Friday 5th July 2024.

July 4, 2024


Dana Castañeda, president of the National Assembly , reported that after the speech she gave on July 1, “a large number of people have returned” to the Justo Arosemena Palace, so she toured the offices of the building to do “an on-site audit” to “maintain firm the commitment that those who do not work do not get paid.”

She insisted that “they are after the bottles.” “We are checking to see if there are bottles and we are going to break the bottles,” announced the head of the Legislative power, surrounded by a group of deputies from the different parties.

Among those accompanying him were: Walkiria Chandler , from the independent Vamos party; Manuel Cohen , from Democratic Change (CD); Roberto Zúñiga , from Vamos, among others.

“Our halls are full. This is not the Assembly, this seems like a rally and we wanted to see where these people are. We have forbidden the deputies to protect them, we are not going to sign for anyone who does not work. Those who do not work will not get paid,” said the deputy from Coclé, who was elected president of the Legislature with 44 votes out of 70 deputies.

In his July 1 speech at the inauguration of Panamanian President José Raúl Mulino , Castañeda promised that he would begin reviewing forms 001, 002 and 171.

He also announced that he will seek a formula to reduce and eliminate the “unnecessary expenses” of that State body, such as rent, travel expenses, trips abroad and food. The various Assembly payrolls have been in the eye of the storm during the last five years. Excessive spending on hiring personnel, people who get paid and do not work, personnel who provide services to the businesses and private affairs of the deputies, but receive salaries from the legislature; and secret payrolls, are some of the many scandals arising from the issue.

In 2023, the year before the elections on May 5 , the Assembly’s payroll more than doubled. It closed December with 6,081 permanent and temporary officials, 3,273 more than it had in January, when it had 2,808.

The representative of the Ancón district, Yamireth Batista , from the Movimiento Otro Camino (MOCA), assured this Thursday, July 4, that the communal council is not exempt from the situation in which other councils have been seen: deteriorated facilities and lack of accounting information.

He said that the computers were formatted and do not have operating systems. In addition, there are no physical backups and many stolen files are evident. “We are still searching for information; we are working blindly. We have received a very basic financial statement and have not been able to see details of bank reconciliations or the status of checks,” he said.

Batista also denounced that since May 6, the municipal council closed operations and deleted the institutional account on the social network Instagram, despite the fact that it was supposed to serve the public until June 28.

Batista’s team recommended remodeling the facilities because the state of the infrastructure could threaten the health of employees and visitors.

The representative also revealed that during the transition process, the scant information they were given was presented orally.

“We have really found this, as they say in good Panamanian, a “hands on” approach. How easy it would have been if everyone had done their job and we had received the community council and got to work!” he added.

The Ancón community council was administered by the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) and the Vásquez family for 20 years. From 2004 to 2009, it was headed by Joaquín E. Vásquez, and from 2009 to 2024, it was headed by Iván Vásquez, brother of the previous representative.

Reducing the youth unemployment rate, which stood at 15% in August last year, is one of the main objectives of the new government, which this week presented the My First Job program for young people between 17 and 24 years old.

The Minister of Labor and Labor Development, Jackeline Muñoz de Cedeño, announced that this project will begin on August 1 and in the first stage will include 1,000 young people who will participate in three-month internships in various companies.

He explained that the State will pay each young person $300, while the companies that hire them will pay the difference in salary to ensure that they have a base income that will be the minimum wage, although it was not specified which one because there are several depending on the economic activity and the region.

Young people will have to apply for this program through a link that will be created on the Mitradel website or at the employment department of that ministry, since the project will operate as a job exchange. Participating companies will select personnel based on their requirements and young people will go through selection interviews and a prior training plan, said ministry spokesmen.

The Minister of Labor, who met on Thursday with representatives of the National Union of Workers in the Construction and Similar Industries (Suntracs), admitted that the country’s financial situation is difficult, but said they are optimistic that the outlook will improve for all sectors, including the construction industry, which is one of the largest job creators.

