Thursday 2nd February 2023.
February 2, 2023
The Vice President of the Republic, José Gabriel Carrizo, resigned this Wednesday, February 1, from the position of Minister of the Presidency, confirmed the director of State. The Presidency of the Republic reported that the announcement was made once the Cabinet Council meeting on Wednesday ended. In the same way, it is highlighted in the statement that Carrizo remains in the constitutional position of Vice President of the Republic. He will carry out the functions assigned to him by President Laurentino Cortizo , including continuing to participate with the right to speak in the Cabinet Council sessions. “I thank President Cortizo for his trust and teachings. Today I leave office as Minister of the Presidency, serving Panamanians has been and will continue to be an honor for me; I continue working for the country, fulfilling constitutional functions as Vice President of the Republic, ”Carrizo wrote on his Twitter account. Although he has not yet made it official, Carrizo would announce his presidential candidacy for the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) primaries next Sunday, February 5. On Tuesday, in a meeting of the National Executive Committee of the PRD to reformulate the number of spaces that would not go to the primary elections, the second vice president of the party, Rogelio Paredes, announced that Carrizo would probably make the announcement of his candidacy next Sunday.
Federico Alfaro and Ramón Martínez have been criminally denounced for the alleged commission of the crimes of abuse of authority and infringement of public servants, for their role in managing the concession contract of Cobre Panamá ( Minera Panamá ), a subsidiary of the Canadian First Quantum . Martínez, the current Panamanian ambassador to the United States, was Minister of Commerce and Industry until last May. On June 1, he was replaced by Alfaro. The complaint was filed by the lawyer Maria Gabriella Dutari, from the Environmental Advocacy Center (Ciam), at the Public Ministry, this Wednesday, February 1. Both are accused of allowing Cobre Panama to continue extracting minerals in Donoso, despite the fact that a ruling by the Supreme Court of Justice declared the contract signed with the State for the development of that project unconstitutional. Dutari maintains that both Martínez and Alfaro neglected their duties as public servants. Currently, the Government and the Canadian mining company First Quantum are in negotiations to continue with open-pit mining activity in the mountains of Donoso. The government claims a payment of at least $375 million annually.
In Panama, an average of at least one environmental crime is being reported per day. However, with each passing year, the interest of organized crime in the country’s natural resources grows. The cases range from illegal deforestation in a protected area to traffic valuable wood species such as cocobolo to other countries, to hunting and non-compliance with environmental impact studies. Between January and December 2022, the Public Ministry handled 400 cases related to crimes against the environment and territorial planning, which represents an average of at least one per day. Of this total, 180 were committed against domestic animals, 157 against natural resources, 55 against wildlife, and 8 against territorial planning. Last year, the provinces where the most crimes of this nature were committed were Panama, with 128; Chiriquí, with 72, and Darién, with 47. The rest (153) were distributed in the other provinces and regions. In general terms, there was a decrease between 2021 and 2022 in relation to environmental crimes of 14%; however, in some specific crimes there was an increase. Such was the case of trafficking in wildlife species. In 2021, the environmental authorities detected 18 cases, while last year there were 30. In fact, the Minister of the Environment, Milciades Concepción, acknowledged that when he took office in July 2019, he did not know that ecological crime was so organized. “We have seen networks of Central American countries with the trafficking of species, wood, metals… and there was no environmental intelligence,” he said. Faced with this scenario, two years ago a specialized team was organized, made up of the Ministry of Security, the Attorney General’s Office and the Ministry of the Environment, to prosecute environmental crimes.
The anti-corruption prosecutor Ariel De Gracia, requested a sentence for the former mayor of Panama, Bosco Ricardo Vallarino (2009-2012), for the alleged commission of the crime of corruption of officials, as a result of a case that arose during his administration.
Vallarino was accused of receiving a $6,000 bribe from Brazilian businessman Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, in exchange for a contract for the construction of parking lots in the Belisario Porras park. In February 2015, during a television interview, Vallarino admitted to having received the money, which led to the opening of an investigation. During the trial that took place yesterday Tuesday in the First Settlement Court for Criminal Cases, prosecutor De Gracia pointed out that Vallarino has a clear criminal responsibility and that this was established in the video broadcast in the media in which the accused accepted his participation in the event. Prosecutor De Gracia also opposed an annulment motion presented by Héctor Bonilla, Vallarino’s defense attorney, who argued that the case against his client was time-barred. He maintained that the facts were recorded in 2012, so 11 years have already passed, and according to him, in light of the Penal Code, the case must be declared time-barred. Bonilla also assured that his client is innocent of the charges, while downplaying the statement made by the former mayor in a media outlet in which he accepted responsibility. He said that the interview “was conducted in open violation of his fundamental guarantees.” It also explained that the underground parking lots, for whose approval of the contract the bribe was supposedly paid, were not made during the Vallarino administration, so no responsibility can be attributed for these events. At the end of the trial, the first judge to liquidate criminal cases, Agueda Rentería, accepted the term of 30 days to issue a sentence and rule on the incident of prescription presented by Bonilla. In this case, the criminal action against Ventura Nogueira was declared time-barred, designated by the prosecution as the person who delivered the $6,000 to Vallarino for the approval of the contract for the construction of the parking lots. Ventura Nogueira, who is subjected to various complaints for the alleged commission of the crime of fraud, is outside the country; some press reports place him in the Dominican Republic. The former mayor Vallarino maintains a second criminal process for the alleged commission of the crime of embezzlement related to two consulting contracts: one for $250,000 for the collection of hospital waste and another for $98,000 for surveillance, which he did not supervise. For this case, Vallarino must appear in court on February 27.
The Primary Care Section of the San Miguelito Regional Prosecutor’s Office began an investigation into a case of armed robbery registered on the night of Tuesday, January 31, 2023, in a jewelry store in the Metromall shopping center, in the San Antonio sector. For this fact, two citizens were apprehended by the National Police. And, according to official reports, an agent of the internal security of the mall intervened on the scene, there was an exchange of shots that resulted in the death of one of the alleged criminals. It was learned that this person was found in his possession possible evidence of the assault on the jewelry store, as well as belongings of third parties. The general director of the National Police, John Dornheim, appeared in the area, where he highlighted the “effective” communication between the shopping centers and the Police, which allowed the capture of two involved and the confiscation of a firearm. The shopping center, for its part, reported that none of its customers or security team were injured.