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Friday, October 31 2014 @ 01:32 AM EDT

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Panama Waiting for USTR to Set a Date

Money Matters Panama has been trying since March to get the United States Trade Representative (USTR) office to establish a date to restart negotiations for a Tree Trade Agreement, but so far no date has been set. The Panamanian Ministry of Commerce and Industry made the formal request shortly after Panama accepted use of the US standards for food safety. This point caused the negotiations to stall last January. The Panamanian authorities are saying that the delay is due to the fact that there has been a recent change at the top spot of the USTR. Rob Portman has been replaced by Susan Schwab, and local authorities hope that recently delays have been caused by the change in leadership, and are not due to disinterest on the part of the United States in concluding negotiations with Panama. (Editor's Comment: Susan Schwab has been nominated to be the new USTR, but not yet confirmed by the Senate.)
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What's That Got To Do With the Price of Rice in Panama?

Money Matters Minister of Farming Development Guillermo Salazar has been clear with rice producers - he will not accept an increase in the price of rice to consumers to offset higher production costs due to rising fuel prices. Rice growers are threatening to raise the price of raw rice by $1.00 per quintal (100 kilograms) that they charge to rice millers. The government's position is that price hike should be absorbed by the millers. They say the additional costs will be offset by increased profits from rice imports. This tactic would keep additional price increases from being passed to consumers. But for Alberto Martinelli, president of the National Association of Millers, this formula does not add up. The volumes that millers can import annually are limited and they would not cover even a small part of the additional costs. (Editor's Comment: Panamanians eat a lot of rice. This year's crop is smaller than usual, and is not large enough to cover annual consumption, so the Ministry of Agriculture has authorized millers to import and process rice from other sources. Domestic growers are trying to get the government to approve a $.05 cent per pound increase in the price of rice to offset additional production costs caused by higher fuel prices.)

"We cannot absorb any additional costs" said Martinelli.
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Panama's Most Wanted - Cristóbal Salerno

Crime & Punishment The Auxiliary Office of the Public Prosecutor sent a request to the Immigration Office on 16 May to prevent businessman Cristóbal Salerno Ballesta from leaving the country, and ordered his arrest due to his suspected connection to the discovery of a shipment of explosives at a company called "Servicios de Promociones Norma González" in Calidonia on 12 May. Immigration Director Ricardo Vargas said he has issued instructions to all Immigration employees working at the Tocumen and Albrook airports, as well as the Paso Canoa border crossing with Costa Rica to be on the watch for Salerno. So far there have been no reports indicating Salerno has left the country. "Salerno last left Panama in February and returned in March of this year", said Vargas. In responding to rumors that Salerno is in Italy, Vargas said "If he left the country it was not through normal channels." The Director of the Judicial Technical Police (PTJ) Jaime Jácome confirmed that Salerno is still in Panama because there are no official reports that he has left the country by the legal means.
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New Limits on Construction Noise in Panama City

Panama News The outcry of the residents of Bella Vista, San Francisco, Bethania, Parque Lefevre among others was heard yesterday. The Municipal Council in the capital of Panama City regulated the noise generating activities of the construction industry. Pouring concrete, detonating explosives, driving piles, and working with jack hammers are prohibited every day after 7:00 p.m. On holidays , Saturdays and Sundays these activities are prohibited before the 8:00 a.m. Also, concrete trucks can no longer unload in the middle of public streets. Companies violating these rules can be fined as much as $3,000. Local judges (corregidores) will be responsible for enforcing the new rules. The president of the Council, Carlos Perez Herrera, said that the new rules only apply to urbanized areas. Perez also said these new rules were made in consensus with representatives of the Panamanian Chamber of Construction (CAPAC), a sector that is expected to invest at least $200 million dollars in the country this year. The measurement will take effect once it is signed by Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro. A 2004 study done by the Department of Environmental Quality of the National Authority on the Environment said that road repairs and building construction account for 13% of urban noise. An investigation by the University of Panama affirms that in Panama City noise levels exceed levels allowed by national and international law.
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Frenadeso and Campasinos Against the ACP

