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Monday, March 25 2019 @ 07:55 PM UTC

US Official Says Panama's Been Tainted by Pedro Miguel Gonzalez

Corruption By Carlos Barletta for La Prensa - Timothy Lattimer, the economic adviser of the US embassy in Panama said yesterday that American investors are concerned about the judicial system and respect for laws in Panama, especially after the election of Pedro Miguel Gonzalez as the President of the National Assembly. He added the United States will not request the resignation of González explicitly, and even if Gonzalez resigned his post the image of Panama in the eyes of international investors has already been "tainted."

Editor's Comment: Lattimer is right on the money (as usual.) Unfortunately President Torrijos and the Executive branch has limited control over the problem. Martin Torrijos can not, for example, simply dismiss the Justices of the Supreme Court and squeeze the corruption out of the judicial system. He also can not order Pedro Miguel Gonzalez to resign. But he can, for example, take positive steps to gain control over rampant corruption in places like (oh, I dunno...) Bocas del Toro !!! where foreign investors with deep pockets (from the United States) have come in and apparently bought out the entire local government, lock, stock, and barrel, and have done so by slinging around hefty doses of both cold, hard cash and political influence.

What Can You Do? Good question. Last time I checked the executive branch, and specifically Panama's President Martin Torrijos, still has control over the law enforcement (National Police) and the investigative elements (PTJ) of the government through the Ministry of Government and Justice. He still controls "Catastro" through the Ministry of Economy and Finance. They can investigate and assist the Public Ministry to form charges against blatantly corrupt local officials who are, as we speak, colluding with "black hat" foreign investors to flat-out steal land from poor, ignorant, and illiterate Indians on those islands, people who are scared by the word "lawyer."

Both Illegal and Immoral: I met a poor Indian woman yesterday on Cayo de Agua in Bocas del Toro who is in peril of being evicted from her land. Her grandmother wanted to sell 35 hectares of land for $100,000. She signed the document with a thumb print (because she's illiterate) and apparently the documents said she was selling all of her land, a total of 90 hectares, which was never her intent. She was never given a copy of the documents. Later (I'm told) someone produced a document "signed" by this woman (with a signature) which would be a minor miracle because she has never signed any document in her entire life. This is the kind of stuff that's going on up there, all the time.

Get Off Your Ass: I politely suggest to the leadership of the Executive Branch that they can start by doing everything they can to lead Panama out of this sink hold. They can lead from the front and use indirect political pressure behind the scenes to nudge the judicial and legislative branches in the "right" direction with regards to corruption. Right now there is a huge, gaping lack of leadership on a serious issue of corruption from the executive who was elected on a "zero corruption" platform. Existing and persistent corruption now, three years later, is becoming a serious political liability. And, what better way to signal to the international community of investors than by shutting down this kind of a "black hat" investment operation in Bocas del Toro? It can't be that hard to figure out. I've only been there three times and I think I've got a pretty good handle on what's going on. What matters is the growing perception that there is no judicial security in the Republic of Panama. Investors who are going to put millions of dollars in play have other options that are more secure. So please, I ask the Executive and the Ministers to do something, and to do something soon. The patient is bleeding and there is still time to put some direct pressure on the wound...

Oh, Almost Forgot: Don't sweat the Pedro Miguel Gonzalez thing so much. He won't quit and the opposition is going to get him fired in the next election by going into the 9-3 unified. After that happens the Free Trade Agreement will pass in about thirty seconds and we can all go about our business, and thanks for playing.

EU dice que el daño ya está hecho

Carlos Barletta cbarletta@prensa.com

Timothy Lattimer, asesor económico de la Embajada de Estados Unidos, dijo ayer que los inversionistas estadounidenses están preocupados por el sistema judicial y las leyes en Panamá, luego de la elección de Pedro Miguel González.

Agregó que no pedirán la renuncia de González explícitamente, y que aunque este renunciara a la presidencia de la Asamblea , la imagen de Panamá ante los inversionistas ha sido "teñida".

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