Thursday 14th September 2023.

September 13, 2023

The Attorney General of the Administration, Rigoberto González , warned that “between fundamental rights” such as access to information and the protection of personal data, “there is no controversy in advance.”

What can arise, added González, is a “conflict” according to the circumstances of the cases involved. Transparency is part of the right of public access, he remarked.

The attorney made his observations this Wednesday, September 13, in the Government Commission of the Assembly, where the discussion of project 1031 was resumed, which repeals Transparency Law 6 of 2002 and replaces it with a rule that limits access to public information and bureaucratizes the habeas data action. About twenty journalistic organizations and unions have requested the withdrawal of Bill 1031.

González himself has requested the suspension of the debate on the project, since it is a rule that requires extensive citizen consultation.

“The current law is extraordinary, although it is not perfect… What is the rush, if we have Law 6? I think we must be cautious and give ourselves the opportunity for something better to come out,” said the attorney general in his speech at the Government Commission.

González also pointed out that “any management that has to do with the management of public funds has to be clear that there must be accountability. There is no need to wait for someone to ask an official for accountability. He has to be held accountable.”

“All information that has to do with the management of public funds must be publicly accessible, in principle. There may be exceptions,” he added.

The former director of the Government Innovation Authority, Irvin Halman , present at the Government Commission, supported the attorney general’s opinion. He explained how Law 81 of 2019, on the protection of personal data, emerged.

Yelenis Ortiz, director of Data Protection of the National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information (Antai), agreed that “one right cannot be placed above another.”

Ortiz announced that Antai requested that some articles of project 1031 be modified, including article 20.

The bill promoted by the Executive, through the National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information (Antai) , which repeals Law 6 of 2002 on transparency , “will hinder journalists and citizens from accessing public information and will shield cases of corruption in public administration.”

This was the warning from the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) , which on September 13 asked President Laurentino Cortizo to withdraw Bill 1038. In this way, the IAPA joins the growing number of business and journalistic organizations and unions. that they have asked Cortizo to withdraw the proposal.

The president of the IAPA, Michael Greenspon , expressed that it is “ absurd to replace a transparency law that has worked in the country and that made it possible to fight corruption in an exemplary way throughout the region .”

Greenspon, global director of Print Licensing and Innovation at The New York Times , added that the IAPA joins the claim of several civil and journalistic organizations that criticized that “there was no consultation process” to discuss an initiative that dethrones the attributes that It has the previous one from 2002.

The president of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information of the IAPA and director of La Voz del Interior of Argentina, Carlos Jornet, expressed his concern about “the evidence that in the region the resistance of governments to guaranteeing the right of Access to public information”.

Greenspon and Jornet recalled that President Cortizo signed the Chapultepec and Salta declarations in 2020 , and that his commitment implies maintaining an open-door and transparent government.

While the rejection of the new contract between the Panamanian State and Minera Panamá grows, and at the same time lawsuits are piling up in the Supreme Court of Justice and complaints in the Public Ministry against officials for their participation in the negotiation of said contract, on Tuesday, September the Cabinet gave signs that they might back down.

The Minister of Commerce and Industries, Federico Alfaro, promoter of the new mining contract from the Cabinet, said that the Government “is willing to listen, clarify doubts and improve”, this after weeks of discussion in the first debate in the Commerce and Affairs Commission Economics, which even took place last week in the districts of Donoso, Omar Torrijos and La Pintada to meet there.

Without saying whether the Executive would withdraw the project from the Assembly, Alfaro said that they have considered “all options” but that they are waiting for the Commission to complete the phase of visiting the mine, which he estimated would take place at the beginning of next week.

Then, “we will wait for the commission’s feedback and then we will evaluate,” he declared in the midst of the launch of a financial inclusion program for micro, small and medium-sized companies, in conjunction with Ampyme.

Raisa Banfield, from the Panama Vale Más Sin Minería movement, is struck by the fact that when the Government has insisted so much on the “non-binding opinions expressed by citizens” it now feels pressure to make modifications to adjust it.

“We once again miss the underlying issue, the contract is where it is because it was declared unconstitutional, not because of a citizen rebellion. The contract is where it is because they delayed all the time in doing what the law mandates, which is to contract a public tender, something that is being completely ignored. In addition, it allows the company through affiliates to extend mining exploitation to new minerals, according to clause 3, so open pit metal mining is under discussion as an economic activity in the country because this contract allows it. “said the former vice mayor.

It is a fact, the option that the Panama Canal has to have another water reservoir is to develop the project of a reservoir in Río Indio, a work estimated at 890 million dollars.

This was announced by the administrator of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), Ricaurte Vásquez, pointing out that they are carrying out studies to determine how many people live in that area and the impact that the construction of the reservoir will have on the surrounding communities.

This information is crucial so that the Canal Board of Directors can present a proposal to the Executive to accelerate the Indio River plan.

“Possibly the long-term solution for the next 50 years is the source of the Indio River that is under discussion,” said Ricaurte Vásquez, indicating that they cannot wait for detailed data from the Census to determine how many people inhabit that area, for which the Channel is carrying out its own studies.

Vásquez also clarified that the construction of this reservoir by the Canal presents legal challenges, since Law 28, which authorized the referendum for the construction of the third set of locks or the expansion, establishes that the Canal cannot build any reservoir, so it would have to be directed by the State.

“In the case of Río Indio there is a decision to make: if the Canal does it, the law must be modified, or if the State does it, it must determine what the contractual relationship of water for the Canal will be,” he explained, noting that This is a decision that requires the approval of the National Assembly.

In a third and final instance ruling, the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) confirmed the sentence of seven years in prison for José Antonio “Chepi” Carrizo Mérida , for the crime of aggravated fraud to the detriment of Corporación La Prensa , SA (Corprensa) .

In this way, the Criminal Chamber ratifies the decisions issued by two lower instances: on April 11, 2022, the Second Court for Liquidation of Criminal Cases sentenced Carrizo to prison, a decision that was ratified by the Superior Court for Liquidation of Criminal Cases on August 4, 2022.

The case was elevated to the CSJ, since Carrizo’s defense filed an appeal. Finally, on August 17, 2023, the judges of the Criminal Chamber ( Maribel Cornejo, Ariadne García and María Eugenia López Arias ) ruled against Carrizo and validated the sentences handed down at the time by the court and the appeals court. The conviction entails disqualification from exercising public functions for a period of four years, once the prison sentence has been served.

Attracting business for the real estate sector for up to 130 million dollars is one of the goals of this year’s edition of the Expo Habitat 2023 of the Panamanian Chamber of Construction that will be held from September 28 to October 1 in the ‘Panama Convention Center’.

Demetrio Arosemena, president of the Organizing Committee, reported that around 250 housing projects will be exhibited with an offer of around 25 thousand units in inventory for sale that currently exist in the country. “We hope that this fair contributes to the reactivation of the country’s real estate and construction sector.”

He stressed that the last fairs held between 2021 and 2022 have managed to absorb part of the pending inventory that was available before the pandemic, which totaled 30 thousand housing units, which is why around 5 thousand homes that have been placed on the market have decreased.

“The approval of the extension of the Preferential Interest Law until 2025 allows discounts on the interest rate to purchase homes, and that creates a favorable environment to place more homes and reduce inventory.”

At Expo Hábitat 2023, homes will be offered from $45,000 and up. In addition to medium and high-cost real estate offers in residential properties in urban, country and beach areas. It is estimated that around 1,500 purchase and sale operations can be generated.


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