Canal ExpansionThe National Front for the Defense of Economic and Social Rights (Frenadeso) and the Farmers Movement Against Dams (CCCE) blamed the Panamanian government and the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) of trying to decieve the public by publishing false information regarding the expansion of the Panama Canal to convince the people to support the measure and to vote in favor of the expansion in an upcoming referendum. Andrés Rodriguez, president of Frenadeso said that one of the "lies" detected in the the ACP report the cost of the project at $5.25 billion dollars, which he says is a false number because the report did not include the interest costs that will raise the cost to at least $6.6 billion. The ACP says that the project will pay for itself through toll increases. Jesus Ruiz of the CCCE doubts that plan to reuse water will avoid the need to flood their lands. He said that the ACP maintains concessions to construct three hydroelectric projects on Indio, Caño Sucio and Coclé del Norte rivers that will need dams to work. Also, they ask president Martín Torrijos why he has not countermanded Law 44 of 1999 as he promised to do last 24 April.
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Panama Canal International Advisory Board 12th Meeting

Canal Expansion This week marks the twelfth meeting of the Panama Canal Advisory Board. Traveling to Panama from all over the world, the Board members met to review and deliberate the study prepared by ACP on the proposed Canal expansion. The Advisory Board reviewed all facts pertaining to this historic undertaking, and believes that the results reflect a comprehensive and realistic appraisal of all issues involved. We commend the Canal leadership, the Country’s leadership, and the Panamanian people for the extraordinary work and professionalism that brings us to this momentous, sovereign decision by Panama. As Board members we consider it a privilege to share our thoughts with you. As evidenced by the signatures below, the Advisory Board unanimously believes Canal expansion with a third set of locks should be viewed as a matter of high priority for Panama, as the Canal today is almost at full capacity. World trade is growing at a substantial pace. The forecasted demand growth is realistic, but its benefit to Panama will only be captured if it proceeds with the Canal expansion as soon as practically possible. The associated costs will be paid over a reasonable period of time by the Canal users, leaving no residual debt to Panama or the Panamanian people.
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PEA senior attends Panama conference

Groups & Organizations EXETER - Exeter resident Jenna Leahy, a senior at Phillips Exeter Academy, attended the Harvard Association for Cultivating Inter-American Democracy Conference held in Panama this year. Based at Harvard University, HACIA’s mission is to further cultural understanding and strengthen civil society. Leahy is a member of the academy’s Current Events & International Relations Club. The HACIA conference is an international, multicultural, educational government simulation for secondary school students, which focuses on issues in the Americas. Concentrating on the basic principles of democratic decision-making, cooperation, consensus and compromise, 400 student participants from 10 North, Central and South American countries spent three days in March playing the roles of delegates attending real committee meetings of the Organization of American States and allied organizations. The students represented nations in the Americas from Argentina to Canada, and debated topics of mutual interest and hemispheric importance. The academy’s delegates made speeches, argued policies, proposed resolutions and crafted amendments on behalf of the countries they represented. http://www.seacoastonline.com/news/exeter/05232006/news/104188.htm

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Panama Real Estate - Free Exchange of Information

Real Estate The Panama Real Estate Yahoo! Group (http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/Panama_Real_Estate/) is still growing and getting better every day. It's a place where sellers can promote and advertise their properties for sale for free, and buyers can scout for opportinutues. For example, this offer was posted this morning - "Island in Islas Paridas. This island has 167 hectareas and includes two beaches with dock, mountains, and pasture land. Includes 500 head of cattle and has fresh water supply. This property sells for $8,500 an hectarea and is fully titled. Contact: Kimberly Cox at kimmycox@hotmail.com or call 507-6605-8157" So, if you've got $1.4 million sitting around and want to buy your own private island, here's your chance. There are other deals posted all the time as well that are more in my price-range. Maybe whoever buys this puppy will invte me out sometime.
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Goodbye Costa Rica, Hello Panama

