Friday 31st March 2023.

March 30, 2023


A trial court found Heriberto Polo, José Pinto and the company Mts Administración Total guilty for the crime of culpable homicide, as a result of the explosion –in 2919– At the PH Costa Mare, in which a 10-month-old boy died and several people were injured.

In the trial, which ended at 8:30 pm on Wednesday, judges Viterbo Quintero, Leira Terán and José Madrid accepted the theory of the case presented by the Public Ministry that there was negligence and lack of supervision in the installation of the building gas.

On May 31, 2019, apartment 2 of tower 7 of PH Costa Mare, located in Juan Díaz, exploded, causing the death of Marcelo Muñoz Lima, 10 months old, and burns to his mother Karina Lima and his brother. Miguel Ignacio Muñoz Lima, five years old.

During the trial, in which more than 40 expert and testimonial evidence was given, the prosecutor of the Homicide and Femicide section, José Israel Leyva, asked the judges to issue a conviction.

According to the investigations of the prosecutor’s office, after the explosion the building was declared uninhabitable and the survivors had to face long medical treatment.

In 2022 Panama registered serious human rights violations linked to “systematic discrimination” against vulnerable communities, restrictions on freedom of expression and lack of independence of the Judicial Branch, in addition to a chain of damages caused by corruption at all levels of the Government. This is stated in the Human Rights Report 2022, from the United States Department of State (EU).

“In Panama we have seen examples of systematic discrimination and human rights violations against Afro, indigenous, LGBTQI+ and women communities,” said Nathan Eckstein, the Human Rights officer of the US Embassy in Panama, Wednesday, March 29. He added that last year, which was revealed in countries around the world by the annual report, “there were too many femicides and too many instances of abuse against women.”

In the 27-page section of the document dedicated to Panama and based on consultations with references from public entities, civil society and social groups, the US strongly questions the Government for corruption and impunity. Not only does he denounce the lack of criminal convictions in high-profile cases, but he also affirms that in 2022 corruption spread as a “serious problem in the Executive, Judicial and Legislative bodies, as well as in the security forces.”

“Corruption continued to hamper the judicial system. In addition to widespread public suspicion of manipulation, there were allegations leveled at all levels of the judicial system that judges accepted bribes that influenced their decisions,” he points out. And he concludes that the judicial system is “susceptible to both internal and external corrupting influences” linked to “political actors.”

Of the entire report, those referring to corruption in the Government and in the justice system are the ones that receive the most resounding criticism. It points to corruption in justice, the payment of bribes to judges and the manipulation that “allowed the defendants to delay the prosecution of cases that were close to their statute of limitations.”

It also highlights the delays and multiple delays in trials for money laundering and corruption against two former presidents, Ricardo Martinelli and Juan Carlos Varela.

These practices, naturalized in the local culture, are attacks against human rights according to Nathan Eckstein and the EU. “There are many people who are not receiving services that they should receive nor do they see their rights guaranteed because of corruption,” Eckstein said, and reinforced: “Corruption violates human rights.”

But the serious problems of justice do not end there. The State Department also points to corruption and inefficiencies in the accusatory and inquisitive justice systems, and questions that legal cases initiated before the transition continued to be prosecuted under the latter when they should have been in the accusatory.

In the endless list dedicated to the widespread practice of using public resources for the benefit or protection of the officials themselves, the security forces take a chapter full of irregularities and abuses.

The problems with the security forces are many and are accurately recorded and attributed to sources with knowledge on the subject. They point out abuse of authority during the protests of July last year, mistreatment and impunity linked to the “culture of corruption” and the “weak” internal control mechanisms: it is the public force that investigates and sanctions the abuses of the public force .

“The security forces did not have an impartial investigative body for internal investigations,” the report states. The absence of clear standard operating procedures allowed discretion to the agents in each case. The lack of audits of operations resulted in gaps in terms of accountability and transparency, which contributed to the problem of corruption.

