Friday 17th November 2023.
November 16, 2023
President Laurentino Cortizo reported this Thursday, November 16, that Minera Panamá made the payment corresponding to its obligations established in the new contract under Law 406, but ordered it to be kept in a restricted account in the National Bank of Panama.
In a message to the Nation, the president explained that he made the decision given that he is awaiting the ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) for the unconstitutionality claims presented.
The amount paid by the mining company amounts to $562 million 840 thousand 543, detailed the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF). Additionally, highlighted the MEF, the Ministry of Environment and the Municipalities of Donoso and Omar Torrijos Herrera, received $4 million 284 thousand 512 that correspond to the payment of water use, surface fee and rights of use and easement.
The president also announced that after receiving the request to repeal Law 406 presented to the Executive on November 9 by organized groups, he asked the Attorney General of the Administration, Rigoberto González, about the legal viability of said request.
“I reiterate, I will abide by the ruling issued by the Supreme Court of Justice on Law 406 of the mining contract,” he said.
Currently, the Court has 10 unconstitutionality lawsuits in process. Attorneys González, from the administration, and Javier Caraballo, from the Nation, have given their opinion on the unconstitutionality of the law.
Regarding the day of street closures and demonstrations this Thursday, President Cortizo said the violent protests that have been registered “will not go unpunished, because they violate the Constitution and the Laws that we must all respect.”
He reported that the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Public Force work in coordination to comply with the arrest and detention orders of those who attack the deprivation of individual liberty.
“The government has avoided falling into the provocations of some groups that resort to confrontation, with violent demonstrations that threaten health, education, current jobs, job creation, economic recovery and social peace,” he added.
At least three banks in the square refuse to receive the cashier’s checks that the state Savings Bank (CA) delivered to the Single Union of Construction and Similar Workers (Suntracs) , according to the union’s lawyer Antonio Vargas.
The management checks were issued by the CA in favor of Suntracs, after last Monday, November 13, it notified the union about the closure of its bank accounts in that entity. In total, there were 18 bank accounts closed in the CA, which did maintain a fixed term that expires in October 2024.
Vargas did not specify the names of the banks that now refuse to receive cashier’s checks from the CA or what the reasons were. He only indicated that they are two private and one state. He recognizes that banks have the power to reject a client if he considers that the amounts he handles “are unusual.”
In the notice that the CA delivered to the union on November 13, it was noted that the bank did not explain why it decided to close the 18 Suntracs accounts. They did not refer to any article or law on suspicious activities of any kind, but instead cited the banking services contract and “internal bank policies” as the reason for their decision.
Vargas said that until a month ago, Suntracs had three accounts at the CA: one for the deposit – via ACH – of union dues made directly by employers; another, for the management of operating expenses at the national level, and a fixed term that expires in 2024. But the bank called them to recommend that they open an account for each union headquarters in the different provinces; That is why 15 more accounts are opened, thus totaling the 18 accounts cited by the bank in its note of September 13, signed by Rosalba Torres, manager of the Chanis branch.
Torres and the general manager of the CA, Juan Melillo , were denounced on November 15 by Suntracs, for apology of crime and crimes against honor and against collective security.
The CA issued a statement this Thursday in which it maintains that it “always acts in strict accordance with the laws and regulations of the Republic of Panama.” He adds that the regulations require him to keep confidentiality about his clients’ transactions and he does not even mention what happened with Suntracs.
In the note sent to Suntracs, the bank does not make accusations of any kind nor does it say that it has noticed “suspicious activities.” Vargas says that if that were true, they would not have returned the money deposited in the closed accounts, since what would have been appropriate would be to alert the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF), so that it could proceed to freeze the funds and carry out the respective investigation. .
“If they had been suspicious of the funds, they would not have kept the fixed term either,” added Vargas, who considers that the measure is “arbitrary” and a “bill pass” by the current government for the Suntracs protest actions against the mining contract.
The national economy has suffered significant losses, estimated at at least $1.7 billion, after 25 days of riots and road blockades in rejection of the mining contract.
This amount represents 2.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) for the year 2022 and puts the growth levels estimated by the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) at risk.
In the calculations, the National Council of Private Enterprise (Conep) refers to the loss in the generation of sectoral added value that will no longer be contributed to the GDP (not to the value of lost sales or transaction/invoicing not generated) by 25 days of non-production or stoppage.
The estimates considered eight lines or activities, all with losses of tens and hundreds of millions of dollars.
