Wednesday 17th April 2024.

April 16, 2024


The Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources (Ifarhu) must reveal, once and for all, the name of the beneficiaries of the non-refundable aid and annul that 2021 resolution, issued by the now former director of the entity Bernardo Nando Meneses , who declared that information as “ confidential data .”

With that excuse, Ifarhu has kept secret the names of almost 3,000 beneficiaries of the economic aid that was distributed between July 7, 2019 and May 24, 2023. That involved a disbursement of at least $141.6 million.

“The information on the use and disposition of State funds is public,” indicated the National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information (Antai) , in a statement released this Tuesday, April 16, on its social networks.

Last week, La Prensa published the first database with information on 4,903 Ifarhu aid , although in 56% the name appears “hidden”; There are only 2,144 identified beneficiaries. On the list there are relatives of ministers, deputies, diplomats, suppliers and contractors of the State and even a niece of President Laurentino Cortizo.

Antai also reminded Ifarhu that it must comply with the order issued 14 months ago, to repeal Resolution 320-2021-522 of August 3, 2021 , through which Meneses declared the resolutions, minutes and all information about the granting of economic benefits.

Likewise, he stressed that Ifarhu must regulate the economic aid program – “including a public call for applicants” – and publish a monthly accounting report that includes the names of the beneficiaries and the amounts disbursed, a list of the beneficiaries who have completed their studies satisfactorily and another list of those who have failed to comply with their obligations, which must include details of the sums recovered for said failures.

All these instructions are contained in a resolution issued by Antai on February 3, 2023. Antai requested this Tuesday that Ifarhu deliver a report on the status, execution and compliance of said resolution, “reiterating our criterion that all the information related to the “Use and management of State funds is of a public nature.”

In the resolution of February 3 of last year, it was noted that currently “there are no requirements as such” to grant non-refundable aid: there is no evaluation based on criteria such as merits, educational credits or academic performance. There is also no “measurement scale” to totally or partially deny the benefit, nor a deadline for its award.

“This lack of written procedures means that the process in the different administrative areas is altered according to and according to the orders and recommendations issued by hierarchical superiors,” Antai noted on that occasion.

Neither Meneses nor its current director, Ileana Mola , nor the Minister of Education, Maruja Gorday de Villalobos , who presides over the National Council of Ifarhu (the highest body of that entity), have spoken so far. Meneses is currently a candidate for deputy of the ruling PRD in La Chorrera.

Subsequently, there were at least two public reminders for Ifarhu to heed these instructions: in April and in November 2023.

Therefore, this Tuesday, April 16, is the fourth time (unsuccessful so far) that Antai tells Ifarhu that it must make the information transparent.

To make matters worse, after Meneses declared that the name of the beneficiaries was “confidential” data, the Comptroller General of the Republic decided to classify the information as “reserved.” Antai’s statement this Tuesday does not mention anything regarding the Comptroller’s Office.

Comptroller Gerardo Solís defends the opacity in the processing of this information and says that there are 18 beneficiaries of aid who have been “vilified” by the media.

This 2024, an election year, Ifarhu will have a record budget: $545.8 million. This is $103 million more than what was assigned to this institution in 2023: $442.2 million.

President Laurentino Cortizo joined the debate on the legal status of the candidacy of José Raúl Mulino , standard bearer of the Realizing Goals (RM) and Alianza parties, despite the fact that this is a matter that is in the hands of the Supreme Court of Justice.

Forgetting that article 2 of the Constitution says that the three powers of the State act “limitedly and separately,” Cortizo wrote in X: “My position as a Panamanian and President of the Republic is that at this point in an election, all candidates They must run, including Mulino. This is an issue that the Electoral Court has had to resolve .”

During a tour of Western Panama, the president also referred to the issue when answering a question from a journalist. There he spoke of strengthening institutions and assured that he believes in the separation of powers. He assured that he has never had prior communication with the judges of the Court that he appointed. He explained that his responsibility is to the Constitution, the laws and procedures, and that the decision to participate in the elections should be resolved by the Electoral Tribunal.

Cortizo’s statement is already generating reactions. “Precisely because of the position he holds, he should not have made a statement that is an attempt to interfere in another organ of the State, thus violating the separation of powers regulated by the Constitution,” said political analyst José Stoute.

Stoute stated that the president even ignores the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Justice by stating that it is a problem that must be resolved by the Electoral Court. Lawyer Karisma Etienne Karamañites demanded the 11-1 Agreement of March 4, 2024, with which the Electoral Court (TE) authorized José Raúl Mulino to assume the presidential candidacy of RM and Alianza, after disqualifying Ricardo Martinelli from competing. in the May 5 elections, following the sentence of more than 10 years in prison for the New Business case.

The lawsuit warns that, although Mulino was appointed as vice president, that candidacy was not put to a vote in the RM primary election. Martinelli directly selected Mulino, which was later ratified by the boards of RM and the Alianza party.

José Gabriel Carrizo , vice president of the Republic and presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), questions his participation in the debate that will be held tomorrow, April 17, an event organized by the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama, and the Electoral Tribunal (TE), with the production of Corporación Medcom.

He states that if José Raúl Mulino , candidates of the Realizing Goals and Alianza parties, does not attend, he will not participate.

“ With the purpose of continuing to strengthen democracy, I respectfully call on @tepanama and the organizers of the presidential debate to guarantee the attendance of the eight candidates who must be on the ballot in the elections this May 5. This election It will be defined between the PRD-Molirena and Realando Metas. For this reason, if @JoseRaulMulino does not appear at the last debate tomorrow, I will refrain from participating ,” the politician wrote on his X account.

