Monday 12th June 2023.

June 11, 2023


José Gabriel Carrizo prevailed in the internal elections of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) achieving more than 55% of the votes cast, thus becoming the presidential candidate of the largest party in the country.

Carrizo won overwhelmingly in all provinces and counties, where voter turnout averaged more than 40%. The elections were carried out in complete order and in an atmosphere of camaraderie.

PRD members came out en masse to vote, reaching a turnout of 55.3%, the highest in the last 15 years. According to preliminary figures, 401,052 members of this group that totals more than 731,267 adherents went to the polls, which almost reaches the sum of those registered in the last primary, when Omar Torrijos’s party had 500,000 Panamanians in its ranks.

After the trend of counting the polls marked an irreversible trend, Carrizo moved to the PRD headquarters on Mexico Avenue, where he received a call from the Electoral Tribunal accrediting him as the winner of the internal PRD elections.

Carrizo thanked the PRD membership for having trusted his proposal and highlighted the unity, organization and civility shown in the party’s primaries and called for unity to all candidates to achieve victory in the 2024 elections.

The candidate during his thank you speech expressed that he did not come to make promises.

The President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo, justified this Sunday, the discretionary management of parallel decentralization funds, which has been revealed by La Prensa .

“On the issue of a country, of a system that has been centralized, the decentralization process is extremely important in the fight against poverty and development,” said Cortizo, after voting in the primary elections that the ruling PRD party held yesterday.

The president cited article 233 of the Political Constitution of Panama that speaks of a process of transfer of powers. Specifically, said article says the following: The State will complement municipal management, when it is insufficient, in cases of epidemic, serious disturbance of public order or other reasons of general interest, in the manner determined by Law.

To speed up the well-being of the communities, it is important to expedite the execution of the projects, he said. “Obviously, the Comptroller’s Office must audit the resources that are transferred to the different community boards,” he added.

According to a journalistic investigation by La Prensa, the current government injected at least $202 million into 474 community boards outside of the legal procedure, most of them for representatives aligned with the PRD.

After more inquiries from the media about “parallel decentralization”, Cortizo stressed that “I don’t handle that issue. In the Presidency there was a secretariat and it was passed to an authority. Today we are here for the theme of our primary”.

At present, Panamanians are witnesses of “another disappointment” when observing how the “noble idea” of decentralization is used in a “discretionary way and far removed from real needs”, for the political-electoral benefit of a minority.

This was the reaction of the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama (Cciap) after La Prensa revealed, through a journalistic investigation, that the National Decentralization Authority (AND) diverted more than $202 million dollars to communal boards, most controlled by the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD).

“It is unacceptable that the AND, with the endorsement of the Comptroller General of the Republic, makes million-dollar disbursements outside the mechanisms contemplated in the Decentralization Law, clearly favoring political clientelism,” said the organization, in the Sunday column La Cámara Opina .

For the Cciap, this “irregular and reprehensible” practice deserves the unanimous rejection of citizens, as well as immediate actions by all authorities and state bodies to put an end to it.

In the opinion of this union, money is being handled with little supervision or control, used arbitrarily and “even to the detriment of the institutions that already have a presence in the communities.”

The Cciap also recalled that these resources come from taxpayers and, therefore, “we demand their correct use for the benefit of all citizens, as well as the accountability of those who have participated in these reprehensible acts.”

The reality within the National Oncology Institute (ION) is critical: an $8.6 million loan is urgently needed for the purchase of medical supplies and laboratory reagents that will allow it to cover the last quarter of 2023.

Juan Carlos Alcedo, director of the ION, stressed that if these resources are not received, the hospital will face a “crisis of shortages”, particularly of medicines.

As will be remembered, the medical authorities of this hospital center requested a budget of $83 million for this year 2023, but the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) recommended $60 million, that is, $23 million less than what is needed.

Alcedo maintains that the budget allocation does not allow them to function.

“Generally, when one receives less budget, one sacrifices investments to give priority to operation, but this time it was not enough,”

The director of the ION explained to La Prensa that the ideal budget to function, without any inconvenience and reach the end of the year, is at least $110 million.

He also explained that the credit they requested is being processed at the MEF. “In the last conversation we had with them [MEF], they have told us that they are waiting for additional funds and that in principle there will be aid to Oncology, although the amount and date on which it will arrive are not defined”, he stated.

Despite this, one of the main concerns of the ION authorities is that said credit does not arrive on time.

Alcedo pointed out that if the resources take time to arrive, it will be difficult to execute them, since the purchasing processes take time. “We hope to have this money, at the latest, in July,” he concluded.

These medications are necessary if one takes into account that ION statistics indicate that they receive some 4,000 new patients per year, the main cases being those of the breast, prostate, and cervix.

These same data specify that during 2022, 155,917 patients were treated in the ION outpatient clinic .

Roger Barés, president of the Committee for the Protection of Patients and Family Members, lamented that every year money has to beg for education and health, when both issues are “essential” for the growth of a country.

“If we have a population without education, ignorance will reign. And if we do not provide health, we will have a sick people. I invite the Government to do something on both issues,”.

I do not understand how in Panama millions of dollars are allocated to do politics, but there is no money for patients. “It is not only the Oncology. The same happens with the Children’s Hospital and the Santo Tomás Hospital” Bares pointed out.

However, he considered that what happens at the ION is a lack of respect and violation of human rights, since its patients cannot wait for their medications and treatments.

Each year, the security forces report the seizure of tens of tons of drugs. In the last four years, according to data from the Public Ministry, a total of 459 tons of drugs have been seized and $26 million 427 thousand in operational actions throughout the country.

These operations lead to arrests and convictions. Thus, between 2018 and 2022, 11,250 convictions were handed down for drug-related crimes, of which 5,255 were in the province of Panama with 5,255 convictions and 1,682 in Colón.

In that same period, 13,087 charges were made for drug-related crimes in the various offices of the Accusatory Penal System throughout the country.

Data from the General Directorate of the Penitentiary System, of the Ministry of Government, detail that close to 80% of the 20,000 detainees are there for drug-related crimes. Many are gang members or people who work for organized crime.

Last year alone, authorities found 138 tons of drugs, which were sent to the United States for incineration.

Figures from the Public Ministry (MP) reveal that in the last four years, Colón is the province with the highest number of seizures, with 148.78 tons. This is followed by Panama Oeste, with 79 tons; Panama, with 59.28; Chiriqui, with 50.49; Los Santos, with 30.83; Bocas del Toro, with 27, and Veraguas and Coclé, with 21 tons each. The rest of the seized is distributed in the regions, Herrera and Darién.

An investigation carried out by the InSight-Crime Foundation details that drug cartels have targeted the use of containers to camouflage drug shipments bound for Europe and the United States.

This is reflected in the fact that Colón, where several container ports operate, is the province where the most seizures have been registered in recent years.



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