Thursday 4th July 2024.

July 3, 2024


A new office was created on Wednesday, July 3. It is the National Railway Secretariat, which will be in charge of carrying out the ambitious Panama-David train project.

This office was created during the first Cabinet meeting chaired by President José Raúl Mulino this afternoon. It was approved by an executive decree.

The National Railway Secretariat will be under the umbrella of the Ministry of the Presidency and will be headed by engineer Henry Faarup.

Its main mission will be to carry out the studies, planning and execution of all the necessary actions, within the laws, for the development and construction of a “railway” type transportation system for goods and people, which will be called the “Panama-David Railway.”

The Secretariat will also receive a budget. “The Secretariat will have among its powers, to coordinate, with all State entities, civil society and the private sector, all actions that it considers necessary to carry out the execution of the project…”, establishes the decree.

During the Cabinet meeting, an Executive Decree on the “first job” program was also approved. This will be under the responsibility of the Ministry of Labor and Labor Development (Mitradel).

According to a statement from the Presidency, this program aims to contribute to the reduction of the unemployment rate among young people aged 17 to 24, through work internships in a business environment, supervised and guided by employability specialists, through the training, certification and guidance of young Panamanians with academic training.

The President of the Republic, José Raúl Mulino , announced this Wednesday that the minutes of the Cabinet Council will be public again.

“As I promised, the minutes of the Cabinet Council will be public again. Starting today, which is the first meeting, we will give access to the information that should never have stopped being public,” Mulino said on his social networks.

In 2021, the Ministry of the Presidency declared that the minutes, notes and files of the President and Vice President of the Republic, as well as the Cabinet Council, were of “restricted access”, and therefore could not be disclosed for a period of 10 years.

The controversial measure adopted at that time also covered all records or “evidence of discussions or activities” in which former President Laurentino Cortizo and all his ministers participated, although it excluded information related to the approval of state contracts.

This was stated in Resolution 71 of August 4, 2021, signed by former Vice President José Gabriel Carrizo, in his capacity as Minister of the Presidency. Former Vice Minister Carlos García Molino also signed it.

Carrizo and García based their decision on article 14 of Law 6 of 2002 (transparency law), which states that all information will be restricted access “when so declared by the competent official, in accordance with this law.” The same article states that the information may not be disclosed for 10 years, counting from its classification as restricted access.

However, the resolution signed by Carrizo and García never provided details about the reasons that justified declaring this information restricted access.

Following Mulino’s announcement, the Foundation for the Development of Citizen Freedom described the president’s example of transparency with the minutes of the Cabinet Council as “positive.”

The organization now hopes that other boards of directors of government entities that have opted for opacity will follow suit and move toward the transparency required by law.

The old practice of bribes and favors in the National Assembly continues, as reflected in the recent elections for the selection of its board of directors.

In a controversial video, Eduardo Vásquez, deputy for Capira’s 13-2 circuit , publicly admitted that his vote in favor of deputy Dana Castañeda to preside over the Assembly was motivated by receiving government aid.

This support has also caused a stir, especially due to the well-known friendship between Castañeda and former deputy Yanibel Ábrego , Vásquez’s political rival.

As you may recall, on the night of Sunday, July 30, the Democratic Change (CD) party bench , in which Vásquez is a member, published an image in which they announced their support for Castañeda.

Later, in a video and after the election in the Legislature, the deputy of Capira acknowledged that the decision to vote for Castañeda on July 1 was “very difficult”, even more so because of the friendship that the president of the Assembly has with Yanibel Ábrego, former deputy of that electoral circuit.

Vásquez, for his part, is Ábrego’s political enemy. In fact, Jorge Ramos [Yanibel Ábrego’s cousin] contested Vásquez’s seat during the elections of May 5.

“If I decided to support the independent group, we would not have a clinic, 24-hour medical care, we would not have roads because the government would turn against me,” said Vásquez.

His statements were made during a meeting with residents of Capira. During the meeting he reiterated that it was the “most difficult” position of his life.

“I had to bow my head and think about Capira… gentlemen, I apologize,” he said.

He also mentioned that he discussed this issue with the leader of the Vamos coalition and former independent deputy, Juan Diego Vásquez, but he believes that the country is built on consensus with independents and other political parties such as CD, the Panameñista Party and the Democratic Revolutionary Party.

“People say, no, it is that the deputy makes laws, the deputy has nothing to do with the issue of garbage. You are asking me about the issue of garbage, the deputy does not make streets, but you also ask for streets. The deputy does not appoint, so the truth is that the deputy is the link between the district and the ministries,” the deputy stated to several Capira residents.

