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Welcome to Panama Guide
Wednesday, April 23 2014 @ 07:47 PM EDT

Welcome to Panama-Guide.com

Panama Guide is the #1 English Language web site about the Republic of Panama. There are currently 23,466 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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The Coronado Computer Whisperer

Internet & Technology Nestled between two restaurants directly off the Panamerican Highway in Coronado across the street from the Coronado Mall, lies one of Panama’s best-kept retail secrets: Punto G Electronics.

This is a computer store unlike any you've ever seen (or are likely to see) anywhere else in the world. The owner is Vera Bucek, a glamorous and flirty native New Yorker who opened Punto G Electronics exactly six months after she moved to Panama four years ago.

What makes this computer store so unique is the upscale boutique-factor, the personalized customer-service, Vera’s contagious laughter, and her uncanny knowledge of a variety of technology.

After many years in the technology field and a B.S. degree in Information Technology under her belt, Vera moved to Panama in search of a tropical environment and a place where she could add value to a community by sharing her love of technology. Having visited each and every computer store in whatever city she lived or visited, she felt what they all had in common was a lack of warmth and personality.

So, on her first visit to Panama, when she saw there were no computer repair stores in the area and that the construction of the Coronado Mall was nearing completion, on-the-spot she decided to make Coronado her home and open up shop. Her goal was to create a one-of-a-kind retail and repair store that reflects her fun personality where even a non-technical person could feel comfortable, and where the selection of products was unique and interesting. She also felt it was vital to provide Coronado with competent and accountable professional technical support, using honesty and integrity as the building blocks of the store’s culture.

Her dream was realized on 10 December 2010 – the day she opened the doors to Punto G Electronics, S.A. , fondly referred to by locals as “The Computer Ministry.”

Vera easily admits at first, it was very rough going because she was caught off guard by the overwhelming number of Panama’s “obscure” business and employment laws. On top of that, she had no idea of what to charge customers. She recalls the many all-nighters she worked for free because of employee errors and misunderstandings with customers. But what she did know was that she did not wish to emulate any other computer store, and that Coronado needed her.

Immediately when you walk into Punto G, you can’t help but to notice that the decorative style and earth tones make you feel like you’re in someone’s well-appointed home instead of in a computer repair store. While you’re there, you’d be cheating yourself by not enjoying one of the flavorful Jolly Rancher candies always available at the sales counter. Vera personally brings these candies from the States and they are one of Punto G’s signature pleasures you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in Panama. And if you’re in the store for more than a minute, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself tapping your feet and humming to the Motown tunes playing on the store’s stereo system.

Typical Services:

1. Networking (commercial and residential);

2. Computer Repair:

a. Hardware

b. Software

c. Mac

d. PC

e. Linux

f. iPhones and iOS

g. Android tablet and phone customizations;

h. Data Retrieval

3. Computer consulting;

4. Custom Computer Builds;

5. Security Systems.

Unique Services:

1. Cozy entertainment display area with red leather seating;

2. All English new and used DVD’s in manufacturer’s packaging;

3. Apple TV jailbreak expert;

4. Hard-to-find cables;

5. Cool and new one-of-a-kind products;

6. On and offsite technology support;

7. One-on-one computer classes on pretty much any topic;

8. Webstore with real-time product availability;

9. All support staff speaks fluent English;

10. All English computers;

11. Shipping via Courier all over Panama;

After nearly two and a half years in the Coronado Mall, on 22 April 2013, Punto G moved across the street to its current location between California Burger and Asados Del Campo.

As the first computer repair store in Coronado, Punto G has achieved a reputation as a valued asset to Panama’s Gold Coast Beach community. Wherever she goes in the area, Vera is recognized as the Coronado Computer Whisperer and you can easily spot her by the group who invariably gathers around to ask her all sorts of technology questions.

Since nearly all of the store’s products are imported from the United States in very small quantities, Vera rarely needs to explain to her customers that while Punto G cannot compete with the big brand stores in terms of prices, they cannot compete with Punto G in terms of customer-service and attention to detail.

Whenever you’re in the Coronado area, you simply must make a point to visit this gem of a computer store. If you find something you like, you’d best purchase it immediately because their exclusive bleeding-edge products are usually only available in limited quantities, and it’s pretty much a guarantee that you won’t find the same items anywhere else in Panama. You may even want to drop your computer off for a thorough virus cleaning or bring your phone in for an upgrade or custom operating system installation, and experience firsthand how they go the extra mile to please their customers.