Regarding the Internal Affairs office of the National Police, he remarks that it was “inefficient” to apply sanctions for violations and, furthermore, “it resisted modernization efforts.”

The Government Commission of the National Assembly reopened this Thursday, March 30, 2023, the debate on the asset forfeiture bill. In the midst of a debate with diverse opinions, the report of the technical table was read.

On this report, Security Minister Juan Manuel Pino said that it was unfavorable, but affirmed that they will continue to be positive on the issue.

Pino stressed that the ministry team he directs will continue to be present in the discussions so that this law can be approved.

For his part, the president of the legislative commission,

Deputy Leandro Ávila maintained that the crimes included in the bill must be evaluated and that infractions that threaten the functions of other prosecutors cannot be included.

In turn, the lawyers’ union, represented by Juan Carlos Araúz, said that a law cannot be approved to solve what the State cannot solve.

“Crimes against the public administration are due to a lack of institutionality and that is not resolved with this law,” he remarked.

As of April 22, 95 octane gasoline will be excluded from the state subsidy, as stated in Executive Decree 11 of March 30, 2023, published this Thursday in the Official Gazette .

The decree also establishes that the “temporary stabilization” measure for fuel prices will remain in force until May 31 for 91-octane gasoline and low-sulfur diesel, which will have a consumer price of $3.25 per gallon.

“Notwithstanding the foregoing, as of six in the morning (6:00 am) on April 22, 2023, the temporary stabilization measure for the price of a gallon of 95 octane gasoline or its equivalent in liters will cease,” is reflected in the document.

On February 14, the government of Laurentino Cortizo approved the extension of the validity of this measure until this coming April 1. Now a new extension of two months is given.

This subsidy arose from the agreements of the dialogue table, installed after the protests registered in July 2022, when the government promised to assume the difference.

According to the latest update of the data, to date the Government has subsidized some $372 million, of that amount $124.8 million correspond to private vehicles.

What would be an adventure in a paradisiacal place in the Pacific Ocean, specifically in the area of ​​the Las Perlas archipelago, turned last Monday night into a terrifying experience.

Several men, with machetes and firearms in hand, entered the Constellation Sailing sailboat where there were four US citizens, including the couple of sailors Chris and Cory Archer.

Both decided to participate in the sailing rally promoted by the Panama Posse organization, which lasts between November and June, that is, nine months, and in which the participants leave from one end of the United States (California), travel through Central America, cross the Panama Canal and then return to the other side of the United States (Washington). Around 300 sailboats and private yachts participate in the tour.

Cory Archer spoke with La Prensa and stressed that they lived through hours of terror during the robbery. He describes it this way: “They came up fast just after dark. They got into the boat and forced their way through the hatches and smashed them open. They had guns and machetes.”

In the words of the American, the criminals looted the ship while they were forced to lie down looking at the ground. “Some of us got hit. They also stole our dog from us, ”she maintained.

They were like this for an hour and a half, while the criminal act lasted. He also says that one of them received a blow to the back of the head with a firearm.

The next day, the victims went to file the complaint, but so far the authorities have not found the whereabouts of the criminals.

Cory also called out to the country: “Find out who did this. Protect your boaters with patrols in the area. If nothing is done, nothing will change, and it will continue to happen.”

In fact, last month a very similar event also occurred near that area. Specifically, on February 9, a 75-year-old man was also robbed on his sailboat with the United States flag, when he was off the island of Espiritu Santo, in Las Perlas.

At that time, the crew was forced to lie face down in the cabin, while guns were pointed at their heads. The yacht was looted.

“Because the sailing community is very close, this bad news travels very fast and its warnings cause boats to quickly leave our waters and others to avoid anchoring, learning about and enjoying our tourist attractions,” says the statement bearing the signatures. Russel Goedjen, president of the Nautical Tourism Association and Enrique Clement, president of the Panama Maritime Chamber.



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