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Wednesday, July 30 2014 @ 11:10 AM EDT

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Fabrega Concedes Election To Blandon - The Newly Elected Mayor of Panama City

PoliticsAfter two days of vote counting, finally the results of the election for the Mayor of Panama City have been made known.

At first, the votes favored José Luis Fabrega, the candidate of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), but later the trend changed and Jose Isabel Blandon took the lead.

On Tuesday morning Blandon said through his Twitter account he received a call from Fábrega, to congratulate him on the outcome of the election.

Blandon said he spoke with the current Mayor Roxana Mendez to start coordinating the transition. The mayor-elect said he has the full cooperation of Mendez.

Meanwhile in the National Board of District Scrutiny of Panama, Farbrega issued a statement and publicly acknowledged the triumph of the Panameñista (Blandon), who will lead the Capital District starting on 1 July. (Telemetro)

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Allegations Of Vote Buying In Los Santos

PoliticsResidents of the community of Llano de Piedra of Macaracas in the province of Los Santos complained before the office of the Electoral Prosecutor of Las Tablas, about vote buying and marks on the ballots.

The PRD candidate for the position of Deputy in the National Assembly Ovidio Diaz is challenging the candidacy of Tito Afu.

The difference between them is 136 votes. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: This fight is over the seat for 7-1 (Las Tablas). The CD candidate Tito Afu has 14,108 votes, compared to Ovidio Diaz with 13,972. All of the votes have been counted, so this result is considered "official." Now the results are being challenged by the PRD candidate. In this race the Panameñista/PP candidate Carlos Sánchez Frías got spanked, achieving just 3,814 votes (11%).

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What Will Happen To The PRD After Their (Second Straight) Defeat?

PoliticsAfter a second straight electoral defeat (2009 and 2014), the question is: Does the PRD need re-engineering?

The former minister Laurentino "Nito" Cortizo, a member of the Juan Carlos Navarro campaign team, has no doubt there is a need to hold people accountable.

"At this moment it is very difficult for me to answer. Yes, we have to make an analysis of the situation that happened, internal to the party," he said.

Cortizo said he expects there to be a review of what needs to be done internally in the PRD political party.

"It's a delicate situation and I will work for party unity," he added.

He said he will not be a divisive factor, but rather he will serve to unite and correct what needs to be corrected.

Meanwhile, the political analyst Mario Rognoni thinks an assessment is necessary, for which the PRD should summon their best players and to make a review of the failed campaign, to adjust accordingly.

He said the studies will determine who is responsible, and if there should be changes in the strategy adopted by the National Executive Committee (CEN).

The PRD party member and political analyst Rafael Mezquita coincided with Rognoni, saying the party will now have to do an internal balance around the elements that lead to this defeat.

He said the Directors of the PRD should consider whether or not the PRD should listen to the call made by the President-elect, Juan Carlos Varela, to participate in his management of national unity. (Estrella)

The PRD's presidential candidate Juan Carlos Navarro, accepting defeat on Sunday.

Editor's Comment: In other words, Varela needs the National Assembly. There are a total of 71 seats in the National Assembly. The "magic number" is 36. If you have that many votes, you can do practically whatever you want.

Not all of the votes have been counted, and not all of the results are known. There are still 7 seats up for grabs. And the numbers make it interesting.

Right now the CD has 28 seats in the National Assembly, with one more from their allies the MOLIRENA party, giving them 29.

The Panameñistas have just 11 seats, with one more from their allies the Partido Popular party, for a total of 12.

The PRD has 22 seats in the National Assembly. This article about making some sort of an internal analysis within the PRD party really means "should we side with the CD, or with the Panameñistas?"

The PRD will stall for time, to await for the final results for the seven remaining seats. Because if they jump right now - too soon - to the Panameñista side, between the two of them they will only have 34 seats - not enough to control the National Assembly.

If the seven remaining seats all go to the CD, then they will have the 36 seats necessary to control the National Assembly, even without the PRD.

But, if a few more seats go to the CD and a few to the PRD - then the PRD will be in a fantastic negotiating position. The individual PRD Deputies will be able to sell their allegiance to the highest bidder (literally) to guarantee a majority to one side or the other.

Obviously the CD is in a stronger position, because they will need less "turncoats" to achieve a majority, like seven or less, depending on the results of the remaining seats.

The Panameñistas will have to strike a high level deal at the top of the PRD - meaning, with Navarro - to try to create an alliance with the whole PRD voting block in the National Assembly. That's a much harder nut to crack, and the CD can still work to wedge out the votes they need to achieve control.

With regards to the question of "just how screwed up is the PRD" look at it this way. In 1989 when Noriega was in the slow process of being overthrown by the Panamanian people, the PRD candidate at the time - Carlos Duque - got 28% of the vote. He was resoundingly stomped by Guillermo Endara and the "civilista" movement to get rid of Noriega, to end the dictatorship. Endara was sworn in on the night of the US invasion of Panama.

In 1994 Ernesto Perez Balladares achieved 33% of the vote - and won the election.

In 1999 Martin Torrijos achieved 37% of the vote, and lost.

in 2004 Martin Torrijos came back with 47%, and won.

In 2009 Balbina Herrera achieved 37%, and lost.

So Navarro's showing in 2014 with just 28% is the worst performance by a PRD presidential candidate in the post dictatorship era. You can't really blame it on the participation of the four Independent candidates because combined they only received 1.3% of the vote. So sure, some of the votes that went to Genaro Lopez or Juan Jovane would have normally gone to the PRD candidate, but there wasn't enough of them to account for the loss, or the overall bad performance.

Also, the PRD has much more in common with the CD than they do with their historical rivals the Panameñistas. I think a handful of PRD lawmakers will jump ship to the CD voting block (in exchange for a large sum of cash) where they will spend the next five years screwing with Varela and making his life miserable.

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President-Elect Varela Vows To Restore Trade and Diplomatic Relations With Venezuela

Panama NewsThe President-elect of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, said once he takes office he will restore diplomatic and trade relations with Venezuela .  

"I have a good relationship with President Maduro, not from now but from when I was the Chancellor, like him."

Varela said in the coming days he will send a designated person to Caracas, as a mechanism to restore relations and to not allow the break in relations to continue to affect Panamanian businessmen.  

He said he invited the president of Venezuela to the inauguration on July 1, because they have a good relationship.  

On 5 March, Venezuela broke "political and diplomatic relations" with the government of Panama and "froze" commercial ties, after Panama proposed a meeting in the Organization of American States (OAS) to discuss the subject of protests affecting Venezuela. (Panama America)

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Still Counting "Vote by Vote" For The Mayor's Office in Panama City

PoliticsWith the votes counted from 90% of polling stations, Jose I. Blandon of the Panameñista political party showed a slight lead yesterday over his closest contender, the PRD's Jose Luis Fabrega, to win the position of Mayor of Panama City, the largest in the country.

