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Thursday, April 24 2014 @ 10:25 PM EDT

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Don't Forget The Rodeo This Sunday in Chame

Corruption By Jerin Tate for Panama-Guide.com - I have been receiving a ton of e-mails and phone calls about the rodeo this Sunday in Chame. Last year, in addition to all the Panamanians, at least 2 or 3 hundred expats showed up to the point where the announcers started giving information in English as well as Spanish. For this year the two most common questions are "what time does it start?" and "Where is it exactly?". Here are the answers for everyone: The rodeo is actually an all day event that consists of the competition during the afternoon and live music in the evening until the wee hours of the morning. The competition is scheduled to start at 1, but this is Panama and the opening ceremony usually happens around 2ish. The music is scheduled to start at 6 and they are usually on time. It really depends on how long you plan to stay. If you really want to make a full day of it you should probably show up around 1:30 and leave around 11. If you want to stay just a few hours and get the most of everything, show up around 4 and leave an hour or so after the music starts. Last year we had a bunch of expats show up but I told everyone that everything started at 1 and everyone was just waiting around for an hour and a half. That tired a lot of people out and not many expats made it to the music which is one of the best parts. The actual competition itself is only a Hierra (or coleo) contest, which is where they chase the bulls down on their horse and take them down by the tail. Music will be by Panamanian tipico star Ulpiano Vergara. Since there is no direct address, I have to give directions based on landmarks. I am not sure how familiar you are with Panama or that area so I will be as descriptive as possible. Heading from Panama City, take the Pan American highway and after you pass the towns of Chorrera and Capira the highway comes down off the mountain into the beach areas. It is where the highway goes downhill with a steep grade and many curves. As soon as you find yourself on this steep grade, start looking for pedestrian overpasses crossing the highway, the first of which will be immediately after you are done with the downhill drive. You need to count the pedestrian passes and look for the third one. Right now that bridge has a Mcdonald´s advertisement. Right at the base of that bridge is a small road and you will see a Chivas sign (not too big) advertising the rodeo. Turn right on that road and as soon as you turn you will see the big yellow gate with Pista de los Campeones on it. You are there. Coming from Coronado it is very simple, just go exactly 8.0 km past the Altos del Maria entrance and look on the left hand side of the highway. You will need to go about 100 meters past the entrance to the rodeo to use the U-turn and get in. You will pay for entrance and parking ($3 per person and $1 per car) and then you have two options. You can either park your car in the parking area and go sit in the pavilion or if you get there early enough and have a truck you can park on the far side of the track and park your car right up against the track and watch everything from your truck. If these directions are not good then please give me a call at 6733-0657 and I will direct you in. We will try to have as much stuff as possible out on the highway to signal where the rodeo is so look out for that too. From the many calls and e-mails I have received it looks like we are going to have another huge expat showing again this year. Look forward to seeing you there!

Copyright 2009 by Jerin Tate for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Former Education Minister Belgis Castro Arrested in Panama

Corruption By JOSÉ OTERO for La Prensa - The former Minister of Education, who is still currently the Fourth Undersecretary of the Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD) political party, Belgis Castro, became yesterday the first cabinet member of the former administration of Martin Torrijos to be arrested by the Public Ministry as part of an ongoing corruption investigation. Castro was interrogated yesterday by the Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor, where he was formally charged with embezzlement for his alleged connection with irregularities discovered in the multi million dollar contracts signed to supposedly repair schools - both in Colón and in the Eastern sector of the province of Panamá - which had problems with the installation of fiberglass insulation in their roofs. The prosecutor in charge of the investigations, Kenia Purcell, had already implemented a precautionary measure against Castro to prevent him from leaving the country, a move that was questioned by his defense attorney Carlos Carrillo, claiming there was pressure coming from the President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, against his client. Carrillo alleged the attorneys representing the Ministry of Education (MEDUCA) in this process asked for the restriction to be applied against Castro last Tuesday morning, and their request was accepted by the prosecutor Purcell one hour later. Carrillo also said he had reports the two lawyers representing MEDUCA are also officials of the Public Ministry. Castro entered the transitional prison facility of the Directorate of Judicial Investigation in Ancón at 7:30 pm last night. (See Comments)
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Belgis Castro Makes Statement, Taken To The IMLCF

CorruptionLa Prensa - Former Education Minister Belgis Castro left the Public Ministry building this morning after going to the offices of the Anti Corruption Prosecutor to comply with a citation to appear in order to render a sworn statement. Castro is under investigation for alleged crimes against public administration, and it was learned he was taken to the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Science (IMLCF) where some tests were conducted. Authorities from the Public Ministry have not disclosed any details about this ongoing investigation. (See Comments)
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Former Education Minister Belgis Castro Makes Sworn Statement in Corruption Investigation

Corruption Panama America - Before entering the offices of the Second Anti-Corruption Prosecutor, former Education Minister Belgis Castro said this morning he has nothing to do with the alleged irregularities in the awarding of contracts for the removal of fiberglass insulation at several public schools. Castro said he is willing to clarify how such contracts let during the eight months while he was the Minister of Education, although he did not rule out the possibility that the investigation is a political persecution against him. The investigations being carried out by the prosecutor established Castro awarded contracts for the removal of fiberglass insulation in the eastern part of the province of Panama to a company called Grupo Inmeca S.A. for the sum of $136,000 dollars, and that the work was either not property completed or in some cases never even started. On 31 August and 1 September, the Third Prosecutor will take statements from Castro and the former Education Minister Salvador Rodríguez, also for other crimes related to the supposed removal of fiberglass insulation, but in these cases in the province of Colon. (See Comments)
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Conflict Between Corruption Czar and Attorney General Continues

Corruption By Elizabeth Garrido A. for La Prensa - