Monday 20th May 2024.

May 19, 2024


With less than two months left until his administration ends, Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo remains behind in the monthly publication of the discretionary item expense report .

The last report disclosed on the website of the Ministry of the Presidency was that of December 2023. The reports corresponding to the months of January , February , March and April 2024 have not yet been uploaded to the site.

According to the instructions published on the website itself, “ expense reports will be published no later than 30 days after the close of each month . ” But, until now that has not happened.

The latest data included was from the months of November and December of last year. During the month of November, the report highlights, the president disbursed $733,632. Meanwhile, for the month of December he paid $680,348.

The amount spent by Cortizo in the period of 4 years and six months of management amounts to $28.3 million.

If compared to what was spent by his predecessors, Cortizo thus surpasses Mireya Moscoso (1999-2004), who discretionarily used $23 million, Martín Torrijos (2004-200), $22.3 million, and Ernesto Pérez-Balladares (1994-1999), who allocated $25 million.

Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) is the president who has spent the most: $55.7 million. He is followed by Juan Carlos Varela (2014-2019), who made a total disbursement of $41.7 million.

The Ministry of the Presidency was consulted about the reason why it has not yet published the information, but so far they have not responded.

The Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama (Cciap), which this week renewed its board of directors, made a commitment to work together on a series of priority measures for the country.

Among these measures are the reduction and streamlining of government procedures to make it easier for private companies to generate new jobs, attract foreign direct investment, expand projects and halted investments, and pay state suppliers.

Likewise, the Cciap considers it imminent to address issues that cannot wait another minute, such as the financial problem and medical services of the Social Security Fund, as well as ensuring the supply of water both for human consumption and for the operation of the Canal. of Panama, the agricultural sector and other economic activities.

“With these and other actions, we believe that Panama will be able to return to the path of growth for the benefit of millions of fellow citizens. We have to firmly believe in this. Panama has everything to succeed, we have done it before and we can do it again,” the organization emphasizes.

Likewise, the Cciap, now chaired by Juan Arias, expressed its commitment to working both with the new Executive Body and with the elected deputies and all the new authorities in the implementation of the actions listed above.

Can the Darién plug be closed? The question, with its respective analysis, has gone around the world in recent days, after José Raúl Mulino won the presidency of Panama with 34.2% of the votes.

Although the immigration issue in Panama did not mark the political campaign, it was introduced on the public agenda at the end of the campaign when Mulino spoke of “closing” Darién again and again. During those days he even visited Rodrigo Chaves, president of Costa Rica, and there he reiterated his promise to close the route that has become a massive migratory corridor. The issue also featured in his proclamation speech on the night of Thursday, May 9. “I have already started talking to end the Darién odyssey, which has no reason to exist.

And I reiterate that Panama and our Darién are not a transit route. No sir. “That is our border,” he warned and immediately explained that his concept of “closure” implies “a philosophical concept” that is related to closing the border based on the fact that they will begin, with international aid, a repatriation process “with adherence” to human rights. “Here whoever arrives is going to return to his country of origin,” he warned.

The idea of ​​“closing” Darién was already a topic of debate in the country at the end of August 2023, when the Minister of Public Security, Juan Manuel Pino, assured that the massive migratory corridor “had a limit” to refer to the fact that, being “a humanitarian issue”, the matter became a “national security problem”. In those days they promised to change the treatment of the scourge. August had set a precedent because the month had not ended and the passage of 62,281 migrants had already been reported. At first, Pino did not rule out “closure,” but later he said it was impossible. “Closing protected areas… that is very difficult… it is not a road.”

Now the national debate is focused on the designated authorities. When it was announced last Wednesday that Frank Ábrego would be the new Minister of Public Security, the focus was on the closure of Darién , especially because Ábrego, a heavy-handed man, knows the issue well, since for years he was in charge of the National Border Service (Senafront). He was the first director of Senafront since Martín Torrijos created it in 2008, until 2016, during the government of Juan Carlos Varela, when he took a position in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For Ábrego “it is not impossible” to close the border, but he stressed that – like in other places with the same characteristics – there are already roads, paths and trails. “There is not one trail for drug trafficking and another for the indigenous people of the area. They use the same routes because that is already established,” he expressed. He added that the closure of that border cordon is possible, but clarified that a wall that goes from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean cannot be built either.

Another who contributed to the debate was Juan Carlos Navarro , designated Minister of the Environment. He said that in Darien “there is a humanitarian disaster and an environmental disaster.” “We have to stop it in its tracks. Illegal migration must be stopped in its tracks,” added Navarro, who has spoken multiple times about “closing” Darién.

The end of the route would be a blow to the finances of organized crime groups that, according to the authorities of Colombia and Panama, profit from migrant trafficking. According to a report from the Ministry of Security, in 2023 criminal organizations earned 820 million dollars moving people through the Darién jungle. The authorities point to the dangerous Clan del Golfo, a criminal organization from Colombia.

The Colón Free Zone (FTZ), the second largest free zone in the world, closed the first four months with positive figures, reaching an increase of 5.7% when compared to the first four months of last year. Between January and April, the ZLC accumulated transactions for 8,881 million dollars, exceeding the 8,401 million dollars in 2023.

Of the accumulated total until April, 4,792 million dollars correspond to imports, that is, purchases made by companies that operate in the commercial complex, while 4,088 million dollars were re-exports, which correspond to sales made by businesses.

But what happened in April? Although imports fell 28% compared to the month of March, Severo Sousa, president of the Association of Free Zone Users (AU), commented that historically April is a low month at a commercial level, but added that this year there were interruptions in the logistics channel due to street closures and work stoppages.

In the accumulated of the first four months of the year, the Free Zone report indicates the United States as the main supplier, with 36.3% of the value of imports, followed by mainland China, which accounted for 23.5%; Singapore, 2.9%; Japan, 2.8%; Mexico, 2.6%; and France, which represented 2%. The merchandise purchased by ZLC companies in these countries represented 73.5% of imports until last April.

Sousa explained that, in the case of the United States, imports are mainly related to pharmaceutical products, while from China, household appliances, clothing, footwear and bags stand out. Singapore contributes technological equipment, as does Belgium.

Regarding re-exports, the main destinations during the first four months were companies in Panama (local market), which bought 11%; Venezuela, 8%; Costa Rica, 7.7%; Guatemala, 6.4%; followed by Colombia, with 5.8%; Dominican Republic, 4.9%; United States, 4.6%; Honduras, 4.5%; El Salvador, 4.4%; Puerto Rico, 4.1%; and Chile, 4%. These countries were the destination of 65.5% of re-exports from the free zone between January and April.

Following these results, the president of the AU said that the local market played an important role during the first quarter in the commercial movement of the free zone, because it almost doubled its purchases. Likewise, trade with Central America, Puerto Rico and Colombia increased.

“We hope that, now that the elections have passed, the commercial movement will improve much more, especially at the end of the year, and we hope that it will be maintained and that business with Venezuela and Colombia will increase, as a result of an improvement in the internal conditions of each one of these countries,” said Sousa.

The Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology of Panama (Imhpa) has issued a rain watch warning with significant thunderstorms for almost the entire country.

The notice will be in effect from this Sunday, May 19, until 11:59 pm next Friday, May 24, 2024.

The Imhpa warns of an increase in the level of risk and possible effects on the population.

More articles