“We have a country that is in bad shape, but it looks good. Things are looking better. So, we have works, there is the issue of the railway. There are a lot of works that are underway and that I know will be carried out and that, of course, the working class is a fundamental part of it,” he said.

The construction union raised the need for Mitradel to mediate so that banks allow them to open their accounts again, but the minister said that she has no power over the financial and banking system.

He said he would try to reach an agreement, but he does not have the authority to mediate so that the banks agree to open the accounts.

The new director of the Panamanian Sports Institute (Pandeportes), Miguel Ordóñez , has begun his work in an institution that President José Raúl Mulino described as a “beautiful disaster.”

On Tuesday, on the program Tiempo Extra , Ordóñez revealed part of the conversation he had with President Mulino weeks ago.

“You are clear that this institution is a beautiful disaster ,” were Mulino’s words to Ordóñez. And then he said: “But I want you to know that your commitment is to the country, your commitment is to do things right and change the face of sport.”

“I made a gesture like the Japanese do (nodding my head) and said: ‘if those are your instructions and that is the line, I am the right man,'” said the Panamanian golfer.

“The president told me that my commitment is to the country and to do things well,” added Ordóñez, who has a degree in business administration from the University of North Florida, located in Jacksonville, United States.

Ordóñez said that “the country is at a critical moment.” “If you think you have something to contribute, and the country knocks on your door and calls you, and you say no for personal reasons of any kind, which I respect, then don’t complain when we are one of those countries that don’t have opportunities. Because if you have the opportunity and you don’t take it, the responsibility is yours,” he said.

Ordóñez was asked about the figure of Congressman Benicio Robinson , former president of the Panamanian Baseball Federation (Fedebeis).

“As long as Representative (Benicio) Robinson or any representative comes with the right intentions, which for me means working for the community, working for the people, we will listen to him and we will talk to him,” he said.

But he warned that he is not prepared to accommodate extraordinary requests or political favors of any kind.

The First Liquidation Court of Criminal Cases imposed a sentence of 80 months in prison on the former Minister of Economy and Finance, Frank De Lima , and the former manager of the Tocumen International Airport, Juan Carlos Pino , for the crime of wilful embezzlement to the detriment of this air terminal.

Through edict No. 73, posted at the courthouse on July 2, the parties were notified of mixed judgment No. 3, which also applies the additional penalty of prohibition from exercising public functions, once the prison sentence has been served.

Also in the judgment, dated May 8, 2024, an acquittal verdict was issued in favor of Jaime Quintero Alaín (former head of assets of Tocumen, SA) and Dionisia Inés Gutiérrez (legal representative of Sky Parking, SA), who were ordered to lift the precautionary measures preventing them from leaving the country that had been imposed on them by the court.

This case is related to an anonymous complaint filed with the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office on August 21, 2014, regarding alleged inappropriate and recurring handling of parking contracts at the airport terminal.

The concession for the administration and operation of the airport parking lots – for a period of 20 years – was awarded by Tocumen, SA, in July 2011, through the direct contracting mechanism by invitation, to Sky Parking, SA

Meanwhile, former Minister De Lima – on his social media account X – reported that they had already filed an appeal against the decision issued by the First Liquidation Court before the Higher Court of Liquidation of Criminal Cases and that a ruling from the Court of Accounts was provided in which it is established that in this case there was no patrimonial injury.

On Thursday, July 4 , baseball player Leonardo Jiménez became the 71st Panamanian to debut in the Major Leagues, in the game in which the Toronto Blue Jays received a visit from the Houston Astros .

Jiménez , wearing number 49, jumped onto the diamond at the Rogers Centre to play shortstop and bat eighth in the Canadian team’s offensive order. In his first appearance at the plate, the Isthmus native struck out swinging at the pitches of Dominican Framber Valdez, in the bottom of the second inning. While in his second turn he managed to negotiate a walk, in a duel against Valdez that had gone to maximum count.

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