You can give them a call at: 345.3877, or visit their website at: www.puntogee.com.

Although Punto G’s business hours are 10a-7p Monday through Saturday, Vera can always be reached at 6911.8760 for any digital emergencies.

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GUPC Confirms The Project To Expand The Panama Canal Will Be Affected By The Strike

Protests & DemonstrationsThe consortium Grupo Unidos Por El Canal (GUPC) issued a press release today saying the workers on the project to expand the Panama Canal are supporting the strike started this morning by the SUNTRACS construction labor union. (more)

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The Road To The Gatun Locks Collapsed - Sinkhole

Canal ExpansionThe roadway of one of the roads used to access the Gatun Locks on the Panama Canal sank yesterday afternoon, near the area where work is being done to expand the Panama Canal, apparently due to damage caused by two large pipes that pass through the area. (more)

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Michelle Lasso - Convicted And Deported From The United States

CorruptionThe Presidential candidate Juan Carlos Varela has tried to minimize the involvement of Michelle Lasso in a case of money laundering in the United States, because she was the key figure in the financial part of the controversial Don James Foundation in Panama. (more)

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Panama Will Have To Fill 100,000 Logistics Jobs In The Next Ten Years

Employment & JobsThe Panamanian economy will create 100,560 new jobs in the logistics sector in the next ten years (2014-2024), of which 65% will be operational and middle level technical positions, according to a study by the Business Logistics Council and the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry. (more)

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Dutch Police Hint at Criminal Activity in Women's Disappearance

Expat TalesTwo Dutch women who disappeared earlier this month in Panama are unlikely to have gotten lost in the mountainous region, Dutch police said on Tuesday, raising the possibility three weeks into the search that the two may have been the victims of a crime.

Kris Kremers, 21, and Lisanne Froon, 22, were hiking near the town of Boquete on April 1 when they were last seen, police said. The area is known to be a popular tourist holiday destination.

Panamanian authorities launched a widespread search for the women, but found no sign of the two would-be volunteers. On April 14, officials decided to downscale the massive operation.

The women's parents have asked for tips and support via social media.

"After 3 weeks there has been no trace of our daughters and we live daily between hope and fear. These are difficult times for us as you can understand," a message posted Tuesday read. "The search for Kris and Lisanne continues unabated and we hope that you will continue sending your tips and suggestions."

Kremers and Froon had traveled on March 15 to Panama, where they first stayed in the town of Bocas del Toro for two weeks before traveling to Boquete, where they intended to volunteer at a school for the remaining four weeks of their trip. Once they got to Boquete, the women were told they would not be able to start their work until the following week -- so they had a week to fill.

Dutch police said an inn keeper saw them on April 1, when the women asked him for directions for their hike. Tired, they later returned to the man and asked for help getting back to town. Police said the man advised them to take a taxi, but he said he didn't see whether the women returned to town or went back to the mountain.

Dutch police spokesman Bernhard Jens said Tuesday on Dutch media that it was unlikely the women would have returned to their hike.

—Becky Bratu (NBC)

Editor's Comment: Based on this report it would seem there's practically no chance they got lost while hiking. It sounds like they completed their hike and were trying to return back to their hotel. I bet they hailed a cab, and then were abducted. Practically every murder I've investigated started off as a missing person case. Hopefully they are still alive somewhere...

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SUNTRACS Construction Labor Union Declares (Politically Motivated) Strike

Protests & DemonstrationsBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - The SUNTRACS labor union declared a nationwide strike, to start this morning at 7:00 am. (more)

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Village Of The Dammed

Infrastructure UpgradesBy Lawrence Reichard - On several occasions Ngäbe-Buglé activists and their indigenous, Latino, labor and supporters have blocked the nearby Pan-American Highway, Panama’s chief economic lifeline. ... But they’ve paid a heavy price for their militancy. At least two protesters have been killed in clashes with police.

Walking along the stone and dirt road that follows the Tabasará River to the construction site of Panama’s controversial Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam is a bit like stepping into a Gabriel García Márquez novel, one titled Chronicle of a Battle Foretold. The road is blocked by huge felled trees and seemingly endless piles of rocks and boulders. You know the battle’s coming, but you don’t know when, or how violent it will be.

