Thursday 19th January 2023.

January 19, 2023

On March 22, the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) will hold the act of submitting proposals for the bidding for the first Public-Private Partnership (PPP) contract, which includes the rehabilitation and maintenance of 246.2 kilometers in the eastern area of ​​the province. of Panama, between Cañita- Agua Fria-Yaviza. Rafael Sabonge, Minister of Public Works, indicated that the specifications are already published on the Panama Compra portal and recalled that there are 14 companies, from 11 countries, that met the requirements to prequalify for the tender that will be for the best value. In the pre-feasibility report carried out by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a group attached to the World Bank, it is indicated that the contract includes the construction of ditches, bus stops, signage and about 16,000 square meters of pedestrian sidewalks, among other improvements. . In its analysis, the IFC recommends dividing rehabilitation and maintenance into three sections. The first section would have 46 kilometers between Las Garzas and Cañita; the second section would be from Cañita to Agua Fría, with an extension of 98.2 kilometers, and the third section would have 102 kilometers, between Agua Fría and Yaviza (border with the province of Darién). Sabonge commented that after the rehabilitation period, which will be carried out for a period of two years, the selected company will have to comply with 15 requirements that will be established in the contract to keep the highway in optimal conditions. “The State will pay based on compliance with the 15 requirements during the duration of the contract,” said the official.

The first humanitarian flight of 2023 with irregular Venezuelan migrants, who return to their country, took place this Wednesday, January 18, confirmed the National Migration Service. The humanitarian flight left the Tocumen International Airport with a group of Venezuelan citizens who entered the country irregularly through the Darién jungle, coming from Colombia, and who are returning home voluntarily. María Isabel Saravia, deputy director of Migration, reported that this trip was paid for by the Panamanian Government and that close to half of the 177 migrants correspond to minors and women, including a pregnant woman.”With this, we are providing protection to these people in a state of vulnerability, who were captured on the streets of different parts of the country and who wanted to return to their places of origin,”  Saravia said. The group of Venezuelan migrants, who returned to their country, were at the temporary immigration reception station in Los Planes de Gualaca, Chiriquí province.

The ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) will keep the largest portion of the pie that will be distributed by the Electoral Tribunal (TE) corresponding to pre-electoral public financing for the 2024 elections, an item known as pre-electoral subsidy. The political group chaired by Deputy Benicio Robinson will receive $15,963,765 as it was the group that obtained the most votes in the 2019 elections (579,462). According to data contained in Electoral Bulletin 5251-B, a document made public last Monday, January 16, for the May elections of next year, a total of $54,510,906 will be distributed for campaign expenses of political and independent parties.That figure is divided as follows: $50,695,143 for the nine political groups that the country has. While $3,815,763 will be assigned to candidates by free  application. This is so because the Electoral Code establishes that 7% of the amount corresponding to pre-election financing will be assigned to candidates for free application and the remaining 93% will be for political parties.

The President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo , sanctioned this Wednesday the State Agri-Food Policy Law, which establishes the guidelines for the development of the agricultural and livestock sector. The Law, which was approved by the National Assembly last October, establishes national agricultural production as a State priority as an instrument to ensure the human right to adequate food for the population and national food security and sovereignty. Likewise, it creates the unprecedented figure of the “private customs observer”, proposed by the unions and associations to verify the importation of agricultural products. “The State Agri-food Policy also corrects mistakes from the past that cannot be repeated in the future. We cannot privilege imports; when they are needed, that is what the agri-food chains are for and we can agree on what must be bought abroad to complement national production, but it does not matter when the producers are harvesting,” Cortizo said at the ceremony held on the grounds of the Fair from San Sebastián de Ocú (Herrera).

