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Monday, January 26 2015 @ 05:24 AM EST

Welcome to Panama-Guide.com

Panama Guide is the #1 English Language web site about the Republic of Panama. There are currently 24,236 articles in our ever-expanding database and we update daily so check back often. More than 7,000 people visit Panama-Guide.com every day to follow current events and to use the other resources available. We provide fresh English language Panama news daily, as well as information about all of the other things you need to know if you plan to visit or live here. We focus on those topics and issues which are of greatest importance to the English speaking expatriate community. And if you can't find what you need to know, we take requests. Welcome aboard, and tell your friends.

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Arthur Porter's extradition on hold: Panama

Expat TalesBy Aaron Derfel - Arthur Porter’s extradition to Quebec has been put on hold as his lawyer continues to file legal motions before the Supreme Court of Panama challenging his detention in prison.

A spokesperson for Panama’s foreign affairs ministry told the Montreal Gazette that Porter’s lawyer has filed a habeas corpus writ — a legal motion seeking his release unless lawful grounds are shown for his detention.

“There are still reviews to be made in the habeas corpus,” Stacy Pérez said Tuesday. “For this reason, the extradition will not proceed.”

Monica de León, another official with Panama’s foreign affairs ministry, added: “At the moment, there are a series of pending habeas corpus to be resolved by the Supreme Court of Justice. Once (it) makes a pronouncement, the chancellery can then make a decision with respect to the extradition.”

On Monday, a spokesperson for Canada’s Justice Department gave a similar statement, writing in an email that “the matter of Mr. Porter’s extradition remains before the courts in Panama and his challenge will be processed according to their laws and procedures.

“Due to the confidential nature of state-to-state communications, the government cannot comment further on extradition requests,” Andrew Gowing said.

Held for nearly 600 days

In the meantime, Porter will remain in La Joya jail, where he has been incarcerated for nearly 600 days. Porter was arrested in Panama with his wife, Pamela Mattock Porter, on May 27, 2013, on charges that he was the mastermind behind an alleged conspiracy to defraud the McGill University Health Centre of $22.5 million.

Over the weekend, some news organizations reported that Porter’s extradition to Canada was imminent.

A source close to the case — who agreed to be interviewed on condition of anonymity — told the Montreal Gazette on Monday that Panama had recently agreed to Canada’s request to extradite Porter.

“There is still an administrative process left, and that’s why we don’t have a date yet for the extradition,” the source said, adding that provincial police were expecting to fly to Panama to escort Porter back to Quebec.

The source, however, was vague on some details about the case. And Quebec Crown prosecutor Marie-Hélène Giroux, who had spoken publicly in the past about Porter’s case, did not return several phone messages and emails.

Porter is being represented in court by Ricardo Bilonick, a U.S.-trained lawyer and former Panamanian ambassador to the United States who once boasted close ties with Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega.

Since October 2013, Bilonick has filed and lost at least three challenges before Panama’s Supreme Court over Canada’s extradition request, court records show.

Filed $140-million lawsuit

On June 25, Bilonick filed on behalf of Porter a $140-million lawsuit (150 million Panamanian balboas) against the government of Panama, claiming his client has been denied medical treatment for what he says is advanced lung cancer that has spread throughout Porter’s body.

Bilonick has also argued that Porter was on a so-called diplomatic mission on behalf of his native Sierra Leone when he was arrested unlawfully.

This month marks the second anniversary of Porter’s diagnosis of non-small cell lung cancer (adenocarcinoma). The median survival for Porter’s stage of disease is nine months. Porter says he believes he has been responding well to an experimental drug that Bilonick delivers to him in jail.

Bilonick was not available for comment despite email and phone messages left with him since Friday.

Steven Slimovitch, a Montreal lawyer with an expertise on extradition matters, said the length of time that Porter has spent in jail challenging his extradition is highly unusual.

On Dec. 18, Pamela Porter pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering and was sentenced to two years in jail for her role in the alleged MUHC bid-rigging scam.

