomous entities.

According to the TE, the position of head of content at Sertv that Richards held is not classified within the political and managerial level of that entity, and therefore, it is evident that the functions he held cannot be equivalent to those of a director or deputy general director.

He also explains that although Richards was appointed to the position of director of information and public relations of Sertv, the reality is that he did not exercise a management function, since he only carried out orders at the management level, a job for which he received a constant and fixed payment, as proven by the Sertv payroll.

The magistrates concluded that in this sense it is observed that Richards held a position that is not listed in article 33 of the Electoral Code.

Richards was elected as a representative of the 8-6 circuit in last Sunday’s elections.

After the electoral defeat that Zulay Rodríguez suffered in the elections on May 5 , the criminal proceedings against him in the gold bullion case would be transferred to the ordinary justice system.

Due to her status as a representative of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) , the Supreme Court of Justice is currently investigating her for the alleged appropriation of a batch of gold sheets.

The Court attempted on four occasions to charge Rodríguez with the alleged commission of the crimes of money laundering, fraud, illicit criminal association, and malfeasance, but did not attend any of them.

At that time, Rodríguez claimed to have resigned her seat as a PRD representative, but the Court never received official confirmation from the Credentials Commission, chaired by Representative Raúl Pineda, regarding said resignation.

During the hearings scheduled for February 29, March 9, March 15 and April 3, only his lawyer Ángel Álvarez appeared, who presented a challenge against Judge Ariadne García, acting as guarantee judge, and two appeals. of constitutional guarantees alleging violations of due process.

Starting next July 1, the date on which the new President of the Republic takes office and a new National Assembly is installed, Rodríguez’s file will be added to the one followed by the Public Ministry against her husband Álvaro Testa and Rafael Araúz, who appear in the complaint filed in the case.

In December 2023, the First Superior Court of Justice gave the green light to the Second Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes against Economic Assets to carry out a traceability report on funds that do not have justification from Testa and Araúz.

The investigation against Rodríguez, Testa and Araúz began after the complaint of Juan David Penagos and his mother, Diana Clemencia Ríos Cardona. They alleged that José Luis Penagos, father of Juan David and husband of Diana Ríos, was arrested in 2009 at the Tocumen Airport for carrying 68 kilos of gold sheets, and that in 2013 Penagos hired Rodríguez to defend him, but that this he appropriated the gold.

On April 3, Judge Ariadne García , the guarantee judge in the case, did not admit an extrajudicial agreement reached with Penagos’ family. The magistrate judge explained that the investigation is in a preliminary phase and that not even the accusation phase has yet been completed.

Rodríguez competed for the presidency of the Republic and to be re-elected in the National Assembly through free nomination, but was unsuccessful. She also did not win the Mayor of San Miguelito, a position for which she was nominated by the Realizing Goals party, the group founded by former president Ricardo Martinelli.

However, he announced that he will continue fighting through legal means to retain the seat for the 8-2 circuit.

The Fitch Ratings agency, which downgraded Panama’s sovereign debt to BB+, removing its investment grade, held a webinar this week to talk about the economic situation and the country’s prospects after the elections in which it was elected to the presidency of the José Raúl Mulino Republic of the Realizing Goals (RM) and Alianza party .

In the first instance, Fitch clarified that the position of loss of investment grade or fallen angel in which this agency placed Panama, in March of this year, will be maintained and will not vary at least throughout this year, although they will observe close the measures taken by the new administration.

“When we downgraded Panama, we revised the outlook to stable. And that is basically because for now we do not see the strength of Panama’s rating,” said Todd Martínez, sovereign specialist for Latin America at Fitch.

They justify the decision to lower the country’s rating for two reasons: fiscal deterioration and institutional deterioration.

“Panama’s fiscal deficit is high (…) we see Panama’s fiscal profile as weak and much weaker than it was years ago before the pandemic due to a series of problems. Firstly, poor revenue performance.”

Fitch indicates that Panama has the particularity of exhibiting high growth rates, but they are not reflected in an increase in tax revenues because there is high tax evasion promoted in part by an accumulation of tax exemptions in strategic sectors.

The agency considers that the new Mulino government has two ways to improve income and cash flow: raise taxes or reduce tax evasion with an efficient collection plan and reduction of those exemptions. At the same time, betting on electronic billing to increase collection.

“I think one thing to clarify is that our downgrade did not reflect any expectation of a major electoral risk or a bad result. Panama has a long-standing political continuity and we have every reason to think that this will continue to be the case,” said the Fitch analyst.

Fitch insists that it is urgent for Mulino to present its own medium-term fiscal plan. “It could take several years to reduce debt to GDP, restore fiscal credibility to a sufficient degree for us to have confidence in a higher rating,” stressed the Fitch Rating analyst.

“I think the key things that could lead to a possible improvement are not only Mulino articulating a fairly ambitious fiscal consolidation plan, but one that is credible. We certainly think there could be room for Panama to achieve consolidation simply by combating tax evasion and other administrative measures,” he added.

He also mentions that the agency has a somewhat constructive view of the medium-term growth of the economy at around 4.5% for the coming years.

Fitch also sees the $10 billion investment plan for the Panama Canal as positive to boost the economy. At the same time, he indicates that the new administration would favor the project of a reservoir on the Indio River to solve part of the Canal water issue.

On the other hand, he mentions that the large works that Mulino is considering, such as the train between Panama City and David, in Chiriquí, and some that are pending execution, could be accelerated through the Public Private Partnership model.

Regarding the mine, Fitch indicates that it is not yet clear what the Mulino government’s plan will be. “He has given some indications that it might be prudent to potentially reopen it under some new conditions. But this continues to be an open wound, I would say, among the Panamanian population in general,” Martínez said.

The Fitch analyst specified that if the plan to reopen the mine is proposed, to ensure that this decision is socially accepted, the Government will have to have a greater participation in the activity.

The Panamanian economy will grow this year, but at a lower rate than originally estimated by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The agency projected in December 2023 that the Panamanian economy would grow at a rate of 4.2%, but in the new review published this Thursday, May 9, it indicates that the growth will be lower, placing it at 3%.

This growth rate for Panama would be below other Central American countries such as the Dominican Republic, which according to ECLAC projects will grow 4.5%, Costa Rica will also show a higher rate with an estimated 3.9%, as will Honduras and Nicaragua at 3.5% each. and Guatemala at 3.4%.

The 3% growth projected by ECLAC for the Panamanian economy is one of the highest estimated by international organizations. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that the economy will grow only 2.5% this year, the same rate projected by the World Bank (WB).

The Panamanian economy grew by 7.3% in 2023 according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, but this year 2024 the current government’s estimates point to 2.5%, coinciding with what is indicated by the IMF and the WB.

For the entire region, ECLAC indicates that economic growth for this year will be 2.1%, previously it had estimated it at 1.5%. The organization indicates that South America will grow 1.6%, Central America and Mexico 2.7% and the Caribbean (excluding Guyana) 2.8%.

“The region is facing a complex international scenario, characterized by growth in economic activity and global trade below their historical averages, along with interest rates that remain high in developed countries, resulting in higher financing costs for emerging countries, including the region,” indicates ECLAC.

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