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Sunday, April 20 2014 @ 04:56 PM EDT

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Panama football international Renteria passes away

Sports SectionCONCACAF.com PANAMA CITY, Panama (March 7, 2014) – Tauro FC and Panama standout Luis Renteria passed away early Thursday from respiratory failure after being hospitalized for more than six months battling systemic Lupus. He was 25.

Renteria scored once during Panama’s run to a third-place finish at the 2011 Copa Centroamericana, helping the Canaleros qualify for the Gold Cup. In the CONCACAF competition later that same year, he appeared in four of five games as Panama advanced to the semifinals.

The forward also represented Panama on four occasions in World Cup qualifiers.

In 2010, Renteria netted two goals in Tauro’s 2-1 CONCACAF Champions League win at Marathon.

His career included spells with Real Cartagena in Colombia and Bolivia’s Bolivar.

CONCACAF extends its condolences to Renteria’s family and friends, as well as the Panamanian football community.

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Venezuela Suspends Debt Repayment to Panama

Panama NewsVenezuela’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Elías Jaua today asserted that the repayment of the country’s pending debt with Panama is suspended, following the rupture of diplomatic relations.

“The revision of the debt is suspended, until Panama has a serious government that respects the relations that we must have based on mutual respect,” the Venezuelan minister stated.

Maduro announced his decision to break bilateral relations yesterday, due to Panama’s recent request to discuss Venezuela’s crisis at the Organization of American States (OAS).

This rupture includes the freezing of bilateral commercial relations and leaves suspended the discussion of the US$1.2 billion debt that Venezuelan businesses have with Panama’s Colon Free Zone.

According to Chancellor Jaua, during the handling of the debt, they found “all kinds of fraudulent actions, from both Panamanian businesses and Venezuelan” that created a space for “corruption” in the commercial relation between both countries.

Also, Jaua defended Maduro’s decision and explained that Venezuela’s government has the duty to react against Panama’s attempts to diffuse the idea that Venezuela “has lost its democratic institutions.”

Meanwhile, Costa Rica’s diplomatic mission in Caracas will assist Panama’s consular affairs in the country.

Editor's Comment: What a bunch of crap. It's really all about the money, of course. Plus the fact that the government of Venezuela is completely corrupt, communist, and slowly sinking into the shit-hole where countries like Cuba, North Korea, Bolivia, and Nicaragua reside. Do you think any vessels carrying Venezuela oil will be passing through the Panama Canal any time soon? In 2011, 19% of Venezuelan oil exports went to either China or other Asian countries (the bulk goes to the United States and the Caribbean). The Panama Canal Authority can track ships, and they know who went where, empty or full, etc. Would Panama (Martinelli) be willing to violate the principal of neutrality of the Panama Canal by refusing to allow ships carrying Venezuelan oil to Asia pass through? Maybe. Whatever - Maduro made his decision, so now he will have to live with the consequences, whatever those consequences turn out to be. All of the Venezuelans with money have already moved to Panama, anyway.

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Panama says rejects Venezuelan President Maduro's "offenses"

Panama News(Reuters) - The government of Panama said on Wednesday that it rejected Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's "unacceptable offenses" against it after the South American oil giant broke off diplomatic and commercial ties with the Central American nation. Earlier, Maduro had used the anniversary of former President Hugo Chavez's death to sever ties with Panama, whose conservative government he accused of joining the United States in "open conspiracy" against him.

Editor's Comment: Interesting. Doesn't the government of Venezuela owe several airlines like more than a billion dollars? This is what's happening - the leftist revolution Hugo Chavez started will eventually die with him. It never had anything to do with legitimately improving the lives of the Venezuelan people anyway, and it was all about Chavez and his massive ego. In reality it was nothing more than a run-of-the-mill "cult of personality" which is now slowly dying, because it is no longer feeding off of the Chavez personality and charisma. Maduro doesn't possess those same attributes that Chavez had, and the opposition now smells blood in the water. After weeks of violent protests in Venezuela Panama made calls in the OAS for Venezuela to strengthen its democracy, dialog, and human rights, and that's why Venezuela decided to break diplomatic relations. Eventually all of these oppressive puppet regimes will fall - Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea. It's only a matter of time. Martinelli should have simply tweeted "pound sand..."

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The Government of Venezuelan Breaking Ties With Panama

Panama NewsThe government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced that it was breaking diplomatic and commercial ties with Panama, citing the Central American country's complicity in a "conspiracy."

In strongly worded comments during a commemoration event on the anniversary of the death of the country’s late president, Hugo Chavez.

"We're not going to let anyone get away with interfering with our fatherland, you despicable lackey, president of Panama,” said Maduro.

The Venezuelan leader affirmed that actions to break relations with Panama were in keeping with the day’s homage to Chavez.

“This is the best way to honor commander Chavez, by defending our sovereignty.”

Maduro directly addressed Panama’s petition to the Organization of American States (OAS) to investigate the ongoing situation in Venezuela.

“Let the OAS stay where it is,” he added. “We are a pacifist country, but we are also brave in defending our rights.”

The remarks took place during a ceremony with various foreign dignitaries in attendance, including the presidents of Cuba, Bolivia, and Nicaragua.

Supporters of the Bolivarian revolution are busy marking the first anniversary of their iconic socialist leader, Hugo Chavez. This comes amid continuing nation-wide protests mounted by the opposition against Maduro's administration.

Tens of thousands of people were expected to flood the country’s streets to attend lavish events hosted by the country’s new leader and successor to Chavez and his ideas – Nicolas Maduro. A military parade honoring ‘El Comandante’ is among the festivities.

Maduro, Chavez’s chosen successor, wants to show that despite the feeling created by the current anti-government protests now gripping the country, plenty of people still exist who value Chavez’s socialist legacy of economic reform and equality for all.

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Lavitola Facing Trial For Panama Case

Panama NewsThe international corruption trial of Finmeccanica in Panama on the alleged diversion of up to $18 million in bribes, among whose recipients included President Ricardo Martinelli and other figures of his government who have not been identified, started Tuesday March 4, in courtroom number 10 of the Court of Rome at 11:00 AM in Italy.

The prosecutor Paolo Ielo, the historic Magistrate of the Clean Hands case, has filed criminal charges against Paolo Pozzessere, the former business director of Finmeccanica, who has already served a prison term for this case, against Valter Lavítola, the flawed hinge between Italy and Panama, and against Karen De Gracia, president of Agafea Corp, a company created by the latter two to divert the bribes from the Italian companies to Bulgaria.

This is a preliminary hearing being held behind closed doors and without journalists, in which Judge Maria Bonaventura, who has a reputation for solvency in cases of political corruption, will decide whether the conclusions of the prosecutor Ielo are robust, or if, on the contrary, the investigations should be extended.

The Italian judiciary, which has spent more than 30 months investigating these contracts in which there are indications of corruption, signed between the Government of Panama and the three Finmeccanica companies: Selex, AgustaWestland and Telespazio in 2010, charged responsibilities directly to the Panamanian President.

According to the report of the conclusions of the investigation - to which La Prensa has had access - "Agafea is a company traceable to President Ricardo Martinelli, managed by Valter Lavítola, and created to be a vehicle for the trafficking of bribes."

The prosecution sees a clear "economic utility directed toward Martinelli in the agreements with Finmeccanica." One of the obvious objectives in buying helicopters, radar sets, and digital mapping services from the Italian companies was to get black money into the hands of President Martinelli or close to him through the company Agafea Corp, according to Italian prosecutors.

However, Valter Lavítola exempted Ricardo Martinelli from blame in an interview with the journalist Joan Solés, as stated in court papers. Therefore, the authorship of all of the crimes can be attributed to him, and he can try to reach a deal with the judges. Although his resume is stained with two convictions, he can obtain a reduction of one third of the sentence in that case.