Arthur Porter is the only person out of a total of nine people — including former SNC-Lavalin executives — who has not appeared in a Quebec court to answer to criminal charges. Police allege that Porter was behind a conspiracy to award the $1.3-billion superhospital construction contract to engineering firm SNC-Lavalin in exchange for $22.5 million in secret commissions. (Montreal Gazette)

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More Former Martinelli Administration Officials Will Be Named In Ongoing Investigations

CorruptionMany other names of former officials of the government of former President Ricardo Martinelli will come to light in the coming days, with appearances by the former Director of the National Assistance Program (NAP), Rafael Guardia, who pleaded guilty to charges of corruption and embezzlement as accused by the anti-corruption prosecutor. (more)

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Small Private Plane Makes Forced Landing At Albrook

Safety & SecurityAn aircraft made an emergency landing on Saturday afternoon January 24, at the Marcos Gelabert Albrook airport, after there was a mechanical malfunction in the landing gear. (more)

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Several People Killed In Tragic Bus Accident

Traffic AccidentsFive people were killed in a tragic bus accident in Chiriqui on Sunday morning, after the bus rolled off of the roadway and came to rest upside down in a river. (more)

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Prosecutors Analyzing Documents Found At The House Of Gustavo Perez

CorruptionTomorrow, on Monday January 26th, Panama's Auxiliary Prosecutor (see Editor's Comment) will continue to pour through the boxes of documents seized from the residence of the former Secretary of the National Security Council Gustavo Pérez, where they have already found information related to the acquisition of wiretapping equipment purchased during the administration of former president Ricardo Martinelli. (more)

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New Charges Against Gustavo Perez (Illegal Weapons)

CorruptionArmando Fuentes, the defense lawyer representing the former Secretary of the Security Council, Gustavo Pérez said on Tuesday, January 13th, that his client has said "everything he knows" following the expansion of his sworn statement made today in the office of the Auxiliary Prosecutor. (more)

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Prosecutor Will Ask The Supreme Court To Lift Martinelli's Immunity

CorruptionThe Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor will ask the Supreme Court to investigate the former Presidetn Ricardo Martinelli, for his alleged involvement in the commission of offenses against public administration and economic heritage, and in addition they will ask for the immunity he enjoys as a member of the Central American Parliament to be lifted. (more)

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Martinelli Administration Listened In On High Ranking Diplomatic Communications

CorruptionIn the office of the Auxiliary Prosecutor there is a list of the people whose cellular telephone communications were intercepted; about 150 people, among them Panamanian political figures, were victims of an organized wiretapping program, launched during the administration of the former President of Panama Ricardo Martinelli. (more)

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Canadian Drowns On Red Frog Beach - Body Recovered By SINAPROC

Safety & SecurityBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - The details are still coming in. Panama's National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC) has reported they have recovered the body of a young person who was swept away from the beach by strong wave action, and drowned.

The fatal accident occurred on Red Frog Beach, located in Bocas del Toro.

In recent days national level authorities have issued repeated warnings via their websites and the media, and have appeared on Panamanian television, to warn swimmers of the risks posed by high tides, heavy surf, and wave action.

Every year during the dry season (mid-December to mid-April) several people drown on Panamanian beaches, after having been swept into the ocean by rip tides and under currents.

Editor's Comment: Red Frog Beach is one of the best and most popular swimming beaches in the Bocas del Toro area. I've been there myself with my family several times. However any beach in Panama can become dangerous when monthly high tides combine with heavy wave action due to offshore winds and storms. So far the identity of the victim has not been released.

Copyright 2015 Panama-Guide.com.

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Meet the Punta Pacifica Real Estate Experts

Real EstatePunta Pacifica Realty is the largest real estate company in Punta Pacifica, laser-focused on sales, rentals and property management in the community of luxury skyscrapers on the Panama City waterfront.

In recent years, the firm has contracted more sales and rentals in Punta Pacifica, and managed more rentals, than any other firm.

“We pride ourselves on our ability to save people money and ensure the security of their investment,” says PPR founder Duncan McGowan, who has been living and working in Panama since 1998.

With its main office located on the Punta Pacifica roundabout, PPR is an established part of the neighborhood, working with the community and local associations to make Punta Pacifica a better place to live and visit. The office is also a convenient place for clients and residents to get more information, and consult with our sales and rental experts.

PPR is the most comprehensive agency in Panama City, a one-stop shop with designers, legal experts, accountants and a mortgage specialist to guide clients through every stage in the process. The property management operation is the most sophisticated in the area, with hundreds of properties under management and a team of 25 professionals dedicated to every aspect of maintaining and maximizing clients’ investments.

