Friday 21st April 2023.
April 20, 2023
Once again, narcopolitics seems to enter the public agenda and affect the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). At least two of the 11 people captured last Wednesday in Operation PTY have links to the ruling group.
One of them is Rubianesa Baker Costarelos, who until 1:00 pm this Thursday, April 20, was on the payroll of the Ministry of Government under the position of “technical assistant”, with a salary of $1,300 a month, despite the fact that the minister of that portfolio, Roger Tejada, announced that she would be dismissed.
Baker Costarelos, daughter of the representative of Palmas Bellas, Colón, Katy Costarelos, of the PRD, was captured together with Ezequiel Alarcón, alias Zequi, in an apartment in The Reserve, in the luxury residential complex Santa María, in Costa del Este, in the capital.
According to sources linked to the investigation, in the Ministry of Government, Baker Costarelos carried out work related to “crime prevention”, so it is not ruled out that from that position he provided information to the network of which her partner Ezequiel Alarcón was a part. , who has a sentence of 80 months in prison for the crime of gang membership.
Nine other people were also apprehended in Operation PTY. One of them is Caridad Milagro Hurtado Almengor, known as Caridad Kanelón.
Hurtado is a friend of PRD deputies in San Miguelito, high-ranking figures in the government of Laurentino Cortizo, and members of the party’s leadership. In fact, she has been part of the youth front and other internal instances of the PRD.
This woman is also known in the local show business for being the promoter of the “All Inclusive”, as a package that offered plastic surgeries, tickets and stays in Colombia to Panamanian clients.
Photos of Hurtado with the deputy of San Miguelito, Raúl Pineda, and with the Vice Minister of Commerce, Omar Montilla, among others, circulate on social networks.
According to information from the Public Registry, her name is linked to the companies Natha Barber By Caridad Kanelón, Silueta y Mujeres Bellas CK and Prendas Caridad Kanelón. She also appears as the owner of a property in the Pedregal corregimiento and another in Pacora.
Prosecutor Martha Barrios, first superior drug prosecutor of the Public Ministry, explained Wednesday at a press conference that the group structured a series of companies and notices of operations, some of them false, to allegedly launder drug money.
Among the activities of the network – always according to the prosecutor – was the business of “contaminating containers” to send drugs to the United States. Some of the platforms used to launder money, according to prosecutor Barrios, were “beauty salons and cevicherías.” She also spoke of activities in the interior of the country linked to agriculture, such as planting and raising pigs.
The prosecutor also added that this investigation began last year.
But not all the people who are related to the criminal network are under the orders of the authorities. One of the people is abroad, so efforts are made to locate her through a red alert from Interpol.
The members of this group are being investigated for the alleged commission of crimes of money laundering and conspiracy to commit drug-related crimes.
The hearing of the case before a guarantee judge will be held this Thursday at 2 pm
The guarantee judge, Tulia Morelos, set for October 7, 2024 the trial of 11 people, including the former deputy of the Panameñista Party Adolfo Valderrama, for the alleged commission of the crimes of embezzlement and money laundering through the handling of funds assigned by Pandeportes to sports federations, between the years 2014 to 2018.
Judge Morelos admitted 135 pieces of evidence presented by the anti-corruption prosecutor, Leyda Saénz, including 102 witnesses, 22 expert evidence and 11 documentaries that will be used by the prosecution during the trial.
In addition to Valderrama, the defendants in this case also include the former directors of Pandeportes, Roberto Arango and Mario Pérez, as well as Jair Peralta, of the Panamanian Basketball Federation (Fepaba). According to the prosecutor’s office, the evidence admitted by the court links the defendants to the crime under investigation.
Among the evidence admitted by the court are two audit reports that reveal the existence of a patrimonial injury for about $3 million.
While the defense lawyers also managed to admit a mass of evidence that must be evacuated during the trial, which according to them demonstrates his innocence of the charges.
The main theory of the defense is that the prosecution failed to establish the existence of a patrimonial injury to the detriment of the State.
The intermediate hearing began on March 24 and concluded on Wednesday afternoon.
In a statement released this Thursday, April 20, Deputy Valderrama assured that he has always shown his face and “we will continue to show it.”
He added that the evidence he presented was admitted during the process.
“While the guilty always seeks to delay the processes, those of us who are innocent are very interested in holding the trial,” he said.
The rhythm of the economy and the generation of employment march at different speeds. The Panamanian gross domestic product (GDP) registered a growth of 10.8% at the end of last year, according to information released Wednesday by the Comptroller General of the Republic. While the figures for new employment contracts fail to exceed pre-pandemic levels.
The latest statistics from the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC) indicate that from January to October of last year, 199,702 labor contracts were registered. This is the latest official data available, although the Minister of Labor and Labor Development, Doris Zapata, has highlighted that at the end of 2022 the employment contracts stood at 240,000, and that this year 2023 the projection points to more than 300,000 contracts.
But the 240,000 labor contracts of 2022 would still be quite a long way from the 378,495 reported at the end of 2019 or the 422,894 contracts achieved in 2018, before the pandemic and the closure of the economy decreed by the Government to contain covid-19. The country is 36% below the results of 2019 and experiences a 43% lag compared to 2018 when we talk about labor contracts.
Mitradel assures that it has processed some 60,000 new labor contracts in the first quarter of 2023, at a rate of 20,000 new contracts per month, the same monthly average as in 2022, figures that contrast with the almost 32,000 new monthly labor contracts in the 2019.
The evolution of the labor market confirms the high degree of uncertainty in the climate for private investment in the country, said René Quevedo, a business consultant.
But Quevedo also points out that consumer confidence continues to improve, which should later translate into greater investor confidence that investing in Panama is good business.
The positive trend registered by Panamanian tourism during 2022 was maintained in the first month of 2023. According to preliminary figures from the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP), last January 284,000 visitors entered, an increase of 104% in comparison with the same month of 2022. The movement of visitors registered in the first month of 2023 was 7% higher than that reported in January 2019, before the pandemic.
The ATP report indicates that hotel occupancy in January reached 56%, while spending by visitors grew 43% compared to the 499 million dollars reported in the same month of 2019. Together with the construction sector , tourism was one of the most affected by the mobility restrictions applied by the Government to combat the coronavirus (covid-19).
In 2020 alone, the losses are estimated at 4.3 billion dollars, a figure that rose to 12 billion dollars, according to analyzes carried out by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, taking into account the development of the industry. between 2020 and 2023.
Last year, the entry of one million 945 thousand visitors was registered, exceeding the estimate of the authorities that pointed to a movement of 1.8 million people.
Of the total reported in 2022, 1.4 million were tourists, that is, they stayed overnight in the country, 298,000 were travelers who stayed less than 24 hours, and 159,000 were cruise ship passengers, an activity that picked up last year with the home port operation . at the Amador and Colón 2000 terminals.
Spokespersons for the sector indicated that the figures reported in 2022 are positive, but they called on the authorities to increase the promotion of the country, especially for those travelers who stay more than 24 hours, since they consume more goods and services.