Wednesday 6th March 2024.

March 5, 2024


The Second Liquidation Court of Criminal Cases , headed by Baloisa Marquínez , issued the arrest warrant for the five convicted in the New Business case: Ricardo Martinelli , Daniel Ochy, Janeth Vásquez, Iván Arrocha and Valentín Martínez Vásquez.

Through Official Letter No. 301 of Monday, February 4, 2024, Judge Marquínez notified Commissioner Sergio Delgado, of the Judicial Investigation Directorate (DIJ), to “intervene his good offices” in order to capture Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Berrocal and transfer him to the Penitentiary System, he was already convicted of money laundering in the New Business case.

Martinelli’s sentence is 128 months in prison; He must also pay a fine of $19.2 million, as an accessory penalty. The judge, in Official Letter No. 301, recalls that Martinelli must pay the fine to the National Treasury within a period of 12 months.

Meanwhile, Ochy was sentenced to 96 months in prison; Martínez, to 80 months; Arrocha, to 70 months, and Vásquez, to 60 months. Another 10 defendants were acquitted, a decision that was appealed at the time by prosecutor Emeldo Márquez.

Last Monday, March 4, the conviction handed down on July 17, 2023 by Judge Marquínez became final. The court communicated the decision to the Electoral Tribunal (TE) and at 10:39 pm that day, the TE magistrates informed the country that Martinelli was disqualified from participating in the electoral contest of the May 5 elections, as a presidential candidate of the Realizing Goals (RM) and Alianza parties. He, too, cannot be a candidate for deputy of the National Assembly in the 8-4 circuit.

The TE’s decision complies with the provisions of Article 180 of the Constitution , which prohibits a person sentenced to 5 years in prison or more from being elected president or vice president of the Republic.

Thus, on the presidential ballot for the election on May 5, in the box of the RM and Alianza parties, there will be José Raúl Mulino as president, without vice president.

Meanwhile, Martinelli’s candidacy in the 8-4 will now be assumed by his lawyer Alejandro Pérez , who was his substitute.

Martinelli has been asylum in the Nicaraguan Embassy since February 7, claiming to be politically persecuted.

Does the designation of José Raúl Mulino as presidential candidate of the Realizing Goals (RM) and Alianza parties , replacing Ricardo Martinelli , violate the Constitution and the Electoral Code ? If Mulino was not chosen in a primary, can he be on the presidential ballot next May 5? Is the vice president of the Republic a “substitute” for the president or is this a position with its own powers? What were the consequences of leaving RM and Alianza without participation in the presidential election?

All these aspects were debated for 10 hours by Alfredo Juncá, Eduardo Valdés Escoffery and Luis Guerra Morales , the three judges of the Electoral Tribunal (TE), before communicating the disqualification of Martinelli and the recognition of Mulino as a presidential candidate.

This analysis is recorded in Plenary Agreement 11-1 of March 4, 2024 , five pages long.

Juncá, Valdés and Guerra were clear that with the conviction of New Business final, Martinelli’s disqualification was appropriate, because it was what was dictated by article 180 of the Constitution , which prohibits a person sentenced to 5 years or more in prison for intentional crime is chosen as president or vice president of the Republic. Plenary Agreement 11-1 highlights that this impediment is “immediate” and “for life.”

The next thing that had to be decided was what to do with Mulino and for that two “theses” were proposed : the first, that the figure of the “alternate” is not applicable to the vice president, and the second, that it does apply to all positions. of popular choice.

In defense of the first thesis, the magistrates recalled that the vice president of the Republic already has his own powers in the Constitution , which he exercises in parallel with the president. Therefore, he is not a substitute and article 362 of the Electoral Code cannot be applied to him , which says the following: “ If a citizen declared suitable as a candidate loses the status of candidate, his substitute will take the place of the main candidate. If the person who dies or resigns is the substitute candidate, the main candidate will appear without a substitute on the ballot .

Then, Juncá, Valdés and Guerra begin to consider the aspects of the second “thesis” and the “consequences” of not recognizing Mulino as Martinelli’s “substitute”: RM and Alianza are left without a presidential payroll; Applications to Parlacen from both parties are disqualified, since these depend on the presidential vote; The amount corresponding to RM and Alianza in the distribution of post-electoral public financing is reduced, and the possibility of subsistence of the two groups is affected by lacking the presidential votes.

