Thursday 20th July 2023.

July 19, 2023


Ricardo Martinelli , sentenced to 10 years and 8 months in prison for money laundering, warned that he will continue to campaign for his presidential candidacy.

It is a “political failure”, Martinelli opined of the sentence of the criminal judge Baloisa Marquínez, on the so-called New Business case .

Martinelli spoke through a video on his social networks, released last Tuesday almost 10 hours after it became known that he had been convicted and with $19.2 million fine because it was proven that the shares of Editora Panamá América, SA ( Epasa ) were acquired with public funds, provided by State contractors, in December 2010, when Martinelli had been in office for a year and a half .

Precisely for this reason, the judge ordered the confiscation of Epasa’s shares, in favor of the State. 40% were already transferred months ago, by other shareholders who were investigated for the New Business case.

Martinelli, meanwhile, has 29% of the shares of Epasa, according to what one of his lawyers told Judge Marquínez.

He insists that he is innocent and his lawyers have notified that they are reviewing the ruling, to decide whether to file an appeal, since the judge’s decision is of first instance.

“I have no relationship with illicit money,” Martinelli claims in his video on various networks.

Daniel Ochy, Janeth Vásquez, Iván Arrocha and Valentín Martínez Vásquez were also found guilty with him. The four now face sentences between 60 to 96 months in prison.

Justice in Panama has almost always been a chimera. Judges and magistrates have perfectly defined duties in the law and the Constitution, but in practice, their exercise has lacked direction and courage, especially in cases of corruption, in which politicians or their relatives are involved. Therefore, with each ruling, citizens were losing faith in justice. And with the case of the wiretapping we hit a sort of bottom, with it the little credibility that remained also disappeared.

The sentence of Baloisa Marquínez has opened a window of optimism for the country when many of us considered the battles for justice as lost. After decades of impunity, of the millions stolen from Panamanians, of crimes without punishment, of convictions in foreign courts that here were transformed into acquittals, a judge has had the courage to condemn the most notorious and cynical of the Creole buccaneers. Neither threats nor blackmail nor briefcases were able to bend the arm of justice and for this reason the deserved recognition that citizens pay to Marquínez is born.

The road is not easy. There are economic and especially political powers that will not sit idly by. It is up to the citizens to come to the defense of judicial officials who dare to challenge and punish the corrupt. A very high price has been paid by the prosecutors who previously tried to curb impunity, despite the strength of the evidence and the coarseness of the crimes committed. This battle is uphill, and decent and courageous judges and prosecutors must feel supported by a people fed up with political gluttony and white-collar pickpockets.

If the reign of impunity has its days numbered from now on, Panama will rebound, without a doubt, in economic matters; your local and international credibility will increase exponentially; and the money needed to lift hundreds of thousands of compatriots out of poverty will be put to better uses and not in to the private pocket of a few. We must not forget that corruption will never go away. If we were angels, we wouldn’t need governments. That is why there is a state body whose duty is to punish lawbreakers.

The dense jungle of Darién is a silent witness to one of the most complex migratory flows in recent years. Every day between 1,000 and 1,500 walkers are entering this dangerous route.

The Bishop of Darién, Pedro Hernández Cantarero, defines it as a “calvary ” in which everyday people from various countries risk their lives, to achieve the objectives that they do not achieve in their nations of origin.

At the moment, the reports of the National Migration Service specify that between January and July 15, 2023, 215,575 walkers arrived in this province, of which approximately 20% are minors.

Venezuelans, Haitians and Ecuadorians are the ones who are mainly entering the jungle, from Colombia, to reach Panama. This year 113,139 Venezuelans entered the country through Darién , representing 52% of all migrants.

In the words of Hernández Cantarero, they are observing more migrants than last year crossing Darién, with which everything indicates that the situation in countries close to Panama such as Venezuela, Haiti and Ecuador are going through difficult times.

“We don’t have to see migrants as aliens, but rather make them feel good because unfortunately the countries they come from face problems. Here in Darién they are going through an ordeal and we have to help them get ahead”.

One of the most dramatic images of the current migratory phenomenon is that of migrant children. Data from the Ministry of Security specify that between January and June 2023, 40,458 minors made the risky journey, exposed to the dangers of mighty rivers, steep hills and ravines.

The Minister of Public Security, Juan Pino, said that there is concern because this population of children and adolescents leaves their social environment and their schools, to make a dangerous journey, where they are exposed to criminal groups.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) authorized the transfer of a plot of land, of about five hectares, to the Ministry of Government (Mingob) for the construction project of a penitentiary center for the central provinces.

This Resolution of May 16, 2023, published in the Official Gazette,  states that the use and administration is assigned in favor of the Mingob of a finca owned by the Nation, located in the district of Santa María, province of Herrera, with an average value of 75 thousand 366 dollars and 27 cents.

In the resolution, the Directorate of State Assets of the MEF warns Mingob that the finca “will be used exclusively for the development of a Penitentiary Center project in central provinces.” Likewise, “in case of non-compliance with the previous condition in terms of its purposes, the use and administration assigned herein will be revoked by operation of law.”

According to the document, the request for the transfer of the land was made by Mingob in May 2022.

The clients of several banks reported increases in the interest rate of their mortgage loans this week. This variation even affects credits that are protected under the preferential interest law. “The rate of your mortgage loan will increase by 0.25 points”, indicates one of the circulars sent by a local bank to its clients. The increase in the interest rate would be applied as of August 1st.

A home mortgage loan of less than $105,000, with a current rate of 1.75% covered under the preferential interest rate, will rise to 2% and thus the rest of the rates depending on the segment of the mortgage loan.

In some cases, financial entities reported that the letter remains at the same amount agreed at the beginning of the mortgage loan, but the term of the credit is extended because additional fees will be added due to the increase in interest rates.

Likewise, the entities indicate that people who can pay to avoid the increase in fees can pay capital.

The Superintendent of Banks of Panama, Amauri Castillo, maintained that the variation in the interest rate is due to the late effect in the local market, of the interest rate adjustment that the Federal Reserve of the United States has been applying and maintained that until now it has remained even below the increase in other markets.

“Between April and May there has been an increase that has taken the reference rate for residential mortgage loans from 5.75% to a slight increase of 6%,” said the Superintendent of Banks.

The striker of the women’s team of Panama , Karla Riley , expressed that the preparation tour has made them better players and that they are ready for the Australia / New Zealand World Cup.

“The tour has given us a lot of challenges physically, tactically, mentally, and emotionally… Each friendly was of some use to us,” she told Fepafut Riley , after completing her second day of training in Australia.

“When we arrived, we felt more professional than ever: because of the clothing, for each step we were taking and everything we came across… The expectations we had, FIFA knew how to have everything at our command. We have to enjoy it. It is the biggest step a footballer takes: playing a World Cup”, she added.

Panama will make its World Cup debut on July 24 against Brazil at Hindmarsh Stadium.

“We are excited to play our first World Cup. We are proud of each one of us. We will do everything possible to play the World Cup with the same commitment that we have been doing up to now”.


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