Thursday 4th January 2024.
January 3, 2024
Judge María Eugenia López Arias was re-elected as president of the Supreme Court of Justice for the 2024-2025 biennium.
The choice was made this Wednesday, January 3, in a plenary meeting, convened exclusively to address this matter. Judge Miriam Cheng acted as provisional president of this session, who later swore in the re-elected president.
Voting for López Arias were Ariadne García, María Cristina Chen Stanziola, Miriam Cheng and Carlos Vásquez Reyes, who will now be vice president and president of the Third Chamber of Administrative Litigation. López will also preside over the chamber to which he belongs: the Second Criminal Court.
López Arias defeated the other candidate in the election, Olmedo Arrocha , who obtained the support of three judges: Maribel Cornejo, Ángela Russo and Cecilio Cedalise.
Arrocha was re-elected as president of the First Civil Chamber. In this way, the board of directors remains with the same members from the previous biennium (2022-2023): López, Vásquez and Arrocha.
Deputy Raúl Pineda recognized that the changes introduced to Law 418 of 2023 , which adopts the general budget of the State for the fiscal year 2024 , are so that the National Assembly (AN) exercises more “control” over public funds.
The deputies modified the original bill to give the AN Budget Commission the power to approve or reject departure transfers “of any amount” required by the different State institutions. Until now, the Budget Commission intervened only when the transfers were for more than $200 thousand.
This Tuesday, January 2, when the regular session resumed, Pineda pointed out that the change was made to the law “for control, so that entities cannot transfer at least a transfer of $1 million in pieces of 200 [thousand dollars ]” (sic).
“They have oversized the power of the Budget Commission. Really, who should have the power of the economic part is the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the ministries,” he added, when questioned by journalists.
Pineda is vice president of the aforementioned commission. It is chaired by Benicio Robinson and the secretary is Cenobia Vargas . All three are active in the PRD.
Independent deputy Edison Broce warned that now more than ever the population must be aware of the management of public funds.
“This Assembly has shown how much and how little it can do… What we have to do is be more vigilant about how State resources are used… That the citizens be vigilant,” he said.
He considered that the budget approved for 2024, for $30,690.4 million, the highest in the country’s history, is “high and misleading.”
“Ifarhu takes more than $500 million. It has more budget than the Judicial Branch, but all those scholarships do not go to the people who earn them, a large percentage goes to juicy scholarships for friends connected with influence, with leverage, with deputies and with traditional politicians” , he remarked.
The former Deputy Minister of Finance, Iván Zarak , warned that the modification is much more serious than it seems.
“Budget management will be extremely ineffective for the outgoing government and also for the incoming government,” he wrote on his account on the social network X.
La Prensa is the first media outlet to access the mining concession in Donoso, province of Colón, after its closure. Currently the operation is stopped, while “care and preservation” work is carried out, to avoid an environmental disaster. Before, a tour was taken around the project to find out what the communities think. These are the key points of a first delivery.
1.- The main question that the residents of the districts of Donoso and Omar Torrijos, in Colón, and La Pintada, in Coclé, ask the Government is what they will do after the closure of the project, since many of them worked directly or indirectly in the mine.
2.- In the midst of this conflict, the presence in the area of the Single Union of Construction and Similar Workers, and other related groups, is notable, holding town meetings and inciting to take over the mine.
3.- At the moment, the roads in La Pintada, Coclé, that lead to the mine remain open, while in the Caimito River, Donoso district, province of Colón, one three boatmen are spending the night in the area, waiting for the Government take control of the mine.
4.- There are several threats to the community of Río Caimito due to state apathy and they could get worse. One of them is illegal mining and drug trafficking in that remote area of the country. One of the largest shipments of cocaine was seized there in 2005.
5.- Regardless of what happens with the future of the mine, in Donoso, La Pintada and Omar Torrijos what their residents expect is an orderly and transparent closure, even in which they can participate.
In 2023, the Authority for Consumer Protection and Defense of Competition (Acodeco) imposed a total of 942 fines for $405,575 for failing to comply with price controls on 18 food products, which has been in effect since 2014 and was recently extended for six more months.
This amount contrasts with the fines applied in 2022, which were more, and reached 1,234 penalties for $632,687.50 if fines for not presenting an invoice are included. But just for price control and failure to comply with marketing, the fines were 826 for $365,667.
The consumer protection agency points out that the establishments that most regularly failed to comply with price control last year were mini-supermarkets, on which 607 fines were imposed for $190,950, while 126 fines were recorded for supermarkets for $138,687.50.
Grocery stores were also sanctioned with 117 fines, which had to pay $31,125, 17 fines to warehouses for $21,687.50, 51 to kiosks for $12,875, and 8 to consumer cooperatives for $3,750.
Unity, strength, dialogue, progress. Words that stood out in the speech given yesterday by Jaime Edgardo Vargas Centella , the president of the National Assembly . It was Tuesday, January 2, an important date for the power of the State that he directs: the Legislature resumed sessions after the November and December recess.
Vargas, from Darien, PRD, and trusted man of the president of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), Benicio Robinson , omitted the most relevant chapter of his mandate: the massive citizen protests against Law 406 of October 2023, which adopted the contract between the State and Minera Panamá, a rule that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Justice on November 28, for violating 25 articles of the Constitution.
He did not include a mea culpa, an apology to the citizens, nor did he give an explanation, despite the fact that the body he represents approved the contract in just three days, ignoring citizen voices.
Instead, Vargas uttered phrases such as: the Assembly “not only listens but acts accordingly,” or “a new route in Panamanian politics.”
The president of the Assembly also boasted that in the 2024 budget , a bill that was approved in the third debate on Friday, December 29, it was established that 7% of the Gross Domestic Product will be for education, an issue that President Laurentino Cortizo also attributed it in his report to the Nation.
However, this was one of the topics that emerged from the Penonomé dialogue, a conversation table between different organizations and the Executive, which was installed after the social outbreak of July 2022.
He also said that in that budget ($30,690 million) “a substantial increase” was incorporated for the construction of the National Cancer Institute. However, that “substantial increase” that Vargas speaks of reaches only $20 million, which represents 27.5% of the total cost of the first phase of this medical center ($72.7 million).
Nor did he talk about the future of important projects that await debate, such as the one proposing the forfeiture of ownership for illicit assets or the modifications to the Assembly’s regulations. In July 2023, when he took control of the Legislature, Vargas promised that domain extinction would be a priority. He never complied.
He announced that they will focus on laws that promote social and economic development, as well as on issues linked to the growing water problem.
A woman linked to nine complaints for the alleged commission of a crime against economic assets, in the form of car theft, was arrested this Wednesday, January 3, 2024 by the Panamanian authorities.
Through the operation called “ Caliope ”, the National Police and the Public Ministry carried out raids in the district of Arraiján, province of Panamá Oeste, where they found the location of the woman of Dominican nationality.
The capture occurred specifically in the sector known as El Llano, in Arraiján, official sources reported.
According to preliminary reports, this woman seduced men, drugged them to sleep, and then stripped them of their vehicles.
It was also reported that this person maintains complaints in the sectors of 24 de Diciembre and Chepo, the districts of Arraiján and La Chorrera (West Panama), Chitré (Herrera) and Aguadulce (Coclé).
The person in question was brought before a guarantee court.