Friday 5th January 2024.

January 4, 2024


The Supreme Court of Justice rejected a preventive habeas corpus appeal presented in favor of a group of leaders of the Single National Union of Construction and Similar Industry Workers (Suntracs) and the National Confederation of Independent Trade Union Unit (Conusi). These leaders were linked to the street closures that occurred in October and November of last year, in protest of the contract signed between the State and Minera Panamá SA, a rule that was declared unconstitutional on November 28.

Lawyer Hessel Garibaldi filed the appeal on behalf of around 30 members of Suntracs, including its leaders Saúl Méndez and Genaro López. The purpose of this legal action was to prevent the Public Ministry from requesting precautionary measures that would limit their freedom during investigations related to the protests.

This habeas corpus also included 32 other members of Conusi who participated in the demonstrations against the mining contract. The ruling, written by Judge Ariadne García, was communicated to the parties through edict 7 of December 1, 2023, but was made public last Wednesday, January 3.

Following protests against the mining contract, the Public Ministry began investigations into property damage, acts of vandalism and theft, which led to clashes with members of the public force.

Rolando Rodríguez, from the Suntracs legal team, explained that they presented the habeas corpus at the beginning of last November, during the Suntracs and Conusi protest actions against mining. Rodríguez argued that the union leaders only exercised their right to public protest and that this does not constitute a crime.

David’s Personería initiated a legal process against Méndez, Jaime Caballero (both from Suntracs), the indigenous leader Toribio García and the teacher Diógenes Sánchez, for alleged commission of crimes against freedom and economic order due to the street closures that occurred in the province of Chiriquí and which lasted for almost 30 days.

The labor market has gone through several storms and the end of 2023 does not mean the end of the storms. According to data provided by the Ministry of Labor and Labor Development (Mitradel) to the Institute of Statistics and Census, between January and October 2023, 227,558 new employment contracts were formalized.

Despite the 14% increase in the number of contracts compared to the same period in 2022, when 199,752 were registered, it is still observed that the figures do not reach those of the period prior to the pandemic.

Between January and October 2019, the country reported 326,789 labor contracts. That is, 2023 is still 30.4% below the contracts from five years ago.

The year 2019, before the pandemic, has become the reference for an economy in relatively normal conditions, although it was an electoral period, in which there is usually a slowdown.

The contracts registered in the country cannot be interpreted in their entirety as new employment opportunities. These records include both new employment agreements and vacancies resulting from situations such as dismissals or resignations.

However, these records have become an indicator that measures the rigidity or push that the labor market is experiencing.

A revealing fact from the months of September and October 2023 was the drop in contracts as a direct effect of the protests and street closures against the mining contract between the First Quantum company and the Panamanian State.

There were 4,500 fewer contracts between September and October in 2023 compared to the same period of the previous year.

It is estimated that at the end of the year the drop will be greater due to contracts that will not be generated after the closure of copper production, which will impact Minera Panamá and the entire supplier chain.

The Canadian company Barrick would be entering into negotiations with the main investors of First Quantum Minerals , to “gauge support for a possible acquisition,” as reported by Bloomberg .

Mark Bristow , CEO of Barrick, would have approached some of First Quantum’s largest investors at the end of last year, after the contract for copper extraction in Donoso that the Canadian had through its local subsidiary Minera Panamá , was declared unconstitutional in Panama and its shares ended the year 2023 with half their market value.

The information revealed by Bloomberg was analyzed by BNP Paribas , in a note titled “Take two: Barrick and First Quantum.”

The report says that in the past Barrick has been successful in operating in difficult jurisdictions, such as in the case of Acacia Mining, in Tanzania.

BNP Paribas states that, in its opinion, “the Cobre Panamá project would continue to be the jewel in the crown in a potential acquisition, since under normal operating circumstances it is one of the top 10 copper mines in the world, but the visibility of its license long-term fiscal and social capacity to operate will remain limited until the May elections.”

On May 5, Panamanians will elect a president and 71 deputies, in addition to township representatives and councilors, at the polls.

Regardless of the political times, the ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice on November 28 declared unconstitutional the law contract 406 of 2023, which granted the copper exploitation concession granted to Minera Panamá.

“We have unanimously decided to declare unconstitutional the entire Law 406 of October 20, 2023. The above means that the aforementioned law is expelled from the regulatory system that governs the country,” said María Eugenia López, president of the Supreme Court, María Eugenia Lopez.

On its website, Barrick indicates that it has mining operations and projects in 15 countries: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Mali, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Senegal , United States and Zambia.

According to BPN Paribas, Barrick has openly expressed interest in increasing its copper portfolio in recent years and publicly discussed a potential Freeport deal in 2020, but it never materialized.

News reports of a possible merger between First Quantum and Barrick first emerged in June 2023 in The Wall Street Journal. Synergies would likely be limited, the report indicates.

Even though they are both Canadian miners, there is little geographic overlap of operations, making operational synergies likely low. Where there is material overlap would be in Zambia with operations in Kansanshi and Sentinel for First Quantum and Lumwana for Barrick, BNP Paribas warned.

The Panamanian authorities continue with the investigations into the case of the collision between the driver of a sedan vehicle and a cyclist, an event that occurred on the night of December 31, in the El Espavé sector , district of Chame, province of Panamá Oeste .

The investigations so far confirm that the body of the victim – 26 years old – was embedded in the windshield of the Lexus brand vehicle (gray). The driver, who was already accused of manslaughter, continued driving and arrived at the Casamar private residential complex in San Carlos, where the personnel at the security checkpoint realized that he was carrying the deceased in the body.

The distance between El Espavé and Casamar is 29.6 kilometers.

“The driver, who continued his journey, is apprehended by units from the Capira, Chame and San Carlos Police Zone,” stated a police report released last Wednesday.

In this case, the 39-year-old driver was accused of allegedly committing the crime of manslaughter. In a hearing held on January 1, the guarantee judge Luis De León ordered the preventive detention of the accused, originally from the United States and a naturalized Panamanian, it was learned.

An appeal hearing on the precautionary measure imposed by Judge De León was set for 2:00 pm on January 18.

During the year 2023, 129 fatalities were recorded due to hit-and-run accidents, and 23 due to bicycle collisions in different parts of the country.

The figures come from a report provided by the National Directorate of Traffic Operations of the National Police (PN).

In a press conference, Deputy Commissioner Elmer Martínez said that these events, where the majority of minors and older adults were involved, were recorded in the provinces of Panama, Colón, Chiriquí and Coclé.

The report also revealed that the majority of these accidents were recorded at night (between 8:00 pm and 5:00 am), when visibility decreases.

In that sense, Deputy Commissioner Martínez reminded cyclists that, according to the provisions of the PN Transit, bicycles must have lights on the front and a light fixture or reflective tape on the pedals and on the back of the seat. Likewise, it is necessary to use a safety helmet, he added.

The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office carries out a visual inspection on the morning of this Thursday, January 4, 2023, at the headquarters of the Government Innovation Authority (AIG).

This, as a result of the investigation carried out by this prosecutor’s office for alleged irregularities in the management of the digital voucher platform, a social program created in the covid-19 pandemic. The events were denounced by the deputy administrator of the AIR, Luis Carlos Stoute , and disclosed in several investigative notes in the newspaper La Prensa , published last December.

The investigation by the Public Ministry, which began last December 1, is in charge of anti-corruption prosecutor Ruth Morcillo , who investigates the alleged commission of the crime against the public administration, to the detriment of the entity.

Morcillo commissioned anti-corruption prosecutor Anilú Batista to request information about the management of this voucher, managed through the platform created by the AIG, but whose administration was later transferred to a private company.


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