Immigration Issues For years Costa Rica was a mecca for retirees in search of warmer temperatures, cheap beachfront property, and a slice of tropical paradise. Yesterday a Panamanian immigration official said the 15,000 foreigners have recently moved from Costa Rica to Panama for several reasons, but most importantly Costa Rica changed their tax structure to try to make some more money off of the retirees. As one person recently stated on the Americans in Panama Yahoo! group, "I would not recommend Costa Rica! We lived there for 5 years before we said "enough" and moved to Panama. CR is unsafe, dirty, and very expensive. We are in the process of working with 6 other expats who have already moved to Panama or are working out the final arrangements to move. "Viva Panama" Many people cite safety, security, and a higher relative level of crime in Costa Rica compared to Panama as a primary reason for making the decision to move here. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/americans_in_panama/
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Going Slow Against "Fake Judge" Dulio Arrocha

Law & Lawyers The Supreme Court of Panama decided they will not proceed with two of the three charges pending against the "fake judge" Dulio Arrocha for lack of evidence. Basically, they are saying that first we have to prove that Dulio Arrocha actually obtained his law degree in a fraudulent manner, and once that has been proved, then they will proceed with going after the pay he received and to find him guilty of acting as a lawyer and judge illegally. It's a fine point, but the Supreme Court is basically deciding to take the case one point at a time, and in order. On the surface it seems like they are going easy on Arrocha, but in reality they are just taking their time to do things right. Later, they will go after the money - should he have to pay back all of the money that he made while working as a judge, a position that he obtained by having a fake diploma from Colombia. And then they can go after him for acting as a lawyer and judge illegally. First things first.
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Missionary Youth Group from Onalaska WI

Expat TalesI returned to Cerro Ancon yesterday to bring some friends up for the view, and ran into this group of youth missionaries from Onalaska, Wisconsin. They had already spent four days in the San Blas islands, returned to Panama City for a couple of days, and now will head off to Boquete. They seemed to be having a pretty good time in Panama and said their favorite things about the country were "the people" and "the food." For downside they pointed to the humidity and "going to the bathroom in San Blas in outhouses over the water." Interesting, to say the least. Anyway, we just chatted for a couple of minutes and I snapped a group shot atop Cerro Ancon with the Panama City skyline in the background. Have a nice trip, guys. (photo below)
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A March on the Amador Causeway Against World Hunger

Panama News Hundreds of people in Panama added their support yesterday to the "world-wide march against the hunger" to raise consciencness on the need to end child hunger. About 300 million children around the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition. More than one thousand people attended the activity, as well as representatives from the United Nations (UN) several other groups and organizations such as the Girl Scouts, and was organized by the World Food Program. The participants walked the five kilometer route on the Amador Causeway between 9:30 a.m. and 11,00 a.m. as part of an international effort against poverty. One of the goals of the UN is to cut in half the number of people who suffer from hunger by 2015. According to the World Food Program, 300 million children worldwide suffer from chronic malnutrition and 100 million children of school age do not attend school. One child dies every five seconds due to starvation and malnutrition. Pedro Medrano, regional director of the World Food Program, explained that his organization is trying to sensitize the public and government authorities in a subject that often is not on the daily agenda. During the activity they were selling hats, banners, and t-shirts to raise funds that will be directed to feeding programs. Also, the Girls Scouts collected dry food products for orphanages.
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A year of high prices in the gasoline

Money Matters Fuel prices have been easing a little lately, but prices are still 22% higher now than they were in January of 2006. Fuel prices are up 41% compared to May of 2005, according to data released by the Consumer Protection Authority. The higher prices at the pump are a direct result of higher prices in crude which passed the $70 per barrel point for the first time in history. Economist Enrique Ho says gasoline costs would be lower if elements such as instablility in Iran and Venezuela did not exist.