Last night, the District Election Board reported so far Blandon had obtained 36% of the vote, while 35% went to Fabrega.

But there are still records to scrutinize warned the chairman, Ramon Diaz, minutes before declaring a recess until Tuesday, when it is expected the final results will be released.

After more than 24 straight hours of scrutiny - starting when the polls closed at 4:00 pm on Sunday afternoon - each campaign remained in distress, waiting for the final results to be announced.

At times Fabrega was slightly ahead during the count, but then as new information arrived, Blandon passed him, just barely.

The tension climaxed when supporters for both Blandón and Fábrega berated (the board) at the headquarters of the National Lottery, where the canvassing board is installed.

The electoral delegates intervened and limited access to the auditorium to avoid clashes.

But the mood of the militants did not subside. Within the enclosure one could feel the tension in the air as the results were displayed on a projector.

The current Mayor of Panama City and candidate for the Democratic Change political party Roxana Mendez was at the scene. At 6:00 pm she recognized her defeat, and the virtual triumph of Blandon .

Fabrega also arrived at the scene, it was said, to watch the counting process.

He said there are some records with possible irregularities, which was confirmed by the head of the board.

So they agreed to proclaim a recess until the documents could be rechecked with the results. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: The Mayor's office of Panama City is called the "mini presidency" - because it's the largest municipality in the Republic of Panama. What's amazing to me is the CD had information on Blandon they never used during the campaign. Of course that must mean he had equally incriminating information he could have used to shoot back, if attacked. A sort of dirty politicians mutual assured destruction pact, as it were.

As of this moment according to the website of the Electoral Tribunal, Blandon has received 131,074 votes (35.70%) compared to Fabrega's 126,750 votes (34.52%). The TE says they have counted 88.27% of the vote - then they declared a recess.

Warning! The PRD controls the Electoral Tribunal. Fabrega is losing, and he's the PRD candidate. Hopefully there's enough safeguards in place to make sure there will be no monkey business in the vote counting process. It just seems a little strange that they would declare a "recess." Funny things can happen during a recess. Why not just keep counting until it's done? Smells fishy.

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Juan Carlos Varela Wins - And Surprises The Hell Out Of Me...

PoliticsBy Don Winner for - I was simply amazed while watching the election results as they were posted to the website of Panama's Electoral Tribunal last night. Once some serious numbers started coming in, Varela pulled out to a lead with about 39%, Arias settled in at second place with 32%, and Navarro in third at 27%. I couldn't believe my eyes, and actually went through a period of denial. Like, this can't be happening...

I was completely convinced that Arias was going to win this election. I mean, Martinelli had an 80% approval rating. He built the Metro. He killed the old "Diablo Rojo" buses and upgraded public transportation in many ways. He tore down Hollywood and rebuilt Curundu. He finished the Cinta Costera phases II and III. Improved security. Set records against drug trafficking. Managed the economy very well, and achieved investment grade status for Panamanian debt bonds. His list of accomplishments was long, and solid.

But I made a serious and fundamental mistake by underestimating the importance of the Panamanian cultural memory of the 21 years of military dictatorship under first Omar Torrijos, and then Manuel Noriega. There is a strong "never again" attitude when it comes to who Panamanians trust with the reins of power, especially over long periods of time. They would rather have a guy like Varela in charge, despite his many faults, than allow Martinelli to build a "de facto" dictatorship.

Clearly, with Ricardo Martinelli's wife on the Arias ticket as his Vice President, a vote for Arias was going to be a vote to continue the administration of Ricardo Martinelli. Arias didn't really have anything new he was going to be doing, rather than simply continuing on with the route already set by Martinelli. So it was, in fact, an attempt for Martinelli to sort of remain in office, after leaving office. And that made people very nervous.

The CD's problem is that they don't have anyone who is clearly enough a leader who can fill Martinelli's shoes. Arias was hand-picked to be his successor, mostly because Martinelli would be able to control him like a puppet. Everyone knew this.

In hindsight the CD would have had a better chance if Martinelli had stayed off of the playing field completely. If his wife was not on the ticket, they might have gotten more votes. If they had a stronger and more charismatic candidate, they might have gotten more votes. Shoulda, woulda, coulda...

So if the Panamanian people refuse to keep the CD in power, then that only leaves a choice between the PRD and the Panameñistas. By simple math, the PRD was the last party to hold office before Martinelli and the CD. The Panameñistas have not been in charge since Mireya Moscoso from 1999 - 2004. So I guess it was simply their turn. Besides, the PRD is split and Navarro is weak, even within his own party. A 27% showing for the PRD in this sort of a race is very, very poor - historically speaking. Normally they can count on 35% or better, even in their sleep. There are that many people with "PRD tattoos" as it were...

So it remains true that no political party has remained in power after having served five years in office, since the end of the military dictatorship. It's gone Panameñistas in 1989, PRD in 1994, Panameñistas in 1999, PRD in 2004, CD in 2009, and now Panameñistas in 2014. Six elections, one every five years over the past 25 years, and not one single "reelection."

Obviously, the Panamanian constitution prohibits any sitting president from seeking reelection. In 1998 the PRD's Ernesto Perez Balladarez tried a National Referendum in an attempt to be able to stay in power, and he was answered by the Panamanian people with a resounding "NO" vote of 2-1 (63% against). And if you add the votes achieved by Navarro to the votes achieved by Varela you get 67% of the Panamanian people voting "against" Arias - and a continuation of Martinelli in power.

Well, I blew that one. At least I had the balls to put my predictions out there, a long time ago. I broke out laughing last night as I watched people who have never taken a solid position on anything suddenly come out to claim "their guy" was going to win - after the results were posted. Hilarious.

So what does this mean for 2019? The Panameñista party will not remain in power. No matter what they do in office, good or bad. Martinelli just proved you can build a bridge to the moon, and the Panamanian voters won't reward your party with another trip to the salad bowl. The CD still won't have anyone with the charisma to replace Martinelli as a viable candidate, and Martinelli himself won't be able to run for reelection until 2024. Also, since the CD just left office, that means it will be the PRD's turn to win. OK - I'm calling a win for the PRD candidate (whoever that might be) in the 2019 Panamanian general election.

Biggest winners? Martinelli. He's now probably a billionaire. He's got five Supreme Court justices sitting on the bench, added to the immunity granted to him by the PARLACEN. So, as an individual he's practically untouchable.

Biggest losers? Mireya Moscoso who abandoned the Panameñistas in favor of the CD. And, I. Roberto Eisenmann who abandoned Varela at the last minute, in favor of Navarro. Now it's going to cost him to regain favor. On your knees, boy...

The CD landed 30 seats in the National Assembly, out of 71. They need just six votes from the one Independent Deputy and the PRD to gain control of Panama's lawmaking body. The Panameñistas only got 12 seats in the National Assembly, and they also picked up the Mayor of Panama City position in the form of Jose Blandon, by a hair.

