Thursday 24th November 2022.

November 24, 2022


The new magistrate of the Electoral Tribunal (TE), Luis Guerra, denied this Wednesday, November 23, that his appointment arose from a compromise between the National Assembly and the Executive, since it was a decision of the Supreme Court of Justice. Guerra assured that if there had been such a deal and he had knowledge, he would present his “resignation”, “because I did not go to an exchange. I went to an interview. That is even a lack of respect to point out that one arrives at a charge for just changing places”. And it is that Guerra, who took office on November 16, does not see that his militancy in the PRD as a problem, because in his opinion, “independence will not be given to me whether or not I was in the PRD it is going to be given to me due to my knowledge”. Despite the many doubts and unknowns that his appointment has generated, due to his closeness to the PRD, among sectors of the country’s civil and political society, he indicated that no one objected to his candidacy, despite the fact that the Court opened a process to present challenges to the 54 candidates for TE magistrates.

State subsidies skyrocketed from 2020 after the covid-19 pandemic because, in addition to existing subsidies, the government of President Laurentino Cortizo created new financial aid. According to the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), the highest percentage of subsidies goes to households with support due to the effects of the covid-19 pandemic, such as the digital voucher, physical vouchers and food bags for families. affected by the crisis. This expense in subsidies has shot up consecutively during the last three years and has been above the contributions that the Panama Canal has delivered to the State during the same period in concept of surpluses and rights per transited tons. For example, in 2020 the Canal contributed $1,824 million to the State, while spending on subsidies amounted to $2,848 million, that is, one thousand 24 million dollars more. Similarly, in 2021 the Canal’s contributions were $2.8 billion, while the subsidies totaled $2.8 billion. For 2022, the total amount of the subsidies, according to the MEF Budget Office, is $2,586 million, while the Canal’s contributions to the Treasury were budgeted at $2,497 million. In this scenario, the president of the Panamanian Association of Business Executives (Apede), Temístocles Rosas, warns that if the subsidies are not controlled, the Canal’s contributions will only cover the subsidies, despite the fact that there are people who They believe that the money from the Canal can be used to solve the financial crisis of the Disability, Old Age and Death program of the Social Security Fund, among others.

The National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information (Antai) advances in the investigation that it opened on October 27 for the economic aid that the Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources (Ifarhu) gave to people close to figures policies. On November 16, Antai sent a letter to Bernardo Meneses, director of Ifarhu, and Gerardo Solís, Comptroller General of the Republic. He gave them five business days to respond, a deadline that expired, yesterday. Antai asked Meneses to provide authenticated copies of 13 files of relatives of politicians, most of them from the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party, who received financial aid to study in another country. Antai informed La Prensa that the entity responded “partially”. While Solís was requested information from the registry of ” those who have downloaded the information regarding financial aid contracts in the period from 2019 to 2022, or failing that, the list of users who had  access to this application or to the database of said contracts in that same period”. He adds that what is required is “so that it is recorded as elements of conviction in the investigation directed by this institution as the governing body in matters of transparency and access to information.” The Anati investigation arose as a result of a complaint filed by the lawyer Ernesto Cedeño, who even requested an audit on the subject; but in this case the entity reported that it did not have the competence to carry out this procedure, for which reason it forwarded the file to the Comptroller’s Office. The comptroller signed the endorsements for the payment of these economic aids, but to date, it is unknown if the audit is being carried out. While on November 9, the Comptroller indicated to Cedeño that it will not endorse economic aid payments, “as long as they are based on legal or economic reasons that warrant such a measure.”

Since the covid-19 vaccination process began in Panama, at least 2,600 deaths due to the virus have been registered and 91% correspond to people who did not have the full immunization schedule. According to a report from the Department of Epidemiology of the Ministry of Health (Minsa), in the period between February 28, 2021 and November 19, 2022, 2,651 deaths have been reported, of which 2,428 correspond to patients without the full vaccination schedule. According to the data provided by the Minsa, of the 2,428 deaths (without the complete immunization schedule), 1,551 are from people who did not have doses against the new coronavirus, 261 had one dose and 616 received two doses. Panama is facing a sixth wave of cases and the last epidemiological week from November 13 to 16 concluded with 122 patients in the ward and 6 in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). While in the epidemiological week from September 11 to 17, there were 79 patients in the wards and 7 in the ICU. Eduardo Ortega Barría, advisor to the Vaccine Research Consortium against this virus, told Telemetro that the figures will continue to increase and the projection is that positivity will exceed 15% next week.

Despite the 219% increase in the flow of visitors between January and August, compared to the same period in 2021, the truth is that the Panamanian tourism sector is far from returning to the numbers prior to the coronavirus respiratory pandemic. The figure reported by the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP) in the first 8 months of 2022 is 22% lower than the movement of one million 514 thousand visitors that entered in the same period of 2019. For this year, the ATP and the Tourism Promotion Fund estimate that 1.8 million visitors will enter the country. Spokesmen for tourism unions stated that the sector had been registering important figures during the first 5 months of the year, but in June there was a decrease in the movement of visitors, which was accentuated in July due to protests throughout the country by social groups. This situation caused a high percentage of cancellations, especially to destinations such as Bocas del Toro, Pedasí and Tierras Altas. The ATP report shows that in the first 8 months of the year tourist spending reached 3.92 billion dollars, 22% lower than the numbers of 2019.The president of the Panamanian Hotel Association (Apatel), Raúl Jiménez, explained that it is important to make a difference between visitors and tourists. “The visitor can be a cruise passenger or a person who enters the country, but he does not spend the night like a tourist  does,” he explained. Under this classification, the number of tourists until last August was 290 thousand 873 people less compared to 2019.”Even if the 1.8 million visitors are achieved, it will be insufficient because in 2019 2.5 million entered and it must be said that that year the tourism sector  registered losses,” Jiménez commented.



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