Thursday 6th October 2022.

October 6, 2022

Last week, in the final stretch of the preliminary hearing for the Odebrecht bribes, the lawyer Luis Eduardo Camacho González , who defends Ricardo Alberto and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, requested a dismissal in favor of their clients, because the money they received from the construction company are not a bribe, but payment for the provision of “a service”. “We want the Martinelli brothers to be tried for lobbying!” Camacho told Judge Baloísa Marquínez . But that is not what the children of former President Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal (2009-2022) confessed to Judge Raymond Dearie of the Eastern District Court of New York on May 20. “I have committed a crime and I want to take responsibility for it, whatever sentence the Court imposes on me… Those who have suffered the most from this matter are my compatriots, the people of Panama. I hope to be able to render accounts in my country”, said Ricardo Alberto. “In the 23 months that I have been incarcerated, I have had enough time to think and reflect on my mistakes. Never in my life have I felt so sorry. And I want to make up for myself by apologizing for my mistakes,” said Luis Enrique. This is how it is in the documents released this Wednesday, October 5, by Judge Dearie’s office, which contains the transcript of the oral hearing held on May 20. The Press had access to the document, through the electronic records of the Court. The brothers were sentenced to 36 months in prison, pleading guilty to a charge of conspiring at least $28 million in bribes from Odebrecht, using the US financial system, following -according to them- their father’s instructions. As noted in a technical file from the United States Department of Justice Bureau of Prisons , they will be released in January 2023. Judge Dearie also imposed a $250,000 fine and ordered the filing of four additional charges against Luis Enrique and two others against Ricardo Alberto. Although he informed them that day that the conviction was appealable, none of them objected. “If the experience of being incarcerated for this length of time, separated from their families and loved ones, doesn’t make [them change], then nothing short of nails in the grave will,” Dearie said. Judge Marquínez has not yet decided whether to accept the request to prosecute the Martinelli Linares, as well as their father and 47 other people. For all of them, the Public Ministry requested a summons to trial for the alleged commission of the crime of money laundering.

The Government, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Commission of the National Assembly once again postponed the debate on bill 625, which adopts the legislation for the extinction of illicit assets in the country. The proposal, which came to the Legislature from the Ministry of Public Security (Minseg), in April 2021, will return to a legislative subcommittee. This as a result of the fact that the commission decided that they will discuss “the issue broadly” to achieve the necessary reforms and advance with the legislative process. The subcommittee will be made up of PRD deputies Víctor Castillo, Emelie García Miró, as well as Fátima Agrazal, from Cambio Democrático. This group will have a term of 10 working days to present modifications to the project. During the session, chaired by Deputy Leandro Ávila, of the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party , García-Miró, secretary of the commission, read the report prepared by a first subcommission that analyzed the initiative. Said subcommittee was made up of deputy Corina Cano, who still occupies a chair on the commission, and then commissioners Crispiano Adames and Juan Diego Vásquez. The deputy commissioners concluded that “a new proposal should be drafted in harmony with the Constitution and attached to the sociopolitical reality of the country and the existing criminal law.” In the considerations reflected in the report, they referred to the presumption of innocence, due process and the right to private property. The report also spoke of the lack of details on the financing of the figure and who will administer that justice, as well as the process of training human resources to integrate the legal figure into the Panamanian system.

The private sector will not be part of a second stage of the dialogue table, in disagreement over the parameters that have been established, such as the agenda, the “unequal” participation of the productive sector and the methodology. “We cannot allow it to be a dialogue just to subdue the productive sector,” announced Rubén Castillo, president of the National Council of Private Enterprise (Conep), at a press conference, this Wednesday. Castillo said that they sent a letter to the dialogue mediators, explaining the situation of disadvantages in which they will sit at the table. “But with the methodology and the agreements that were defined in the agenda in its first phase, it is not possible to move forward,” he added. However, Castillo said that Conep could change its mind and participate, if there is a favorable response to its requests. Marcela Galindo , president of the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture , acknowledged that “at this time” the private sector is not part of the dialogue table. In fact, for the meeting scheduled for this Thursday, October 6, among the participants of the table, the business associations have not even received a formal invitation to it. In the letter sent to José Domingo Ulloa, Archbishop of Panama, dated October 3, Conep details seven requirements to join the talks: qualification of the mediator, definition of clear rules by the mediator, methodology, legitimacy of the actors , definition of topics and objectives, information necessary for dialogue and respect for constitutional rights.

