Wednesday 21st February 2024.

February 20, 2024


The Electoral Tribunal (TE reported that it has not yet received the documentation from the Judicial Branch regarding the conviction for money laundering of Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal , in the so-called New Business case .

Therefore, the entity is obliged to recognize Martinelli as a presidential candidate of the Realizing Goals (RM) and Alianza parties.

This has created uncertainty “about the electoral implications of the conviction against the candidate.”

“Once this documentation arrives, the Electoral Court, expeditiously and in compliance with due process, will rule on the matter,” said the president of the TE, Alfredo Juncá , in a message posted on social networks, in which he is seen along with judges Eduardo Valdés and Luis Guerra.

Martinelli’s candidacy has already given the TE several headaches, since the Supreme Court of Justice decided not to admit an appeal presented by the former president’s defense, against the conviction imposed against him by the criminal judge. Baloisa Marquínez, last July, sentenced to 128 months in prison and a fine of $19.2 million. That sentence was ratified in October by a higher court, therefore, his entry into prison is imminent.

Since the Constitution , in its article 180, prohibits the election of a president or vice president of the Republic who has a sentence of five years or more in prison (Martinelli’s is 10 years and 8 months), it would supposedly correspond to José Raúl Mulino , his running mate, assume the presidential candidacy of RM and Alianza.

In fact, the TE authorized Mulino to take Martinelli’s place in the presidential debate that was originally going to be held on February 21. He then postponed the debate to February 26. Both decisions were widely rejected by different sectors, including six of the other seven presidential candidates.

The Judicial Investigation Directorate (DIJ) received the order to capture and deliver to the national prison system José Antonio Carrizo Mérida (“Chepi”) , the man sentenced to seven years in prison for the crime of aggravated fraud against Corporación La Prensa , SA (Corprensa) .

The instruction was issued by criminal judge Agueda Rentería on February 15, in a note addressed to Commissioner Sergio Delgado, director of the DIJ.

On April 11, 2022, Carrizo was sentenced by another judge (Baloisa Marquínez, of the Second Liquidation Court of Criminal Cases) to 84 months in prison; As an accessory penalty, he was disqualified from exercising public functions for four years. The sentence was confirmed on August 4, 2022 by the Superior Court for Settlement of Criminal Cases.

Carrizo has attempted several legal actions to prevent him from entering prison. He filed an appeal for cassation, which the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice denied on August 17, 2023. He also requested a clarification of the sentence, which the same chamber rejected outright, “as inadmissible,” on January 2, 2023. 2024. The last maneuver of his lawyers has been to present an “extraordinary appeal for criminal review” of the conviction handed down in April 2022 by Judge Marquínez. There he asks for absolution. This “extraordinary appeal” reached the Court on February 15, the same day that the DIJ received the order to capture him.

In the midst of the paralysis of the exploration, extraction and marketing activities of the Cobre Panamá mine, after the Supreme Court of Justice declared on November 27, the unconstitutional contract between the Minera Panamá company and the Government, now The company announces a visitor and citizen participation program to give people access to these facilities.

“These visits will allow Panamanian society to learn first-hand what is happening at the mine site,” said Maru Gálvez, now a spokesperson for Cobre Panamá.

He assured that this program arises from an opinion study recently carried out by the Gallup company, in which nearly half of those interviewed (49%) expressed interest in visiting the mine if given the opportunity, motivated by knowing the facilities and , mainly, due to the desire to verify the veracity of the information they are receiving through social networks and negative news.

“We want to deny the misinformation that has been generated around the operation of the mine. We have always been characterized by our responsible management and we are sure that those who have the opportunity to participate will be able to perceive first-hand the commitment and seriousness with which we carry out our activities,” he said.

The European Union (EU) kept Panama on the list of tax havens issued on Tuesday, February 20, after evaluating the jurisdictions that have implemented measures to improve their tax cooperation.

One of the requirements to get off this list is to have a “mostly compliant” rating in the evaluations of the exchange of tax information upon request, something that Panama has not achieved to date.

The list, updated every six months, includes jurisdictions that fail to meet EU standards on tax transparency, tax fairness or implementation of international rules to prevent tax base erosion or profit shifting, and that do not take steps to resolve these. issues.

From the General Directorate of Revenue (DGI), a unit is managed in charge of executing requests for the exchange of information required by foreign tax administrations to Panama, as well as those that the Panamanian tax administration requests from other tax authorities for tax investigations.

According to the Director of Revenue, Publio De Gracia , “the results of the exchange with the countries with which we collaborate are better every year and the team is strengthened in human talent and tools.”

However, he also indicated to La Prensa that, to get off the EU list, it will be essential to comply with the “accounting records law” and that the private sector is key to the effectiveness of the exchange of information.

At the end of last year, the DGI decided to extend the deadline again, now until March 2024, for resident agents to present the sworn declaration of accounting records corresponding to the years 2021 and 2022.

It is not the first time that this matter has been postponed, trying to appease those who oppose said measure.

In accordance with Law 52 of October 27, 2016, modified by Law 254 of November 11, 2021, the obligation of the resident agent to submit to the DGI an annual sworn declaration containing a list of the legal entities to which performs the service of resident agent.

There has been pressure from lawyers’ groups on this issue.

Panama runs the risk of being downgraded in its credit rating, the investment bank Goldman Sachs warned in a recent report .

“With a negative outlook and a median rating of BBB-, Panama is at risk of being downgraded due to the impact of the closure of the Cobre Panamá mine, which will likely affect the country’s economic growth and fiscal balance,” it said in a report. investment banking.

Goldman Sachs recalled that the low performance of sovereign bonds began at the end of last year, after the closure of the Cobre Panamá mine.

“A pause in production will likely have a negative impact on Panama’s economic activity, as the mine’s production represented 5% of GDP and 75% of its goods exports.”

Currently, S&P rates Panama as BBB with a negative outlook (as of November 7); Moody’s downgraded the country to Baa3 with a stable outlook on October 31, and Fitch maintains a BBB- rating, but revised its outlook to negative on September 29.

In this context, Goldman Sachs warns that Panama is in a precarious position facing a possible downgrade of its credit rating, due to a combination of economic and political factors.

The situation is worsening with the proximity of the presidential elections, scheduled for May 5, and the uncertainty surrounding the future of the country’s copper mine.

Goldman Sachs highlights that a downgrade of Panama’s credit rating from investment grade to speculative grade could have negative consequences on financial markets, increasing borrowing costs and reducing investor confidence.

The investment bank warns that, although the market has already begun to discount part of this risk, volatility could increase in the coming months as the elections approach and more details about the future of the country’s economic policy become known. .

Given this report, the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama (Cciap) said that it is necessary for the presidential candidates to present specific economic proposals that allow the country to improve its fiscal situation.

The Ministry of Health (Minsa) published on February 15, on the Panama Compra portal , the tender for the “preliminary studies, architectural designs and technical specifications for the comprehensive development and construction of phase 1 of the new National Cancer Institute ( ION )”

Phase 1 of this project has a cost of 72 million 737 thousand 233 dollars, an amount requested by the health authorities during the discussion of the 2024 budget. However, the Minsa budget for this project this year is 20 million dollars .

The date established for the presentation of proposals is next April 2.

The first tender for the construction of the new Oncology headquarters, whose amount was $434.8 million, was canceled on January 11.

Currently, the hallways have been converted into waiting rooms and there are offices in small spaces.


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