Wednesday 26th October 2022.

October 26, 2022

A new criminal complaint against the director of the Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources (Ifarhu), Bernardo Meneses, was filed by the lawyer Gonzalo Moncada Luna for the alleged commission of the crimes of embezzlement and influence peddling. Moncada Luna’s complaint is based on the fact that through various media it has been reported that relatives of deputies and high-ranking public officials have benefited from financial aid to complete their studies abroad. The document details that the funds allocated by the State to Ifarhu are destined for scholarships and economic aid to young students with limited resources or a situation of poverty. The lawyer stressed that the activity described in some media forms part of crimes against the public administration, specifically embezzlement, for the use of State funds for purposes not provided for in the law. At the same time, he requested that an ocular inspection be carried out in the Ifarhu facilities to specify the criteria for the allocation of financial aid.

The National Council of the Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources (Ifarhu) met this Monday, after which a permanent session was declared. As reported, at this time the council will seek to establish recommendations, execute them and follow up on the management procedures carried out by the institution, which is under the direction of Bernardo Meneses and has been widely questioned in the last week, due to the “economic aid ” granted to deputies and their relatives. In its Twitter account, the Ifarhu reported that the possibility of converting “economic aid” into educational credits, that is, loans, was already raised at the meeting. At this Monday’s meeting, the Ifarhu National Council – which is chaired by the Minister of Education, Maruja Gorday de Villalobos – discussed various components of the regulations for scholarships, educational financial assistance and economic aid. Similarly, the creation of a subcommission was requested, with the participation of the Comptroller General of the Republic and the National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information, it was reported.This subcommittee arose from the National Council itself, which is made up of representatives of the National Assembly, the National Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation (Senacyt), the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and the Ifarhu,  which acts as secretary of the National Council. Last Monday, October 24, the lawyers Ernesto Cedeño and Abdiel González Tejeira presented three legal actions that seek to clarify how the Ifarhu grants economic benefits. Recently, it has been revealed that some of the beneficiaries of the financial aid are Diego Ábrego Díaz, son of deputy Roberto Ábrego, who received $190,000; Kathy Ramos, Gender Director of the National Assembly, who was awarded $15,000; the daughter of deputy Zulay Rodríguez ($61,000); the daughter of the secretary general of the National Assembly, Quibián Panay ($81,000), and the ex-partner of independent deputy Juan Diego Vásquez ($99,000), among others.

The Budget Commission of the National Assembly approved the night of this Monday, October 24, in the first debate the general budget of the State for the fiscal period of 2023, with an increase of $416 million. In this way, the budget for next year will be $27,579 million, reported Carlos González, Budget Director of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) . The approval of the document, which will go to a second debate, was at 8:19 p.m. The original General State Budget presented by the MEF before the Assembly was for the amount of $27,162.9 million. But, after the budget hearings held in the Legislative Budget Commission, where several entities requested more budget to function and after the deputies requested a readjustment of $459 million, the MEF decided to increase it. For the health sector they gave 17% of the budget; Education 12% of the budget, which is equivalent to 5.5% of the GDP of the previous year, González indicated. The Budget director explained that, on the subject of justice, this sector would be receiving $591 million, which is equivalent to 5.4% and that according to the Constitution the obligation is not to allocate less than 2%. Benicio Robinson, president of the Budget Commission, indicated that the Executive accepted 80% of the suggestions that had been sent after the budget hearings. Juan Diego Vásquez, deputy, said that he applauded the Executive’s decision to approve increases to various research and health entities, such as the case of the Gorgas Institute. Likewise to several universities.  Government Innovation Authority was diminished.  “I have to say that unfortunately it is a budget that is still far from the goal we have as a country,” he said.

