Thursday 23rd May 2024.

May 22, 2024


Political analysts look askance at the challenges that are being presented with the clear aim of weakening the independent bench in the National Assembly.

The most notable case is that of the lawsuit filed by Alejandro Pérez , candidate for deputy for the Realizing Goals (RM) party , through which he requests the annulment of the election and the proclamation of the deputies who were elected in the circuit. 8-4.

As will be remembered, on May 9, four days after the elections, it was determined that the five seats in the 8-4 circuit would be awarded to Roberto Zúñiga and Jorge Bloise , from the independent Vamos coalition; Javier Sucre , of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD); and Ernesto Cedeño and Grace Hernández , from the Other Way Movement (MOCA).

For political analyst José Stoute, they are clearly trying to “boycott” the installation of a majority by the independent Vamos coalition.

“What it seems to me is that it is a common truculence typical of the corrupt and clientelists who have been occupying positions in the National Assembly and their parties. Indeed, they know perfectly well that they are committing imprudence, to put it in the best possible way, by trying to interrupt the full installation of the deputies of the Assembly,” he said.

In Stoute’s words, if the Electoral Court does not make a quick decision before July 1, it would be “a participant in a corrupt maneuver” by the parties that have been defeated in the May 5 elections.

For his part, the sociologist and also analyst, Danilo Toro, pointed out that these challenges still leave a feeling of inconclusiveness of the electoral process.

“There is a flavor that something is not finished and that, therefore, some degree of political instability prevails,” he noted.

In Toro’s opinion, if this is not addressed promptly and clearly, it leaves the atmosphere with the feeling that we are still subject to a certain degree of uncertainty. “Our electoral system must be reformed, in the sense that we must provide it with more precision, clarity and a sense of opportunity. In other words, cases like these have to be resolved in a timely manner,” he said.

For the former magistrate of the Electoral Tribunal, Guillermo Márquez Amado , the Electoral Tribunal should have made efforts a long time ago to improve things in electoral matters and has not done so.

“For example, the fact that 25,000 balboas are requested so that a person can challenge a candidate’s election seems very bad to me, because what they are doing with that is leaving the possibility of cheating in the hands of those who have the resources”, he pointed out.

The embezzlement investigation related to the alleged mismanagement of public funds in 11 community boards in the provinces of Panama and Panama Oeste has been paralyzed for a year and three months.

The reason? The Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice has not resolved an appeal filed against the decision of the liquidated Fifth Criminal Court not to accept the prescription of the case. There is more. The Court must also analyze a protection of constitutional guarantees presented to dismiss the process.

The Public Ministry informed La Prensa that as a result of both appeals, the Discharge Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office suspended all proceedings related to the case, including 49 investigation orders to different actors linked to the issue. They explained that since February 13, 2023, the prosecutor’s office sent the original file to the Judicial Branch to resolve both the protection and the appeal.

In a ruling dated July 5, 2022, the Supreme Court of Justice declared this investigation “complex,” which tracks alleged irregularities that would have caused damage to the State of $3 million 330 thousand, between 2009 and 2014. With the status complex case, the prosecutor’s office was granted one more year to continue investigating.

But, when the file returned to the court, the protection of constitutional guarantees was presented before the First Superior Court of Justice, an action that forced the prosecution to send the file again to that justice corporation and paralyze all proceedings related to this case.

The court rejected the protection, but the decision was appealed before the Court, the office where the file is located.

In April and October 2023, the prosecution requested to reactivate the case, but the request was denied, since both the protection and the appeal have not been resolved.

The former magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice, Harry Díaz, recalled that the processing of appeals of this type basically depends on the rapporteur magistrate, as some are more agile than others.

This investigation began in 2014 following a series of journalistic reports, but was temporarily suspended due to lack of an audit. But in 2018, the then comptroller Federico Humbert delivered 223 boxes to the Public Ministry with the results of several audits.

The audits revealed serious irregularities in the management of funds assigned to deputies from different political parties, such as false invoices and the absence of documents that justified transactions worth millions of dollars.

In this case, the liquidated Fifth Criminal Court decided that it would only process cases concerning the community boards that are within the First Judicial Circuit, that is, the provinces of Panama and Panama Oeste.

According to a report from the Public Ministry, in the 11 community boards investigated in Panama and Panama Oeste, the property damage amounts to $3.3 million, but at the national level the damage is estimated at $25.1 million.

A conviction of 60 months in prison was applied to police officers Artemio Díaz, Rafael Caicedo , Rodolfo Buigobu and Ron Rodríguez for their participation in the death of fishermen Dagoberto and Rigoberto Pérez , who were killed on May 19, 2009 in the Boca La Caja area by a Police patrol boat.