The semi-public defense giant Finmeccanica, is vicariously liable in this process for their involvement in serious events. That is to say, they could be sentenced to repair the damage caused by the defendants, assuming the allowances will be given in the last sentence, and even full payment of the high legal costs of up to one million dollars.

ITALIAN JURISDICTION

In Italy international corruption offenses is governed by the Convention of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) signed in 1997 in Paris, which only criminalises active corruption called economic operations. Therefore, the party receiving the bribes - or in legal language - the passive corruption, ie which have incurred some Panamanian officials, including Martinelli, can not be judged by the Italian judiciary.

However, it is necessary to show that, in addition to the corrupters, the corrupted part exists, something explained in detail in the court documents.

However, the Heads of State or Government are not punishable under international law. However, when he loses his political immunity, the President may be prosecuted if, as some sources say, he has an Italian passport. In this case he would be judged as and "active corruptor" and Italy may issue an international arrest warrant if it were established that he helped Lavitola design the crime, according to legal inquiries from this newspaper.

In the case of Karen De Gracia, who has been charged in the Court of Rome in the Finmeccanica scandal, it is a case of active corruption as an officer of Agafea Corp, and therefore, she is punishable because she does not occupy a public office.

According to the Italian Penal Code, the prosecution could ask for from three months to six years in prison for the people charged for having "deliberately offered or promised any undue pecuniary or other advantage to a foreign public official in order to get or retain business or other improper advantage in the conduct of international business."

PANAMA , HOME STAGE OF CORRUPTION

As it is written in the secret summary, Panama is the main stage of the offenses because President Martinelli signed "the intergovernmental agreement, through the mediation of Lavítola, which was the political-normative premise of the contracts signed with the Italian companies" and where "the company Agafea was institutued" which should serve to divert the bribes.

It should be recalled that the investigation into international corruption in Panama is broken off into two separate parts, corresponding to Finmeccanica , whose trial begins today, and the part involving Svemark being investigated in Naples. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Notice that La Prensa failed to mention "their boy" - Panameñista Presidential Candidate and current Vice President Juan Carlos Varela - who Martinelli fired for having orchestrated this entire mess. This is why the alliance between the Panameñistas and the CD broke apart in August 2011.

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Varela and Solis speak of a 'natural alliance'

PoliticsGerardo Solis, the Vice Presidential candidate for the PRD's Juan Carlos Navarro, and Juan Carlos Varela, the Presidential candidate for the Panameñista party, hinted at a "natural alliance" to defeat the ruling party in the elections.

"The people will vote for the person who has the option in the opposition. A natural alliance will occur from the Panamanian "juega vivo", which ultimately is popular wisdom," Solis said.

And Varela said "An alliance will happen ... without pressure. The people do not want this to continue."

Editor's Comment: Boy, are both of these guys wrong. First of all, it's important to note Varela is a Presidential candidate - so why is he having this sort of public conversation with Solis, who is a Vice Presidential candidate. Shouldn't Juan Carlos Navarro be making this sort of a statement? (Rhetorical question) Of course he should. But by not being involved in this conversation, Navarro can say "I never said that." What this really means is that Varela has figured out he has no chance of winning, so he's trying to suck up to the PRD, which is hilarious all by itself. The deadline for forming any sort of formal political alliance passed on 31 December 2013 - without an opposition alliance between the PRD and the Panameñistas. Arias, Navarro, and Varela will all appear on the ballot as their own separate candidates. Navarro and Varela are NOT in any sort of an opposition alliance - naturally occurring or otherwise. I think both Solis and Varela know they need each other, and without an alliance they are both dead in the water. That makes them desperate. And that's why we're reading this article. Late game silliness.

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Sexual Slavery Ring Dismantled in Colombian City

Crime & Punishment(Prensa Latina) Colombian and Panamanian authorities dismantled in the central city of Pereira a sexual slavery ring, operating between those countries and Bahamas.

According to the note broadcast by television, among the detainees are three women in charge of contacting, and recruiting young women with economic problems, under false employments and good salaries.

Victims were sent to Panama and in that country the criminals trap them in discos and force them to work as sexual workers.

During the operation members of the Direction of Criminal Investigation and Interpol and officials of the Panamanian Consulate in Colombia rescued two women victims of physical abuse.

According to recent data by the International Organization for Migrations, in Colombia more than 70,000 people are victims of sexual slavery.

Editor's Comment: Ah. So that's why a Panamanian official recently made an announcement they were going to be cracking down on sex tourism...

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American Tour Guide Operator Shot in Bocas del Toro

Expat TalesBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - American citizen Adam Ledford, one of the owners of the Cacique Adventure Tour Company, was shot three times while walking up the public boat ramp in Bocas del Toro, at 3:30 am during the early morning hours of Thursday, 27 February 2014.

Adam is now in the Santo Tomas hospital, and he desperately needs help to pay for surgery to remove a bullet from his hip.

Adam was an innocent bystander in an attempted murder of a local drug dealer - quite literally in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He had just finished working at a bar on Isla Carenero and was returning home. He took a water taxi from Isla Carenero to Isla Colon, and was walking up the public ramp, located right next to the headquarters of the National Police. He was looking down at his cell phone as he was walking.

Suddenly he heard a noise. He looked up to see a "fat man" running at him with a look of abject terror in his eyes. This was the local drug dealer who had just recently - days before - stabbed another drug dealer in a bar. The "fat man" bounced off of Adam and went running. Adam could see a silhouette of another man who had a pistol in his hand, when he opened fire. All of the bullets that were being aimed at "fat man" hit Adam (except for one, which apparently went into the ocean). The target of the shooting was unharmed. Everyone scattered, as Adam lie bleeding.

That started a chain of events you won't believe, unless you've lived in Panama for a long time.

Adam was first taken to the health clinic on Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro. He laid there for four hours until the x-ray technician came in to work. Once they took an x-ray, they determined he needed to be transferred to the hospital in Changuinola.

Once in Changuinola, the nurses dropped him into a wheelchair, and then basically ignored him for 36 hours. Realizing nothing would be done for him there, he eventually discharged himself, returned via water taxi to Isla Colon, and then managed to get himself on a flight to Panama City. There are a lot more details here, but suffice it to say he did all of this after having been shot three times, with a bullet lodged in his hip and pressing against the nerve, making his lower leg useless.

Now that he's in the Santo Tomas hospital, the doctors there are saying they will be more than happy to operate on him, however he will need about $4,000 to pay for the medical supplies needed for the operation, and things like the metal plate that needs to be screwed into his shattered hip socket.

I spoke to Adam, and he is currently talking to a friend who has a PayPal account, who will be receiving donations on his behalf.

Editor's Comment: The earlier article about the shooting in Changuinola - that was a different guy, and this was a different shooting. Adam was actually at the hospital in Changuinola when the guy who died from that shooting was taken to the hospital. So see? I hate making assumptions. Anyway, I'll be starting a fundraising effort to help Adam pay for his surgery, once the details are in place.

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Five Veteran Police Officers Arrested For Drug Trafficking

Drug TraffickingFive veteran police officers have been arrested for trafficking drugs.

A Major with 27 years of service, a Lieutenant with 15 years of service, two Sergeants with 13 years each, and an agent were the five police officers of the National Police who were arrested in the process of making a drug transfer.

The Director General of the National Police, Julio Moltó, said the arrests came as a result of an internal investigation led by the Directorate of Police Intelligence (DIP) and the Office of Professional Responsibility (DRP), allowing them to dismantle the group of corrupt policemen, who were engaged in drug trafficking with civilians.