The roadblocks were put in place by indigenous Ngäbe-Buglé activists who say that the private Panamanian company that’s building the Barro Blanco dam, Generadora del Istmo S.A. (Genisa), built the road so Panamanian police can cross the rough terrain and evict potentially hundreds of Ngäbe-Buglé protesters. The Ngäbe-Buglé firmly refuse to leave the land—their land—that is slated to be inundated by the dam. The trees, rocks and boulders they’ve used to block the road might not pose much of a challenge for Genisa’s heavy equipment, but the gaping hole that they tore through Genisa’s makeshift bridge over the deep, fast-flowing Tabasará could be a real problem.

High up on a bluff overlooking the Barro Blanco construction site and the scarred Tabasará, hundreds of Ngäbe-Buglé demonstrators have constructed a makeshift protest camp replete with banners and flags and one small, rudimentary, three-wall structure made of palm fronds. Scores of protesters sleep under the stars on tarps and pieces of cardboard. They eat handfuls of Froot Loops, and refried beans are dished out of a five-gallon bucket into cutaway plastic soda bottles.

A few hundred yards away on another rough dirt road, a small contingent of police wearing shirts that read “ANTI-DISTURBIO” (anti-riot) keeps an eye on the camp.

Defying heat in the upper 90s, a young man sitting beside me is covered from head to toe, masking his identity. Only his eyes show. “Where are we supposed to go?” he says. “This is our land. We live here. We have always lived here.” This refrain is repeated over and over by the Ngäbe-Buglé.

Construction of the hydroelectric project began in 2011, and resistance to it has been fierce. On several occasions Ngäbe-Buglé activists and their indigenous, Latino, labor and supporters have blocked the nearby Pan-American Highway, Panama’s chief economic lifeline. In one 2012 action, they grabbed national headlines by shutting down the road for more than eight days. But they’ve paid a heavy price for their militancy. At least two protesters have been killed in clashes with police. And now, with construction of the dam approaching completion, the stakes are even higher.

Genisa has said that only 14 acres of land and five indigenous families will be affected by the dam. According to Ngäbe-Buglé activists, those five families have all refused offers from Genisa of between $1,000 and $4,000 each to abandon the lands they have cultivated, hunted, fished and lived on for what they call “forever.”

But Ricardo Miranda, a Ngäbe activist fighting the dam, says that more than 400 Ngäbe-Buglé will be displaced and another 3,500-plus will lose farmland, hunting and fishing grounds, and access to fresh, clean, potable water. A 2013 report from the United Nations Development Programme concluded that it’s likely that three Ngäbe-Buglé villages will eventually be flooded by the project. Gone too will be four pre-Columbian petroglyphs, which, according to Panamanian archaeologist Jonathan González, are protected national monuments. (Genisa did not respond to a request for comment.)

Genisa is incorporated in Panama, but its board chairman is Luis Kafie, one of the richest men in Honduras. According to Genisa’s website, the Ngäbe-Buglé Comarca’s General Congress delegated a decision on Barro Blanco to the Regional Congress of Kädriri, which approved the project. But Ricardo Miranda insists that the agreement is invalid because the congress is not authorized to negotiate a land deal with a private company, and that in such cases a public referendum is required.

Barro Blanco is being financed by the Dutch FMO Bank, the German DEG Bank and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI). All the banks’ websites tout their environmental and social responsibility, and Miranda says he hopes solidarity groups in Holland and Germany will pressure FMO and DEG to adhere to official European Union social responsibility standards and abandon Barro Blanco.

In the meantime, the Ngäbe-Buglé have taken their fight right to Genisa and the Panamanian government. Their first protest camp was a mile or two upstream from, and out of sight of, the dam’s construction site. But in March they upped the ante and moved the camp downstream to its current location, within eyesight of the construction site. Panama has national elections coming up on May 4, and few think the government will move on protesters before the election. But all bets are off if the protesters move on to the Barro Blanco construction site, which they have said they likely will—although they won’t say when.

Miranda is the general coordinator of the April 10 Movement (M-10), an organization founded by Ngäbe-Buglé activists in April 1999 to defend the Tabasará watershed from exploitative hydroelectric projects, and in an interview in Panama City, Miranda said that M-10 is ready if the government moves against the protesters. According to Miranda, 20 labor unions and indigenous and campesino groups have committed to shutting down major roads and highways in at least 15 spots scattered throughout the country if Barro Blanco construction is not halted soon. Miranda added that at least some roads will be closed if the government attacks the Ngäbe-Buglé protest camp.

