Thursday 4th April 2024.

April 3, 2024


Representative Zulay Rodríguez reached an extrajudicial agreement with the family of the deceased Mexican goldsmith José Luis Penagos , who had sued her for the appropriation of 66 kilos of gold.

This agreement also affects the process that, for this same reason, is being carried out by the Public Ministry against Álvaro Testa and Rafael Araúz, Rodríguez’s husband and former partner.

The agreement reached between the parties was communicated this Wednesday, April 3, at the hearing called to charge Rodríguez for the alleged commission of four crimes: money laundering, abuse of trust, illicit association to commit a crime and against the administration of justice.

Rodríguez did not appear at the hearing and, in his place, his lawyer Ángel Álvarez appeared.

Once the event began, the Penagos’ lawyer, Edwin Alfredo Córdoba, informed Judge Ariadne García, acting as guarantee judge, that his clients had agreed on a “compensation agreement” with the deputy.

Fiscal magistrate María Cristina Chen Stanziola communicated her agreement with the extrajudicial agreement and Rodríguez’s lawyer asked to close the process.

While Judge Ariadne Garcia , a guarantee judge, declared a recess to analyze the petition. Upon returning to the room, she reported that the agreement was not accepted. She explained that the investigation is in a preliminary phase, in which it has not reached the accusation phase. She added that once this part is completed, an agreement between the parties could be analyzed.

This Wednesday was the fourth attempt by the Supreme Court of Justice to bring charges against Rodríguez.

The three previous appointments (March 15, March 9 and February 29) were suspended. The deputy attended none of those hearings. She argued that she resigned as a deputy since February 26 and, therefore, the Court no longer has jurisdiction to prosecute her. The Legislature informed the Court that the process to formalize her resignation has not been completed.

The deputy, who aspires to be re-elected, wants to be president of the Republic through free nomination and is competing for the mayor of San Miguelito with the flag of the Realizing Goals party.

The investigation against Deputy Rodríguez began following a complaint filed with the Public Ministry by Diana Clemencia Ríos Cardona, wife of José Luis Penagos, who in 2009 was detained at the Tocumen International Airport for carrying some gold sheets, which according to the authorities they were not declared.

Penagos Hernández was traveling accompanied by a fellow goldsmith, the Venezuelan José Felipe Mendoza, from whom Customs also confiscated at least another 31 kilos of gold. Both had, in total, about 68 kilos of gold.

Penagos Hernández argued that he did not have to declare the gold, since its final destination was not Panama, but Colombia. However, everything became complicated after authorities found traces of methamphetamine in the gold.

In 2013, Penagos hired Rodríguez to claim the gold, but at the end of the judicial process, he accused her of having appropriated the gold. She says her former client never paid her professional fees.

First Quantum Minerals ‘ senior executive team benefited from significant increases in their compensation and performance bonuses over the past year.

The Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail , based in Toronto, revealed that while the company’s shares lost more than 50% of their value, when it was forced to close the largest mine operations in its portfolio (operated through its subsidiary Minera Panamá), its highest executives increased their income.

The publication highlights that the CEO, Tristan Pascall ; investor liaison Ryan MacWilliam; project director, Zenon Wozniak; the director of Mining, John Gregory; and the Director of Operations, Rudi Badenhorst; They saw increases in their total compensation ranging from 20% to 38% in the last year.

The report highlighted that three of the five executives were promoted to executive positions in 2022, which makes year-over-year comparisons not entirely equitable.

For example, Pascall’s total compensation increased by 30% in 2023, reaching $4.5 million, with stock-based awards going from $1.4 million to $2.4 million, although his cash bonus decreased.

These increases were largely driven by the increase in long-term equity-based awards.

Despite the company’s poor stock performance, executives received the maximum amount of stock awards possible, The Globe and Mail said.

Despite the company’s poor stock performance, executives received the maximum amount of stock awards possible, The Globe and Mail said.

Alison Beckett, president of First Quantum’s human resources committee, justified these increases as a measure to retain talent and recognize outstanding management performance, the publication stated, the Canadian newspaper indicated.

Furthermore, he mentioned that the decision to grant stock-based awards at the maximum level incentivizes the management team to generate long-term value for shareholders, even amidst operational and legal challenges.

Some 20 former heads of state who are part of the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA) expressed their position on the presidential candidacy of José Raúl Mulino , standard bearer of the political pact between Realizing Goals and Alianza , following the demand for unconstitutionality that analyzes the Supreme Court of Justice.

In a statement issued on April 3, the former IDEA leaders expressed that they are “respectful” of the autonomy and independence of justice in countries where democracy and the rule of law prevail. In addition, they expressed their concern about the tendency to “prevent or restrict” the right to political participation in some countries in the region, as well as the exercise of undue political pressure on the administration of justice.