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Donald Towse, 81, geologist, adventurer

Expat Tales By Lisa Fernandez - Donald Towse was 81 and had no intentions of slowing down. He dived out of a plane last year for his birthday, ran marathons and hiked through jungles. In fact, he often talked about how he planned to turn 100 and have a huge party to celebrate. And it was with this carpe diem spirit that the retired San Jose geologist embarked on a recent cruise to Panama and Costa Rica, where he jumped at the chance to go snorkeling when the morning's activities were announced. And that is where Mr. Towse died, in the ocean near the San Blas Islands northeast of Panama, on April 16. His family isn't sure if he hit his head, or if his heart gave out when he was found floating in the water. An autopsy is pending. He took the trip alone; his wife of 61 years, Marjorie ``Jerry'' Townsend, 81, wasn't feeling well and couldn't go with him. `He had a great life,'' said Sally Towse, 53, of San Francisco, one of Mr. Towse's six children. ``He traveled all the time. If he couldn't live to be 100, this was one of the better ways not to make it to 100.''
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Panama: Chiquita offers Coosemupar a life line

Money Matters Tholen - The multinational Chiquita Brands has offered the Panamanian banana cooperative Coosemupar a solution, which according to the government could provide a way out of the crisis in which it presently finds itself. Chiquita would be willing to provide a ‘soft loan’ of $ 4 mln. if the Panamanian governments commits to doing the same thing. With the joint investment of $ 8 mln. within 12 months, Coosemupar will have a change to recover its position. However, there are a few conditions to the proposition. Chiquita does not want the loan to be used for the payment of salaries, but instead the funds will have to be invested in the improvement of the productivity. Chiquita will not stimulate inefficiency, but instead looks for a production improvement from 1700 boxes per ha – which really isn’t high at all – to 2100 boxes per ha, within a period of 12 months. This roughly means an improvement from 90K boxes per week to 110K boxes per week. When this result can not be reached, the investment loses its purpose and the problems will prevail. To acquire the funds, Coosemupar will have to let go of older claims towards Chiquita. The vice minister of Domestic Trade, Manual José Paredes thinks the proposition a good first step into the right direction. Publication date: 22 May 2006 Author: André van der Wiel

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Panama: Coosemupar divided on banana sales

Money Matters Tholen - The search for a solution to the crisis around banana sales contracts has lead to discord between two parties within the banana cooperative who both pretend to have the authority to speak on behalf on cooperative. The union of banana plantation workers Sitrachilco thinks it should not continue to sell to Chiquita at $ 4,55 per box. Also an agreement with the Italian company Ale Fruit – which in principle would be willing to offer a better price than Chiquita – would leave the cooperative better off. The Italian bank San Paoli IMI would grant Coosemupar a credit line of $ 15 mln. while Ale Fruit would be prepared to divide profits from European banana sales on a 40/60 basis, granting Coosemupar 40% of the profit. The Board of Coosemupar, with Sixto Gutiérrez presiding, argues that Sitrachilco can not act on behalf of the cooperative at all. The Board tends towards an agreement with Chiquita, which has demonstrated to be willing to continue to collaborate. Publication date: 22 May 2006 Author: André van der Wiel

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Local Rice Production Falling Short

Money Matters Panama will be importing 800 metric tons of rice to cover the a shortage in national consumption, and the purchase will be made through an open bidding process on 15 June in the Agricultural and Industrial Stock-market. The official call establishes the use of statistics to determine the degree of buying agent participation and acquisitions of locally produced rice. The Commission of Licenses will accept certifications of purchase that are valid between 7 June 2005 and 7 June 2006. The import licenses will be valid until 15 August and importations of rice will be subject to a 3% tariff. National rice yields continue to be very low and soon will reach an average of only 90 quintals per hectare. In spite of this situation producers insist it is necessary to raise the price by $.05 cents per pound to offset higher production costs.
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Bay Cleanup Timetable - Ten to Twelve Years

Panama News It will take at least ten to twelve years for the Bay of Panama to be clean enough for swimming, as it was back in the 1940's and 1950's. A Ministry of Health study indicates that the project to clean up Panama City and 350 square kilometers of the bay ill take at least ten years. These details were revealed in a seminar held with representatives from the Inter American Development Bank on the on the handling and administration of a $45 million dollar loan made as part of the project to clean up the bay.
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Demand for Technicians Increasing, Interest Low

Schools & Education Juan Planells, director of the National Institute for the Human Development (Inadeh), hopes that with the agreement signed with the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) bright young people will get excited about entering technical fields of study and will stop thinking only about going to college to get a degree. In fact, in Panama and San Miguelito for every 20 students studying science or law there are only two in technical careers. Planells, who will soon be returning to work after having suffered a recent heart attack, admitted that the low motivation of the Panamanians for technical professions is a cultural problem, although those who study technical areas have a better chance of getting a job.