The PPR team also offers specific expertise in the Trump Ocean Club, the iconic sail-like tower that is the social and cultural hub of the area. Earlier this year, PPR opened a satellite office in the Trump, the Panama Investment Boutique by Punta Pacifica Realty, where potential clients can get updated information, news on investment opportunities, legal advice and the latest information on immigration and taxes.

“Knowing the nuances and differences of Trump apartments can save clients thousands of dollars,” says PPR managing director Jeff Barton, the former sales manager of the Trump. “Two apartments may be the same size, but the reality is location, views and rental demand can result in two very different valuations for a future resale.”

Panama’s real estate market can be a frustrating and complicated process for many real estate buyers. But PPR’s depth of experience in the market and multi-faceted expertise can help save time – and money, Mr. McGowan says.

“Our primary goal is to maintain and maximize our clients’ investment,” Mr. McGowan says.

For more information, contact one of the Punta Pacifica Realty experts at info@puntapacificarealty.com or call us at (Panama) +507-836-5991 or (USA) 786-528-3080

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How I Know The Allegations Being Made Against Gustavo Perez Are True And Accurate

CorruptionBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - It just so happens I had a personal experience in Panama City a few years ago, and in hindsight - because of that experience - I now know for certain the allegations being made against Gustavo Perez regarding the illegal monitoring of private cellular telephone communications are true and accurate. (more)

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Protected Witness Responds To Allegations Being Made About Her

CorruptionAfter the reactions in the media made by the former director of the National Police (PN), Gustavo Pérez, product of the strong testimony made by a witness who linked him to illegal cell phone taps, she responded to the allegations and reiterated what she had said in her earlier statements. (more)

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Gustavo Perez Associates Israeli Spy Equipment Allegations With "Personal Revenge"

CorruptionFollowing the allegations made by a protect witness who gave an interview to a local Panamanian television program, during which she accused Gustavo Perez, the former Director of the National Police and former Secretary of the Security Council during the Martinelli administration of having been trained in Israel to learn how to operate spy equipment used to intercept cellular telephone calls, he responded with his version of events. (more)

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Tamburrelli Plays The "Too Sick To Talk" (BS) Card - Corruption Investigation

CorruptionThe Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor, who is investigating the former director of the National Support Program, Giacomo Tamburrelli, for irregularities in a contract for the purchase of dehydrated food worth $45 million, will have to wait until after January 22 to set a date for him to expand on his sworn statement. (more)

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Telemetro Found A Boat Stashed At Ferrufino's Sister's House

CorruptionAfter being informed of the existence of a boat at the home of a sister of the former Minister of Social Development, Guillermo Ferrufino, a news team from Telemetro visited the scene and actually found it. (more)

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Panama Canal Directors Approve Plans For New Port

Canal ExpansionThe Panama Canal’s board of directors has approved the development and construction of a transshipment port in Panama’s Corozal region at the Canal’s entrance to the Pacific.

Once complete, the port project, which is currently awaiting the final stage of approval from Panama’s National Assembly, will have a 5m teu capacity within a 120 ha area.

The two-phased plan includes the construction of a 2,081 m dock, a container yard, offices and warehouse facilities within a 120 ha area owned by the Panama Canal.

The first phase will comprise 1,350 m of docks, three docking positions for post-Panamax ships, and an approximate handling capacity of 3m teu.

At present, the Pacific side has an estimated capacity of 5m teu but after the expansion, demand on the Pacific side is expected to reach 6m teu and then 8m teu by 2020.

With a 16.3 m deep access canal and a depth of 18 m along the dock, the new terminal facility will provide docking facilities for five post-Panamax ships.

Panama Canal Administrator/CEO, Jorge Luis Quijano, said: “Advancing the terminal in the Corozal region is a priority. It is part of the Panama Canal’s goal to explore and develop areas, products and services that are close to our core business, and that add substantial value to our customers as a one-stop gateway with multiple services.”

He added: “This new facility will result in a significant increase in inter-oceanic cargo traffic, enabling the Canal to add value to the route and customers, consolidate Panama’s position as an international logistics and maritime hub.”

If the National Assembly does approve the bill, which it is expected to review in the coming days, the Panama Canal intends to proceed with the development and tender process by calling for bids to hire a company that will be responsible for all stages of the project.

The contract will, most likely, consist of a 20-year concession, renewable once for 20 years.