The deputy Olivares de Frías (PRD) tried to hide from La Prensa an illegal quarry stone extraction business carried out by the company Construcciones Jhissel, a company that he founded and that is now – on paper – in the hands of his closest family. The company was fined by the Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MICI) for illegal extraction of rock from an existing quarry on a farm that the deputy sold to a company –also linked to his family–, which maintains business with the Ministry of Works (MOP), an institution in which her daughter Librada Jisell De Frías Barrios is Vice Minister. Inspectors from the Ministry of Commerce and Industries carried out an inspection at the finca that De Frías sold and found accumulated rock that was also transported by Constructora Jhissel trucks, despite lacking permits for quarrying. On the other hand, the director of Public Security Affairs (Diasp), Roger Mojica, confirmed that Constructora Jhissel does not have permits for the use of explosives in the quarry either. He added that the blasting must be carried out by “suitable persons certified by the Diasp, after submitting the blasting plan” which, in this case, Constructora Jhissel has not submitted any. Unauthorized explosives and illegal extraction of stone from a quarry on a farm in the province of Los Santos, are some of the findings revealed in a report from the National Directorate of Mineral Resources of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MICI) on May 16. The findings were attributed to the Construcciones Jhissel company. This company belongs to the family environment of Deputy Olivares De Frías (PRD), and his children, including the Deputy Minister of Public Works, Librada De Frías. The extraction of stone material would be used to rehabilitate the road that connects the communities of El Ejido, La Espigadilla, Tres Quebradas and Agua Buena, in the district of Los Santos, a project of the Ministry of Public Works (MOP), valued at around $10 million.

The President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo , appointed Ariadne García as a magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ), in the Second Criminal Chamber. García, whose appointment must be ratified by the National Assembly, would replace Judge José Ayú Prado in the post. In a statement, the Presidency of the Republic highlighted that García has more than 32 years as a career judicial servant. She has served as substitute magistrate of the First Civil Chamber, since October 2021.  As part of her professional experience, it is highlighted that García has been a magistrate of the First Superior Court of the First Judicial District of Panama, from February 2022 to date, as well as a substitute magistrate in the Superior Court of Justice of the Second Judicial District (Coclé and Veraguas), Mixed Court (Civil and criminal) and the Court of Appeals of the Fourth Judicial District, of the accusatory criminal system. She also held the position of titular judge of childhood and adolescence of the province of Los Santos for 27 years, 1994-2021 (by competition), hearing family, childhood and criminal matters. He also has 28 years as a teacher at the bachelor’s and master’s levels at the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences of the Universidad Latina de Chitré, at the Los Santos Regional University Center and at the Interamerican University of Distance Education in Panama. If ratified by the Assembly, García will replace Ayú Prado, whose 10-year term expires on December 31, 2022. The President of the Republic also appointed Manuel Mata Avendaño as substitute magistrate of the Second Criminal Chamber and who would replace Asunción Alonso. Mata Avendaño is a lawyer with more than 25 years of experience in the administration of justice in the Judicial Branch (criminal area).

The airline Air France will resume the operation of a daily flight to the Tocumen International Airport in December. On Monday, the European airline signed a promotion alliance with the International Promotion Fund (Promtur). Fernando Fondevila, general director of Promtur, commented that the alliance with Air France is part of Panama’s international promotion strategy. The agreement will have a duration of six months and it is estimated that the marketing that the airline will carry out of the Panamanian attractions will generate an economic impact of $34.3 million. The airline will use an aircraft with a capacity of 312 passengers. Arnauld de Sury, French ambassador in Panama, pointed out that Panama is a beautiful country and that its wonders are worth publicizing and added that he trusts that the agreement signed between Air France and Promtur will go along these lines. Fondevila explained that the alliances drive immediate demand, increasing searches and planning about our destination in its sales channels and finally, converting its users into visitors to our country. The alliance with Air France joins others that Promtur has signed in the last year with international tourism operators and other airlines such as Expedia, Hotelbeds, Copa Airlines, Air Europa, Edreams, Maxitravel, Dream and Travel. The economic impact that Promtur expects to achieve this year through alliances is one thousand 49 million dollars.

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