Varela will also have to contend with a hostile Attorney General, Supreme Court, and National Assembly - which could conceivably investigate him for money laundering. It's going to be an interesting few years, as always.

Thank God for Panamanian Politicians. It's like the gift that keeps on giving, for journalists...

Now the real fun starts. Let's watch the incredibly corrupt Panameñista party return to raping the Panamanian public coffers, just the way Mireya Moscoso did. The only difference is, they won't get anything done. Varela was responsible for the Finmeccanica scandal. He received funds from money laundering, and money that was diverted from the consulates in South Korea and Japan. And - despite all that - he still won. Un-friggin' believable. I still sit here, stunned. I accept the results. I understand how it happened, and why. But wow. Varela is one lucky dude. Talk about being in the right place at the right time...

Copyright 2014

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Fake Newspaper Front Pages Circulating in Panama On Election Day

PoliticsFake front pages of the La Prensa newspaper, reporting on the resignation of two presidential candidates, circulated today in some polling stations.

One of the fake front pages carries the headline "José Domingo Arias Quits The Election" and another "Juan Carlos Navarro Quits The Election."

Both bear a ribbon with the phrase "special last minute edition."

This morning the President of the Republic Ricardo Martinelli, before going to the Belisario Porras School to exercise his right to vote, today showed reporters a copy of the fake front page bearing the false heading about Arias, and saying it was a lie.

"These are the things that should not happen in a political campaign. These are things that leave a lot to be said, the people know for whom they intend to vote," he said.

Navarro, from his residence, said the fake headlines are the "the death kicks of a drowning man to discredit La Prensa."

The actual cover of La Prensa today bears no illustration of presidential candidates, and focuses on providing utilitarian information on the election process: polling places, the number of voters, polling hours, among others.

Electoral Prosecutor Will Probe False Headlines

The Electoral Prosecutor Eduardo Peñaloza said on Sunday 4 May he would initiate an investigation into the publication of two false newspaper front pages with the headline, logo, and typography of the newspaper La Prensa, reporting on the supposed resignation of two presidential candidates. (Mi Diario)

Editor's Comment: Cute stunt. Notice there's no fake La Prensa headline claiming that Juan Carlos Varela has resigned from the race. Remember that I. Roberto Eisenmann - the owner of La Prensa - decided at the last minute to drop their support for Varela and they switched horses to the PRD and Navarro. I have no doubt whatsoever this "smear" campaign was produced by some of the Panameñista political party operatives who are trying a sort of "hail Mary" campaign, hoping beyond hope that someone will believe these false headlines, and switch their vote to their candidate. I mean, how screwed up do you have to be in order to think this sort of a stunt would actually work? I guess you can buy a lot of bullshit with laundered money, right? Amazing. Only in Panama...

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Martinelli: It is false that Arias resigned from the election

PoliticsThe President the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli, rejected the last minute smear campaign that appeared at dawn in Panama, where the false cover of a newspaper stated that the candidate for the Democratic Change political party, José Domingo Arias, had resigned from the election.  

This was described by the head of the Panamanian government as a smear campaign, and he urged Panamanians to "not pay any attention to that, and to vote for the candidate of their choice."  

"I'm ready," said Martinelli when he was asked about how it will feel to place the presidential sash on the next president, and he said he would put it on the candidate from the party that wins.

"Whoever wins, hopefully it will be by the votes, will receive the sash. Not only for the president, but also for the mayors and deputies," said Martinelli to the reporters who were camped out in front of his house.

He added that a president governs for all, not for a party, a family or a group of followers.

On the other hand, Martinelli said he has full confidence in the Electoral Tribunal.

However, he thinks the presidential race is very close, so he asked the agency to allow a reasonable time to give the results of who will be the next president of Panama.

According to him, this will help so that if anyone is complaining, and whoever loses will accept that they have become the new leader of the opposition.

The President of the Republic has not yet cast his vote.

He said he will vote after all of the presidential candidates have voted, because "today is a day for them."

He said once his term in office is over he will return to his business activities, the Ricardo Martinelli foundation, and the Democratic Change political party. He said he will remain active in politics, regardless of what happens during the elections today.

"I want to come back to fuck with them, because they've hit me so much, this is what I'm going to enjoy," he said. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: And, end quote. "I'm going to come back to fuck with those bastards because they've been fucking with me for five years..." You've got to love Martinelli. Politically correct what? Nah, just spout whatever comes to your brain and go with it. Now that he's not the president, he will be free to spend all of his time and money screwing with whoever he wants. Hey, it's nice that he has a hobby.

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Panamanians Vote Today To Select New President, Deputies, Mayors, and Representatives

PoliticsToday Panamanians will vote to select their top officials for the period from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2019.

The focus is on the Presidency of the Republic. There are seven candidates seeking office; José Domingo Arias, Juan Carlos Navarro, Juan Carlos Varela, Genaro López, Juan Jované, Esteban Rodríguez and Gerardo Barroso.

The 71 Deputies (lawmakers) of the National Assembly, 75 Mayors, and 600 local Representatives serving on municipal city councils will also be elected today across the country.

Polls open at 7:00 am and close at 4:00 pm. Those in line at closing time will be allowed to vote.

Election officials estimate that by about 7:00 pm the trend favoring the next President will be known.

2.4 million people are eligible to vote in an election characterized by the prominence of the president, Ricardo Martinelli, in favor of the government candidate, and the fact that his wife, Marta Martinelli, is the vice presidential candidate in a gamble for continuity in power.

This Friday and Saturday were were anomalies for those browsing the website of the Electoral Tribunal, after it was the victim of a "malicious query traffic" that took the website off line for several hours.

This will not affect the election process because the "unofficial results transmission" system which will be used today is separate from the website, and it has its own security measures, they said.

Yesterday at noon the "dry law" went into effect, banning the sale of liquor, which extends until noon on Monday. All political advertising stopped on Friday.

According to the Electoral Code public protests and political propaganda through spokesmen and through the news media are banned starting at 12:00 midnight on Thursday 1 May before the elections, and this ban extends until 12:00 noon the day following the elections, on 5 May 2014. This ban includes the social networks.

The electoral delegates have been deployed throughout the country.

The public is reminded that no one can carry a firearm, even if they have a permit.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Tribunal has extended the expiration date of cedulas, in order to respect the right to vote. (Prensa)

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Summit between presidential candidates and international observers

PoliticsThe presidential candidates came to the Electoral Tribunal to meet with the mission of 56 international experts and observers from the Organization of American States who will be monitoring the elections in Panama tomorrow.

Among them, the government candidate, José Domingo Arias reiterated his faith in the electoral process and entity that controls the elections.

Arias was accompanied by a spokesman for the Democratic Change political party, Rómulo Roux, and his running mate Marta Martinelli.