The National Police reported the seizure of a new drug shipment, after the seizure this Tuesday, of 925 packages with illegal substances, this time in a port in the province of Colón. The head of the Colón police zone, Basilio Sánchez, announced that the packages were hidden in 18 briefcases inside a container from Nicaragua. The drug was reportedly bound for Tuticorin, India. The National Police reported that on Monday they seized 1,234 kilos of cocaine that was in a container at a port located in Rodman, in the district of Arraiján. According to police reports, the drugs were inside 27 briefcases that apparently were introduced after forcing the knocker on the door of a container that was destined for Belgium, in Europe. The authorities highlighted that in less than 24 hours more than two tons of drugs were seized in these police actions.

In an extensive opinion piece, published last Monday, in the influential US newspaper The Washington Post , the former Republican governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, who is also the son and brother of the two former Bush presidents, strongly attacked the Panamanian ship registry. and questioned the behavior of the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) , regarding the use of Panamanian-flagged ships to smuggle Iranian oil and gas. In the article, Bush identifies himself as an adviser to the United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) organization. The Republican politician affirmed that 39% of the 288 vessels that the organization he advises has identified as suspected of smuggling Iranian hydrocarbons have the Panamanian flag. That illegal trade brought Iran an estimated $30 billion in 2021.Bush said: “AMP has received evidence gathered by UANI of 130 vessels of interest, but AMP has ejected only 18 of these, allowing the others to continue their alleged role  as mules for the Iranian regime.” . Bush later explained that: “Two months ago, the Treasury Department, as part of its counterterrorism efforts, singled out three Panamanian-flagged vessels for their involvement in mixing Iranian oil with Indian oil.” In his harsh criticism of Panama’s attitude on this issue, Bush questioned the Panamanian aspiration to occupy the general secretariat of the London-based International Maritime Organization, saying that: ” The Panamanian government does not deserve the prestige it would gain if its ambassador before the organization, Arsenio Domínguez, became secretary general of the agency. In short: Panama is not worthy of the trust of the international community.” In closing his article, Bush recommended that the United States Congress, in Republican hands, hold hearings on this issue, and asked the government of Democratic President Joe Biden to put all the ships and companies involved on the list. from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). In addition, he urged the president to put strong pressure on Panama in this matter. The Maritime Authority issued a 10-paragraph statement on Tuesday, January 17, in which it attempted to respond to Jeb Bush’s criticisms. The institution explained that it has canceled the registration of 678 ships in recent years as follows: “…120 for 2019, 86 for 2020, 237 for 2021 and 235 for 2022.” The entity affirmed that these cancellations have occurred mainly because these vessels had some participation in supporting the financing of international terrorism, or practiced “illegal, unreported and unregulated” fishing. Later the institution explained that: ” The Panamanian registry canceled 136 ships in which their direct link with the National Iranian Oil Company was proven.” In the most direct response to Jeb Bush’s questions, the AMP said: “…with respect to the ships that the author of the aforementioned article refers to, it is important to point out that investigations are being carried out regarding compliance with the ratified conventions by the IMO, history of owners, economic groups and due diligence under our established standards and taking into account and considering the instructions issued through expert panels. Those ships that are found to be in breach of national regulations are subject to administrative and economic sanctions, even the cancellation of the registration.” The AMP concluded its response by stating that: “This Administration has fully complied at all times with the obligations and procedures as a Flag State…” , and firmly rejected the criticism of Panama’s behavior in managing its flag. The administration of President Laurentino Cortizo has not been able to measure the scale and magnitude of the questioning of Jeb Bush. This is not about an attack on the country, or a complaint from a competitor. It is really an indication of disloyalty and lack of diligence on the part of Panama in fulfilling its obligations towards its allies. As happened to the administration of his predecessor with the “Panama Papers” scandal, the current government may be presented with an avalanche effect situation, in which a journalistic publication becomes a harsh international questioning of the entire Panamanian economy. The response that the State should have given was not through a statement from the AMP. With the leadership of the President of the Republic, he should hold a press conference with the participation of the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Security, the Attorney General’s Office and the AMP, to send the first signal that Panama understands the concern. The government of President Cortizo must exercise the right to reply to Bush’s article in The Washington Post , and at the same time initiate an effort in the media of developed countries to explain Panama’s version.

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