The ruling – which bears the signature of the second liquidating judge of criminal cases Águeda Rentería – establishes that the defendants are attributed their participation in the events that led to the death of both fishermen as primary accomplices.

The defendants in this process benefited from a presidential pardon during the administration of former president Ricardo Martinelli. However, these pardons were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Justice, so the criminal process was resumed by the Public Ministry, which requested a conviction.

In this case, a criminal court had already convicted, in 2019, police sergeant Vionel López Frías, who was sentenced to 8 years in prison for the crime of manslaughter. López Frías was the only one of those investigated in this process who was not granted a pardon.

As a result of these events, the Third Administrative Litigation Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice sentenced the National Police to pay compensation of $332 thousand to the relatives of Rigoberto Pérez.

The ruling of July 26, 2023 also forces the Police to coordinate with the Ministry of Health to provide mental health care to Pérez Rivera’s relatives.

The incident in which the Pérez Rivera brothers died occurred when they were returning from a day of fishing to their residence located in Playa Leona, La Chorrera district, in the early morning of May 19, 2009, but near Boca The Caja were intercepted by a police patrol boat on suspicion of transporting drugs.

During the operation, the police opened fire on the occupants of the Doña Evy boat, causing the death of the Pérez Rivera brothers and wounding three other people. After the inspection of the vessel, it was established that they were only transporting fish.

The surgeon, Manuel Alberto Zambrano Chang, was appointed as Vice Minister of Health so that starting next July 1 he will accompany Fernando Boyd in the direction of this crucial government portfolio.

Zambrano studied Medicine at the University of Panama and specialized in surgery at the Autonomous University of the State of Puebla, in Mexico. His practical training was carried out at the Hospital Complex and in the Panama Oeste health area.

Problems of inadequate infrastructure, lack of accessibility to basic services such as drinking water and electricity, as well as the need for teaching appointments in the country’s official educational centers persist.

This reality, denounced for years, was collected in the “2024 Educational Centers Inspection Report,” prepared by the Ombudsman’s Office , which revealed multiple problems in schools both in the interior of the country and in the capital city.

In total, the Ombudsman’s Office inspected 449 schools in all regions of the country, of which 91% have infrastructure problems, such as bathrooms in poor condition or with latrines, sidewalks, tiles, windows and doors in poor condition, leaks and cracks in the floors, walls and ceilings, and lack of construction of gyms, laboratories and perimeter fences.

Likewise, 65% of the areas evaluated continue to present problems with the electrical supply, such as lack of lighting, problems with electrical connections and electrical fluctuations, among others. It was also reported that most schools lack basic services such as drinking water.

Eduardo Leblanc, Ombudsman, pointed out that this number of schools represents 15% of the total number of schools throughout the country, giving an x-ray of the real state of educational centers.

Leblanc stated that many schools are called bilingual; However, 69% of audited schools do not have appointed English teachers or teachers. He highlighted that there is an urgent need to increase the teaching and administrative staff to manage the Education Equity and Quality Fund (Fece).

Leblanc called on the Ministry of Education (Meduca) and the authorities involved to demand the timely delivery of the contracted goods and services and execute the finances to protect the interests of the State.

The defender also called on the president-elect, José Raúl Mulino , to appoint a suitable engineer or architect to the Meduca Vice Ministry of Infrastructure, and for his work team to have knowledge of the Public Procurement Law and not be involved in no contracting company.

91% of the schools inspected had infrastructure problems. “The Vice Ministry of Infrastructure must pay attention. In addition, a call is made to the educational community not to vandalize schools,” the official added.

If the current trend in air operations and number of passengers continues, the Tocumen International Airport will close 2024 with historic numbers, with revenues exceeding 400 million dollars.

During the presentation of the results of his management from 2019 to date, Raffoul Arab, manager of Tocumen SA, commented that the conservative projection is that this year the public limited company, which is 100% owned by the State, will report income of 387 million Dollars. However, he said that, based on the numbers as of May, he is confident that revenue will surpass the $400 million barrier.

If Arab’s forecasts are met, by the end of 2024 Tocumen’s revenues will have exceeded those reported in 2019 by 55%, when they totaled $258.9 million. The executive said that the airport has fully recovered from the impact of the coronavirus respiratory pandemic, which in its first year, 2020, left a loss of $85 million and another $143 million in 2021.

Regarding the number of passengers, Tocumen’s calculations had projected at the beginning of the year to close 2024 with a movement of 18 million travelers, exceeding the 17.8 million in 2023. But now, the estimate points to 19 million travelers.

In the first four months of the year, the country’s main air terminal handled traffic of 6 million 153 thousand 781 passengers, an increase of 8% compared to the first four months of last year.

More articles