In the statement, they made reference to the importance of the effective exercise of political rights as an end in itself and as a fundamental means to guarantee other human rights, as established by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

They also added that in cases of sanction accepted by law, these rights can only be restricted when there is a sentence, handed down by a competent judge in a definitively final criminal process.

The note bears the signature of Asdrúbal Aguiar, secretary of the IDEA group, and the names of 20 former leaders appear, among whom are Óscar Arias and Rafael Ángel Calderón, from Costa Rica; Vicente Fox, from Mexico, Mauricio Macri, from Argentina; Carlos Mesa, from Bolivia; Lenin Moreno, from Ecuador; and Mireya Moscoso, from Panama.

The Supreme Court of Justice will have to decide whether the resolution of the Electoral Tribunal (TE) that designated Mulino as presidential candidate of the Realizing Goals and Alliance parties, replacing Ricardo Martinelli, is unconstitutional or not. The lawsuit was filed on March 11 by lawyer Karisma Etienne Karamañites. Judge Olmedo Arrocha is the speaker.

The lawsuit challenges the second point of the Plenary Agreement 11-1 of the TE of March 4, 2024, in which the former president was disqualified from running for the positions of president of the Republic and deputy for circuit 8-4, for having been convicted of the crime of money laundering, and it is authorized that Mulino’s name appear on the voting ballot.

The Minister of Economy and Finance (MEF), Héctor Alexander, presented to the National Assembly a bill that eliminates the debt that the administration of President Laurentino Cortizo acquired with the Panama Savings Fund (FAP).

The article of the FAP law in question is number 3 of Law 38 of 2012 , which establishes the provisions related to the resources that make up said fund.

With the reforms proposed in the project, the debt accumulated from 2020 to 2024 would be eliminated. “The obligations of State contributions for the periods 2020 to 2024 are extinguished,” the draft law states.

According to the document presented by Alexander, a minimum annual contribution of $200 million will be made from the budget of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), which will be transferred to the FAP in 2025.

The minimum contribution will be increased by $50 million every five years starting in 2034.

It is known that the sum of the amounts generated from 2018 to 2022 yields a grand total of $970.2 million that the State must contribute to the FAP. Considering the 2023 contributions, the sum would rise to $1.3 billion.

Last Monday, the Cabinet Council granted authorization to the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) to present to the National Assembly a project to modify the article of the FAP Law.

One of the objectives of the creation of the FAP was to save the surpluses generated by the Panama Canal after the expansion.

In 2018, a modification was introduced to the formula used to calculate the amount that would be allocated to savings.

For the years 2018 and 2019, of any ACP contribution to the National Treasury that exceeds 2.5% of the gross domestic product (GDP), half should be allocated to national savings. Starting in 2020, 50% of any ACP contribution that exceeds 2.25% of GDP should be allocated to the FAP.

Based on this standard, it is estimated that at the end of 2023 the contribution would be approximately $400 million. But the Cortizo administration has not honored this commitment.

Two words define the level of transparency of Panama’s legislative branch: opaque and closed . The National Assembly continues to be in the last places in the Latin American Index of Legislative Transparency 2023 (ILTL): it was in 10th place out of 14 countries evaluated and obtained a rating of 38.93% , on a scale where 0 is opaque and closed, and 100% It is transparent and open.

In 2020, the country also came in 10th place, with a score of 35.2%, and although this time it obtained a slight improvement in the score (38.93%), it did not manage to enter the group of countries that are above the regional average ( 42.13%), a score that Chile, Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay, Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador achieved.

The study places Panama in the group of nations with the lowest score, along with Guatemala, Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia and Honduras. The investigation, which is made public 32 days before the general elections on May 5 , was presented this Wednesday, April 3, in the atrium of the Electoral Tribunal , in an event organized by the Foundation for the Development of Citizen Freedom, chapter Panamanian Transparency International.

Regarding regulations, the ILTL highlights that in Panama there is no regulation that requires deputies to provide information about their expenses. Without this data, the study warns, citizens “rarely” are aware of the work of deputies, which dilutes citizen oversight capacity.

The investigation describes the current legislation on asset declaration as “excessively outdated”. It also warns that “it lacks the minimum requirements to be considered an instrument of transparency.”

“In general, deputies are not required to make an asset declaration at the beginning or end of their respective periods. In the legislative sphere, this obligation only exists for the president and management officials. Without an appropriate reform of the Law, the documents that we know today as asset declarations lack effectiveness as an instrument of citizen oversight,” the document reads.


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