Friday 4th August 2023

August 3, 2023


The defence of Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal has requested to accumulate, in a single file, the cases of New Business and Odebrecht, arguing that both are about money laundering and have links with the former president.

This is stated in the appeal filed by Martinelli against the sentence of criminal judge Baloisa Marquínez, who on July 17 sentenced the former president to 128 months in prison and the payment of a fine of $ 19.2 million.

Marquínez had already rejected the request for the joining of the two, considering it inadmissible. The investigation of the Odebrecht case began on September 29, 2015 and that of New Business, on March 6, 2017. But although it started first, in Odebrecht the trial has not even been held (it will be on September 27), while in New Business there is already a conviction issued in the first instance. They are therefore not at the same stage of the proceedings.

In addition, although it is the same type of crime (money laundering), there are different aspects: New Business is about the financial scheme that was used to hide the illicit funds that were used to acquire the shares of Editora Panamá América, S.A. (Epasa); Odebrecht is about paying bribes to officials and politicians, in exchange for contracts with the State.

But in his appeal, Martinelli’s lawyer, Luis Eduardo Camacho González, maintains that the two files should be accumulated, although his intention is to declare the nullity of both processes, since he states that when these two investigations began, Martinelli was a deputy of the Central American Parliament (Parlacen) and, in addition, was protected by the principle of specialty when he was extradited from the United States.

However Martinelli resigned from Parlacen in 2018; it was not until 2020, when he had already lost his status as a Central American parliamentarian, that he was summoned for questioning by Odebrecht and New Business.

Regarding the principle of specialty, Judge Marquínez indicated that Martinelli was protected by this prerogative from June 11, 2018 to February 17, 2020. It is therefore no longer applicable to the cases in hand.

The deputy of the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), Raúl Pineda, has presented a legislative proposal to prevent banks, fiduciaries, financial institutions, brokerage houses, insurers, reinsurers and cooperatives, among other private sector companies, from ending the commercial or contractual relationship with a client who is mentioned in a judicial investigation, “under any concept, reason or circumstance.”

This prohibition would also apply to jewelers, pawnshops, remittance companies, casinos, car dealers (new or used), advisors and investment companies, businesses established in free zones and all those regulated activities of the national financial sector. The proposal also mentions gambling companies that place bets by electronic means, by applications (app) or websites.

If Pineda’s idea is approved, none of these businesses could end the relationship with a client who is the subject of a judicial and even journalistic investigation: it turns out that they will also be prevented from cutting the link with people (natural or legal) “on the basis of news or informative publications in social media, internet or social networks”.

Rolando De León, former manager of the BNP and current director of the National Banking Association (ABN), considers that this draft is unnecessary, since there are rules for customers who consider themselves affected to make their claims with their bank or financial institution.

“The Superintendency of Banks has already established an administrative procedure that allows any client to file a claim against a bank, after they have made a request or complaint to it and have not received a response within 30 days,” he said.

Jaime Vargas, the PRD deputy who took control of the legislative branch on July 1, would have at his disposal $ 206 million 809 thousand 492 by 2024, the year that coincides with the elections of May 5, 2024, an election in which the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) aspires to govern the country again with Vice President José Gabriel Gaby Carrizo in the presidential chair.

In these elections, moreover, the majority of PRD deputies intend to be re-elected in their seats. That aspiration also has mayors and representatives of corregimientos that belong to the ranks of the ruling collective.

Therefore, the public gaze these days is on the resources that the main authorities of the country will have, especially the Executive and the Legislative.

The National Assembly, for example, would have $ 62.8 million more than was approved for this year: $ 143 million 955 thousand 516.

Here they make noise the millions that Vargas could use in operation, the item that would allow him to oil the bureaucracy in the middle of the political campaign: $ 193 million 906 thousand 445, 93% of the total budget.

The bill that contemplates the general budget of the State for 2024, reached the legislative plenary on July 31. It amounts to $ 32,754.5 million, so far the highest amount that Panama has had. The Minister of Economy and Finance, Héctor Alexander, pondered the fact that it complies with the provisions of Law 34 on fiscal social responsibility.

The Panama Canal will maintain operational restrictions on the waterway until September 2024, trying to preserve and efficiently use water for the transit of ships, given the little rain that falls in the Canal Watershed. And this will have an economic impact on your income.

This was revealed at noon today, August 3, by the administrator of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), Ricaurte Vásquez, before a group of more than 100 people, including journalists and students at the Ascanio Arosemena Training Center, in Panama City, thus closing a cycle of meetings in which he embarked throughout the country to make visible the operations of the route and the challenges. now aggravated, which they face

Due to the drought of the first months of the year, from July 30, 2023, and until further notice, the daily transit capacity was adjusted. This means that an average of 32 vessels per day now pass through the route, when previously 36 could do so.

In addition, the Panama Canal progressively decreased, to 44 feet or 13.41 meters, the maximum draft at the Neopanamax locks.

This will result in the Panama Canal projecting a reduction in revenues of between $150 million and $200 million next year, Vasquez said.

The ACP has already prepared its budget, which it has set at $4.900 billion for next year.

“The availability of water is a critical issue for a country that depends on water,” said Vasquez, who acknowledged that the Canal is at a critical moment.

n Homero Guerra-Moreno, 48, was sentenced to prison for trafficking methamphetamine (a synthetic stimulant that is highly addictive) for the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).

Homero Guerra-Moreno had pleaded guilty to the charges against him on December 6, 2022. In May, also last year, he was captured in Panama City.

And on Wednesday, August 2, 2023, U.S. District Judge Marina García Marmolejo ordered Guerra-Moreno to serve 324 months (27 years) in federal prison, the U.S. Department of Justice detailed.

Not a U.S. citizen, Guerra-Moreno is expected to face deportation proceedings following his incarceration.

The Panama Fire Department reported Thursday that it managed to control a fire that was registered Thursday morning in the Cerro Patacón landfill.

“At the entrance, near La Pesa there was burning garbage. Extinguishing vehicles, including a tanker, and nine extinguishing units arrived at the site,” said Sadock Solano, second lieutenant of the Firefighters.

Solano explained that they received the emergency call at 5:55 a.m. and the quick action prevented the fire from spreading.

In a 2023 report on the investment climate in Panama, the U.S. Department of State characterized the country’s economic, political, and institutional situation, highlighting Panama’s top threats and opportunities.

“U.S. investors allege that corruption is present in the private sector and at all levels of the Panamanian government,” the report states, as one of the common points reiterated throughout the document.

The analysis considers that the growing weight of public debt, which went from 46% of gross domestic product in 2019 to 58% in 2022, represents a major concern for the country, especially if the situation of the Social Security Fund is taken into account: “… Rating agencies have pointed out that Panama’s underfunded pension system, which is expected to deplete its cash reserves by the end of 2023 according to a report delivered by the International Labour Organization, and the growing state payroll could put it at risk of a future downgrade.

One of the aspects highlighted in the document is the impact of inequality on the Panamanian economy, so the report states that: “… Panama is one of the most unequal countries in the world, with the 14th highest Gini coefficient and a national poverty rate of 13% according to the World Bank.”

According to the report, the country has a significant problem with informal employment and with the quality of the education system, elements that combined with the weakness of the State and the lack of quality public services, contribute to inequality and the greater concentration of wealth in Panama.


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