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Friday, March 22 2019 @ 08:36 PM UTC

Coastal Land Sold For Pennies

Corruption The National Assembly Deputy from the ruling Cambio Democratico political party Yanibel Ábrego convinced the government of Panama to sell her a lot of land with white sand beaches, measuring more than 130,000 square meters, at a price of just 4 cents per square meter. The coastal farm is located in Majagual in Capira, in the province of Panama.

There was an impediment prohibiting the sale of the land, because it was declared to be in the "public interest" - but the deputy from the Democratic Change acquired the parcel of land one month before she enrolled in the CD political party. The purchase of the land, which had been rejected in August 2005 by the then director of Cadastre (Tax Office) Benjamin Colamarco, was approved on 22 October 2009.

The procedure took only two months. A resolution issued by the then Deputy Minister of Finance Dulcidio De la Guardia on 23 December 2009 approved Abrego's purchase of more than 13 hectares of land. Abrego, who said that if she won (as indeed she did in the elections of May 2009) it would resolve a "political problem" with the land that had been created, and she accused Colamarco and the former Vice Minister of Finance Rolando Mirones of trying to take the land from her.

Colamarco, who denied the allegations, regretted that this strategic parcel of land is no longer owned by the Nation, because it was sold using "political" criteria.

Last August Abrego also purchased two other parcels of land adjacent to her lot, through the National Authority of Land Management (ANATI). To sustain the possession of the land as required by Law 80 of 2009, which regulates the titling of coastal and island lands, the Deputy from the CD party provided the statement of three witnesses and certifications from the local Justice of the Peace of Cermeńo. In the certification issued by the Justice of the Peace Eira Hernández dated 15 July 2010, failed to mention the number of years of residence in the area by Abrego, although it indicates that the applicant is bordered to the North and East by lands she herself owns, and to the South by the Pacific Ocean.

There are no permits for the beach house, a private road, or the installation of more than 20 utility poles on the coastal land, according to the Mayor of Capira, Iván Saurí. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Issues of land ownership frequently mix with politics in Panama. I understand that Yanibel Ábrego is from this area, and she's owned this land for a long time. Going back to 2005 she's been fighting with PRD politicians who kept her from getting a title, and she said they were trying to take it away from her. She wins, the CD is in charge. She gets her title, and then one month later she changes horses and joins the CD political party, helping Ricardo Martinelli solidify his control over the National Assembly. You can almost imagine the discussion. "Get me title on that land, and I'll switch" or something along those lines. Once the deed (literally) was done, presto change-o. In this case I'm just not all that convinced there was any real evil doings here. It's not like someone is complaining that she stole it from them - which is what the ANATI normally does.

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