Thursday 19th October 2023.

October 18, 2023


The session of the Commerce and Economic Affairs Commission of the National Assembly (AN) , convened for this Wednesday at 11:00 am, was postponed, canceled and again rescheduled, in less than three hours.

The session has been delayed because the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) bench was summoned to a meeting at the Presidency of the Republic, at the same time that they were supposed to begin the discussion in the first debate of bill 1100, which adopts the concession contract between the State and Minera Panamá , for mineral exploitation in Donoso.

The independent deputy Juan Diego Vásquez , who is a member of the Government Commission, was the first to notify of the meeting in the Presidency, which was held, according to him, to “convince” his colleagues to vote for in favor of bill 1100. Vásquez questions that this supposed meeting of the deputies with President Laurentino Cortizo to discuss public matters is done “in secret.” “It should be open doors. I am interested in hearing the president’s arguments,” Vásquez wrote on his account on the social network X.

At 11.00 am the session of the Commerce Commission was to begin, but only the independent Juan Diego Vásquez and the Panamanian Elías Vigil are sitting at the main table.

By 11:40 In the Assembly, there was no deputy from the ruling PRD was seen, except for Víctor Castillo , who occasionally circulated there. Nelson Jackson , from Cambio Democrático (CD), and Francisco Alemán , from Molirena, were also seen . The three of them are members of the Commerce Commission, but, unlike Vásquez and Vigil, they did not stay in the room.

At 1:10 The technical staff that supports the sessions of the Commerce Commission reported that the meeting was suspended, upon instructions from Deputy Ábrego. Vásquez replied that no one had informed him of anything about it and questioned the “opaque” handling that was being given to the issue. The Mici staff, who were waiting for the session to begin, retired to another room to wait for someone to tell them what they should do.

At 2:10 The session of the Commerce Commission begins. The majority of the commission’s deputies approved that bill 1100 will be discussed “en bloc.” Each deputy will have half an hour to present his position.

The Digital Voucher , the social aid program that has cost the country $2,213 million and was created during the pandemic supposedly for the poorest, has fallen prey to politics, scams, and discretion.

A report from the National Authority for Government Innovation (AIG ) that contains data on how this subsidy was distributed, shows that of that total, around $1.6 million in vouchers “does not state” in which areas they were delivered.

Where did these thousands of dollars in vouchers go? The former director of the AIG and now candidate for deputy for the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) for San Miguelito, Luis Oliva, explained that these millions were given to “foreign people” whose employment contracts were suspended.

According to Oliva, the AIG used the Electoral Tribunal database , and since this group of people were not naturalized and did not have electoral residence, they do not appear in a specific place or site.

The explanations of the now candidate for deputy for the PRD do not convince the lawyer and candidate for deputy for the Other Path Movement (MOCA), Ernesto Cedeño, who yesterday Tuesday filed a complaint with the Electoral General Prosecutor’s Office for the possible political use of the social assistance known as Digital Voucher.

In addition to the political issue, eight people were captured on October 10 for allegedly altering the database of the Vale Digital program.

Prosecutor Nahaniel Murgas, from the Fifth Section of Crimes against Property, reported that together with the National Police, they carried out eight raids in Panama City, San Miguelito and Panamá Oeste, to locate the eight people, including two officials. He did not specify which ministry or institution they belong to. All will be investigated for the alleged commission of the crime of fraud.

“Fraudulently, they violated the PIN of the beneficiaries of the Digital Voucher and they were exchanged in stores illegally. Likewise, a group of business managers were arrested, who repeatedly and fraudulently made digital vouchers effective,” the prosecutor said in a video released by the Public Ministry on his account on the social network X.

Mugas explained that several of those arrested altered the Digital Voucher database to commit the fraud. They, due to their status as officials, had access to it. “At the national level there are a considerable number of complaints about this criminal modality (…),” he added at the time.

