Friday 20th October 2023.

October 19, 2023


Yesterday a citizen march in rejection of the mining contract being discussed in the National Assembly arrived at the premises of the Legislature, where clashes were recorded between protesters and agents of the National Police who were guarding the building.

At this point in Panama City, tear gas was fired, the surrounding businesses closed their doors in advance, the 5 de Mayo Metro station was temporarily closed and vehicular traffic was severely affected.

After 7:00 pm it was learned that a photographer was injured, so he had to be taken to a hospital. This is Aubrey Baxter, from the “Ya es Ya” collective.

The MiBus mass transportation system announced that, due to the demonstrations on the 5 de Mayo grounds, the paid area would remain closed for security.

This march left at 4:00 pm from Porras Park and was destined for the Assembly. Precisely today, the Legislature began the discussion in the second debate of bill 1100, which adopts a new mining contract between the Panamanian State and the Minera Panamá company, for the extraction of copper in Donoso, Colón, for 40 years. The Assembly is in permanent session. “Down with that mining contract,” “Down with those deputies who sell the country,” “This fight is not for one, this fight is for everyone,” chanted the participants of the march, among whom were university students, construction workers and priests. Jesuits, Vincentians, Franciscans, and Caritas Social Pastoral agents of the Catholic Church, among others.

“Panamanian, say no to mining and yes to life”, “Mining contract, license to steal”, are some of the messages that are read from the banners carried by the protesters.

It should be remembered that in the early hours of the day, vehicular traffic on several roads in the capital city was congested due to the protests carried out by groups that reject the mining contract for the extraction of copper in Donoso, province of Colón.

The Assembly approved the mining contract in the second debate; Today the discussion in the third debate continues.

The New Business case has suffered a new setback. Magistrate Cecilio Cedalise has decided to admit a protection of constitutional guarantees presented by the lawyer of Vernon Salazar , one of the 10 defendants who was acquitted by criminal judge Baloisa Marquínez , in the same case in which former president Ricardo Martinelli and four other people They were convicted of money laundering last July.

Salazar’s protection is against the decision of the Superior Court for the Settlement of Criminal Cases to accept the appeal of the specialized prosecutor against Organized Crime, Emeldo Márquez , for the acquittal issued by Judge Marquínez, in favor of 10 defendants.

Cedalise, in a decision adopted on October 18, requested a report from the Superior Court, “within two hours” of its notification. Likewise, the magistrate ordered “the immediate suspension of the contested order while the present action for protection of constitutional guarantees is decided.”

Although Cedalise’s order deals specifically with the decision adopted by the Superior Court regarding the prosecutor’s appeal and would not be directly related to the sentences that the judge handed down against Martinelli, Daniel Ochy, Janeth Vásquez, Valentín Martínez and Iván Arrocha, it does affect the whole case: it happens that, until the amparo is decided first and the appeals later, the conviction will not become final.

The Superior Court of Liquidation, which must hear the appeals, can now do nothing until Cedalise and the full Court resolve Salazar’s protection, unless the Court’s own magistrates agree to a procedural break so that the case can advance regarding to Martinelli and the other convicts, said lawyer Rodrigo Noriega.

To understand what happened, we must remember the most important decisions in the New Business case, adopted in the last three months.

On July 18, 2023 , Judge Marquínez sentenced Martinelli to 10 years and eight months in prison for laundering public funds used to acquire the shares of Editora Panamá América, SA (Epasa) , in December 2010. when he was ruler. She also sentenced him to pay $19.2 million. Ochy, Arrocha, Vásquez and Martínez were sentenced to sentences of 60 to 96 months in prison. They all appealed.

On July 21 , prosecutor Márquez communicated his appeal to the Second Liquidation Court of Criminal Cases, via email. On Monday, July 24, he presented it in writing.

On July 25 , Judge Marquínez did not admit the appeal announced by prosecutor Márquez, alleging that the New Business case “does not fall under an electronic judicial file.” The notice of appeal that was received, in writing, on July 24, was, according to the judge, out of time.