He also reported that after the arrest of the five police officers, all have have been turned over to the Superior Board for dismissal, and immediately they were handed over to prosecutors who will start their investigation of the facts, so they can face the full weight of the law if they are found to be guilty.

The former police officers remain in custody. (Dia a Dia)

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One Man Killed, Another Shot in Bocas (Both Americans?)

Crime & PunishmentA 27 year old man died Sunday morning in Changuinola in the province of Bocas del Toro, when he was shot twice in the chest.

The victim was with a friend who was also wounded, in the forehead.

This person was transferred to the Rafael Hernández regional hospital in David, where the doctors who are treating him reported he is in stable condition.

The National Police in Bocas del Toro conducted an operation resulting in the capture of a suspect. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: I was just notified the American citizen Adam Ledford, one of the owners of the Cacique Adventure Tour Company, is now laying in a bed in the Santo Tomas hospital. He was transferred there from Changuinola, after he was shot three times with a 9mm pistol. It should be made clear I am making the assumption this article in La Critica is actually reporting on the same incident, and Adam Ledford was the person identified in the article as the person who was injured. While this article in La Critica does not identify the murder victim as being an American, that also might be the case - I don't know who Adam Ledford was with when he was shot. Apparently the National Police have captured the perpetrator of this crime. (See Follow on report.)

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165 Collisions So Far During Carnival

Traffic AccidentsIn the beginning of the first day of Carnival there have been 165 collisions, five rollovers, and four people have been run over in various parts of the country, according to reports from the Emergency Operations Center (COE).

As of 4:00 pm yesterday there had been no reported fatalities in the areas covered by the COE, nor in reports from the Traffic Operations Center of the National Police.

It was reported that in 20 cases injured accident victims were treated by agents of the National Police (PN) and the Unified Ambulance Emergency Sume (911).

As of 6:00 pm yesterday about 56,000 vehicles had traveled to the interior from Panama City to different areas to enjoy the festivities.

Hundreds of people had to endure great traffic congestion that began at the Bridge of the Americas to Loma Cová in Arraiján, causing discomfort of the people traveling to Las Tablas, Chitre, Santiago, and other areas of the country.

As a measure to counteract the traffic jam, the direction of traffic flow on the PanAmerican Highway was reversed from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, starting at the former toll station in La Chorrera to the entrance of La Valdesa .

In the carnival celebrations, 117 cars were removed with tow trucks for various reasons, such as driving while intoxicated, not having insurance, or driving without a license.

Some 328 official cars were inspected, and 27 failed to comply with the provisions of Executive Order No. 124 of 27 November 1996 , which regulates the proper use, management , monitoring and recording of these assets, as reported by the direction of Supervisors General of the Comptroller General of the Republic.

According to the Fire Department of Panama (CBP) there were 38 reports of grass fires along the Pan American Highway. (Siglo)

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Carnival in Panama City Being Monitored By Surveillance Cameras

Safety & SecurityPolice and security officers, working from their command center located at the Hotel Miramar, are monitoring the development of Carnival MetroCity using eight security cameras.

Erli Miranda, a Subcommissioner of the National Police, said there have been no incidents during Carnival, in the coastal strip.

He said they are using the security cameras to monitor the activities 24 hours a day, and that the areas of the "culecos" (spraying water) are covered.

The National Police, the National System of Civil Protection, the Institutional Protection Service, and Fire Department all have officers working in the command center. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: Keeping people safe during Carnival. Like I said, it's always a slow news day when carnival is going on...

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ACP appreciates the support received during work stoppages

Canal ExpansionThe Panama Canal Authority (ACP ) acknowledged the support received from multiple sectors, from both organizations and Panamanians in general, during the last two months while an agreement was sought to standardize the construction of the third set of locks.

"The support and confidence in all of us who are part of the ACP was a tremendous motivator, and those voices served to reaffirm our intention of reaching an agreement that would protect the interests of Panama and the Canal," said ACP manager Jorge Luis Quijano.

Multiple civic groups, labor unions, and teachers unions expressed their support for the managers of the ACP through public statements in the middle of the negotiations to reach an agreement with the contractor for the construction of the Third Set of Locks.

"Now that we have gotten past this stage, all of us at the ACP reiterate our commitment to continue managing, operating and expanding the Panama Canal to efficiently service the world, and to benefit Panama," Quijano said. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Practically everyone in Panama stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Quijano and the ACP during this crisis. It was clear that the GUPC was trying to take advantage of the situation, and the normally contentious Panamanians came together as Panamanians, to support the ACP against the actions of the GUPC to basically extort money through blackmail. The GUPC - comprised mostly of foreign companies - had no chance of winning the public argument in Panama.

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More Than 55,000 Vehicles Have Left Panama City For Carnival

Traffic AccidentsAs of 8:00 am on Carnival Saturday, about 55,000 vehicles traveled into the interior of the country, because of the festivities of Carnival.

Early on, the vehicular traffic was congested throughout the track, especially the area of La Espiga in La Chorrera.

Starting at 10:00 am traffic control officers started a lane inversion to allow traffic to flow from Panama City towards the interior more freely, as had been announced by the Land Transportation and Transit Authority (ATTT), until 5:00 pm. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Panama basically shuts down for Carnival, so there's really not much for news. Traffic accidents, how many cars have left the city, stuff like that. There are always reports about who died in accidents, drownings, and other similar problems.

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Mexican Gunned Down on Via Argentina, Bella Vista, In Broad Daylight

Crime & PunishmentThe Mexican citizen Uriel Eduardo Salas Frias, 58, was shot by a gunman in broad daylight, on Via Argentina, Bella Vista, while driving a rented gray Hyundai Accent sedan.

The murder occurred yesterday, at 2:40 pm on Saturday Carnival.

Early reports indicate the driver of the Accent was forced to stop by a second car gray sedan that was going in front of him.

Then a light skinned man, who was driving the other gray sedan got out, pulled out a gun, and squeezed the trigger eleven times.

The bullets penetrated the windshield to impact the unfortunate victim in the head and chest, he could do nothing to respond to the surprise attack.

The driver died at the scene.

Meanwhile, the engine of the car, with plate AB1781, remained on until the time of the removal of the body.

11 bullet casings were recovered. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: Almost guaranteed to be related to drug trafficking. The shooter was probably on an airplane leaving the country before the victim was in a body bag. This has all of the hallmarks of a professional hit. These guys have no fear of doing their job in broad daylight, in the middle of the city, in front of dozens of witnesses, on a busy city street. For those of us who are members of the English speaking community of expatriates, these types of crimes almost never reach us. As long as you don't start trafficking cocaine, you won't have a problem.

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Martinelli and Popi Varela Exchange Fire Via Tweets

PoliticsThere is no truce. President Ricardo Martinelli and Deputy Jose Luis "Popi" Varela have written another episode of their disputes.

Martinelli tweeted : "On July 1, 2014 the presidential terms of both the President and Vice President will end. I think both of us will not return in 2014."

That message seemed simple, but it was interpreted within the family of the Vice President Juan Carlos Varela, who is seeking to win the next election and to govern the country.

His brother, the National Assembly Deputy Jose Luis "Popi" Varela, responded via Twitter by saying "you will be going home, and the Vice President will be going to the Palace of the Herons. And he will certainly be improving the image which you have left so deteriorated."

The Democratic Change political party threw more gasoline on the fire, by saying "the Vice President will return to the Pub Herrerano."

Varela responded by saying "I hurt you so much."

And to seal the bickering , Martinelli, in a direct message to the opposition, said he is happy, so cheerful, and they are the ones who have not realized it. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: The Varela branch of the Panameñista party will definitely be winning the prize for being those who will be the most screwed after the elections in May. Juan Carlos Varela is not going to win. The Panameñista party in general is in serious decline. Martinelli is just sitting there smiling, because he knows the Varela brothers are done - toast. Juan Carlos Varela has third place all locked up. Remember that once upon a time, in the first year of the Martinelli administration, Popi Varela was the President of the National Assembly. Now, he can't even get a seat in McDonald's... Yup - those guys are skeee-ruuud.