Yesterday, Tuesday, in the Budget Commission of the National Assembly, AIG officials indicated that they are only in charge of the Digital Voucher database, but that a commission made up of representatives of the Ministry of the Presidency, Ministry of Labor and Ministry of Social Development, were responsible for determining how and to whom the vouchers were delivered.

His response arose after a strong question from the independent deputy, Juan Diego Velásquez, who defined the delivery of the Digital Voucher as “selective, convenient and little studied” to people who do not necessarily need this help, the popular flagship program of the administration of Laurentino Cortizo.

Although the Political Constitution establishes that one of the requirements to be a township representative is not to have been convicted of an intentional crime, the leadership of the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) nominated César Caballero to seek re-election in the elections of 2024 as a representative of Belisario Porras, from the San Miguelito district.

Caballero, current president of the San Miguelito council, was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzlement to the detriment of the University of Panama (UP). The information is contained in Edict 9 of January 5, 2022 , issued by the Superior Court for Settlement of Criminal Cases of the First Judicial District, following his defense processing an appeal.

The communal board of Belisario Porras, an area where 44,129 people live, according to data from the 2023 census, received $6.6 million from parallel decentralization between July 2021 and May 2023. While in that sector $55.3 has been distributed million in Digital Voucher.

Caballero responds to the political line of deputy Raúl Pineda , third undersecretary of the National Executive Committee. Six of the nine community boards of San Miguelito are in the hands of township representatives who belong to the PRD, the majority of them are in the hands of Pineda.

Recently, the independent deputy Juan Diego Vásquez spoke on the issue. He reported that the sentence is already enforceable. “It has come to my attention that in the criminal process followed by the representative of Belisario Porras in San Miguelito, César Caballero Mosquera, the appeal for review that they presented has already failed, so the sentence against him, which sentences him to five years in prison and four years of disqualification from exercising public functions, is enforceable,” he assured during the period of incidents in the National Assembly.

Vásquez asked “how is it possible that the police have not issued the arrest warrant? so that he begins to serve his five-year sentence of five years in prison (…).”

Numeral 3 of article 226 of the Constitution establishes that to be a representative of a township it is required ” not to have been convicted of an intentional crime with a custodial sentence of five years or more, by means of an enforceable sentence, issued by a court of justice .”

On his social networks, Caballero has celebrated his nomination, a procedure that gives him an expedited ticket to opt for re-election since he did not have to go to primaries. “Belisario Porras, San Miguelito. Official candidate for representative,” reads a post on his Instagram account.

Voltage fluctuations caused the collapse of the air conditioning system at the Nicolás A. Solano Hospital in La Chorrera, when it had barely been operating for two months.

This was reported by the medical management of this hospital center of the Ministry of Health (Minsa), after presenting legal resources and claims to the electricity distribution company Naturgy .

The architect and national director of Infrastructure of the Minsa, Carlos Candanedo , stated that they hope the response will be quick. “I think that Naturgy managers will understand how critical this situation is, because patients expect a quick response,” he clarified.

Likewise, the claims have also been notified to the National Authority of Public Services (Asep). Given this situation, the Minsa coordinated with the directors of the Santo Tomás and San Miguel Arcángel Hospital to provide care to the patients of Nicolás A. Solano.

The last blackout occurred on October 8.

The Nicolás Solano, inaugurated in 2000, has an installed capacity to serve 150,000 people.

Voltage fluctuations have complicated patient care. According to the medical director, Ycly Jaén , the operating room remains closed and only extreme emergencies are being attended to, such as those injured by firearms, high-risk pregnant women, and traffic accidents.

The doctor indicated that the operating system for air conditioning the rooms had only been in operation for two months before voltage fluctuations caused it to be damaged.

“We have taken the claims to the energy distribution company and they have a period of 15 days by law to respond,” he commented.

The part that would allow the repair of the “ chiller ” (an air conditioning system that cools water to send air) comes from the United States, but it is believed that it may take around two weeks to arrive.


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