On September 6 , the Superior Court of Liquidation gave the green light to the prosecutor to present his appeal. This is the decision that was demanded by Vernon Salazar, under his protection of constitutional guarantees.

William Parodi, Salazar’s lawyer, insisted to La Prensa that the prosecutor announced his appeal out of time and that the Superior Court violated due process. According to him, Judge Marquínez’s decision not to admit Marquéz’s appeal should have prevailed.

This is not the first time that Salazar has filed appeals to prevent the prosecution’s appeal. He previously filed a “request for clarification,” but it was rejected by the Superior Court. A similar appeal was presented by Jean Pierre Miranda, as Martinelli’s attorney, but it was also “rejected outright as inadmissible” on September 25.

Francisco Mola Ortega was appointed this Thursday by the President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo , as the new Vice Minister of Foreign Trade in the Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MICI).

Mola Ortega replaces Juan Carlos Sosa , who on September 30 was appointed as Consul General of Panama in the city of Antwerp, the main port of Belgium.

The Presidency of the Republic reported that Mola Ortega has a degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing, International Trade and Senior Management from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville AR, United States.

Likewise, Mola Ortega was in charge of the Vice Ministry of Foreign Trade since Sosa left. He now occupies the position.

During the year 2023 in Panama it rained 15% to 30% less than in 2022, according to data from the Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology of Panama (Imhpa).

Water shortages have been exacerbated by the meteorological phenomenon known as El Niño, an abnormal climate pattern characterized by unusual warming of the surface waters of the Pacific Ocean in the equatorial region.

This phenomenon, declared starting in June in Panama, can lead to droughts in some regions, floods in others, more intense tropical storms and alterations in rainfall patterns.

According to the deputy director of the Imhpa, Berta Olmedo, although an El Niño was formally declared in June, this climatic alteration has taken longer. In fact, she says, a recent Imhpa study, in which 29 of the 52 hydrographic basins in the country were analyzed, discovered that there was drought in 17 of them. “The increase in days without rain this year has meant a deficit of between 15% and 30% of water” compared to 2022, she said.

In the entire year 2023, October has been the only month in which an improvement in the rainfall regime has been noted. The Imhpa predicts that November and December the rains will be irregular, so a “long” dry season is expected in the middle of winter. In Panama, the dry season usually begins in January and ends in April and the rainy season runs from May to December.

“The worrying thing is that this year we are starting without sufficient water reserves in the water tables, such as rivers and lakes, to be prepared for the dry season” of 2024, he reported.

Last May, the Cabinet Council declared a state of environmental emergency throughout the national territory in the face of prolonged drought as a result of the climate crisis affecting the world.

To face this problem, the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MIDA) carries out the “Drought Plan”, which is presented as the official strategy to combat the effects of climate change and the presence of the El Niño phenomenon.

According to the Imhpa, El Niño has impacted the Isthmus with an increase in the number of consecutive days without rain. However, very intense rains of short duration have been recorded.

In September of this year, forecasts from the National Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicated that this climate event went from weak to moderate, but there is a high probability that it will be stronger between the months of November of this year. to February 2024.

The Panama Fire Department reported that in the early hours of this Thursday a fire broke out on the Naranjo Chico island, in the Guna Yala region, affecting at least 13 houses.

Ángel Delgado, from the Fire Department, reported that the first to respond to the incident were the agents of the National Border Service who arrived at the island of Naranjo Chico (Narganá) by boat and that the fire started around 4:40 am.

“So far, thank God, there have been no injuries or fatalities. The possible cause of the fire is the fuel spill, which was intended for boats. but this must be corroborated by the investigation personnel,” highlighted Delgado.

In addition, he reported that Firefighters are about to arrive at the scene to make the first evaluations of the incident.

According to the preliminary report, 13 houses are affected and about 100 people are affected.

He explained that the congress house and the traditional house of this community were also affected by the fire.

Senafront staff and community residents managed to control the fire. It was reported that the residents proceeded to demolish some hut houses to prevent the fire from spreading.

Personnel from various government entities moved to the area to provide assistance to the affected people.


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