Wednesday 25th January 2023.

January 25, 2023

The head of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MICI), Federico Alfaro Boyd; the Minister of the Environment, Milciades Concepción; and the MICI Director of Mineral Resources, Jaime Paschales, appeared on Tuesday, before the plenary session of the National Assembly to answer 23-questions on the status of the contract with Minera Panama. Around 5:15 pm Minister Alfaro began the explanations of the mining contract reiterating that the “ball” is on the side of Minera Panamá and that they expect an agreement that benefits the parties to be reached in a short period of time. He stated that the company insists on introducing terms that are inconsistent with what was agreed in January 2022 and that was accepted by the consortium. Minera Panamá is currently developing the Cobre Panamá project for mineral exploitation in Donoso, Colón province. Alfaro stressed that the negotiations are stalled on points such as royalties, deductions for depletion and scope of the easement, among other aspects. Regarding the arbitration proceedings filed by Minera Panama before the Government’s decision to order the cessation of the mining project, the minister said that they are prepared for the defense of Panama. Likewise, the head of the MICI highlighted that the process for signing a new contract between the Government and the company ended on January 17, 2022 and that he was granted until December 14, 2022 to finalize the drafting of the new contract that reflect the terms agreed in January of last year. Cabinet Resolution No. 144 of December 15, 2022 established a term of 10 business days so that, after being formally notified, Minera Panama presents the actions it will adopt to comply with the cessation of operations. Regarding the payments received by the company, he said that the total royalties corresponding to the years 2019, 2020 and 2021 in the amount of $76.4 million for the extraction of copper concentrate. For his part, the Minister of the Environment, Milciades Concepción, said that so far the company has cleared about 2,976 hectares, according to the entity’s technical reports.Regarding the limit of hectares that the company could cut down, he said that the maximum allowed by the Environmental Impact Study, approved in 2011, is 5,900 hectares.  Currently, in the concession there are, at this moment, 3,241 field workers, while another 2,700 are in administrative work. To these workers must be added the employees of subcontractors.

“We believe that the approval of a domain forfeiture law that complements the other legal and procedural tools that are available to fight organized crime is not only urgent but essential.” This was reiterated this Tuesday, by the Attorney General in charge of the Nation, Javier Caraballo, during the National Workshop on Forfeiture of Illicit Assets, organized by the Ministry of Public Security. In the activity, Caraballo explained that the extinction of domain is a figure that allows the State, through the courts and with all due guarantees, to prosecute assets of illegal origin related to organized crime. This, in order that their ownership be awarded to the State without consideration or compensation of any kind. In other words, it is an important judicial tool that complements other already existing ones against organized crime that attacks its main strength: its economic power or source of financing, the attorney said. Caraballo gave as an example the fact that a person who is engaged in transnational organized crime or drug trafficking dies and leaves his assets in the hands of relatives. In this type of situation it is “almost impossible” to apprehend or remove these assets as they are no longer in the hands of the perpetrator and “we do not have the possibility of achieving a conviction.” “With this domain forfeiture law, these legal limitations disappear,” he stressed. Likewise, Caraballo was confident that events such as the one on Tuesday would manage to “polish a little” the project so that the Assembly could soon approve it. “The purpose of the project is laudable, it seeks to fight organized crime,” he insisted.In addition to the attorney in charge, the Minister of Security, Juan Pino, and the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, María Eugenia López, were present at the workshop. This project reached the legislative palace in April 2021 but the deputies have delayed it alleging that it violates human rights, among other aspects.

The mayor of Boquete, Joswar Alvarado, signed decree No. 02 of January 20, 2023 through which he regulates the closing hours of canteens, jorones, bars, discos and barbecues, as well as the sale of alcoholic beverages in supermarkets, mini supermarkets, shops, restaurants and hotels in this region. The measure is due, as stated in the decree, to the increase in the disturbance of public order in the different roads and communities of the Boquete district, in Chiriquí. Thus, in its first article, the decree establishes that the centers for the sale of alcoholic beverages in Boquete may only operate as follows: Monday through Thursday, from 4:00 pm to 12:00 midnight; on Fridays, from 4:00 pm to 2:00 am; on Saturdays, from 4:00 pm to 3:00 am; and on Sundays, from 4:00 pm to 12:00 midnight. Meanwhile, the hours set for stores, grocery stores, mini-supermarkets, supermarkets, businesses in fuel stations, whose main activity is not the sale of alcoholic beverages, will be from 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Restaurants and hotels whose activity is the sale of alcoholic beverages as an accompaniment may operate from 10:00 am to 12:00 midnight.

Five people were apprehended in the so-called “Operation Horizon” for the alleged commission of the crimes of commercial sexual exploitation and sexual abuse against minors, in the district of Barú, province of Chiriquí. Four of those apprehended are men, reported senior prosecutor Melissa Navarro, at a press conference held in conjunction with representatives of the National Police and the National Border Service that participated in the operation. Commissioner Irving Castillo, head of the Chiriquí police zone, explained that six search procedures were carried out at various points in the Barú district. In these proceedings, technological equipment (cell phones, among others) was seized, which will be inspected by the experts. Investigative work revealed that the victims were minors (both female and male) and that they were allegedly offered by their own mother, in exchange for money.

Panama raised its position on the statements made last week by the former US governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, regarding the alleged “aid” that the country provides to the Iranian regime. The Panamanian ambassador to the United States, Ramón Martínez, published an article in the American newspaper The Washington Post where he stated that Panama is proud of its history as a strong ally and partner committed to the North American country in its fight against terrorism and the financing of terrorism. Thus, Martínez indicated that the accusations made by ex-governor Bush, which were made in his essay entitled How to prevent Panama from helping Iran to evade sanctions , surprised and “frankly offended us .” The ambassador also pointed out that “Panama prioritizes peace and security, in addition to the fact that our country cooperates with the Department of the Treasury and other US authorities to guarantee that the ships that appear in our registry are not used in activities that threaten” international” peace and security. In the note published in the Washington Post , it is revealed that the country has canceled the registry of 136 ships that maintain ties with the National Oil Company of Iran and highlights that each of the five ships mentioned in the essay by former Governor Bush is in the process of being deregistered or is under investigation.Lastly, the note from Ambassador Martínez, which includes the position of the Panamanian government, stresses that Panama carries out investigations of the  alleged violations in strict compliance with international law and in this context, continuous reviews are carried out “to guarantee that the ships that appear in our Registry operate in accordance with the conventions of the International Maritime Organization”.It should be remembered that in an extensive opinion article, published last Monday, January 16, in the American newspaper The Washington Post ,  former Republican Governor Bush strongly attacked the Panamanian ship registry and questioned the behavior of the Panama Maritime Authority, with respect to the use of Panamanian-flagged ships to smuggle Iranian oil and gas.

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