Wednesday 20th March 2024.

March 19, 2024


Nicaragua, through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has rejected Panama’s accusations and asks to recognize the asylum and grant safe passage so that Ricardo Martinelli can travel to that country, which in practice would imply that he evade the sentence that was imposed on him. for money laundering, 128 months in prison.

Panama has sent several notes to Nicaragua since Martinelli took refuge in the Nicaraguan embassy, ​​in La Alameda, on February 7. In one of them, sent on March 14, Panama protested because Martinelli uses the diplomatic headquarters for partisan political activities, which constitutes “open interference in Panamanian internal affairs by the Government of Nicaragua.”

But this March 18, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, Denis Moncada , wrote four pages to the Panamanian Foreign Ministry, to “categorically” reject the content of that note of March 14.

Moncada points out that not recognizing the asylum granted by his country and denying safe passage in favor of Martinelli constitutes a violation of the 1928 asylum conventions, “which clearly establishes that the Government of the State that grants asylum may demand that the asylum seeker is placed outside the national territory within the shortest possible time; obligation in strict accordance with the Convention that remains unfulfilled by the Republic of Panama.”

Immediately afterwards, Moncada recalls that his country granted asylum to Martinelli, whom he considers politically persecuted and whose life, physical integrity and safety – he assures – are “at risk.”

Moncada does not refer at any time to the constant complaints from the Panamanian Foreign Ministry regarding his country’s interference in Panama’s internal affairs.

On at least four occasions (February 9 and 27 and March 8 and 14), Panama has sent notes to Nicaragua, objecting to the asylum granted to Martinelli. In the last of these notes, he formally protested the “permissive attitude of the government” of Nicaragua, by “openly” and defiantly contravening the development of his embassy.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Panama rejects that, under the supposed protection, Mr. Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Berrocal continues to use the Nicaraguan diplomatic headquarters in Panama, for political-partisan purposes, with the silence of its authorities, which For all purposes, it is an open interference in Panamanian internal affairs by the government of Nicaragua,” reads the document dated March 14.

Consequently, the Panamanian Foreign Ministry, headed by Janaina Tewaney, demands that Nicaragua “observe its international obligation to ensure that its diplomatic headquarters in Panama preserves the functions established by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.”

Martinelli entered the embassy on February 7, five days after the Supreme Court of Justice announced that the Criminal Chamber had not admitted an appeal for cassation presented by Martinelli and four other people sentenced to prison for laundering the funds used to acquire the shares of Editora Panamá América, SA (Epasa) , in the so-called New Business case .

Since then, Martinelli has remodeled and furnished the embassy headquarters in La Alameda. Nicaragua had to move its consular offices to the duplex next door, since Martinelli occupies all of his rooms. From the embassy, ​​Martinelli meets with his family, co-partisans and candidates from his party, Realizing Goals (RM), including José Raúl Mulino , who replaced him as presidential candidate. In addition, he constantly writes messages of partisan political content on his social networks and on at least one occasion, he organized a meeting of the RM board of directors.

Panamanian public debt is very close to reaching $50,000 million. The Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) published the data for the month of February 2024, when the balance reached $49,808 million.

This balance represented an increase of $5,645 million compared to February of last year.

During the month of February, three global bonds were issued for an amount of $3.1 billion, highlighting the disbursement of the 2031 bond for $1.1 billion, the 2038 bond for $1.25 billion and the bond maturing in 2057 for $750 million.

The MEF has indicated that the operation is part of the financing plan for the general budget of the State for the fiscal period 2024.

Between July 1, 2019 and February 29, 2024, the administration of Laurentino Cortizo has increased the balance of the debt of the Non-Financial Public Sector (SPNF) by $23,196 million, marking the largest increase during a presidential term and exceeding the management of the three leaders prior to 2019.

Former minister Guillermo Ferrufino suffered a new legal setback. The Superior Court of Appeals of the First Judicial District of Panama confirmed this Tuesday, March 19, the decision made by a judge to unify into a single sentence (10 years in prison) the two sentences that the former minister received.

It was on March 15 that compliance judge Jostan Guevara decided to combine the sentence of 48 months in prison and the sanction of 6 years in prison imposed on Ferrufino, convicted of unjustified enrichment.

The judges of the Superior Court of Appeals, Fernando Alonzo (president), Adilio González and José Félix Sánchez, also confirmed the decision of the compliance judge to reject the request to replace the sentence of 48 months in prison with days of fine.