They also maintain that international human rights conventions require Panama to make a “broad interpretation” of the law , to guarantee the rights of all those involved. In this way, the three magistrates agreed that Mulino appears on the presidential ballot in the RM and Alianza box. They decided the same regarding the candidacy for deputy in the 8-4 circuit: the main candidate will be the until now substitute Alejandro Pérez Saldaña .

An appeal for reconsideration is possible against Agreement 11-1, within the next two days counted from the time of notification.

The days of deputy Yanibel Ábrego , in the Democratic Change (CD) party , are numbered. The Electoral Court (TE) confirmed the sentence issued by the Court of Honor and Discipline of CD, (June 2, 2023) that expelled her from that political group.

Consequently, the TE magistrates revoked resolution 55-J3AE-2023, of October 16, 2023, signed by Judge Elvia María Rengifo, of the Third Administrative Electoral Court, which annulled the expulsion.

This is stated in a TE opinion signed by judges Alfredo Juncá and Eduardo Valdés Escoffery , who acted as rapporteur.

In June 2023, the Court of Honor and Discipline of CD accepted and declared “proven” the facts of the complaint presented by Rafael Ponce González , who denounced Ábrego for alleged non-compliance with the CD statute, by publicly supporting and promoting the electoral offer. from another party: Realizing Goals (RM) , the political collective founded by Ricardo Martinelli.

Ricardo Alberto and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares , Alma Cortés , Alex Lee, Jaime Ford Castro and Bernardo Nando Meneses are some of the politicians who could be left without electoral criminal jurisdiction, since different administrative electoral courts are analyzing removing that armor, at the request of authorities judicial.

In total, the Electoral Tribunal (TE) processes 22 requests to lift electoral criminal jurisdiction that affect 17 people , according to a report from the institution. However, the TE document does not detail the reason for the different requests or who are the authorities that processed them.

What is electoral criminal jurisdiction?

In accordance with article 305 of the Electoral Code , electoral criminal jurisdiction is the right that the presidents, vice presidents, secretaries and general undersecretaries of the legally constituted parties, candidates , electoral delegates, electoral entities of political parties, members of electoral corporations, electoral officials and liaisons to not be investigated, detained, arrested or prosecuted in criminal, police or administrative matters, provided that the latter involve the imposition of a prison sentence, without express and prior authorization from the electoral administrative courts, except in cases of flagrante delicto .

The balance owed by consumers to banks, adding mortgages, credit cards, car loans, personal loans and other financing, increased in January 2024 by 4.13% to exceed $34,918 million, compared to the balance of $33,531 million recorded in the same month 2023, according to the credit history of the APC Experian credit bureau.

Although mortgages represent the greatest weight of the balance of commitments with banks, with 58.85%, the level of delinquency or delay of these payments is below the average, with 4.21% of commitments that have more than 61 days without pay.

In total, the balance of mortgage loans owed to banks at the end of January was $20,540 million, an interannual growth of 4.48% more than in the same month of 2023. At the end of January there were 332,815 mortgage loans in force, with an average balance for a loan of $61,717.

The highest delinquency is recorded in credit cards, with 11.96% of commitments that have delays in payments for more than 2 months, and if charged-off accounts are considered, this delinquency grows to 15.7%, according to the monthly report from APC Experian.

The total balance of credit card debt skyrocketed in January by 5.76%, going from $2,447 million (January 2023) to $2,588 million at the beginning of 2024. Many people are financing even the purchase of basic products on credit.

“This is the default that worries us the most. We have 738,519 bank credit cards in circulation, with an average balance of $3,504 per card. Before the pandemic, in January 2019, we had more bank credit cards in circulation: 752,704 cards, with an average balance of $3,107,” indicated Giovanna Cardellicchio, general manager of APC Experian.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommended that Panama reduce the fiscal deficit, improve revenues and increase various taxes such as the Transfer Tax on Movable Property and Services (Itbms), which currently has a rate of 7%.

In addition, it suggests considering raising the tax rate on tobacco and fuel. The Itbms on cigarettes is currently 32.5% of the sales price, while a tax of 60 cents is imposed for each gallon of gasoline and, in the case of diesel, 25 cents, per gallon.

Another of the IMF’s proposals is that Panama begin to apply the global minimum tax of 15% to multinational companies and groups that operate in the country.



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