The administrator of the Tourism Authority of Panama (ATP), Iván Eskildsen , told La Prensa that, in the process of certifying the projects for fiscal tourist incentives, there were no conflicts of interest. “Any developer could submit projects to apply for these incentives,” Eskildsen said, and detailed: “The process began with the ATP and later passed to other entities. The ATP technicians reviewed to verify that they met all the requirements and, if they fully complied with them, the companies received their due certification. After obtaining this certification, business groups must continue with the process. The mechanism for accessing tax credits is indirect and, simplified, is as follows: interested parties register a company with the Securities Market Superintendence (SMV) –9 did it for 25 hotels– ; They offer the shares on the Stock Exchange and, to whoever buys them –that is, the investor–, the State returns the value of what they paid, exempting them from taxes. In other words, stop collecting. La Prensa consulted Eskildsen about two specific cases, published in the edition of this Wednesday, October 5: Pearl Island and the Hampton by Hilton hotel in David. In the first, two development groups that Eskildsen worked with before entering the ATP are involved. The second is from his ex-brother- in-law Alfonso Naranjo , who also appears on the board of another company, which runs four Selina projects . David’s hotel opened three months after obtaining certification.Regarding the latter, Eskidsen pointed out: “After Law 122 of December 2019 came into effect, any tourist public accommodation development could apply for certification. Every applicant  went through the same eligibility review process.”And he added: “If you argue that because you are a relative you would receive or received special treatment, the answer is no and I assure you that, on my instructions, they were stricter in the evaluation of that particular case.”

One of them has already collected all the signatures, two more are close to reaching the goal, and the rest are still in the race. This is how the competition goes for the signatures of those who aspire to be candidates for mayor of Panama in the 2024 elections, a position currently held by the PRD José Luis Fábrega. According to data from the Electoral Tribunal, updated until last Monday, October 3 [Electoral Bulletin No. 5181], four of the 12 pre-candidates are the ones who have achieved the greatest citizen support to reach the minimum 8,243 signatures required to obtain one of the three candidates. This is the current independent deputy Edison Broce, to whom the TE endorsed 8,666 signatures. They are followed by Iván Blasser who has collected 5,386; Luis Casis, with 5 thousand 38; and Luis Pinedo, with 3 thousand 156. A little further from the goal are Ebelgitto Barrios, with 2 thousand 205; Sandra Escorcia, with 503; Dixsiana Acosta, with 209; Óscar Niño, with 86; Jairo Quintero, with 15; Gabriel Rebollón, with 13; Benjamin Florez, with 4; and Jorge Matsufuji, with 3 signatures. But in this fight, proposals also count. Edison Broce proposes to base its management on four axes: economy, security, open government, and sustainable development. For example, on the subject of security, he says that he will strengthen the video surveillance center and the municipal police. In addition, it will eliminate the so-called well-kept, and will establish a more efficient lighting. Regarding the economic issue, he points out that he will work on a network of local markets and electric mobility.

Gasoline with 95 and 91 octane will register a price increase as of this Friday, October 7, while diesel will drop, the National Energy Secretariat (SNE) confirmed on Wednesday. The new fuel prices will apply from October 7 to 21. It is important to note that currently the price of fuel is frozen at $.3.25 nationwide. The State assumes the difference before the distribution companies. According to the SNE report, 95-octane gasoline will rise $0.03 per gallon and cost $4.12, while 91-octane gasoline will rise $0.08 and will be sold at $3.91.In the case of low-sulfur diesel, it is reported that it will have a decrease of $0.10 and a gallon will cost $4.25.

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