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Will Panama Change Retiree Benefits?

Law & LawyersThis morning on one of the deabte shows the panel discussed the fact that the Panamanian National Assembly has before it "Project 17" which would modify the benefits given to retirees and "pensionados" in this country. These benefits are one of the primary reasons why foreign retirees see Panama as an attractive place to retire and live. In reality, the original intent of these benefits were to give a break to Panamanian retirees and the fact that foreigners might enjoy the same benefits came as an afterthought. Now that there is a wave of foriegn retirees coming here, the perception is that these people have money and should be taxed. The interesting part about the debate this morning is that the panel members recognized that there are now 80,000 foreign retirees living in Panama, that to a large extent this influx is responsible for the construciton boom, that 15,000 retirees ran from Costa Rica to Panama after they changed their tax structure to get more money from the retirees. (more)
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Cerro Ancon - The View From The Top

Travel & Tourism I got up to the top of Cerro Ancon early this morning. You really can't beat it for a view of the city. You can see the ships going through the Panama Canal, Casco Viejo, Balboa and the old Canal Zone, and down Balboa Avenue to Paitilla. There were two security guards keeping an eye on the place. One was a National Police officer, and the other was a security guard from the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the government organization that has inherited the responsibilities of the old Inter-oceanic Region Authority (ARI.) According to the guards, they only see about thirty to forty visitors on a "good day," and mostly the people that go up there are either school kids on a field trip or tourists. They say that the average Panamanian almost never makes the trip, and that's a shame. Anyone can drive up there, seven days a week, from 6:00 am to 5:45 pm. They are open every day, and there's no charge. If you haven't taken the time to go up there you really should go check out the "view from the top." (photos below)


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Indigenous Violence, Attacks Grow in Colombia

Panama News (AXcess News) New York - Voicing renewed concern at the impact of Colombia's four decades of civil conflict on its indigenous communities, with smaller groups threatened with extinction, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) reported today that nearly 50 Wounaan people, seven of them leaders, had fled to neighboring Panama in fear for their lives. "Their journey started more than six weeks ago when they first fled their small river settlements in the western Colombian department of Choco, escaping threats from an irregular armed group," UNHCR reported from Panama's remote Darien region. Their decision to cross the border was not an easy one. Leaving their traditional territories had already caused the group intense anguish. But, after weeks of fear and worry, they felt they were not safe in Colombia and had no choice but to flee again. On Tuesday, 47 people boarded three small boats to make the dangerous crossing over the rough sea to Panama's Darien region on the Pacific coast, the Agency said.
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Banana drama - Fungus Could Threaten Worldwide

Food & Drink Only lottery tickets and petrol outsell Britain's favourite fruit - and now a deadly fungus is threatening its existence. Science editor Robin McKie reports on a natural disaster that could change our eating habits, wipe out eco-systems and end a worldwide industry. It is living proof of God's benevolence, say Christians. Convenient for handling and biting, it has a tab for wrapper-removal, a pleasing taste and an obvious sell-by-date mechanism - its skin turns black. Celestial confection-making at its best. And to judge by supermarket figures, this love of the banana is shared by millions. Sales of the fruit have recently reached all-time highs. More than 95 per cent of UK households buy bananas every week. Only lottery tickets and petrol sales outstrip them. Bananas are us, it seems. The trouble is that this popularity is under threat. According to reports by biologists, the banana could be heading down the road to extinction. Or, to be more precise, the Cavendish - the variety sold in shops throughout Britain - may be en route to oblivion.
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Survivor: Panama – Exile Island Charity Auction