Meanwhile, the Panamanian government is ratcheting up the pressure. On March 20, Miranda says, the government issued warrants for him and for his uncle and fellow activist Manolo Miranda. And activists blame the government for a recent wave of cell phone malfunctions affecting their ranks. With Panama’s economy booming, electricity shortages widening, and the Ngäbe-Buglé digging in to defend their land, the real battle over Barro Blanco may be just beginning. (inthesetimes.com)

Editor's Comment: This article makes passing reference to Panama's booming economy and looming energy shortage - in the every last line. In fact - that's the headline. A simple fact of life is that no matter where you build a hydroelectric plant, anywhere in the world, someone is going to be displaced by the waters rising behind the dam. Every time. In this case in Panama it's 14 acres of land that will be flooded, and five families will be displaced. And of course the people who are protesting the dam and trying to stop it will inflate those numbers, and at the same time those who are building the dam will try to minimize the numbers. Reality is probably somewhere in the middle.

This project is another example of "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one." Millions of people in Panama plug things in and turn things on, every day. Panama simply needs more electrical power generation capacity to continue growing. This project will be completed. The protesters will lose their struggle, and will be removed. It's a foregone conclusion, and the only thing that remains to be defined are the details, and how events unfold between here and there.

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The Island Buyer And His Thorny Connections

CorruptionThe City Council of Taboga issued decision number 6, of March 14, 2014, which repealed agreements number 81, 82, and 83 of 2013, through which more than 78 hectares of land were sold to the businessman Ernesto Bósquez Ditrani, who has been linked to land speculators. (more)

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Water Main Breaks - And Floods A House in Bethania

Infrastructure UpgradesA house was flooded this morning in Bethania, after a break in a water main pipe located in the Via Camino Real. (more)

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Cattle Dying Of Thirst In Los Santos

WeatherRanchers in the province of Los Santos have been reporting cattle are dying due to the dry season and the lack of water in this region. (more)

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Part Removed From Metro That Was Causing Trains To Stop Unexpectedly

Infrastructure UpgradesRoberto Roy, Director of the Secretariat of the Panama Metro, reported on his Twitter account last night they moved a piece that was stopping the trains for a few minutes. (more)

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Formal Complaint Filed Against Varela And Crew - Alleging Money Laundering And Diversion Of State Funds

CorruptionA complaint for crimes against the state was filed yesterday in the Public Ministry, following the scandal linking the presidential candidate for the Panameñista political party Juan Carlos Varela to money laundering and the diversion of funds. (more)

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Former Consul Bought Juan Carlos Varela - Who Appointed Him - A Yacht ("Thanks, Buddy...")

CorruptionThe investigation by the Miami based Diario Las Americas newspaper not only left traces of how large sums of money were diverted from the Panamanian consulates in South Korea and Kobe, Japan to bank accounts in Panama in the name of the Don James Foundation. (more)

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Don James Foundation Denies Abnormalities

CorruptionJaime Lasso, the representative of the Don James Foundation, denied any link between the presidential candidate of the Panameñista political party Juan Carlos Varela and the judicial investigation in the United States for money laundering against his daughter, Michelle Lasso. (more)

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New species of orchid discovered in Panama

Environmental IssuesWashington: US biologists have described a stunning new orchid species from a mountainous area in central Panama.

The Orchid family, contains the largest number of plant species in the world - up to 30,000, researchers said.

Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, stumbled upon the never-before-seen orchid while on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama eight years ago.

Unable to identify it, she contacted German Carnevali, a world authority on orchids.

The orchid turned out to be an unnamed species. So Carnevali recently named it after the Silveras: Lophiaris silverarum.

"Lophiaris" is the genus name, comprising about 40 species in the world.

Lophiaris silverarum is known to grow only in central Panama.

It is not known if it grows in other areas of Central America. The plant blooms only in November, the flowers lasting about a month.

It is not sold in the US because it is very rare and it reproduces very slowly.

Silvera said that because the Orchid Family is so large, there are many species that have not been found before. As a result, new orchid species are being named every year and the number is rising.

"The diversity of orchids is best seen in the tropics, where, unfortunately, habitat is being destroyed very fast," she said.

"As a result, we are rapidly losing the diversity of orchid species. Although there are many orchid species unnamed in nature, it is actually quite difficult to determine for sure that an orchid is unnamed. They are difficult to find and difficult to tell apart," said Silvera.

The Orchid Family contains the largest number of plant species in the world. They are the most collected group of plants by hobbyists.

Close to 30,000 known species exist worldwide; many remain undiscovered. Panama alone has about 1,100 known orchid species.