Meanwhile, an arbitration court in Miami is now assessing two new claims for cost overruns of almost US$740m submitted by the consortium working on the Panama Canal expansion.

Quijano said that the consortium, Grupo Unidos por el Canal, formed by Spain’s Sacyr, Italy’s Salini Impregilo, Belgium’s Jan de Nul and Panamanian company CUSA, has now presented a total of $2.3bn in claims for overruns.

He added: “We’re not taking these claims at face value. We’ve received claims (previously) that, upon review by a third party, have ended in nothing.”

Delays to the project are largely due to the construction of a third set of locks; a process which was orginially supposed to cost $3.2bn.

Quijano told Reuters that he expects the new locks to be delivered by January 2016 and the expanded canal to begin operations two to three months later.

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Protected Witness Says Gustavo Perez Managed Cell Phone Spy Equipment for Martinelli

CorruptionA protected witness said Gustavo Perez, who served as a Vice Minister of Government and as the Secretary of the National Security Council during the administration of former president Ricardo Martinelli, was the person who purchased government owned equipment used to intercept cellular telephone communications, equipment that today cannot be found. (more) You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.
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Labor Ministry Will Conduct Audit, Trying To Halt Panama Canal Construction Strike

Protests & DemonstrationsThe Ministry of Labor and Workforce Development (Mitradel) ordered an audit and inspections on the section of the access project for the Panama Canal from the Pacific, known as PAC4, where work has been shut down since December 23rd by striking workers, over disagreements with the consortium comprised of the Mexican company ICA, the Spanish company FCCC, and the Costa Rican company Meco. (more)

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Tamburrelli Left The Hospital, Will Continue Medical Treatment At Home

CorruptionThe former director of the National Assistance Program (NAP), Giacomo Tamburrelli, was discharged from the hospital this Sunday, December 28, and was taken to his residence. (more)

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Panama lowers 2014 growth estimate down to 6.3 pct

Money MattersPanama on Sunday lowered its 2014 growth expectation to 6.3 percent, down from a previous estimate of around 7 percent.

Panama's economy grew 8.4 percent in 2013 but has been cooling as $15 billion of infrastructure projects, mainly for the expansion of the Panama Canal, have winded down. Such public works had helped lift economic growth to one of the highest rates in Latin America in recent years.

The expanded waterway, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, was originally due to open this year, but disputes over funding and delays have pushed that back to 2016.

On Friday, the government said that in October, the country's economy accelerated at its faster rate so far this year, growing 5.54 percent.

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Two Killed (One Expat) And One Injured During Nightclub Shooting

Crime & PunishmentTwo people were killed and another injured as the result of a shooting early yesterday morning on Calle 52 in Bella Vista, near a nightclub. (more)

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SENAFRONT Dismantles Illegal Mining Camp In The Darien

Gold & MiningThe State Border Service (SENAFRONT) dismantled a criminal organization called 'Bacrin' operating in the province of Darien, specifically in Cerro Tacarcuna of Pinogana. (more)

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Former PAN Director Giacomo Tamburrelli Placed Under House Arrest

CorruptionThe former Director of the National Support Program (PAN) Giacomo Tamburrelli spent about ten hours answering questions before the office of the Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor - as part of an investigation into charges of embezzlement - and at the end of the questioning session Tamburrelli was placed under house arrest and escorted back to his residence by police officers. (more)

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Martinelli Would Have Received $25 Million Dollar Bribe From Finmeccanica

CorruptionIn less than a few hours, the Prosecutor of the Court of Rome disarmed the few defensive arguments being made by the author of the Finmeccanica contracts between Italy and Panama, Valter Lavítola, and his alleged accomplice, former Italian Commercial Director Paolo Pozzessere. (more)

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Panama makes climate splash with wind energy

Infrastructure UpgradesWorld Bank unit backing project with $300 million finance package.

By Daniel J. Graeber - World Bank unit supporting efforts to advance a low-carbon economy in Panama with wind energy developments.

(UPI) A member of the World Bank Group said it was backing a wind power project in Panama that will be able to satisfy 5 percent of the country's energy demands.

The International Finance Corp. announced the completion of a $300 million finance package for the Penonome wind farm, which will become the largest wind farm in Central America once it's completed.