Mulino’s campaign informed this media that he will not attend the third presidential debate. So far Mulino has not been in any of the official debates. Nor in the forums and discussions organized by civil society groups or unions.

While the Chamber of Commerce reported: “for now we understand that he will not attend.” The first official debate took place on February 26. While the second was celebrated on March 13.

In both, seven of the eight presidential candidates participated: Carrizo , from the Democratic Revolutionary Party and Molirena;  Martín Torrijo s, from the Popular Party;  Rómulo Roux , from Cambio Democrático and the Panameñista Party;  Ricardo Lombana , from the Other Path Movement; as well as  Melitón Arrocha ,  Zulay Rodríguez , and  Maribel Gordón , candidates for free nomination.

The Supreme Court of Justice declared legal the precautionary measures issued by the Superior Court for Settlement of Criminal Cases to Ricardo Martinelli , convicted of money laundering in the so-called New Business case .

Although this decision is known now, it was adopted by the full Court on March 7. The speaker was Judge María Cristina Chen Stanziola.

In this way, the plenary session supported the ruling of February 2, 2024 of the Superior Liquidation Court, which maintained precautionary measures (prevention of leaving the country and the obligation to notify on the 15th of each month) ordered by the First Specialized Prosecutor’s Office against Organized Crime , on July 2, 2020, when Martinelli was called for investigation for this reason, but he took advantage of article 25 of the Constitution to not testify against himself. In response to the decision of the Superior Court of Liquidation, lawyer Carlos Carrillo , one of Martinelli’s defenders, filed an appeal and a habeas corpus in favor of his client.

Since then and until now, many changes have occurred in Martinelli’s procedural situation.

To begin with, Martinelli was eventually charged, tried, and convicted of money laundering. The sentence, of 128 months in prison and a fine of $19.2 million, became final on March 4, 2024; Three days later, Martinelli declared himself “politically persecuted” and hid in the Nicaraguan embassy in Panama, where he remains to this day. Criminal judge Baloisa Marquínez requested the Judicial Investigation Directorate (DIJ) to capture him and hand him over to the penitentiary system, for his corresponding admission to prison.

The Court has rejected at least 16 amparos of constitutional guarantees presented by Martinelli’s lawyers against various resolutions issued by the Second Liquidation Court of Criminal Cases (where Judge Marquínez is) in the New Business case.

As a consequence of the conviction, Martinelli was also disqualified from participating as a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic and as a deputy for the 8-4 circuit for the Realizing Goals (RM) and Alianza parties.

A National Solid Waste Management Council intends to be formed by the Cleaning, Urban and Home Authority (AAUD) , in order to give way to the National Plan for Comprehensive Solid Waste Management 2024-2028, which would establish a roadmap towards the transformation of the management and disposal of solid waste in the country.

The proposal for a national council is part of the consulting work carried out by the AAUD with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and which seeks to create a space for interaction between various entities so that the National Comprehensive Waste Management Plan can be worked on. , which will be the guides to establish the comprehensive waste management model at the national level.

With the Strategic Plan for Solid Waste in Panama, the management and final disposal of non-hazardous waste, of household, commercial and special treatment origin, will be established towards the transformation of the circular economy and climate change.

The formation of this body will be made up of representatives of different public institutions such as the AAUD, the Ministry of Health (Minsa) , the Ministry of the Environment (Mi Ambiente) , representatives of the private sector, associations of recyclers, workers, academics and NGOs.

Carlos Ábrego, general secretary of the AAUD , explained that “this council is not a political entity, nor a new government entity.” He pointed out that at the moment the formation of this council is being analyzed, and that it serves as a space to work between all the parties involved with the issue of solid waste management.

“The plan is designed, within Law 276 of December 30, 2021, which regulates the comprehensive management of solid waste in the Republic of Panama, to serve as a reference for the municipalities and thus make a cultural and strategic change that can be sustained over time,” said Ábrego.

The National Plan for Comprehensive Solid Waste Management is made up of three pillars, which includes, in the first instance, the online quote for the operation and management of the Patacón landfill for three years. This $46 million act is still in the process of review and integration of all recommendations to be quoted again.

This amount must include three phases, which are the stabilization of the existing landfill with the management of leachate, the capture of gases and the structure of the landfill itself; the construction of a new basin (trench) that must last three years while the contract will be in force and ultimately the landfill operation itself with the disposal process and compaction of the garbage.

Regarding the second pillar, it has to do with the strengthening of laws, the advisory work they are carrying out with the IDB, as well as the data information system and the adaptation of the new model.

While the last pillar is related to the execution of an international tender for the final management of Cerro Patacón with a new model, the AAUD estimates that it could last 20 years.

Currently there are international organizations interested in Cerro Patacón, such as the Korean Institute of Environmental Industry and Technology (Keiti delegates), businessmen and representatives of the Republic of Korea, who are committed to a feasibility study of a new model for the final disposal of waste. solid, for the districts of Panama and San Miguelito.

The new model consists of two Biological Mechanical Treatment (BMT) plants , which would replace the current final disposal system in the Cerro Patacón landfill, where more than 2,500 tons of garbage enter per day between both districts.

On Cerro Patacón, there is currently a crisis, where four large fires have been recorded, and it remains in a state of restriction.


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