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Public Ministry to launch campaign against sex tourism

Travel & TourismStarting next week the Public Ministry will launch a campaign to prevent sex tourism and child pornography, said Eiselys Vásquez, of the National Commission for the Prevention of Crimes of Sexual Exploitation.

He explained the initiative seeks to alert visitors that sexual intercourse with minors in Panama is a crime - subject to 15 years in prison for violators. The same goes for the distribution of child pornography. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Sexual tourism is one thing, child pornography is another. In Panama it's common for foreign women to come in from Colombia or the Dominican Republic, to prostitute themselves - mostly to other foreigners, especially gringos. The Panamanian government has traditionally looked the other way, because they like the tourism traffic. And generally speaking, they really don't care all that much because most of the prostitutes are not Panamanian women, although there are a fair number of them as well. For the most part, the only time they "crack down" on the women is when they want to try to squeeze them for bribes.

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Panama Canal says deal with consortium to be signed next week

Canal ExpansionBY LOMI KRIEL (Reuters) - The Panama Canal Authority said on Friday it expects to sign a financing deal next week to finish work on expanding the waterway and end a dispute over cost overruns that has held up the multibillion-dollar project.

Following bitter wrangling with the Spanish-led building consortium since the start of the year, the authority announced a preliminary deal Thursday night. Canal Administrator Jorge Quijano said he expected the agreement to be signed on Thursday.

The deal with the construction group led by Spanish builder Sacyr and Italy's Salini Impregilo foresees work finishing by December 2015 and would require the canal and the consortium to immediately each inject $100 million.

Both sides have agreed to continue disputing the $1.6 billion in extra costs through international arbitration. In the meantime, the deal gives the consortium immediate cash to resume work.

The expanded waterway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans was originally due to open this year, but disputes over the funding and delays have pushed that deadline back.

Mistrust over the process still lingers, and canal chief Quijano was far from jubilant as he discussed the accord with reporters in a conference call from Panama City.

"I'm always very cautious because the relationship has not been very good with this contractor, I must admit," he said.

"We will very closely supervise whatever is happening in the field. All of the monies ... will go directly into the project. It cannot be siphoned out to the shareholders," he added.

Quijano said he expected the $100 million cash injections to be in place by next Friday, and stressed the consortium would not be "getting any more money from me."

The overall canal expansion, of which the Grupo Unidos Por el Canal (GUPC) consortium is building the lion's share, was first expected to cost around $5.25 billion. But the overruns could increase that bill to nearly $7 billion.

The agreement with the GUPC envisages extending repayment of advanced payments made by the canal authority to the consortium worth $784 million until 2018 at the latest.

Antonio Tajani, the European commissioner for industry and entrepreneurship, said the deal was "crucial."

"This is one of the most important infrastructure (projects) in the world," he said in an interview.

SETBACKS

As part of the deal, the Canal Authority agreed that the consortium could use a $400 million surety bond through insurer Zurich North America as backing to seek financing.

However, the Zurich part will take up to six weeks to arrange, for which reason the $100 million cash injections were necessary to jump-start work at full capacity, Quijano said.

Limited work on the project resumed on February 21 after a two-week stoppage. The dispute has fanned fears of delays that could cost Panama millions of dollars in lost shipping tolls.

Holdups in the prestigious project posed a setback for companies worldwide that want to move larger ships through the waterway that links the U.S. Gulf Coast to Asian markets.

Following the deal, Quijano said the newly expanded waterway would begin operating commercially by January 2016.

But he cautioned that if GUPC does not comply with the agreement, the canal will find other ways to complete the work.

"We remain prepared for another option," Quijano said.

The agreement contains safeguards related to the payback of the advances so that if the companies fail to comply they have to return the money straight away, he added.

Sacyr, which receives a quarter of its international revenue from the canal project, reported on Friday a net loss of 496 million euros ($679 million) for 2013.

Editor's Comment: Sounds to me like this deal will simply further delay the inevitable. I expect the GUPC will lose their bid to suck another $1.6 billion out of the project for what they are calling "cost overruns" - but in fact they simply under bid the contract (in order to get it) and now that they have it, they are using their entrenched position to try to force the ACP to pay them more. So - this is a delaying tactic. The ACP is perfectly ready to toss the GUPC out on their asses. The GUPC overplayed their hand. They also over estimated their negotiating power and position. They have lost on every front, so with this deal they are limping back to work, confident in the knowledge they are now "Quijano's bitches" who are working for free in Panama. The shareholders in the GUPC companies should rightfully be going nuts. I still think there's no way in hell the GUPC ends up finishing this project. I think they will walk off for good, once the $1.6 billion dollar question is eventually answered by arbitration, with a resounding no.

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Panama's Supreme Court Rejects Appeal Filed By Manuel Antonio Noriega

Panama NewsPanama's Supreme Court of Justice rejected a request filed by lawyers representing the former military dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega, seeking to annul an earlier decision to bring him to trial for the 1970 murder of opposition leader Heliodoro Portugal.

Noriega's lawyer Ezra Angel said today the Supreme Court "did not admit" the request, in a decision made last January, released this week.

Angel said he filed the request in June 2013 after Noriega was notified he was being called to trial for Portugal's murder by the Second Superior Tribunal.

According to Noriega's lawyer, he was extradited from France to Panama in December 2011 for the murders of Hugo Spadafora (1985) and Moses Giroldi (1989), and that he can only be prosecuted for those cases.

"According to international law and to the principal of specialty (under which he was extradited), Noriega can not be tried or prosecuted for any offense other than these" for which he was extradited, he said.

He added when Panama made the first request for Noriega to be extradited from France to Panama for Portugal's murder, which occurred in May 1970, it was rejected by the French authorities, so therefore "specifically the Portugal case should not be prosecuted," he said.

According to media sources, the decision of the reporting judge Jerónimo Mejía "rejected" the request because "other resources available under the law were not exhausted," and also because "the prescription of criminal action must be raised through an incident to be discussed at the trial."

About the two other cases against Noriega in the Superior Court of Chiriqui, on the death of Everett Clayton Kimble and Luis Quiroz Morales, between 1968 and 1969, Angel said the former general has not been brought to trial.

Noriega, 80, is being held in the El Renacer prison, outside Panama City, where he is serving sentences totaling 60 years for crimes ranging from murder to environmental damage.

The former "strongman" who ruled de facto Panama between 1983 and 1989 arrived in Panama after having been extradited from France, where he was serving seven years of a conviction for money laundering.

Before that, he spent nearly two decades in prison in the United States for drug trafficking. Noriega surrendered to US troops in January 1990, days after a US invasion of Panama. (Critica)

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New Panama Metro (Subway) System Will Be Delivered on 5 April 2014

Infrastructure UpgradesBeginning March 1, the Secretariat of the Panama Metro will take over the Metro Line One to start operation of the new mass transit system.

The Executive Secretary of the Metro, Roberto Roy, said on 28 February, the Secretariat will hold a ceremony to mark the final acceptance of the project that will be inaugurated on April 5.

Roy said they will be conducting tests and evaluations during which members of the Metro team will begin to work together.

He said this is part of the process of training for all those who will be working in the Control Center of the new Panama Metro subway system.

With an investment of $1.8 billion, work on the project is now 98% completed, and the system way built to improve the quality of life of thousands of Panamanians.

Following this, the task force will initiate the necessary security adjustments for the Line One, and starting on 16 March they will begin a series of planned visits and test runs, consisting of a tour of Line One with 600 people including residents, businessmen from Via España, San Miguelito, and Los Andes, so they can see the entire system, the platforms, entrances and exits, and safety standards. Passengers will have 25 seconds to enter the cars.