The 86 wind turbines for the project should generate more than 450 gigawatt hours of electricity per year, supplying about 5 percent of the Panamanian energy needs.

"The project is aligned with IFC's strategy to support initiatives that help Central American countries transition to a cleaner and more efficient energy matrix," Gabriel Goldschmidt, IFC head for infrastructure in Latin America and the Caribbean, said in a Tuesday statement.

The announcement comes amid warnings of the climate effects brought on by the dependence on fossil fuels. In a September report, the World Meteorological Organization said the burning of fossil fuels was in part responsible for the increase in radiative forcing -- the warming effect on the climate.

The IFC said the Panamanian wind farm would offset about 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, each year, which is the equivalent of taking 84,000 cars off the road.

Panama is among the fastest growing economies in the region, with energy demand expected to increase by as much as 8 percent annually. The bank said it expects Panama will need about $3 billion in investments over the next decade to keep pace with energy demands.

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Tamburelli Faces Charges - Appears Before The Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor

CorruptionThe former head of the National Program of Support (PAN), Giacomo Tamburrelli, appeared before the Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor this morning, where he was interrogated, after the prosecutor accused him of crimes against the public administration after signing a contract for $45 million for the purchase of dehydrated food. (more) <.>You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.
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25 years ago: US invades Panama

History & ReferenceThe US invasion of Panama: On December 20, 1989, the US launched a full-scale invasion of Panama to paralyze the country’s military force and oust strongman Manuel Noriega. The invasion, dubbed “Operation Just Cause,” involved almost 28,000 US troops and 300 aircraft from the Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force. The simultaneous strike on 27 targets was designed to immediately paralyze the Panamanian Defense Forces. The so-called “surgical strikes” were aimed at isolating Noriega and allowing US forces to capture him.

The US administration of George H.W. Bush had prepared the invasion for months. After the fiasco of the failed US-led anti-Noriega coup in October, both military and political preparations went ahead under the direction of Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.

Noriega had been a CIA operative as intelligence chief for the previous ruler of Panama, General Omar Torrijos. He was widely suspected of engineering the death of Torrijos in a mysterious 1981 plane crash, at the behest of the US. Torrijos signed the agreement with US President Carter in 1977 providing for the transfer of the Canal Zone to Panama in the year 2000.

As head of state since 1983, Noriega carried out the interests of the US State Department, particularly in funneling funds to the counterrevolutionary Contra forces seeking to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

As Noriega’s drug corruption and state terror against opponents became a public embarrassment, the US conspired in his overthrow. US military provocation inside Panama became the pretext for the US invasion when on December 14, Noriega called for the arrest of two top US officers, charging them with “constant harassment to the communities using troops and warlike equipment.” A Pentagon spokesman flatly rejected the action, declaring that “all agencies and instrumentalities of the US government are immune from the jurisdiction of Panama.”

Late on the first day of the invasion, the US installed Guillermo Endara as president of Panama, even though Noriega was not finally captured until the next month. The casualties of the assault were vastly underestimated by the Pentagon at some 500 deaths, while independent reports estimate 2,000 to 4,000 deaths and some 15,000 people displaced.

Editor's Comment: All Americans living in Panama should take special precautions to maintain a low profile as we approach the 25th anniversary of Operation Just Cause. While the vast majority of Panamanians will publicly denounce while privately applauding the overthrow of Manual Noriega, as with any controversial cause, there are politicians and operatives who could possibly seek to make some sort of a statement on this date. Plan to stay at home, avoid crowds or demonstrations, and to give a day or two for people to return to their normal lives.

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"The Citizens' Privacy Was Violated" - Varela

CorruptionPresident Juan Carlos Varela yesterday reacted publicly about the scandal generated by the disappearance of some sophisticated spy equipment, purchased during the government of Ricardo Martinelli from an Israeli company for $13.4 million. (more)

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Ave Balboa Closed Tomorrow For Concert

Safety & SecurityThe Mayor of Panama recommended that drivers should use the Centennial Bridge on Monday, December 8th, because the Cinta Costera viaduct and Ave. Balboa will be closed due to a Disney concert, being organized by this entity. (more)

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Huge Crocodile Released in Lake Gatun

Animals & PetsOn Saturday afternoon authorities from the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) moved a huge crocodile that was captured on Friday in the sector of Cuatro Altos in the Province of Colón to Lake Gatun. (more)

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