Wednesday 1st February 2023.

February 1, 2023

The National Executive Committee (CEN), of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, (PRD) wanted to reserve 144 popularly elected positions for the primary elections, and the Electoral Tribunal told them no. A flaw in arithmetic, in which there is an apparent gap of interpretation, is what has delayed the political movement of Benicio Robinson and his allies. Which in turn has generated disagreement within the official party. Once the party’s CEN modifies its resolutions, it must submit them to the TE for ratification or rejection. The Electoral Tribunal is the entity that must endorse the positions that the parties reserve for future electoral alliances. This, with the purpose that those people who intend to run know where there will or will not be primaries. “I’m not going to run and then they tell me I’m not running because the space is reserved,” a source from the ruling party told La Prensa . Just as the PRD is entangled in its internal affairs, the other political parties have not finished defining their strategy either. Cambio Democrático, the Panameñista Party, Otro Camino Panamá and PAÍS, debate in the media the possibility of making an alliance, but with their own candidates. Everyone wants to have candidates, but who will give in? All processes must be approved by the TE, who relies on the Electoral Code to endorse or revoke what the political parties present. Starting in June of this year, the primary elections of all political parties will be held for the general elections on May 5, 2024. And they have until September 2023, to announce their electoral alliances.

The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2022 does not bring good news for Panama. In one year, the country made no progress in the fight against corruption: it obtained a score of 36 out of 100 (0 meaning the most opaque or corrupt and 100 most transparent) and ranked 101 out of 180 countries evaluated. Last year’s score is almost the same as in 2021, when he was rated 36 points and ranked 105th. The report prepared by Transparency International was released on Tuesday in Berlin, Germany. In the case of the Americas, the document highlights that “leaders have not adopted forceful measures to combat corruption and strengthen public institutions. This has encouraged criminal networks to consolidate and exercise considerable power over political actors in many countries, exacerbating violence in the region with the highest homicide rate per capita. To respond to crime and violence generated by gangs, some governments have taken measures that concentrate control in the executive branch. This weakens transparency and accountability and threatens human rights, while creating more opportunities for corruption and abuse.” The average for the Americas stands at 43 and almost two thirds of the countries scored below 50. Canada (74), Uruguay (74) and the United States (69) obtained the best scores. While Nicaragua (19), Haiti (17) and Venezuela (14) are in the lowest positions and according to the IPC, “their public institutions have been infiltrated by criminal networks.” The analysis, which in Panama is carried out by the Fundación para el Desarrollo de la Libertad Ciudadana, the Panamanian chapter of Transparency International, comes to light a few days after Antony Blinken, Secretary of State of the United States (EU), announced the appointment of former President Ricardo Martinelli  (2009-2014) “for his participation in acts of significant corruption.” “Specifically, Martinelli accepted bribes in exchange for improperly awarding government contracts during his tenure as president. These section 7031(c) designations make Martinelli and members of his immediate family ineligible to enter the United States,” a statement from the US State Department reported, citing Blinken’s words.

The former President of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal (2009-2014) , has not been successful in the Spanish courts. The Madrid judge who is in charge of the case opened for the bribes that Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas (FCC) admitted having paid to Panamanian officials and politicians in exchange for contracts with the State, has once again denied his request to be dismissed. And, in fact, a court of the National Court of Spain has extended the period for investigating this case of alleged money laundering and international corruption for another six months. In the investigations that are being carried out in Madrid, Martinelli is accused, as well as the Panamanian lawyer Mauricio Cort, as an alleged collaborator and figurehead of the ex-president. This is not the only case that Martinelli is followed in Spain: he is also required by the Gender Violence Court of Palma de Mallorca, for the alleged espionage that some agents carried out on a woman with whom Martinelli had a relationship. The agents said, at the time of his arrest, that they were hired by Martinelli. According to elDiario, the investigation is not advancing, given the impossibility of notifying Martinelli. In court, he is considered an “untraceable” person.

The Electoral Tribunal (TE) recalled that next February 15 is the deadline to file challenges against the Preliminary Electoral Roll (PEP), in view of the 2024 general elections. In a statement, the entity indicated that, as established by the Electoral Code and the General Election Plan (PLAGEL), all the governorships, mayors’ offices, community boards, and justices of the peace in the country were provided with a copy of the PEP. This, so that citizens have access to them and can review the document. These challenges must be presented before the electoral administrative courts and the claims before the National Directorate of Electoral Organization, according to the grounds provided in article 30 of the Electoral Code . Said article establishes that between January 21 and February 15 of the year prior to the elections, the electoral administrative prosecutor or any citizen or constituted political party, may challenge the PEP in order to annul the changes of residence made by voters. to a corregimiento where they do not reside; the inclusion of new citizens in corregimientos where they do not reside; the inclusion of citizens who do not fully enjoy their citizen rights; the inclusions of citizens who are under judicial interdiction and citizens who have their civil rights suspended. Until this same period, citizens who have obtained their personal identity card or processed their inclusion or change of residence until January 5, 2023 and who have not appeared or appear may be able to claim against said register. In compliance with the electoral calendar for the general elections of May 5, 2024, the TE released the PEP last Friday, January 20. In total, 3 million 41 thousand 86 citizens would be authorized to vote.

The guarantee judge of the Third Judicial District, Bienvenida Araúz, validated agreements for sentences of 70, 60 and 64 months in prison for the crime of money laundering against four people. In addition, she ordered the arrest of another 28, who are accused of being part of a network dedicated to drug trafficking and money laundering dismantled in the so-called Napoléon operation carried out on January 25 in the province of Chiriquí. In this investigation, the authorities are on the trail of Abdiel Vega (alias Milo), the alleged ringleader of this criminal organization, who is on the run. The Drug Prosecutor’s Office began the investigation of this case in 2021 and determined that this criminal group maintained a wide network of collaborators and front men whose name included numerous assets, including residences, farms, yachts, and cars. They also used a private foundation to mobilize money from their criminal activities.According to the prosecutor’s office, this criminal group-maintained operations in the area of ​​Pedregal, Las Lomas and David in the province of Chiriquí. During the hearing, which began on Thursday, January 26 and lasted four days, drug prosecutors Joseph Díaz Calderón, Yohana Quiel, Ninfa González and Edgar Tamayo provided evidence of the links between those arrested and the criminal organization. Several defense lawyers filed appeals against Judge Araúz’s decision, for which the Chiriquí Superior Court of Appeals set February 3 as the hearing date.

Last weekend, the Ministry of Education (Meduca) and leaders of the teacher unions reached agreements so that the 2023 school year takes place in a climate of “respect” and common purpose. Among some of the agreed points is that Meduca will process that 3,282 teachers appointed by competition collect their salaries in April 2023. The Minister of Education, Maruja Gorday de Villalobos, and her work team, informed and explained to the leaders about the appointment contests, the transfer of 1,250 educators to areas of difficult access, the use of the Equity and Quality Fund of the Education, the delivery of new schools, pending payments to teachers and infrastructure and training projects, among other issues. At the meeting, at the Meduca headquarters, in Cárdenas, Ancón, the concerns, queries and reflections of the representatives of the participating unions were addressed and the minister detailed the efforts to improve the content of the school programs for the benefit of all the country’s student population. This year, classes begin on March 6.

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