For this phase of organized tours , there will be the agents responsible for the stations and trains who will be guiding the tour and present at all stations.

Structure of the Project and Duration of the Tour

The metro line 1 consists of 19 trains, each having three cars, with a capacity of 200 people per car or 600 people per train.

There are twelve Metro stations: The 5 de Mayo Plaza. the Lotería, Santo Tomás hospital, Iglesia del Carmen on Via España, Vía Argentina on Via España, Fernández de Córdoba, and then El Ingenio, 12 de Octubre, Pueblo Nuevo, San Miguelito, Pan de Azúcar and Los Andes - all on Transistmica.

Of these twelve stations, seven are underground and five are elevated platforms. Line One of the Metro covers a total distance of 13.7 kilometers - 7.2 underground and 6.5 km on elevated track.

To ride the full length of the Metro from the 5th of May plaza to the Los Andes shopping center takes 23 minutes, and one train will be coming through the station every three and a half minutes.

Initially up to 15,000 people can by transported on the system per hour.

The system infrastructure is being designed to carry up to 40,000 users per hour.  

Safety in stations and cars  

Both the stations and the cars have a lot of safety and security equipment such as video surveillance cameras. There will be two police officers riding on every subway car to ensure the safety of all users. Regulations stipulate that no children can ride the system unless they are accompanied by an adult.

Once the contractor turns the project over to the Panamanian government, the Secretariat of the Metro of Panama (SMP) will conduct tests, training, and evacuation drills with the National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC), thus providing an optimal service. The government wants to make sure they have tested and exercised all security mechanisms to be used in case of an emergency before opening the system to the public.

The actual speed of the Metro is 80 kilometers per hour, which is supervised, and if any train exceeds the speed limit then the train will stop automatically to ensure the safety of passengers.  

The operations control center is located in the area of ​​Albrook, and there trains will be given daily preventative maintenance to avoid any inconvenience.

Information Agents  

With regards to customer service, the SMP has trained young people who will endeavor to provide information and personalized customer service, so that each passenger feels comfortable in every area of ​​the stations. Agents of information as they are called, will also be receiving complaints and suggestions emerging from the public.  

The SMP also reported they are signing an agreement with the University of Panama, so that 80 students from different faculties, preferably Social Communication, can work part time at stations serving users, because with the number of employees they have hired will not be enough to cover the demand.

These students will be paid a per diem salary rate, to pay for their transportation and food. In order to have the privilege of being part of this system, the college students must have a good GPA.  

Metro culture  

The SMP says it is of the utmost importance for Panamanians to adapt to certain safety rules and regulations on this new system, so they have a big task of creating awareness among users, so they will follow all of the recommendations step by step. For example passing the electronic payment cards through the turnstiles, understanding what are the levels of the stations, courtesy when boarding the metro trains, walking to the right, waiting for the Metro train behind the yellow line, giving priority to the disabled, and to take care of and keeping the cars clean. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: The contractor had big incentives to deliver this project on 5 April, exactly one month before the general elections in May. This was a massive accomplishment for the administration of Ricardo Martinelli, and it's going to be one of the biggest reasons why Jose Domingo Arias will be elected to replace him.

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Cuban refugees in hunger strike

Panama NewsThe group of Cubans granted asylum by the government in September 2013 began a hunger strike today in front of the Chancellery, in Casco Antiguo.

The Cubans adopted these measures because they say Panama has not complied with what they were offered with territorial asylum.

They are asking for Panamanian nationality because even though the government gave them temporary residence, they can not get permanent jobs.

Of the nine Cubans accepted by Panama, there are five who even warned that if the situation does not change they will sew their lips closed.

They took a similar action when they were imprisoned in the Bahamas, after they were arrested by the maritime authorities as they were escaping Cuba.

They were granted asylum thanks to the intervention of Guillermo Cochez, the former Ambassador of Panama to the Organization of American States. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: The Cuban refugee situation creates a dilemma for Panama. Last year there was a sort of "wave" of Cubans who were passing through Panama. Most of them would fly to Ecuador (another communist country that has friendly relations with Cuba). Then the refugees would set out over land from South America, trying to get to the United States. If ten Mexicans and one Cuban hop over the fence in Texas, the Mexicans can be returned, but the Cuban can stay thanks to the long standing "feet dry" policy.

So these nine were detained, and then eventually Panama granted them asylum. Panama is now probably worried that if they make things too easy for this little group, then tomorrow there will be thousands of Cubans looking for asylum and Panamanian nationality and jobs. So both the government of Panama and the refugees are in a dilemma - stuck on the fence. These guys are trying to force Panama's hand by threatening to sew their lips shut. I think they are probably over estimating the strength of their position (there seems to be a lot of that going on lately.) Panama can put these dudes on a Copa flight to Havana tomorrow, and that would be the end of that. Remember, Guillermo Cochez was fired from his post at the OAS because he spouted off an anti-Chavez (Venezuela) rant that went against the official positions of the Foreign Ministry and the Presidency. He's also a Panameñista, so, bye. This is just one more of his legacies which Martinelli now has to clean up.

And as far as Cuba is concerned - hasn't anyone noticed that the cold war is over? If there's a revolution in Havana, then Russia would not be likely to nuke Miami. Sooner or later democracy will have to return to the island, and this decades long problem of Cuban refugees would be done. That would keep the US military occupied for about three weeks. Then, we could move on to something more interesting. And of course the chances of the Commie in Chief making that sort of a move are zero - so this is little more than wishful thinking on my part. It's really self serving. It's warm in Cuba, and I would like to be able to go there on vacation and spend money. You know, like Americans did in the 50's before the "revolution" made things so much better there...

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Martinelli Asks Political Parties To Monitor Voting

PoliticsPresident Ricardo Martinelli said he has doubts about the computer company hired by the Electoral Tribunal, which will be responsible for capturing and transmitting the votes cast during the next general election.

"It does not give me a good feeling, knowing the company 'Centauris' is owned by Julio Escobar of the PRD," warned Martinelli.

"I call on the representatives of the political parties to be vigilant, and to make sure that the voting information arrives correctly to the Scrutiny Committee" stressed the president.

"It is necessary that the vote be respected," he said. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: So, what company was counting votes in 2009? I think there's enough safeguards built in to make sure the election can't be stolen.

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Boca Chica, Panama

Real EstateThere are destinations all across Panama that are generating a lot of buzz among would-be expats. And they usually fall into one of several categories.

There are the established cities, with their modern infrastructure, quality shopping venues, and state-of-the art medical facilities. Then there are remote destinations that promise a peaceful retreat in the serenity of an undisturbed natural environment.

Still more claim to be an adventure lover's paradise, offering land and sea attractions sure to keep even the most active expat engaged. Last, but not least, there are the up-and-coming places, still relatively unknown and sure to bring a good return on investment once they start to generate more widespread attention.

While those are all desirable qualities when looking for a new home abroad, what's unfortunate is that most people don't always fit so neatly into one (and only one) of those categories.

Maybe you enjoy the solitude of your own private beach 95% of the time, but then there's also the part of you that gets a hankering to hop in the car and go eat at TGIFriday's on "gringo" night. Perhaps you crave the excitement of surfing 20-foot swells or reeling in a 350-pound yellowfin tuna, but you also want to live somewhere that isn't an overpriced overcrowded tourist trap.

If you previously thought those conditions couldn't coexist, think again. They can. And they do. And you can find them in Boca Chica, Panama.

It's one of the only places in Central America where you can not only improve your state of mind and well-being, but you can also do yourself a financial favor by investing in prime real estate that is still relatively inexpensive despite the area's growing appeal.