The new representative of the San Francisco district, Serena Vamvas, revealed this Wednesday, July 3, some “situations” she encountered when assuming command of this communal council.

In the last elections of May 5, Vamvas (a free candidate and also nominated by the Otro Camino Movement) emerged victorious and now occupies the position left by Carlos Pérez Herrera (of the Democratic Revolutionary Party).

On her X social media account, Vamvas revealed that all of the board’s accounting information had been deleted from the system. The representative explained that the company that provides the service (which did not reveal its name) reported that this was due to an alleged fluctuation reported by the previous accounting team, which also affected the backups.

“There is no backup of any accounting information for any year,” he said. This means that “there is no accounting information of any kind for the San Francisco Communal Board, nothing, everything has been eliminated,” he said.

Vamvas stressed that this is a sensitive issue “that warrants an urgent IT audit.” In addition to the IT audit, he announced that the decision has been made to hire a forensic IT expert to thoroughly investigate what happened.

The representative detailed other alleged anomalies in this meeting. “From the minutes of the delivery of transportation equipment: there are 3 cars that do not work and need extensive repairs and a car that is not in any of the offices,” she specified. She also indicated that the offices in Carrasquilla are without internet due to pending invoices, and that the headquarters on Calle 50 does not have a water supply.

According to reports from the Panama Metro, the excavation of the tunnel that will make way for the monorail of line 3 of the metro is expected to begin in the second quarter (July-September).

It should be remembered that the first pieces of the Panama tunnel boring machine arrived on Panamanian soil on September 20, 2023.

It is estimated that the excavation and covering of the walls will take approximately 22 months, and the tunneling should end in Albrook.

The tunnel boring machine, made up of 99 parts, was transported from Germany, the country of origin of the manufacturer Herrenknecht AG. Its approximate cost is $45 million.

Construction of Metro Line 3 in West Panama is 58% complete with 11 stations under construction, with the Ciudad el Futuro station making the most progress. The project is being executed by the company HPH Consorcio

The recent decision of the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) – which declares Law No. 20 of 2006 unconstitutional – will have several important implications for the management of the Panama Canal.

This ruling not only further expands the boundaries of the basin, but also poses significant challenges to mining activities in the region, something that had not been initially anticipated.

By declaring Law No. 20 of June 21, 2006 unconstitutional, the boundaries of the basin were restored to those previously established by Law 44 of August 31, 1999. Thus, it was once again included in the Western region and therefore the Río Indio for its preservation by the Panama Canal.

This action has significant implications for the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), which now regains jurisdiction over these critical areas.

Once the decision is published in the Official Gazette, the ACP will resume control of the basins in accordance with the 1999 limits.

This, in theory, allows them to move forward with the execution of water projects that include the use of water from the Indio River basin, to improve the stability of the water supply and the operations of the Canal.

However, it should not be forgotten that in order to advance the water plan envisaged by the ACP administration, in addition to expanding the limits of the basin, new legislation is required that explicitly allows the creation of reservoirs.

The SCJ’s decision would also affect mining operations in the region, given that the Coclé del Norte River basin is once again under the custody of the Panama Canal.

The development of Minera Panamá is recorded in areas of the Coclé del Norte River basin (basin no. 105) and in the Belén River basin (basin no. 103).

Former Canal administrator Jorge Luis Quijano explained to La Prensa that although the ACP does not own the land, its supervisory role ensures that any activity in this area must have its approval to guarantee environmental protection and sustainable management of water resources.

When the ACP planned the development of its water plan last year, it only included the entire Indio River basin, not everything that was covered by Law No. 44 of 1999.

In September, the ACP board of directors sent a bill to the Executive that included the complete delimitation of the Indio River basin. Now, the SCJ has reconfigured the scenario by reestablishing the 1999 boundaries.

The ACP will have to decide whether to adjust the proposal sent to the Executive to reflect these changes or whether to incorporate only the lower part of the Indio River basin that was not included in the original delimitation of Law 44.

The ACP reported that in compliance with the ruling, it is now responsible for exercising its constitutional authority over the geographic area contained in Law No. 44 of 1999, in order to safeguard its water resources.

“The Canal Board of Directors and its administration will coordinate with the administration of President José Raúl Mulino the actions necessary to advance in the search for long-term solutions to the water crisis that Panama has faced, and thus permanently guarantee the water necessary for the consumption of the population and the operations of the interoceanic route.”


More articles