Martinelli's Three New Appointees To The Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Authority Criticized

Thursday, January 31 2013 @ 10:50 am EST

Contributed by: Don Winner

The appointment of three new members to the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Authority once again puts under the magnifying glass these types of executive appointments made "in the shadow of power" of people who are close to the highest levels of government, who have been anointed to hold certain positions, regardless of whether or not they have the required professional experience.

In this lawyers, associations, and members of the civil society are in agreement, who expressed concern yesterday after the Cabinet appointed Henri Mizrachi, Alberto Vallarino, and Lourdes Castillo to the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Authority.

Henri Mizrachi is the Director of the EPASA Editorial Group. This is the company which publishes the pro-government Panama America newspaper, as well as the La Critica and Dia a Dia tabloids.

Alberto Vallarino is the former Minister of Economy and Finance and member of the Panameņista political party, whose name at one time was being floated as a potential presidential candidate for the Cambio Democratico party in the 2014 elections.

Lourdes Castillo is the manager of the company Naves Supply, which has been granted government contracts to dispose of medical waste in Panama.

One of the first groups that expressed concern was the Chamber of Commerce over the little information that is known about the trajectory of the new directors of the ACP.

In a statement, Irvin A. Halman, President of the Chamber of Commerce, said that the Board of the ACP is the highest level of governance of this important company, locally and internationally, so (the government ) should have taken the opportunity to "make appointments to integrate people with prestige, experience and a proven track record."

The primary point of disagreement with the decision made by the Cabinet is precisely that - the experience of those who have been designated.

Roberto Troncoso, president of the Panamanian Association of Business Executives, believes that the Directors of the ACP should bring with them a certain profile: they should be people who are qualified because - he said - they will not be leading just any entity, but rather one of the institution that provides one of the highest amounts of revenue to the state.

But Mariano Mena, of the Front for the Defense of Democracy, strips the appointments in a more radical perspective, saying "the three new directors belong to the inner circle of President Ricardo Martinelli."

The activists explains "Alberto Vallarino was named because he is from the inner circle of the former president Mireya Moscoso, and in that way he (Martinelli) intends to start some sort of rapprochement with the anti-Varela faction (of the Panameņista political party)."

In the case if Henri Mirzachi, reasons for his designation abound, says Mena, "he is the one behind the government newspaper owned by the president."

Following on with Lourdes Castillo, Mena asks "Who is she? What are her merits? What is her background?"

The opposition leader said that once again the Government is sending a bad message to people, because it seems that the government cannot see beyond, to appoint citizens who are capable of bringing the future of the Panama Canal to a good port.

With these appointments, says the businessman Roberto Eisenmann, "the autonomy of the Panama Canal is compromised," because President Martinelli now has appointed the majority of the members of the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Authority, an entity that historically has stood for independence from the Organs of State.

In fact, Eisenmann is not mistaken. Of the eleven directors, six have been appointed during the present Government: José Sosa, Marco Ameglio, Nicolás Corcione, and the three most recent appointments.

To this list is added Roberto Roy, who was appointed as Minister of Canal Affairs, and in that role he also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the ACP.

To this total add Rafael Barcenas, who was appointed by the National Assembly but with the backing of the ruling Cambio Democratico party.

Another person who was consulted on this issue was the former president Mireya Moscoso, who only referred to the appointment of Vallarino, saying "it's a good appointment. He has the experience and he will bring a lot to the Canal," but she declined to make a comment on the appointments of Mizrachi and Castillo. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: Lourdes Castillo filed a complaint for slander and defamation against the La Estrella newspaper in May 2011 over an article they published about her company. In fact Alberto Vallarino did a great job as the Minister of Economy and Finance, and he "almost" decided to stay with the government of Ricardo Martinelli after the breakup of the alliance between the Panameņistas and the CD in August 2011. So yeah, there's no doubt that Martinelli is trying to create a wedge between Juan Carlos Varela and the rest of the members of the Panameņista party. He might not get all of them, but he will get some of them. He only needs enough of the CD party faithful, most of the Molirena, and a smattering of Panameņista party defectors to beat the PRD in 2014. The appointment of Mizrachi is clearly payback for allowing the Panama America newspaper to become the official voice of the government, as a counter balance to the La Prensa and La Estrella. Anyway, Martinelli now has complete control over the Board of Directors of the ACP with eight out of eleven seats.

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