Thursday 29th February 2024.

February 28, 2024


At the epicenter of the controversy is once again Bernardo Meneses , the former director of the Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources (Ifarhu) and now candidate for deputy of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) for circuit 13-1 (Arraiján), in Panamá Oeste, in the case of financial aid provided to deputies, ministers, influencers, among others.

It turns out that the Electoral Tribunal (TE) courts are processing three requests to lift Meneses’ electoral criminal jurisdiction. These are the five key points of this scandal.

1-Investigation for corruption: Bernardo ‘Nando’ Meneses, candidate for PRD deputy and former director of Ifarhu, is under investigation by the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office for the distribution of economic aid during his administration between July 2019 and February 2023.

2-Requests to lift jurisdiction: Three requests to lift electoral criminal jurisdiction have been presented against Meneses before the Electoral Tribunal Courts, which suggests that he faces serious accusations related to his management in Ifarhu.

3-Confidentiality of information: A ruling by the Supreme Court revealed a resolution of the Ifarhu that declares confidential the resolutions of the Committee and Minutes of the National Council, as well as all information on the loans granted, which has generated controversy about transparency in the use of state funds. Furthermore, in 2022, a ruling by the Supreme Court – with a presentation by Judge Ángela Russo de Cedeño and the disagreement of Judge Maribel Cornejo – denied this media a habeas data request to know who the beneficiaries of scholarships and financial aid are. that exceed $50 thousand.

4-Financial aid scandal: A scandal has broken out over the distribution of juicy financial aid from Ifarhu to political figures, family members and associates, including deputies, ministers and influencers, which has put Meneses’ management and his links under scrutiny. with the capture of votes.

5-Success in the PRD primaries: Despite the accusations and controversies, Meneses was the candidate for deputy with the most votes in the PRD primaries in the 13-1 circuit, obtaining a large number of votes despite criticism from his opponents for the alleged use of scholarships to gain political support.

Some of those who benefited from these financial aid are Fernando Broce, Panamanian instagrammer and nephew of Congressman Eric Broce ($147 thousand); Jorge Jaén Ruiz, son of the Minister Counselor of Health, Eyra Ruiz ($180 thousand); Ana Cristina Díaz Zapata, daughter of the Minister of Labor, Doris Zapata (18,194); Diego Abrego Díaz, son of deputy Roberto Ábrego ($190 thousand); Paola Testa Rodríguez, daughter of deputy Zula Rodríguez ($61 thousand).

Also on that list is María Alejandra Panay, daughter of the current secretary general of the National Assembly, Quibián Panay, and who this week took office as vice minister of the Ministry of Women.

Meneses granted two financial aid to María Alejandra, which totaled $81,730. The first was $59,230, which was endorsed by the Comptroller General of the Republic in October 2021. The second reached $22,500 and received the approval of the comptroller Gerardo Solís, in February 2022.

The hearing to charge the presidential candidate for free nomination and deputy of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), Zulay Rodríguez , scheduled for this Thursday, February 29, remains on the agenda of the Judicial Branch.

Sources in that organization explained that until this Wednesday afternoon, the General Secretariat of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) has not been informed by the National Assembly (AN) about Rodríguez’s resignation from her seat as a representative of San Miguelito.

In this case, judges María Cristina Chen and Ariadne García serve as prosecutor and judge of guarantees, respectively.

Last Monday, during the first debate between the presidential candidates, Rodríguez announced that she had decided to resign her status as a representative. It was later learned that that same day, she sent a letter of resignation to deputy Jaime Vargas , president of the AN.

However, for Rodríguez’s resignation to be effective, he must comply with a procedure that includes the legislative commission on Credentials, Regulations, Parliamentary Ethics and Judicial Affairs accepting the resignation of the deputy and sending a duly signed copy of said decision to the Court. .

Until last Tuesday, that commission had also not received any documentation regarding Rodríguez’s resignation, as confirmed by its president, Congressman Raúl Pineda , a co-partisan of Rodríguez.

Pineda said that once he receives the resignation note, the commission will analyze the case, but he did not give guarantees that the matter will be dealt with expeditiously.

Rodríguez, who is a candidate for president of the Republic, deputy and mayor for the district of San Miguelito through free nomination, is being investigated by the Supreme Court of Justice for the crimes of money laundering, abuse of trust, illicit association to commit a crime and against the administration of justice, for the alleged appropriation of gold sheets owned by Mexican José Luis Penagos (now deceased).

With 67 days left until the general elections, an organization submitted a request to the Electoral Tribunal (TE) to change one of the requirements to be a polling station judge on May 5.

Currently, anyone who wishes to be a poll juror must resign from their political party or withdraw support for an independent candidate six months before the elections.

“It seems like a very short time to us and we believe very firmly that it would not really guarantee us independence from the influence of partisan politics in the voting tables,” states the letter that the group United for Democracy took to the TE this Wednesday, February 28.

The petition seeks to extend the ban from six months to two years and thus avoid facilitating the “living game” of political parties.

United for Democracy also proposes removing from office all polling station jurors and other already registered electoral officials who do not meet this requirement and replacing them with university students from the public and private sector. It would apply to those students who are in the last two years of their degree. The group also requests that on May 5, the table jurors wear a large badge with their photo, name and ID number.

These two measures, the letter reads, will help “reinforce the transparency that you surely wish to offer to the country.”

This Tuesday, February 27, the Cabinet Council approved a resolution through which it instructs several state entities to adopt administrative measures to comply with the ruling issued by the plenary session of the Supreme Court of Justice on November 28, 2023. through which Law 406 of October 20, 2023 was declared unconstitutional, by which the law contract entered into between the Panamanian State and Minera Panamá, SA was approved

This is Cabinet Resolution 19-24, which establishes the bases for developing and implementing the final orderly closure of the activity. Likewise, it instructs all ministries and related centralized and decentralized institutions -according to their legal powers and functions- to continue with the necessary administrative measures to prepare and implement the Ordered Plan for the Definitive Closure of the Cobre Panamá mine .

The Presidency detailed that the measure establishes that the ministries of Commerce and Industries (MICI) and Environment (MiAmbiente) must adopt administrative measures in accordance with the Mineral Resources Code and according to current environmental legislation, so that Minera Panamá SA “guarantees the physical and chemical stability of the environmental ecosystems and infrastructure” in the mine and its surrounding areas. This, through the execution of an environmental preservation and safe management plan (care and maintenance) as a temporary phase and first step towards the orderly plan for definitive closure.

According to the approved resolution, the Ministry of Health must adopt sanitary measures aimed at formulating, supervising and evaluating prevention and control strategies for health in general, while MiAmbiente will adopt the necessary administrative measures for a Closing Environmental Audit to be carried out. , with the purpose of identifying the environmental situation of the mine, the environmental risks and their mitigation measures.

Likewise, the resolution contemplates carrying out a comprehensive audit of mining process management control, so that the Panamanian State “obtains the relevant technical information for optimal application and supervision of the processes required for the execution of the Ordered Final Closure Plan.

It is established that the Mici together with the MEF will coordinate and carry out the necessary administrative acts to guarantee the defense of the interests of the Republic of Panama before any national or international body. This, taking into account that the Canadian mining company First Quantum Minerals, parent of Minera Panamá, has said that it would seek $20 billion through international arbitration, after Panama ordered the closure of the company’s flagship copper mine.

Cabinet Resolution 19-24 also indicates that the Development Planning Institute, through the Ministry of Economy and Finance, will establish the bases to formulate, approve and execute a strategy for the sustainable substitution of metallic mining in the Domestic Product. National Gross.


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