The OAS observers held meetings with government and electoral authorities, the representatives of political parties, and members of the civil society. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: And it all comes down to this. The election is tomorrow, finally, and Thank God. I don't think I can take any more political propaganda, advertising, news articles, and campaigning. This year has taught us that the Electoral Laws in Panama should be changed to include an absolute prohibition on all labor actions, strikes, and protests during the week prior to the election. The strikes and protests by the SUNTRACS, public teachers union, and environmentalists last week were - in fact - politically motivated actions disguised or camouflaged as something else.

But then again, the "end of campaign" rally held by Jose Domingo Arias on the Cinta Costera III blocked traffic and screwed up the Pan American Highway all the way back to Arraijan, so never mind...

I would recommend that the members of the English speaking community of expatriates in Panama go out to "experience" the election first hand, even though you can't vote. There's going to be a polling place somewhere close to where you live, no matter where you live. It's open to the public (obviously) and about the only thing you can't do is go into the actual room where the votes are cast, to see how someone is actually voting. But other than that, feel free to wander around and talk to people.

I've learned that the safest question to ask is "who do you think is going to win?" That way you're not breaching etiquette by asking "who did you vote for" and rather you simply asking for an opinion. Because, they might have voted for Navarro (for example) but they still think Arias is going to win. You can spot the politicians when they come to cast their votes, because they will have a following, and they will be wearing their gang (political party) colors.

Good point. Stay neutral as far as your dress is concerned. Avoid dressing in red, white, and blue (PRD), purple, yellow, and red (Panameñista), cyan and pink (CD), red and white (FAD). Your best bet is a simple white shirt, or something that's obviously not political like a NY Yankees jersey, for example. Unless, of course, you want to express your support for a particular party for whatever reason - but that might keep some people from wanting to talk to you.

Traffic and parking near the polling places is always difficult on election day. Do a "drive by" first to spot the location. Then find a place to legally park that's not too far away, and just walk back. Bring a bottle of water.

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One Killed, One Wounded in Brazen Multiplaza Murder

Crime & PunishmentThe National Police reported a shooting at the Multiplaza mall in downtown Panama City on Friday night left one dead and one injured.

Preliminary reports indicate one of the offenders started shooting at the two victims at 7:30 pm as they were sitting in the Grand Café restaurant.

According to a witness at least five shots were fired.

One of the criminals fled in a van, and another in a taxi. Police began investigations. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Whoever the shooters were, they were recorded by at least a few security surveillance cameras as they made their escape. However this sounds like a hit - and there's a very good chance the shooter was on a plane for Bogota before the ambulance arrived. That's what they do in these sorts of things. The paid assassin is flown in from another country. They make their plan and have it all set up. And they go straight from the scene of the shooting to the airport to board their plane back to where they came from. And of course that's all just simple speculation. There's no information on the identify of the victims, why they were shot, or who shot them. But history dictates that these highly visible murders in a very public setting are often paid assassinations, and almost always related in some way or another to drug trafficking.

And the bottom line for the members of the English speaking expatriate community in Panama remains the same. This sort of violence rarely spills over to impact the expats. The only exceptions are when gringos get involved in crime or drugs, cases of mistaken identity, or targeted home invasions or robberies because of a perception of relative wealth.

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Panama election to test Martinelli's hold on power

PoliticsBy Christine Murray and Elida Moreno (Reuters) - Panamanians vote for a new president on Sunday in the closest contest in a generation with opponents of President Ricardo Martinelli seeking to thwart the business tycoon's attempt to maintain an indirect grip on power.

Three candidates are just a few points apart in a campaign that has focused more on personality than policy.

Panama is a banking and trading hub and its successful canal has helped fuel the fastest economic growth in Latin America in recent years. Economic and social policies are expected to remain broadly in place whichever of the top candidates wins.

Opinion polls show ruling Democratic Change (CD) party candidate Jose Domingo Arias, whose running mate is Martinelli's wife, neck and neck with moderate leftist ex-Panama City mayor Juan Carlos Navarro of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD).

Just behind in third place is the Panameñista Party's Juan Carlos Varela, the vice-president. Varela's support helped Martinelli to get elected in 2009, but the two later fell out.

Martinelli, a supermarket magnate who won the presidency in 2009, is barred by law from running for re-election.

All three candidates pledge to continue large infrastructure projects, such as expanding Panama City's new metro, and social programs like Martinelli's $120 a month payment to Panamanians older than 70 and outside the social security system.

Instead of promising major policy changes, both Navarro and Varela say they are more transparent than Martinelli, whose administration has had to fend off allegations that the public works boom he presided over was tainted by corruption.

"We will be choosing between two different paths, re-election, imposition and backwardness, that is their way, or democracy, liberty and the future," Navarro said recently.

The election is set to be the closest held in the isthmus nation since a U.S. military invasion in 1989 toppled military strongman Manuel Noriega.

The winner, elected by a simple majority on Sunday, will have to manage strong but slowing growth, adhere to a strict new fiscal responsibility law, and oversee the multi-billion dollar expansion of the Panama Canal, which briefly stalled earlier this year in a dispute with the building consortium.

Navarro and Varela both represent older Panamanian parties, while the CD is seen by many as a vehicle for Martinelli.

"People understand that Jose Domingo Arias is essentially there as a front for Martinelli," said Orlando Perez, a Panama expert at Central Michigan University.

Martinelli's wife Marta Linares de Martinelli became the CD candidate for vice president despite the constitution banning anyone closer than a fourth degree blood relation or of second degree "affinity" taking the job.

Martinelli's opponents say this invalidates his wife, but he has rejected the claim. Vowing to keep up his strong public works spending and expand welfare program, the CD aims to be the first party to win re-election in Panama's recent history.

Under Martinelli's watch, Panama's economy has grown at an average rate of 8.2 percent a year. That has narrowed the gap between rich and poor, but many Panamanians still struggle.

"We may have much better infrastructure, the metro, a better economy, but this means nothing if at home we have nothing to eat," said Luis Rodriguez, a 26-year-old nursing student.

Fitch analyst Lucila Broide told Reuters that the election would probably bring policy continuity, but that a contested result could create uncertainty. (Writing by Christine Murray; Editing by Dave Graham and Kieran Murray)

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Wanted - John Patrick Acord - US Fugitive Hiding In Panama City - Ponzi Scheme

Expat Tales

Steven Patrick Jones, 49, of Kingwood, and Panama City, Panama, has pleaded guilty to mail fraud, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson on May 1.

Jones has admitted he and a partner formed a company called Intermodal Wealth to sell shipping containers.

Intermodal offered to sell shipping containers to investors, then lease the containers for the investors. Jones promised to pay their investors 16 percent per year from the proceeds of the leases.

However, the company had few containers and did not lease any of them. Payments were made to investors, but the funds came from subsequent investors rather than from true proceeds.

Intermodal received more than $5.5 million from investors throughout the United States and worldwide. Jones, his family and partners spent the majority of the investment funds they received.