The Anti-Corruption prosecutor, Johaira González, explained that the magistrates’ decision was unanimous. She added that there are four arrest warrants against the former minister. Ferrufino, whose whereabouts are still unknown, was convicted of failing to justify the sum of $2.2 million, accumulated while he was minister of the Ministry of Social Development, during the administration of former president Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014).

The Municipal Affairs Commission of the National Assembly approved this Tuesday, March 19, in its first debate , bill 1138 that creates the special district of Bastimentos in the province of Bocas del Toro, and also gives life to three new townships there: Bahia Honda, Quebrada Sal and Solarte.

Rupilio Ábrego , substitute for PRD deputy Benicio Robinson, presented the bill, although he refused to give statements on the subject to La Prensa.

It is important to remember that in June 2022, the President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo, vetoed a similar proposal in its entirety, arguing, among other points, that the proposed district would not have the population required to be established. The support for the veto refers to the non-compliance with Law 65 of 2015, which establishes that for the creation of districts there must be a population of at least 25 thousand inhabitants.

According to the population census, the district of Isla Bastimentos barely has 2,589 inhabitants. In addition to what is related to the number of inhabitants, the Executive alleged that there is also no record of the public citizen consultation or the socioeconomic and financial report of the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

It is not about few resources. Next year, $84.8 million will be allocated to the Municipal Works and Services Program, while $102.6 million will be allocated to the IBI.

The first allocates $110 thousand to each of the community boards and mayors that Panama has. Law 66 of 2015, which modified Law 37 of 2009 on decentralization in public administration, provides that 70% of these funds must be used in investment projects, while the remaining 30% will be for operation. Meanwhile, the IBI grants a minimum of $500,000 to each municipality, money that comes from the property tax collection corresponding to the immediately previous year.

Precisely, on March 12, when this proposal was approved, Dixon Santos defended the bill and stressed that of the 24 tourist sites that Bocas del Toro has, 10 are located in Bastimentos, whose region has a “broad culture, folklore , marine protected areas, flora and fauna.”

The PRD deputy and vice president of the Municipal Affairs Commission, Luis Cruz, was consulted, who said that the importance of any bill will depend on the interest of the people who will benefit.

“In this case, we would have to ask the population of Bastimentos if this benefits them or not,” he said.

A report from the Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology of Panama (Imhpa) indicates that the El Niño phenomenon is gradually weakening and is expected to give way to the La Niña event in the second quarter of the year.

According to the Imhpa, there is a greater than 80% probability that the El Niño phenomenon will transition to a neutral phase between April and next June, and that this period will be short-lived.

The entity reported this Tuesday that a very rapid transition from the El Niño to La Niña phenomenon could occur. Likewise, it highlights that the probability of the development of La Niña conditions is in the range of 60% to 75% for the second half of 2024.

Panama is experiencing one of the most intense dry seasons in recent years, which has affected the production of drinking water in some regions of the country.

Its main lakes, Gatún and Alajuela, have been well below usual levels. Furthermore, since the end of last year, the Panama Canal Authority made the decision to reduce the draft level for the passage of vessels through the interoceanic waterway.

The Municipal Council of Panama approved today, Tuesday the 19th, a resolution that orders the Directorate of Works and Construction of the Municipality of Panama to carry out a structural study of PH Crystal, in Bella Vista, which has been presenting problems with leaks and cracks.

Located in the heart of Bella Vista, this building has been the subject of controversy due to the illegal redesign and construction of a penthouse, owned by the company Josephco, SA, without the proper permits. In fact, the councilors of the Housing Commission of that local government carried out an inspection of the property last Friday, to the outcry of the residents.

Due to the serious damage to the property’s infrastructure, the Municipality of Panama issued a demolition order in 2014. However, 10 years have passed and this has not been executed.

Carlos Domínguez, mayor of Las Mañanitas and part of the Housing Commission, stressed that first the structural study will be carried out, and then proceed with the demolition. “A precedent must be set, and the rules must be enforced. “You cannot build for the sake of building,” he noted.

For her part, Anabel Franco, a resident of PH Crystal, stressed that now it will be their turn to supervise and ensure that the Municipality of Panama complies with what was ordered by the township representatives.

“The Directorate of Works and Construction is in charge of executing the resolution, that is, allowing access to the 15th and 16th floors so that structural studies can be carried out, which is the most important thing,” he pointed out.


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