Thursday 16th February 2023.

February 16, 2023


At least 39 people died early this Wednesday, after the bus they were traveling in fell off a cliff in Gualaca, Chiriquí province.

This was confirmed by the National Migration Service in a statement. The entity indicated that the bus, that left Darién, was carrying some 66 migrants to the Los Planes de Gualaca shelter.

Some 36 people were injured, confirmed Gonzalo Chan, chief of the fire department in Chiriquí. Of that number, 19 are men, 5 women and 12 children.

At the José Domingo De Obaldia Maternal and Child Hospital, in David, 10 children arrived. Of those, three remain in intensive care units and one underwent surgery.

“This news is unfortunate for Panama and for the region. The National Government extends its condolences to the relatives of those who died in this accident and reiterates its commitment to continue providing humanitarian aid and decent conditions to confront irregular migration,” said President Laurentino Cortizo.

Several of the victims are Cuban nationals, confirmed Bruno Rodríguez, Cuban foreign minister.

According to preliminary information, at about 4:30 a.m. the bus tried to make a turn on the Chiriquí-Bocas Del Toro highway to return to the main entrance to the shelter, but during the maneuver it lost control, collided with a bus coaster type and fell down a ravine.

“The bus driver missed the entrance and turned around to go back to the shelter, at which point the bus fell onto a slope,” explained Samira Gozaine, director of the Migration Service.

The Minister of Public Security, Juan Manuel Pino, said that so far this year 37,000 migrants have passed through the Darién jungle on their way to the United States. “It’s a constant flow,” he said.

He explained that carriers from Darién are the ones that provide the service of taking them to Chiriquí. “It is the migrants who pay the carrier directly,” he added.

Personnel from the Public Ministry, the National Migration Service, the Ministry of Health, the National Civil Protection System, the Fire Department, are in the area where this tragedy occurred.

Similarly, the Chiriquí Regional Prosecutor’s Office indicated that some 40 prosecutors have been available at the site of the accident in Los Planes, to expedite the procedures for removing the corpses and the transfer of the injured to hospitals.

In the afternoon the tasks of lifting the bodies continued. The transfer of the deceased will be carried out in five hearses, bound for the judicial morgue in the city of David, where examination and necropsy work are expected to begin, it was reported.

President Laurentino Cortizo approved extending the 30% discount measure to 170 medicines on the exceptional or emergency list for six months.

It did so by signing Executive Decree 3 of February 14, 2023 and after analyzing the impact of the price decrease of some highly consumed drugs, reported the State Communications Secretariat.

“This analysis highlights that the decrease in prices of some highly consumed drugs has allowed the population to have access to them, with affordable prices, for which reason said extension was considered necessary for a similar period, re-evaluating some originally listed medication”.

Additionally, it was also determined to establish reference prices for some medicines.

The norm indicates that the provisions of the Executive Decree will not apply to medicines manufactured by the national industry; nor will it apply to those generic medicines whose price is equal to or less than 60% of the price of the reference medicine as of June 30, 2022.

The shooting that occurred last Friday, in the La Joya and La Nueva Joya prisons, an event that left two dead, one of them a National Police agent, once again put its finger on the wound: the government has not been able to eradicate corruption in the country’s prisons.

The Minister of Government himself, Roger Tejada, publicly acknowledged it.

For former superior prosecutor Rolando Rodríguez, what happens in prisons “is out of control.” Rodríguez, who worked in the Public Ministry for more than 20 years and investigated cases such as the Coiba massacre (occurred in January 1998), in which four prisoners were beheaded, explained that the management model in handling the deprived of liberty has hit rock bottom.

He considered that if there are no resocialization alternatives, conflict situations are generated.

He stressed that it is necessary to make a change in the prison management model and allow inmates to spend their time studying, learn a trade and carry out activities that allow them to develop some kind of talent.

In his opinion, another phenomenon that has a high degree of interference in the violence that is experienced in prisons are rival gangs that seek to gain space and hierarchies and this leads to situations of confrontation when these groups mix in the same prison.

Meanwhile, the former director of the Penitentiary System, Ángel Calderón, agreed with Rodríguez, in the sense that the management model within the penitentiary centers has collapsed, since in his opinion, none of the Panamanian prisons complies with international standards of a detention center.

Two proposals to modify laws 45 of 1995 and 6 of 2015, related to the tax on consumption, production and export of alcoholic beverages, rest in the Economy and Finance Commission of the National Assembly.

These are bills 58 , presented by PRD deputy Roberto Ayala, and 106 , promoted by Tito Rodríguez, of the Liberal Republican Nationalist Movement.

The Economic Commission, chaired by Ricardo Torres, a representative of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), had planned to host these two initiatives on Tuesday, but the session was postponed due to lack of quorum.

Ayala proposes to modify Law 45 to “strengthen” the retirement and pension fund of the Social Security Fund. In this sense, draft law 58 states, among other things, that “20% of the total collected in the excise tax on liquor consumption will go to the fund for retirees and pensioners and up to 6% of the same tax will be allocated to the tuberculosis fight fund, depending on the needs of the service”.

Currently, the regulation states that “10.5% of the total collected in the excise tax on the consumption of liquors will go to the Fund for Retirees and Pensioners and up to 3% of the same tax will go to the Fund for the Tuberculosis Fight, depending on the needs of the service”.

It also indicates that “the selective tax referred to in this law will be $0.055 for each alcoholic degree contained in each liter of rectified alcohol, cane brandy, whiskey or gin of domestic or imported production.” Said tax is currently $0.035.

In the same way, it is contemplated to increase from 20% to 30% the contribution product “of the yield or of the selective tax on the consumption of wines”, in favor of the Social Security Fund.

The discharge Anti-Corruption Prosecutor reported this Wednesday, February 15, that it was able to confirm the sentence of 6 years in prison for the former minister, Guillermo Ferrufino and his wife Milena Vallarino de Ferrufino, for the crime of unjustified enrichment.

On February 22, 2022, the Third Settlement Court for Criminal Cases issued the sentence. But it was appealing.

According to the prosecution, the spouses could not justify assets that amount to $2 million 288 thousand.

In the trial held in December 2021. At that time, the prosecution presented evidence collected in the investigation, initiated as a result of an audit report from 2014, which revealed that Ferrufino could not justify certain assets acquired during his management as minister in the era of Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) .

The Comptroller’s audit revealed that in his five years in office, Ferrufino obtained income for the sum of $1,126,884, but his expenses, acquired assets, and bank accounts reached the sum of $3,415,180. Therefore could not justify an amount of $2 million 288 thousand.


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