John Patrick Acord, 71, of Magnolia, is named in the indictment as Jones’ partner. He is considered a fugitive and a warrant remains outstanding for his arrest. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 713-238-4444. He is considered innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

U.S. District Judge Gray Miller, who accepted the guilty plea today, has set sentencing for Sept. 5, 2014. At that time, Jones faces up to 20 years in federal prison without parole and a fine of up to $250,000. He has been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated the case with the assistance of the Texas State Securities Board. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hileman is prosecuting.

John Patrick Acord - Reportedly Hiding in Panama

Editor's Comment: I have been contacted by members of the English speaking expatriate community in Panama City over the past few months who have told me they know "without a doubt" that John Patrick Acord is currently in Panama. Reportedly detectives from the DIJ went to an apartment in Paitilla looking for him. If you know where he is, contact the office of the Legal Attache at the US Embassy in Panama (just call the switchboard). And if for whatever reason you don't want to talk to the FBI Special Agents at the US Embassy, just send your information to me and I'll relay it to them - Another ponzi scheme guy. Let's take out the trash, yet again...

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Jose Domingo Arias' "End of Campaign" Rally Today

PoliticsWith an ample deployment to provide a real feast to the Panamanian people, the Democratic Change political party is all set for the final act (end of campaign celebration) of its presidential candidate, José Domingo Arias, and their main figures who will participate in the general election on 4 May.

Ricardo Martinelli, Panama City Mayor Roxana Mendez, and Vice Presidential Candidate Marta Linares will also speak at the event, which will take place on the Third Phase of the Cinta Costera.

"Today is a great day, accompanied by God and by all Panamanians who want to pursue more changes," Arias said earlier via his Twitter account.

"We're going for more changes for everyone, with our hearts devoted to the Panamanian people," said the presidential candidate of Democratic Change. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: All of the candidates hold these large "end of campaign" rallies, during which they try to get as many people as possible to turn out, as a show of their strength or support. This morning about eight people turned up for the Juan Jovane rally - and that's about how many votes he's going to get. Of course the CD has about a billion dollars to spend on their campaign, so they paid to have "international" music starts perform at their events. Today the Puerto Rican artist Olga Tañón will be performing. And of course the idea is to have a popular artist performing, so that people will show up to hear the free concert, even if they have no intention of voting for Jose Domingo Arias. Hey, a free t-shirt is a free t-shirt, right?

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Damage Takes Bahia Las Minas Power Plant Offline

Infrastructure UpgradesThe coal burning power plant operated by GDF Suez located in Bahia Las Minas in the province of Colon, with the capacity to produce up to 120 megawatts, was taken off line on Thursday afternoon due to a problem in the system.

In mid-March an electrical panel at the Panam plant in La Chorrera caught fire, removing the 93 megawatt facility from the system.

The coal burning plant is the second thermal production facility that has gone inoperative during this dry season, further narrowing the gap between supply and demand for electricity in the country.

These two plants produce a combined total of more than 200 megawatts that must be supplied by other sources, in order to avoid having to ration the supply of electrical power among users.

Due to the damage to the coal plant, the National Dispatch Center has had to use more power from hydro generation, further reducing the water supply in the reservoirs.

The operations and maintenance team from the Bahia Las Minas power plant are working to return the plant to operation, said Fernando Tovar, the Director of the company GDF Suez Energy Central America. (Prensa)

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One Killed, Several Injured In Rio Hato Bus Crash

Traffic AccidentsBy Don Winner for - At least one person was killed and several injured when a passenger bus crashed in the area of Rio Hato.

The bus - from the Panama to David route - lost control and went off of the roadway. Emergency response personnel are one the scene now. Early reports indicate "at least" one person was killed in this accident.

One pedestrian was killed, and 35 people on the bus received relatively minor injuries.

Copyright 2014

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Two Apartments on Fire in El Chorrillo

Safety & SecurityBy Don Winner for - A fire broke out tonight on the fourth floor of an apartment building on 21st street in El Chorrillo tonight.

At least two apartments are on fire, at the time of this report.

As of 8:53 pm the firemen are reporting that the fire has been extinguished, and they are using ventilators to remove smoke.

Firemen from the stations in Calidonia, Plaza Amador and Balboa responded to the multiple alarm fire.

Copyright 2014

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Gunfire Erupts At Event To Mark End Of Blandon Campaign - One Killed

Crime & PunishmentOne person was shot and killed this afternoon in the Urracá park in the area of Bella Vista in Panama City, near event to mark the end of the political campaign of Jose Isabel Blandon, who is running for the position of Mayor of Panama City for the Panameñista political party.

The victim was shot several times, and killed. The political activity in the area was suspended. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: Blandon showed up at the event, and was notified by the police that the event would have to be suspended. The shooting occurred close to the area where Blandon was going to be holding his end of campaign rally this afternoon. The young man who was shot ended up face down on the sidewalk, dead, after he was shot several times in the chest at close range. The police have started an operation to try to find the shooter.

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CD's Call Center Employee On The Payroll At The MICI

PoliticsAn audio recording that began circulating on Youtube, containing a conversation between the Mayor of Panama City Roxana Mendez and the former Director of the National Immigration Service María Cristina González, began to unravel a web behind the "call center" of the ruling Democratic Change political party, involving use of state funds to pay the salary of Giancarlo Terán, who works in the call center.

On the morning of Tuesday, April 9th​​, Giancarlo Terán, who said he works as the supervisor of one of the "call centers" for the Democratic Change political party, reported on the program "Panama Today" broadcast by Radio Panama, that "the group of gladiators or operators of the call center receive instructions from the Administrator of the Tourism Authority, Solomon Shamah and from María Cristina González, who issues orders at the different call centers."

Teran also said the money used to fund these "call centers" comes from the National Assembly, and the monthly salary is from $500 to $600 for the employees.

Contradictions of Minister Frank De Lima

The Minister of Economy and Finance, and the current spokesman for the Democratic Change political party Frank De Lima, said today, Wednesday, April 30 on the Telemetro morning news broadcast, that the money used to pay the salaries of the employees in the "call centers" does not come from the National Assembly, but rather from the funds of the CD political party.

However Giancarlo Terán appears on the payroll of the Ministry of Trade and Industry where he charges a monthly salary of $1,000 and he was hired as a temporary employee at the start of 2014 as a "Coordinator of Plans and Programs." (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: These allegations against the CD's "call centers" is the best counter-attack the Panameñistas can launch at this point, in an effort to divert attention away from the "Varela-gate" scandal. It's coming down to the wire, and literally anything can happen between now and Sunday. Stay tuned...

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DIJ Experts Analyzing Varela-Gate Financial Documents

PoliticsThe report written by the Justice Department of the United States, and another written by the Financial Analysis Unit of Panama, over doubtful deposits linked to the presidential candidate of the Panameñista political party Juan Carlos Varela, are in the hands of specialists in accounting matters of the Division of Criminal Investigation (DIJ) revealed Panama's Attorney General Ana Belfon.