- Agricultural and Fishing Sector: $94 million • Agri-Food Industry: $62 million • Construction: $300 million • Trade: $656 million • Hotels and Restaurants: $40 million • Land Transportation: $92 million • Services: $313 million • Others: $143 million
These losses, estimated at $1.7 billion, are 120% above what the State intends to receive in taxes and royalties from Minera Panamá corresponding to the years 2022 and 2023, the amount of which would reach $770 million.
In the labor field, the business union estimated that collectively up to 105,000 jobs could be lost if the unrest and the paralysis of the traffic of people, goods and supplies persist.
To this figure we would have to add the stoppage of another 75,000 indirect jobs and an impact on another 100,000 induced jobs, said the Conep study.
United Airlines operations to Panama were partially affected this Thursday, November 16, when the airline decided to suspend the arrival of one of the scheduled flights from the city of Houston to Panama City. And therefore the two flights scheduled for departure from Panama tomorrow will be cancelled, as the aircraft is not available in Panamanian territory.
According to information from air trackers, flight UA1034, which would depart from Houston airport at 2:31 pm local time in the United States and arrive at 7:38 pm local time in Panama, was canceled only for this Thursday, November 16.
The cancellation of this flight, however, affects the departure of flights UA727 and UA1031 that were scheduled for Friday, November 17, which will not operate from Panama, because the aircraft will not be in Panamanian territory.
The airline is expected to issue a statement informing the reasons for the cancellation. But airline industry sources indicated that it is a cancellation only for these two days, that United Airlines operations will continue to and from Panama.
This Thursday, November 16, access to the city has been blocked by groups that reject the mining contract and called for a stoppage of activities. The city’s roads to the Tocumen International Airport were closed on several occasions.
The judge of the Supreme Court of Justice, Carlos Alberto Vásquez Reyes , admitted this Thursday, November 16, 2023, the tenth lawsuit of unconstitutionality presented before the general secretariat of this state body against Law 406 of October 20, 2023, which adopted the contract between the Panamanian State and Minera Panamá, SA
This tenth lawsuit was presented yesterday, November 15, and after its admission, it was sent to the Attorney General of the Administration, Rigoberto González, for his due opinion. It must be remembered that Attorney González has a period of 10 days to send his opinion on the matter.
As reported by the Court, this lawsuit was presented by lawyer Francisco Javier Ramos Molina .
Up to this moment, the Secretary General of the CSJ, Manuel Calvo, has received the opinions of nine claims of unconstitutionality submitted by the Attorney General of the Administration and the Attorney General of the Nation in charge, Javier Caraballo.
In accordance with the provisions of article 2564 of the Judicial Code for this type of process, once the files with the attorneys’ opinion are returned, an edict will be published for three days in a newspaper of national circulation so that within a period of ten days – counted from the last publication – the plaintiff and all persons interested in the case present their arguments in writing, through lawyers.
“When the previous term expires on November 23, the substantiating magistrates will examine all the documents that have been presented and will proceed to prepare a draft decision that they will submit to the consideration of the magistrates that make up the CSJ, who may present observations and considerations, which will be analyzed in a plenary session,” the Judicial Branch stated in a statement.
The suspension of employment contracts and the reduction of working hours is beginning to materialize in some companies that have seen how their supply chain has been fractured and now do not have raw materials to operate.
This was confirmed by the president of the National Council of Private Enterprise (Conep), Rubén Castillo Gill, who recalled that this is a mechanism established by the Labor Code and that companies have been forced to use due to external factors to make these decisions. .
“The law establishes mechanisms to make the corresponding requests and if there is the possibility of suspending contracts, it will be done in accordance with the law,” said Castillo Gill, pointing out that there are some small and micro-businesses that have been vandalized, so since they do not have resources and the economic possibility to operate, they are going to perish.
The impact of companies that were dedicated to cultural and tourist events that canceled meetings and congresses is also reported, as well as hotels that register the cancellation of reservations this month of November and some for December and January.
The business sector points out that the road blockades in Tierras Altas have left farms and farms with production losses as well as tourist operators in the area and in Bocas del Toro without visitors and with debts to pay.
Castillo Gill said that given the impossibility of continuing to operate, some companies have found it necessary to reduce working hours and others, in extreme cases, have had to suspend contracts in accordance with the Labor Code.
“Private companies want to work, they have no intention of reducing staff or suspending, but this situation is caused by the state of things, of companies that cannot operate, that the distribution chain has been broken and many do not have supplies. to develop their activity,” Castillo added.