Orchids are unique in that the flower's female and male reproductive parts are fused together. An interesting aspect is that orchids can easily hybridise or cross.

As a result, some 300,000 orchid hybrids are man-made and commercially available to the public.

The finding was published in journal Phytotaxa.

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Supreme Court Rejects Lawsuit Against Barro Blanco Hydro Electric Project in Panama

Infrastructure UpgradesThe Supreme Court rejected a claim against Articles 120 and 130 of Law 6 of Law 6 of February 3, 1997, which allows the compulsory acquisition by the state of several parcels of land found in the area where the Barro Blanco hydroelectric project in the province of Chiriqui is being built. (more)

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Fatal Traffic Accident On Pan American Highway

Traffic AccidentsA 38 year old man was killed and a 33 year old woman was injured in an serious traffic accident that occurred on the Pan American highway, on the bridge over the Farallón river. The driver of the vehicle lost control, crashed into the bridge, and then overturned. (more)

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More Than 30,000 People In La Chorrera Still Without Water

Infrastructure UpgradesMore than 30,000 people living in the various communities of La Chorrera and Arraiján, in the Western part of the province of Panama, are still without drinking water service after the rupture of a 60" water main last Thursday, 17 April 2014. (more)

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Panama Court Authorizes Sale of Sugar Seized From North Korean Weapons Smuggling Vessel

Panama NewsThe Third Criminal Court of Colon authorized the sale of 200 million pounds of sugar seized the July 10, 2013 from the North Korean ship Chong Chon Gang, found to be smuggling a cargo of arms and ammunition from Cuba to North Korea. (more)

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4.6 Earthquake Hit Panama / Costa Rica Border Region This Morning

EarthquakesBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - An earthquake measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale struck the Panama / Costa Rica border region this morning. (more)

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SENAN Busts Three Drug Traffickers With 525 Kilos of Cocaine

Drug TraffickingOperational units of the SENAN captured three men, two Colombians and one Panamanian. (more)

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Traffic Accident At The National Police Headquarters in Ancon

Traffic AccidentsThis morning there was a traffic accident just outside of the headquarters of the National Police, located in Ancon. (more)

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Repair Work Continues On 60" Water Main in Western Panama Province

Infrastructure UpgradesWork crews from the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN) continue with the repair of a line of 60" water main which broke on Thursday April 17 in La Chorrera. (more)

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Ayu Prado Asks The US For Help To Implement The "Adversarial" System

Law & LawyersThe Board of Directors of the Supreme Court of Panama asked for help from the State Department of the United States, to continue implementing the new "adversarial" system in the judiciary. (more)

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Transactions By Varela Appointed Diplomats Exceed Their Salaries

CorruptionAnother angle investigators are exploring are the transfers made by Michelle Lasso using funds from illegal gambling activities, from accounts in Caribbean tax havens. (more)

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Major 7.2 Earthquake Strikes Southern Mexico

EarthquakesBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - This is just a heads-up. An earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale struck 36km NNW of Tecpan de Galeana, Mexico this morning. The event occurred at 14:27 UTC or 9:27 am local Panama time. The epicenter was located at 17.552°N 100.816°W at a depth of 24.0km (14.9mi). Nearby Cities: 36km (22mi) NNW of Tecpan de Galeana, Mexico, 48km (30mi) E of Petatlan, Mexico, 56km (35mi) NW of Atoyac de Alvarez, Mexico, 78km (48mi) E of Zihuatanejo, Mexico, 273km (170mi) SW of Mexico City, Mexico.

Copyright 2014 Panama-Guide.com.

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American Fugitive Sage Million Arrested In Panama - Wanted In US For Terrorism

Expat TalesAn American citizen identified as Sage Million, 61, was arrested while trying to illegally enter Panama from Costa Rica, and upon further investigation it was discovered he is wanted in the United States for "terrorism" and other crimes, reported an official source. (more)

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Varela Ignored Article 5 of the "Ethics Pact" He Signed

PoliticsBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - At the start of the electoral cycle, now more than a year ago, I attended an event at the Hotel El Panama where Juan Carlos Varela and other Panamanian politicians signed an "Ethics Pact" in front of the press, to great (artificially orchestrated) fanfare. (more)

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Money Diverted From Consulates Financed Varela's Campaign

CorruptionThe Don James Foundation, possibly related to the money laundering case of money derived from a network of illegal online gambling led by Phillip Gurian in the U.S., managed almost 14 million dollars in three bank accounts, two of then in the Banco Panama. (more)

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