The head of the Public Ministry (MP) said the report is under the keen eye of the accounting specialists of the Economic Crimes Division of the DIJ, who will determine whether a crime has been committed, and if the process should be sent to the judiciary.

Belfon guaranteed the Public Ministry is respectful of due process, and she would wait until there is a pronouncement made by the experts, according to which, the relevant authorities will determine whether or not a crime has been committed.

"There is no specific term for delivery of the results of this analysis," said Belfon, who reiterated that the procedural terms have nothing to do with whatever the politicians might do or say. "We only involve ourselves with the law," she said.

In the documents produced by the Financial Analysis Unit, which were first delivered to the office of the Attorney General, and then later handed over to the DIJ, there is evidence that the transactions exceeded the salaries of the diplomats appointed by Varela.

Ana Belfon said the Public Ministry cannot execute any sort of action until the specialists determine whether there are unusual deposits, and whether or not crimes were committed.

"When there is evidence, due process will be followed," she said.

Recently, the Miami based newspaper Diario Las Americas published several documents showing that the funds received in the banking accounts of the Don James Foundation in Panama and abroad exceed the financial profile of the wife, mother and minor children of Jaime Lasso Castillo.

The prosecutor said the Financial Analysis Unit, attached to the National Security Council, has the mission of sounding the alarm and investigating voluminous deposits, anything undeclared over $10,000 and of dubious origin. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: This is a normal step for the prosecutors of the Public Ministry. They are legal experts, lawyers, and prosecutors - not accountants, bankers, or money launderers. They rely on the expertise of the accountants and technical experts hired by the DIJ who know how to read these things, follow a trail of deposits, back-track the accounts and tie them together with companies, that sort of thing. The prosecutors always to this when they need an expert in whatever field, depending on the details of the case. And now just four days before the election on Sunday, the drip, drip, drip of this story is winding down. If the CD and Martinelli had any more heavy artillery to fire off, they would have done it by now.

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Boquete Garden Inn: 517 Five Star TripAdvisor Reviews and Counting

HotelsBy any standard, Boquete Garden Inn is among the top picks for local getaways. Awarded the coveted TripAdvisor Traveler's Choice the past three years, the Inn has a long history of success. Not surprisingly, Frommer's Travel Guide has ranked the Inn one of the top 10 small B&Bs in Panama. and Boquete Garden Inn are teaming up to offer stays at 66% OFF valid anytime over the next 2 months.

Various room types are available starting at $75/night (normally $220/night). All options include continental breakfast along with a host of additional amenities. Check out for more information and to reserve your nights:

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Martinelli's Replacement Will Make Many Important Appointments To Key Government Positions

PoliticsThe Electoral Tribunal judge Eduardo Valdés Escoffery, whose term in office ends in December, said he will not seek to remain in office. "Not really. I've given my share, so I think that's enough," he said.

He said his replacement will have to meet the legal formalities, after passing through a scrutiny of his democratic convictions and administrative capacity.

He said to be a judge on the Electoral Tribunal it's not enough to just be a lawyer, but you also have to be in tune with the electoral requirement.

His replacement will be appointed by the next President of the Republic.

Whoever is elected on Sunday to replace Ricardo Martinelli will also have the opportunity to appoint the next Attorney General, as well as the Prosecutor for Administration, four new judges on the Supreme Court, the Electoral Prosecutor, six Directors to the Board of the Panama Canal, and the Superintendents of Banking and the Stock Market.

The Dates

Before the end of this year, Ricardo Martinelli's successor must decide who will replace Ana Belfon and Oscar Ceville, the Attorney General and the Prosecutor of Administration, respectively. Both will remain in office until 31 December 2014.

The Prosecutors - and their alternates - will take office on 2 January 2015 and will remain in office for a period of ten years.

Same happens with the Superintendents of the Stock Market and Banking, whose terms end on 31 December.

In the Supreme Court, the four judges appointed during the PRD administration of Martin Torrijos will end their terms in office.

Harley Mitchell and Victor Benavides leave office on December 31, 2015.

Jerónimo Mejía and Oyden Ortega leave office on December 31, 2017.

The presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Change political party José Domingo Arias said yesterday if he wins the election "with the approach of the new policy" he would make "straight" decisions and "with people who share my vision of building the country."

Juan Carlos Navarro and Juan Carlos Varela, opposition candidates have said they will carry out consultations for appointments. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: The La Prensa newspaper is conducting a little bit of subliminal scare tactics here. The invisible lines in this article say "don't forget, that if you reelect the CD they will have appointed all nine judges on the Supreme Court, as well as the Attorney General, and other important figures in the government." This is exactly why political power in Panama has shifted back and forth every five years from the Panameñistas (Endara) to the PRD (Balladares) back to the Panameñistas (Moscoso) then to the PRD again (Torrijos) and finally to the CD (Matinelli). It's an entirely new phenomenon for Panama's version of their post-dictatorship democracy to be staring at the possibility of a "reelection" of sorts. They almost don't know what to do, or how to act, or think. This is compounded by a relatively close three way race where the winner could slip into office with less than 40% of the vote. But remember, that Martinelli has about an 80% approval rating, so if Arias wins it will be a clear "continuation" vote - the people want more of the same that's been going on for the past five years.

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CSS Warehouse Fire Destroys Medical Supplies in Juan Diaz

Safety & SecurityA fire occurred in a wooden warehouse of the Social Security Fund on Monday night, located in the area of El Sitio in Juan Diaz.

According to reports from the Fire Department, their efforts to control the fire were supported by units from several stations, and a lack of water hindered their efforts.

A water tanker truck from the Panama Canal Authority was on the scene, as well as another from the Tocumen International Airport.

According to information provided by Fire Chief Pablo Tuñón, medical supplies belonging to the dialysis unit of the Social Security Fund were burned in the fire, and the losses are in the millions.

At approximately 9:30 pm the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN) reported they were sending two additional water tanker trucks to the scene of the fire. (Telemetro)

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Striking Public School Teachers Marching From Via España to Calle 50 Today

Protests & DemonstrationsThe various teachers' unions came out to protest again this morning, but this time they are marching on Via España, near the El Carmen church.

The public school teachers, who have been on strike for the past six days, are marching from the church towards the headquarters of the Human Rights Ombudsman on Calle 50.

So far there has been no "white smoke" from the authorities of the Ministry of Education and the educators, so their protests continue.

The public school teachers, together with their union leaders, hope the Minister of Education Lucy Molinar will arrive today to give them an answer to their demands, and that she will not send a representative.

The striking teachers are demanding the Ministry of Education agree to pay them a $300 per month raise, without conditions, and especially for the raise to be disbursed before 15 May. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: Again, politically motivated. They are trying to take advantage of the fact that we are now just a few days before the elections, to press their demands.