Groups & Organizations Norfolk, VA (PRWEB) May 19, 2006 –- Exciting new collectables have been added to the Survivor: Panama – Exile Island charity auction on eBay to benefit Operation Smile Panama and 24 other countries. The authentic items are signed by the castaways themselves, including name tags and the flags used during episode 12’s Perch Immunity Challenge. The charity auction is running from May 14 - June 11, 2006. Also new to the auction is the final Tribal Council voting urn with the seven deciding jury votes for Sole Survivor, all signed by host Jeff Probst. The item fetching the highest bidding thus far is the Immunity Necklace, which has surpassed $15,000.00. By logging onto http://www.survivorcharity.com or onto eBay fans and collectors can bid on authentic challenge-related items and other memorabilia signed by the castaways and host Jeff Probst. Items include tribal and individual immunity items as well as challenge props including hand-carved snakes, puzzle pieces, faux coffins and flags.
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Exposing Panama City's golden gift

Travel & Tourism By Regis St. Louis LONELY PLANET - Long overshadowed by its forested neighbor to the north, Panama has finally earned its place among the world's hot new destinations. The wonder is that it has taken so long to be discovered. Like Costa Rica, Panama is packed with wildlife, teeming jungles and breathtaking highlands; it's one of Latin America's safest destinations; the currency is the U.S. dollar; and it's close -- it takes less time to fly between New York and Panama than it does to fly across the United States. But most importantly, Panama has Panama City, a steamy salsa-infused capital with a beautiful historic district reminiscent of Old Havana, dozens of restaurants, nightspots and jazz clubs, and a rich mesh of cultures all adding to the lively street scene beneath the tropical sun. Casco Viejo is the city's colonial gem, complete with picturesque plazas, cobblestone streets and old mansions near the edge of the bay. Dilapidated for years, this neighborhood was first rediscovered by the city's artists, who came seeking cheap rents amid old-world ambience. Since then, others have followed suit, giving the crumbling homes a much-needed face-lift. One of Casco Viejo's most famous arrivistes is the singer-actor-activist Ruben Blades. He is only slightly overshadowed by President Martin Torrijos, who holds court in the elegant Palacio de las Garzas, named after the slender white herons (garzas) gliding about nearby.
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Mixed views on Brazil drug arrest

Crime & Punishment By Daniel Schweimler: BBC News, Buenos Aires - Rayo Montano had been a fugitive for 10 years Officials in the US, Europe and Latin America are trying to assess the significance of the arrest of one of the world's most wanted drug smugglers. Colombian-born Pablo Rayo Montano was captured in Brazil last week, after being on the run for 10 years. More than 30 other people were also arrested and assets worth millions of dollars were seized. The success of this operation will be a huge boost to the international fight against the illegal drugs trade. But the profits are so enormous and the levels of corruption across Latin America so deep, that aspiring young traffickers will already be filling the void left by another fallen drugs dealer. Officials working in several countries, including the US, Argentina, Colombia, Panama, Mexico and Brazil, tracked Mr Rayo Montano down in Sao Paulo, where he had lived for the past three years. Police said he had set up a number of companies, including an art gallery, to launder the proceeds from an estimated sale of 22 tons of cocaine a month to the US and Europe.
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Fire Insurance Coverage for Apartment Contents

Professional Services by Kevin Bradley: Panama has very reasonable Homeowners protection to cover the contents of your residence for Fire, Theft, Liability and more. In Panama, we insure the building and the contents under separate policies. We recommend that you insure a portion of the contents under a homeowner´s multirisk policy. This policy will include coverage for fire, theft, explosion, earthquake, hurricane or windstorm, flood, smoke and water damages. It will also cover your electronic equipment (% of the basic sum insured); theft (% of the basic sum insured); assault (up to $250.00 cash); breakage of windows; general liability up to $100,000.00 and ambulance service. Fire legal liability is also a provided for damage sustained by your neighbors from a fire originating in your residence. Claims are paid based on a "depreciated value" of the item insured. I encourage you to save your receipts or proof of purchase certificates, in case of a claim. I have had experience where a friendly adjustor will just tell my client to go out and buy the same TV, Radio etc. that was stolen or damaged.
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Judge orders ex-president extradited TO PANAMA for trial