That's why Boca Chica, Panama, may be the single best place to buy real estate in Central America.

Be Happier Living in Your Ideal Setting

The town of Boca Chica, as well as its neighboring archipelago, is among the most beautiful landscapes in Central America. From the lush rolling hills of the mainland to the beautiful Pacific with its "myriad emerald isles strewn like jewels in a sapphire sea," as Natural Geographic described them, it's simply breathtaking.

There are deserted sand beaches, ancient rainforests, and ghostly mangroves. And they're all accessible within a short radius. Much of the islands and their surrounding waters are completely untouched and unexplored, with thousands of unclassified species and sights unlike anything you've ever seen.

This wild habitat is juxtaposed against the shoreline of the Chiriqui province, which is home to large cities like Boquete (an expat favorite) and David (which has every service and amenity you could possibly need). It's rare to find a place that feels so primitive, yet lies less than an hour away from shopping malls and a multiplex theater.

Be Healthier Enjoying an Active, Sustainable Lifestyle

Boca Chica is a place for someone who wants more exercise than just the amount they'd get walking back and forth from the pool in their gated community full of other expats. Sure, it's a great place to get away and relax. But it offers so much more than just a nice spot to hang a hammock.

Because of its location, Boca Chica is an ocean lover's dream. Would-be explorers can go island-hopping to one of over 50 islands, most of which are completely uninhabited. It's also a great place for surfing and diving, as well as one of Central America's top spots for sportfishing (boasting many world records).

Boca Chica, Panama, is a very eco-friendly community. Its local residents and expats alike share a desire to preserve the natural environment, and many local businesses are committed to operating sustainably. It's also great for nature lovers, offering a variety of flora and fauna on both land and sea.

And because spending time in nature provides proven benefits to your health, it's the perfect destination for someone who's looking to improve their overall wellbeing. In Boca Chica, you can unplug, recharge, and just...be.

Be Wealthier by Investing in Boca Chica Now

As mentioned, real estate values in and around Boca Chica are still surprisingly low given everything the area has to offer. However, that's soon likely to change.

A massive renovation project that is currently underway at Enrique Malek International Airport in David, less than an hour from Boca Chica, will have a tremendous impact on the surrounding area.

When the airport opens its runways to direct international flights from the U.S., a process that has already been set in motion, what will result is increased traffic to the area, new business ventures, and subsequently a rise in property values.

It's a tried and true formula for real estate appreciation. When infrastructure improves, areas grow, and real estate becomes more valuable.

Be Part of an Adventure Colony

One of the best places to experience all that this region of Panama has to offer is on Boca Chica Island, home of Emerging Terrains' latest Adventure Colony. It's a 400-acre private island with a few lots still available to those who share founders Josh Linnes and Park Wilson's vision for sustainable living, in harmony with the island's beautiful natural surroundings.

If you resolved to be happier, healthier, or wealthier (or all of the above) in 2014, an Adventure Colony could be your 3-in-1 solution. Visit vivatropical.com/bocachicaisland to learn more.

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It's "Back To School" Day in Panama

Schools & EducationBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - It's always a big news day when children go back to school at the end of Panama's summer break.

This year - according to official records - 683,527 children will attend public schools, and 116,815 will attend private schools.

This school year will end on Friday, 19 December 2014, according to Executive Order No. 775 of August 27, 2013, signed by President Martinelli and Education Minister Lucy Molinar.

Here's a rundown of the school year calendar;

Organization: 17 - 21 Feb

First Quarter - 24 Feb to 30 May 2014. Holidays 3, 4, 5 March (carnivals), 17, 18 April (Easter), 1 May (Labor Day).

Break - 2 to 6 June 2014  

Second Quarter - June 9 to September 12. Holiday: 1 July (Presidential Inauguration)

Break - Sept 15 - 19

Third Quarter - Sept 22 to Dec 12. Holidays: 3, 4, 5, 10, 28 November National Holidays). Dec 8 Mother's Day. (Civic Days: Student's Day October 27, Teacher's Day December 1) (Panama America)

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Supreme Court Rejects Coronado's Appeal

Crime & PunishmentThe decision made by the government of Panama to remove the company Desarrollo Golf Coronado from the National Tourism Register will remain in force, after the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court of Panama upheld the decision made by a lower court to reject their appeal.

The decision was issued on 10 February by the Supreme Court Justice Alejandro Moncada Luna, who did not accept the appeal.

The company Desarrollo Golf Coronado was removed from Panama's National Tourism Register on December 7, 2012.

In addition to Moncada, the ruling was signed by Justice Victor Benavides. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: After the alliance between the Panameñista political party and the ruling Cambio Democratico fell apart in the end of August 2011 (that's to Varela's participation in the Finmeccanica debacle), the La Prensa newspaper began to attack Ricardo Martinelli like a rabid dog. The newspaper is owned by I. Roberto Eisenmann Jr., who also owns the Desarrollo Golf Coronado development along Panama's Pacific beaches. As an obvious retaliatory move, Martinelli sent tax auditors to tear apart Coronado, and they found all sorts of accounting irregularities. The government decided to revoke Coronado's tourism status (tax breaks) mostly because Eisenmann was including things like memberships in the Golf course and his Equestrian Center as tourism activities. The short answer is, tourists don't buy horses in Panama, nor do they buy lifetime memberships in golf courses. They might come and ride a horse or play a round of golf, that's fine. But in reality the guys who are buying horses or gold club memberships are not, in fact, tourists.

This decision to remove Coronado from the Tourism Registry will cost Eisenmann millions of dollars over the next many years. Meanwhile the La Prensa newspaper and Eisenmann continue to lambast Martinelli at every opportunity. The fact of the matter is - Juan Carlos Varela will not be the next President of Panama after the upcoming elections in May - the CD's Jose Domingo Arias will. And that just spells more trouble for Eisenmann, La Prensa, Coronado, and Panameñistas everywhere. Mostly because by the end of Arias' term in office, every Supreme Court justice will have been appointed by a CD president. And in Panama, that's game, set, and match. I will repeat my assessment that the CD is positioned to remain in power in Panama for a very long time - like maybe 50 years or more. The PRD and Panameñistas will wither (but not die completely for a long time). It will take something new and different to emerge which does not yet exist - to unseat the CD.

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Valter Lavítola Going To Trial For International Corruption

CorruptionValter Lavítola, the key link between the government of Panama and Finmeccanica, and Paolo Pozzessere, the former commercial director of massive Italian aerospace and defense company, will face trial as the accused in court number 10 of the court of Rome on 4 March 2014.

The prestigious prosecutor Paolo Ielo accuses them of international corruption for having attempted to divert up to 18 million dollars in bribes, "an amount that the recipients - the President of the Republic of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, and other government political figures who he said he would identify - covertly, and in any case hidden", according to the conclusion of the final investigation.

This is the preliminary hearing at which the parties involved will set their positions, and at which the prosecutor will make public the requested sentence for those accused of the supposed crimes of corruption in Panama.

After the hearing, the judge will resolve all the issues raised and, if necessary, set the date for the next hearing or, ultimately, the judge may determine that the prosecutors should continue to investigate the crime and bring more evidence.

According to confidential documents to which La Prensa has had access, Valter Lavítola was the center of the political-administrative relations in the Italy, Finmeccanica, Panama triangle, and he created the company Agafea Corp., SA "in the ultimate and effective interest of Ricardo Martinelli," adds the document.

Rome prosecutors determined in the summary that the President of Panama was "the hidden economic beneficiary and final recipient " of the bribes that would have been paid by the Italian companies Telespazio, Agusta Westland and Selex - the companies of Finmecannica - to Agafia Corp, S.A., for counseling and consulting.