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Six Killed, 20 Injured In Serious Traffic Accident

Traffic AccidentsA truck, a bus from the Cañazas-Santiago route, and a sedan were involved in a serious traffic accident this morning.

The accident occurred on the Pan American highway, in the sector of Gavilán in La Mesa.

Unofficially it has been reported that six people were killed, and at least 20 were injured.

The Fire Department and ambulances have responded to the scene are and providing first aid. (Estrella)

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Liberals: The Complaints Against Juan Carlos Varela Can Jeopardize Continued Progress

PoliticsThe complaints of alleged money laundering, involving links to the presidential candidate of the Panameñista political party Juan Carlos Varela, caused alarm and concern among members of the International Liberal movement, because they "may jeopardize the prospects for continued progress" of the country.

They expressed their sentiments by adopting Resolution #59.

During the recent International Liberal Congress held in Rotterdam, participants analyzed the state of human rights, free and fair elections, multiparty democracy, social justice, tolerance, free market economy, free trade, and environmental sustainability in the countries of the world.

"The Congress expresses its deep concern before the elections (in Panama) that the allegations of corruption - as in the case of the Vice President (Juan Carlos) Varela - can jeopardize the prospects for continued progress," says the document in the section of the resolution dedicated to Panama.

This report refers to the complaint made ​​by the Miami based Diario Las Americas newspaper, linked the presidential candidate of the Panameñista political party Juan Carlos Varela to a money laundering network, whose resources were used to finance part of his campaign.

According to the investigative report, the funds from money laundering came from illegal Internet gambling operations in the United States, but the money came from more than 26 bank accounts opened in Panama that were used to finance Varela's presidential campaign.

The U.S. newspaper revealed funds from two members of the Panamanian diplomatic corps, appointed by Varela when he was the Chancellor of the Republic, were also deposited to those accounts.

Jaime Lasso del Castillo is the former Consul in South Korea, and Alberto Aristides Arosemena Medina is the former Consul in Kobe, Japan.

Michelle Lasso, the daughter of former diplomat in South Korea, was also a signatory of the accounts, which were closed after her arrest in Florida.

But beyond the bank accounts, there is also a receipt certifying the down payment on a Bertram yacht, model 630, with hull number 5051, revealing Michelle Lasso made the first payment of $175,000 for Varela's luxury pleasure craft.


The organization, which brings together the liberal political parties, also expressed alarm "over the document 'National Commitment for Life and Family' because it discriminates against minorities and people with different orientation and lifestyle. Liberal International believes the prosperity of Panama can only be guaranteed through individual freedom and civil liberties."

The resolution refers to the signing of this document by the presidential candidates during a ceremony held last April 16 at the facilities of the Universidad Santa Maria la Antigua (USMA).

The paper also gives a nod to government administration of President Ricardo Martinelli, and mainly emphasizes the democratic and economic development .

"The Liberal International welcomes Panama's achievements in recent years, in democratic stability and economic progress. The Congress notes the bold decision of the authorities to participate in crucial projects that primarily benefit the people of Panama, but which also provide better conditions for trade and global development."


The Liberal International is an umbrella organization of liberal parties in the world. It was founded in Oxford in 1947 and has become an important network to strengthen liberal democracy in the world.

Among its principles is to foster the growth of a free society based on personal liberty, personal responsibility, and social justice, and to provide the means for cooperation and exchange of information among members of the organization, and between men and women of all countries that accept its principles.

Among the most important figures who participated in the 59 th Congress, held in Rotterdam, are Ben Verwaayen, the former Director General of Alcatel- Lucent , a multinational company based in Paris specializing in telecommunications; Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, the Icelandic Prime Minister and leader of the Progressive Party; the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte; Roxana Baldetti , vice president of the Republic of Guatemala; the Commissioner of the European Union for Trade, Karel de Gucht, and Ricardo Lopez Murphy, president of Liberal Network of Latin America.

Arturo González Baso, of the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement (MOLIRENA) political party, shares the concern of the organization and encourages Varela to respond to the questions that are being asked in this case.

"The situation of Varela and alleged links to money laundering is a concern," he said. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Yeah, who cares? I guess the guys at the Liberal International Congress are one of the few outside organizations who are paying any attention at all to the election process in Panama. What matters most are the Panamanian voters, and of course the pro-Martinelli Panama America newspaper continues to beat the daily drum on the "Varela Gate" scandal, created by Martinelli himself by leaking the documents from the Financial Analysis Unit to the Miami based Diario Las Americas newspaper. They have caused so much damage - crippling Varela as a viable candidate - the point where he was abandoned by an important and long standing supporter I. Roberto Eisenmann, the owner of the La Prensa newspaper. As a result, Eisenmann switched his support to the PRD candidate Juan Carlos Navarro, a stunning turn of events for those who follow Panamanian politics closely.

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Companies Should Be On Alert, After Cyber Attack Against TVN: Mejía

Internet & TechnologyThe former Minister of Government and Justice during the administration of former President Martín Torrijos, Severino Mejía, today warned that the cyber attack against TVN-, coming just five days before the upcoming national general election, should serve as a clarion call, and that all private companies and government institutions should be on alert.

Mejia said last year more than 4,000 cyber attacks were detected in Panama, and the attack against the TVN (channel 2) website was intended to stifle information, and to impose a gag.

"It is not a matter of speculation, it is an alert that should worry all of us citizens in the run-up to the election," Mejia said. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: I noticed the website dropped a few days ago, and was offline for awhile. Apparently they've gotten it fixed. Their website is back up and running normally. There's a crew of hackers who either work directly for the CD and Martinelli, or they are at the very least sympathetic and willing to wreak havoc and do harm against the CD's political enemies. They have been responsible for several attacks and other cyber stunts over the past five years.

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Teachers And Construction Workers Maintain Pressure (Politically Motivated Strike)

Protests & DemonstrationsConstruction workers and teachers unions continue the with the strike they began last week.

The construction workers, in ongoing negotiations with Panama's Chamber of Construction, still have to come to an agreement on five clauses that would put an end to the strike which has paralyzed 400 construction projects.

Public school teachers, meanwhile, continued with their actions demanding an unconditional raise of $300 per month.

They closed Calle 50 yesterday, and they have scheduled a march for today.

Meanwhile, the President of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli, who was unable to attend a scheduled ceremony yesterday to inaugurate a newly constructed hospital in Veraguas, blamed the workers for delaying important projects. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: And don't forget about the indigenous people who are protesting against the construction of a hydro electric dam, who have been clashing with riot police. All three of these strikes are - in fact - politically motivated. The construction workers, public school teachers, and poor Indians in the mountains for the core of the "extreme left" elements of the Panamanian political spectrum. It's no coincidence that all three of these branches are simultaneously protesting, marching, and clashing with police this week, now just a few days before the national elections on 4 May. Their goal is to create the feeling that the administration of Ricardo Martinelli is not in control, that they have done a bad job of running the country, and they should take over. Genaro López is the Independent presidential candidate for the Broad Front for Democracy (FAD) political party, and he is the former long-time General Secretary of the National Union of Workers of Construction and Similar Industries (SUNTRACS) labor union.