Law & Lawyers A Panamanian judge has ordered former Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Alemán to be arrested on money-laundering charges and extradited to Panama to stand trial, court officials said Thursday. The two Central American countries do not have an extradition treaty, and it remained unclear whether Nicaraguan officials would follow the order. Alemán, who was president from 1997 to 2002, is accused of opening 60 bank accounts in Panama to launder $57 million stolen from Nicaragua's government coffers. Judge Adolfo Mejía also ordered the arrest of Alemán's wife, María Fernanda; his father-in-law, José Antonio Flores; and his former tax chief, Byron Jerez. They are accused of signing off on some of the accounts. In 2003, a Nicaraguan court sentenced Alemán to 20 years' imprisonment for fraud and money laundering. His sentence was reduced to house arrest, and appeals courts dominated by his Constitutionalist Liberal Party eventually freed him conditionally. Alemán also faces a civil trial in Miami over allegations he purchased U.S. bank certificates with money stolen from Nicaragua's government. http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/world/americas/14615384.htm?source=rss&channel=miamiherald_americas
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WBA Light Flyweight champ Roberto "Araña" Vasquez's 3rd Title Defense Tonight

Sports Section by Christian Giudice: On Saturday, May 20, Panama will hold the first Pay-Per-View event in its storied boxing history. The 8-bout card will be held at the ATLAPA Convention Center in Panama City, and transmitted by Cable Onda throughout the commercial entities of Panama, Venezuela and various countries within the region. The event will highlight the third title defense of WBA Light Flyweight champ Roberto "Araña" Vasquez's current reign. In a bout that could be his last at 108 pounds, Vasquez (21-1, 17 KO’s) faces Venezuela's Noel "El Verdugo" Arambulet in a 12-rounder. Arambulet (22-5-1, 11 KO’s), who hails from Falcon, Venezuela, held the WBA Minimumweight title in 1999 and regained it in 2002, but might be recognized more for his losses to little big men – Koki Kameda, Brahim Asloum, and Yutaka Niida – during a career that has spanned nearly 10 years. While Vasquez tries to punch his way out of 108, where he has etched a unique legacy, Arambulet, 31, attempts to revive a career on the downside. Yet, he has stated to various Panamanian boxing writers that his ring experience will be a deciding factor. Thus, it is essential that the elder Arambulet – who has lost three of his last five contests – must control the momentum early to resist the powerful southpaw. Several Panamanian prospects such as Roynet Caballero, Javier Tello and former WBO Bantamweight champ Mauricio "Cry Baby" Martinez will also be featured on the PPV card. General admission to the show costs $8, while ringsiders pay $25-$60.

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Colombian drug kingpin nabbed in Brazil

Crime & Punishment Federal authorities in Miami today announced the arrest of a reputed Colombian drug kingpin who headed a now-dismantled smuggling syndicate charged with supplying more than 15 tons of Colombian cocaine a month into the United States and Europe. Operation Twin Oceans, a three-year multi-agency probe, snared Pablo Rayo-Montano, one of the U.S. government's most-wanted drug traffickers, along with 100 associates, according to R. Alexander Acosta, interim U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. ''This was a worldwide drug ring,'' Acosta said at an afternoon press conference. Federal agents confiscated 52 tons of cocaine and $70 million in ''ill-gotten assets'' from his organization, they said. Rayo-Montano, also known as ''El Loco,'' is the lead defendant among 32 Colombians and others named in a drug-trafficking indictment unsealed today in Miami federal court. Of those, 21 suspects including Rayo-Montano were arrested on Tuesday in the United States, Colombia, Brazil and Panama, authorities said. The defendants will be tried in Miami on charges of conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States.
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