However, Martinelli appears as a "passive part to the corruption" and he is "not punishable" because he is a foreigner, because of his diplomatic immunity, and because the crimes being investigated were not committed in Italy.

The offenses date back to 2010, when the Government of Panama signed, as part of a security agreement with Italy, a contract worth about $250 million Finmeccanica to supply six helicopters, 19 radar sets, and digital mapping services.

In another case, in the coming days prosecutors in Naples will set the date for the trial for the alleged corruption involving the failed construction of modular prisons in Panama by the Italian company Svemark, as well as in the Impregilo case in which Lavitola also appears as the accused and in which Martinelli appears as the subject of the so called "passive corruption" but he is "not punishable."

Finmeccanica, the Italian company in which the Italian government holds a 30% interest, has several ongoing legal cases.

The Court of Busto Arsizio, in northern Italy, is trying Giuseppe Orsi, the former Chairman of Finmeccanica, and Bruno Spagnolini, the former administrator of Agusta Westland, of international corruption, because they would have paid bribes of up to $69 million to senior Government officials in India to obtain a contract to sell 12 helicopters for $759 million, also in 2010.

The latest corruption scandal involving Finmeccanica takes us to the capital of Nigeria, Lagos.

Naples prosecutors opened an investigation into the alleged payment of bribes to government officials, precisely based on evidence brought to light by several numbered accounts in Switzerland belonging to Paolo Pozzessere. (La Prensa)

Editor's Comment: La Prensa won't be saying any time soon that the real key player in this entire scandal was Juan Carlos Varela, the presidential candidate for the Panameñista party. This newspaper La Prensa is trying to get him elected, so they are focusing completely on Ricardo Martinelli. They fail to mention that Martinelli fired Varela, precisely because it was Varela who set this whole Finmeccanica thing up, and who brought all of these problems into their camp. This scandal is the real reason why the alliance between the CD and the Panameñistas fell apart on 30 August 2011.

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Panama Canal expansion in doubt yet again as saga grinds on

Canal ExpansionBY LOMI KRIEL AND SONYA DOWSETT (Reuters) - A deal to resume work on the multibillion-dollar Panama Canal appeared in doubt on Thursday, just hours after an apparent breakthrough, in the latest twist in a protracted dispute over massive cost overruns.

The Panama Canal Authority said late on Wednesday that the Spanish-led consortium expanding the major world waterway had agreed to restart work first thing on Thursday after a two-week stoppage.

It said they had given themselves three days to iron out remaining issues such as how to continue financing the project.

While workers gathered at the site on Thursday, works were still idle on Thursday afternoon. Local media said Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli pointed at the consortium, whose main partners are Spanish builder Sacyr and Italy's Salini Impregilo.

"It seems there is some internal difference between the different contractors," local media cited Martinelli as saying.

Officials have in the past cited a power struggle between the two main members of the consortium, saying Salini Impregilo wanted to take over the lead role from its Spanish partner.

The delay in the project, which centers on a dispute over $1.6 billion in cost overruns that the consortium wants the Panama Canal to pay for, could cost Panama millions of dollars in lost shipping tolls.

Delays are also a setback for companies worldwide that want to move larger ships through the waterway that links the U.S. Gulf Coast to Asian markets.

Earlier on Thursday, the consortium issued a statement saying the parties were engaged "in intense discussions and made progress Wednesday on key issues that would allow funding, resumption of works and payments of subcontractors and workers".

Sacyr was unavailable for comment on why work had not resumed. However a source with knowledge of the matter said he understood there would be a "ramp-up" period and that engineers needed to evaluate the site.

A key part of negotiations is the role that insurer Zurich plays and whether it will convert a $400 million surety bond, taken out by the consortium in case the project wasn't completed, into backing for a loan to help raise the $1.6 billion funding needed to finish the project, sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Zurich does not want to put money into the project but has asked banks to do so, another source familiar with the matter said. The banks are asking for counter-guarantees, the source said. The parties of the consortium are each liable for their own obligations, not jointly, the source said.

Shares in Sacyr rose 4.3 percent on Thursday after news of the agreement to restart work. The project represents a quarter of the company's international revenue.

Salini Impregilo shares gained around 3.2 percent.

Zurich said it was in talks with both parties and was comfortable with its level of exposure to the project, which it said was limited due to reinsurance mechanisms and was well within its risk tolerance.

"As the discussions are still ongoing, we are not in the position to provide any further details," it said in a statement.

SPAIN STEPS IN

The Spanish government is likely to agree to change the status of a $200 million state-backed guarantee it gave heavily-indebted Sacyr in 2009 when Panama awarded it the contract, turning it into backing for finance to finish the project, sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

The guarantee was originally drawn up by Spanish state-backed insurer Cesce as a counter-guarantee to the Zurich bond. The government insurance bonds must be changed if Zurich changes its insurance into backing for a loan.

Cesce and Spain's Economy Ministry declined to comment. Italian state-backed export credit agency Sace, also a part of the guarantee scheme with Zurich, was not immediately reachable for comment.

There has been disagreement within the Spanish government over whether to interfere with the private project, one source with knowledge of the matter said, but it is likely to tweak the conditions of the guarantee because the Sacyr-led contract is such a high-profile one for Spanish business.

Spanish builders are working on big engineering projects around the world, from a train linking the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina, to a metro in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Overseas construction has been one of the few bright spots for companies as the domestic economy splutters.

Under Wednesday's deal, the Canal had agreed to pay the consortium $36.8 million to cover work done in December once works resumed.

The project to expand the nearly 50-mile (80-km) transoceanic cargo route was originally expected to cost about $5.25 billion, but that could increase to nearly $7 billion.

Officials and diplomats expressed concern in 2009 when the contract was awarded to the consortium over its ability to complete the work, since its winning bid for the work was $1 billion lower than that of the nearest competitor

The Wood Mackenzie consultancy said on Thursday it expected the cost overrun dispute to be resolved with limited disruption, but cautioned that longer delays would affect U.S. liquefied natural gas producers and created a tighter LNG shipping market.

"If the delays last 6-12 months, it will have limited impact, as trade will carry on much as it does now," Andrew Buckland, senior LNG shipping analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said in a research note.

"But further delays threaten the investments of a significant number of groups that are set to benefit from expanded capacity on the waterway."

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Panama logs murder charges in Dana Point woman's death

Expat TalesBY LINDSEY RUTA / STAFF WRITER - A Panamanian prosecutor has formally filed murder charges against ex-Marine Brian Brimager in the death of Yvonne Baldelli, according to English language website panama-guide.com, which covers the country.

The charges come nearly six months after the remains of the Dana Point woman were found in a green, military-style backpack on Isla Carenero. Panamanian authorities had previously mentioned Brimager as a person of interest in Baldelli's disappearance.

In June, Brimager was arrested in the U.S. on charges of obstruction of justice and making a false statement to a federal officer.

He is in federal custody in San Diego, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Two new charges of falsifying records have been added to his indictment.

The murder indictment alleges Brimager killed Baldelli in 2011 and then tried to cover it up by several means, including disposing of a bloody mattress, later posing as Baldelli in emails to her friends and family, and withdrawing money from her bank account in Costa Rica to make it appear she had gone to that country.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Baldelli disappeared in November 2011, two months after moving to Panama with Brimager, who was her boyfriend at the time. Brimager, 37, returned to the U.S. in December 2011 and married another woman later that month.

Panama is seeking to extradite Brimager to stand trial for the killing. The country has an international treaty with the U.S. that dates back to 1903.

The treaty does allow for extradition.

However, this would be the first time Panama has ever filed a request, panama-guide.com reported.