Remember this. Ricardo Martinelli made his first entry into politics when he was appointed as the Director of Social Security from 1994 to 1996. He then served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal, and as the Minister of Canal Affairs during the presidency of Mireya Moscoso from 1999 to 2003.

This is why the candidacy of Genaro Lopez is worrisome...

Mireya Moscoso ran for president in 1994 and lost by 4% - in an election with seven candidates. She then came back, ran again, and won in 1999.

Martin Torrijos ran for president in 1999 and lost by 7% of the vote. He then ran again and won in 2004.

Ricardo Martinelli ran for president in 2004 and lost. He then ran again in 2009 and won by a (Panamanian standards) landslide.

So the last three Panamanian presidents ran once and lost, then ran again and won the second time around. This is the power of name recognition. Martinelli basically spent five years campaigning between 2004 and 2009, all to build name recognition.

There is a trend in Latin America towards left leaning governments. Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Ecuador all have elected presidents who are dyed in the wool communists. Here's the full list, with "left leaning" or "Center-left" presidents marked with an *. Far left or communists are unmarked:

Cuba: Fidel Castro (1976–2008), Raul Castro (2008–present) Note: both Cuban presidents as Marxists-Leninists are Far-left politicians.

Venezuela: Hugo Chávez (1999–2013), Nicolás Maduro (2013-present)

Chile: Ricardo Lagos* (2000–2006), Michelle Bachelet (2006–2010, 2014–present)

Brazil: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva* (2003–2011), Dilma Rousseff* (2011–present)

Argentina: Néstor Kirchner* (2003–2007), Cristina Fernández de Kirchner* (2007–present)

Dominican Republic: Leonel Fernández* (1996–2000, 2004–2012), Danilo Medina* (2012–present) Note: both Dominican presidents party have a centrist position.

Suriname: Jules Wijdenbosch (1996-2000), Dési Bouterse (2010–present)

Uruguay: Tabaré Vázquez (2005–2010), José Mujica (2010–present)

Bolivia: Evo Morales (2006–present)

Nicaragua: Daniel Ortega (1985–1990, 2007–present)

Ecuador: Rafael Correa (2007–present)

Guatemala: Álvaro Colom* (2008–2012)

Paraguay: Fernando Lugo (2008–2012)

El Salvador: Mauricio Funes* (2009–2014), Salvador Sánchez Cerén (2014-present)

Honduras: Manuel Zelaya* (2006–2009) Note: during his presidency Zelaya was a member of the centre-right Liberal Party of Honduras.

Peru: Ollanta Humala (2011–present)

Costa Rica: Luis Guillermo Solís* (2014-present)

And why is this happening? The answer is simple. There are more poor people in Latin American countries than rich people. The left leaning and hard-left politicians spout rhetoric which basically says they will take the money from the rich business elite and use that money to reduce poverty, improve infrastructure, education, and services. For every rich bus owner, there are 500 poor people who ride the bus every day. So, when they all get together to make decisions, and they vote to eat the bus owner, he doesn't stand a chance. That's what's happening in Venezuela today.

Thus far Panama has managed to avoid electing a far-left politician as president. However, it's a possibility at some point in the future. As long as the CD and the Martinelli crew continue to (actually) improve the lives of poor Panamanians then they will probably remain on the job. However if they ever fumble the ball, then guys like Genaro Lopez will be standing in the wings, flush with money donated by all those other communists, who would just love to add Panama to their quiver.

This leftist rhetoric does best when the economy of a country sucks. Panama has been doing so great over the past decade, that the whole "eat the rich" shtick can't get any meaningful traction.

In the meantime, the SUNTRACS, public school teacher's union, and Indigenous organizations continue to lay the groundwork for what they hope will be a brighter future - mostly for them. The reality is that these leftist politicians mostly just use these tactics to obtain power. Once they have it, they become corrupted and bloated, just like any other government anywhere.

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It's A Dry Weekend In Panama - No Booze (Sale or Consumption) During Elections

Nightlife, Bars, and PartyingThe Police Commissioner Aldo Macre, Director of the Traffic Operations Division of the National Police, announced on RPC Radio they will begin an operation on Friday, 2 May 2014, to enforce a "dry" rule for the upcoming national elections.

Macre explained the rule states that 48 hours before the start of this electoral activity, the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited.

In the event they find an intoxicated citizen, first they will lose their right to vote, and then they will be take to the National Police, where the Office of the Electoral Prosecutor and the police will enforce the law, and initiating the process leading to a sanction.

The General Elections will take place this Sunday, May 4, during which Panamanian voters will elect Mayors, local municipal Representatives, the Deputies of the National Assembly, and the President of the Republic who will lead the country. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: So be aware - no drinking or sales of booze, starting on Friday. It would be highly advisable to hold your private parties indoors. Don't hold a big beach party. Don't hold a loud or raucous gathering. If you want to drink at all this weekend, buy your booze now, and do so in private, behind closed doors. Don't give the cops a reason to make an example of anyone. Because, they will. Because that's what cops do sometimes. The "spirit and intent" of this law is to make sure everyone is sober when voting - so it's not really aimed at tourists or foreigners who don't get to vote anyway. But still, just be smart...

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Panama's Special Operations Forces Searching For Cop Killers in Nombre de Dios

Drug TraffickingPanama's National Police reported today they are performing a Special Operation in the Caribbean town of Nombre de Dios, where last Friday two police officers were killed by suspected drug traffickers.

According to a police spokesman in Nombre de Dios, a small coastal town in the province of Colon, "there are operations" to attempt to capture a gang that ambushed and killed the two police officers, assigned to the Anti Drug Tactical Operations Unit of the National Police.

The deceased were identified as Corporal Alfredo López and Agent Luis Lee.

La Critica reported today police officers are searching the homes of Nombre de Dios, and they suspect the band is composed of Colombians and Panamanians, who attacked the two police officers on a beach where they were guarding a boat used by the National Police.

The report adds that the residents of the village have complained that the police officers have sprayed pepper spray at them when they enter their houses to conduct the search.

The National Police said there is no restriction on the movement in Nombre de Dios, explaining that the controls they have imposed are in response to the investigation of a double murder, and an operation to search for and capture those responsible. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: Normally the drug traffickers simply drop their weapons and run away into the bush when they are confronted by the National Police. It is highly unusual for any drug traffickers to ambush and kill police officers in Panama. Very unusual. The Panamanian SOF guys are pretty salty. They've got good trackers. I suspect they will round these guys up before too long. In the meantime, avoid this area.

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