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Tuesday, September 02 2014 @ 12:40 PM EDT

Labor Minister Cortes Defends Herself Against Attacks

Alma CortÚs - Panama's Minister of Labor and Workforce Development
Alma CortÚs - Panama's Minister of Labor and Workforce Development
The Minister of Labor and Workforce Development, Alma Cortez, responded to questions raised after the statements she made about the President of the Paname˝ista political party, Vice President Juan Carlos Varela, during working hours. "My participation was entirely institutional," said Cortes, who yesterday on the channel 13 Telemetro Report morning news broadcast reacted to a television spot issued under Varela's responsibility that is critical of the administration of Ricardo Martinelli. Cortez said again today Varela "cannot talk about the minimum wage" when the companies he owns fails to make the minimum required payments to their employees, referring to Varela Hermanos, SA. On the same morning news program, Cortez said the Labor Ministry does not only oversee Varela Hermanos. She said her organization has already forced other companies to pay the minimum wage to their workers as well.

Complaint - Earlier, a lawyer representing the Paname˝ista political party, Yodalis Cuello, announced she has drafted a criminal complaint against Cortes, arguing that the information provided during the interview "was not institutional or characteristic of her work as a public figure." In this regard, Cortes said, "I'm not surprised by the Panamanian Party's initiative," and she added the collective will do whatever it takes so that the public does not know about the "irregularities" of one of its members. The minister further said she would be waiting for the complaint to be filed. She said "I will bring with me all of the proof and evidence I have because at no time did I violate the ethics as an officer" of the government," and even less on political campaigning in the media. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Varela and the Paname˝istas don't have a leg to stand on here. By all accounts the company Varela Hermanos SA was, in fact, not properly paying the minimum required wage to their employees. The employees in question are people who work in the sugar cane fields, used to make "Seco". The employees filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labor, their inspectors reviewed the company's books and records, and issued a fine for $102,500 dollars - for having failed to pay the minimum wage. So how does the Paname˝ista party (and the La Prensa newspaper) react? By trying to shift the focus of blame to the Minister of Labor Cortes, and trying to say she was playing politics during working hours.

In my opinion the strategy they are adopting is faulty at a fundamental level. Almost everyone reading this story has already made up their minds on this issue. It seems true that Varela (and the company owned by his family) were in fact taking advantage of their employees and they simply got caught red handed. No one, except those with a tattoo of Arnulfo Arias somewhere on their bodies, is going to side with the Paname˝istas on this one. Trying to spin the blame back around on Cortes is a really (really) stupid and faulty gambit.

This situation seems to be a repeat of many other similar stories. The very large and very rich company owners in Panama have traditionally been able to get away with murder, because they have always had either the money required to pay bribes, or the political power so they didn't have to worry about it, or both. There are a great many large business owners in Panama who are beyond "pissed" at Martinelli because his administration is quite simply enforcing both the Tax Code and the Labor Laws, making them pay what they owe the government in taxes, and making them pay what they owe their employees in wages. Nothing can piss off an arrogant rich and "powerful" businessman more.

Anyway, it really doesn't matter all that much. It's mathematically impossible for the Paname˝istas to do any better than third place in the 2014 elections. Juan Carlos Varela is not going to be the next President of Panama. Their party will continue to lose power and influence over time, and they will win fewer and fewer elected positions until the party eventually disappears. The CD had better spend more time concentrating on their real challenger - the PRD.

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Labor Minister Cortes Defends Herself Against Attacks | 2 comments | Create New Account
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Labor Minister Cortes Defends Herself Against Attacks
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, July 04 2012 @ 11:00 AM EDT

Being Guilty and caught red-handed is cause for our typical "privileged class" to go on the offense. Now we have no single Panamanian newspaper, radio or TV to report the news objectively except Don. They were all guilty and it was proven. I expect there are more criminals in the wood-pile like Adolfo Valderrama et. al. Look for the loudest complainer and you find the prize, I bet. The idea that you pay your taxes, no matter who you are is what will make Panama shine. The idea that you cannot get away as a criminal just because you're a politician hasn't come about yet but I'm rooting for the 5th supreme or whatever it takes. We need a strong justice system for democracy to work. Finally, finally our country might begin to function as it should. Hooray to our courageous and dedicated President. Jim Dandy, this Panama!

Labor Minister Cortes Defends Herself Against Attacks
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, July 04 2012 @ 02:27 PM EDT

My maid and I agree: Martinelli and the CD may not be perfect, but they beat the pants off the competition. If Martinelli can break the strangling, suffocating effects of teachers and public sector unions, he should go down as a "Mount Rushmore" Panamanian president.