Contact the writer: 949-432-5686 or lruta@ocregister.com

Editor's Comment: Here's the funny way this went down. My sources told me the prosecutor had, in fact, filed murder charges against Brimager and was in the process of coordinating with the US embassy to file for his extradition, back to Panama. After I published the article, a reporter from the La Prensa newspaper contacted the prosecutor to ask about the charges. Here's the kicker - the prosecutor lied to the reporter, and that's what the reporter published - that charges had not yet been filed.

However the truth and fact remains that the prosecutor in Panama has, in fact, filed formal and official murder charges against Brimager for the death of Yvonne Baldelli.

I was able to get confirmation through other very reliable sources. I'm assuming the prosecutor might have been worried that if word got out too soon, somehow the extradition process might get screwed up (or whatever). Or maybe the US embassy told her to sit on it.

Before I got involved in this case the US Embassy in Panama explicitly told Baldelli's family members "whatever you do, don't call Don Winner from Panama Guide..." Probably because I tend to make them look very bad, especially during murder investigations. As soon as I started investigating the case (because the family decided to ignore their advice), loads of resources suddenly became available. Go figure ... But I take credit for nothing. Lots of people have worked many long hours on this case both in Panama and in the United States. I just hope maybe I was able to spur them on a little, in the beginning.

No matter. The story is right. Brimager has been charged with murder in Panama, and now the Panamanian authorities are working to have him returned to Panama to face justice. I'm personally convinced he's guilty, so I hope he will spend the rest of his life in a Panamanian hellhole of a prison. Just like William Dathan Holbert, Laura Michelle Reese, Javier Martin, and Daniel Moreno Melendez - others who have murdered Americans in Panama. A little, uncomfortable metal box. Just enough food to keep him alive. No air conditioning, hot and humid and tropical (the same conditions the Panamanian inmates endure, he's no better than them.) Prison is supposed to suck. I hope he reads this, and stays up at night thinking about the hole that's waiting for him...

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GUPC Promises To Restart Work On Panama Canal Expansion Tomorrow

Canal ExpansionFinally, the Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC) has agreed to the repeated calls by the Panama Canal Authority, and tonight after more than five hours of meetings, they promised to resume work on the project to expand the Panama Canal on Thursday morning, said the ACP in a press release.

The ACP announced that when work resumes on the project, they will pay the GUPC $36.8 million, for work billed during December 2013.

This money will be used to pay the paychecks for the workers, as well as to cover other obligations to suppliers.

Another 72 hours were given as a deadline, in order to agree on points such as the delivery dates for the lock new gates, an implementation schedule, a schedule for repayment advances, and other key aspects for the development of the project.

These decisions, adds the ACP statement, occurred during telephone conversations between the ACP and the directors of Impregilo, Sacyr Vallehermoso, Jan de Nul and Constructora Urbana, the companies composing the GUPC.

The press release ends by saying there are still some topics upon which the sides have not yet reached an agreement, but it does not say what they are. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: The GUPC finally came to the realization that if they didn't get back to work, then the ACP really would (no shit) throw them off the job, hire someone else to complete the project, then sue them for the excess costs. They went into this gaggle thinking they had a strong negotiating position, and acted like they could use a combination of extortion and blackmail to simply demand 1.6 billion dollars - above and beyond the contract they signed.

The answer from the ACP was simple. No.

Over the ensuing six weeks, the GUPC came to realize exactly how incredibly weak their negotiation position is, in reality. Now they will be forced to meekly return to work, after having been kicked in the balls. They might be able to finish the project, but they will take a loss doing so. The $1.6 billion simply is not going to happen.

Silly Europeans, thinking they could come to the land of the "juega vivo" and get over.

In short, they got their asses handed to them. They signed the low-ball contract for $3.118 billion then tried to force the ACP to pay them 50% more. Nope. Not going to happen that way, fellas.

Forget about making a profit. They will be lucky if they can get out of this without taking massive losses. So who's low-balling who now? The ACP flipped their gambit on its head. Books will be written about these negotiations for use in future business management classes. The GUPC will be used as an example of how not to do shit, while the ACP has proven themselves to be more than capable of dealing with this situation, admirably.

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Deadline looms as Panama Canal, consortium seek end to cost dispute

Canal ExpansionBy Lomi Kriel and Sonya Dowsett (Reuters) - The Panama Canal and a Spanish-led construction consortium expanding the major global waterway discussed options on Tuesday to keep the multibillion-dollar project afloat amid a dispute over costs, but any deal seemed unlikely ahead of a looming deadline.

The disagreement between the two parties over $1.6 billion in cost overruns and how to maintain financing has already halted work on the project for two weeks and has delayed its projected completion until at least December 2015.

Delays could cost Panama millions of dollars in lost shipping tolls and are a setback for companies worldwide that are eager to move larger ships through the canal, including liquefied natural gas (LNG) producers that want to ship from the U.S. Gulf Coast to Asian markets.

"The Panama Canal Authority reports that despite efforts to agree with (consortium) Grupos Unidos por el Canal to resume work on the new locks project, positions between the parties remain apart," the canal authority said in a statement.

"Although last week the parties seem to have come to an agreement on certain components during the talks, there were serious disagreements at the time of putting it in writing," it added, saying the parties agreed to resume talks on Wednesday morning.

Canal administrator Jorge Quijano last Wednesday set a target of no more than a week to reach a deal to jump-start the project, a deadline that will lapse in the coming hours.

Quijano had previously warned that the canal could terminate the contract with the consortium and push ahead with a third party if a deal proves elusive.

A major sticking point in the negotiations on Tuesday was converting a $400 million bond from insurer Zurich North America into backing for a loan so the consortium can secure a short-term cash injection needed to continue its work, sources familiar with the talks said.

The consortium took out the bond as a required insurance policy in case it did not finish the project. The bond is payable if the project is not completed by the consortium for any reason.

The insurer was ready to provide the loan if shareholders of the consortium, which is led by Spain's Sacyr and Italy's Salini Impregilo and includes a Belgian and a Panamanian company, shoulder the risk and are liable for repaying the loan, one source said.

But the consortium's chief executive officers want the insurer to be the primary risk-holder, which Zurich considers unacceptable, one source said.

A key issue centered on the share of the risk the Italian and Spanish governments would take, one source said.

Spain's majority state-owned insurer Cesce, set up to financially aid international expansion of Spanish companies, provided a guarantee for the Sacyr bid in 2009.

Although Cesce has declined to comment on how much was guaranteed, a source with knowledge of the operation said it was for $200 million and helped underwrite the $400 million Zurich bond.

Officials at Zurich were not immediately available for comment. A spokesman for Sacyr declined to comment.

The parties also continued to debate a weekend proposal by the canal authority that would allow work to restart immediately, with it and the consortium each contributing $100 million.

But a source familiar with the negotiations said the consortium had not yet accepted the deal and wanted to wait on an answer from Zurich.

The overall expansion project, of which the consortium is building the lion's share, was originally expected to cost about $5.25 billion, but the overruns could increase that to nearly $7 billion.

Editor's Comment: The ACP simply can't afford to keep negotiating with GUPC. At some point in time, the ACP is going to have to pull the plug. They will probably make a public statement this afternoon that negotiations with the GUPC have officially ended without a deal, and the GUPC has failed to build the third set of locks as required and specified under the contract. And because the GUPC walked off of the job and stopped working, that means the ACP can then exercise the clauses in the contract which were put there exactly to protect the government of Panama from the sort of shenanigans the GUPC is trying to pull. They will then hire someone else to finish the project, or at the very least to manage the process for them, because the many of the same subcontractors and employees will still be doing the same work, but just answering to a different boss.

My prediction holds. I think the GUPC is toast, and they will be finished today. Remember this whole thing started almost two months ago. It's time to end it, one way or the other. And the "billion dollar bitch slap" foretold the way things were going to go.

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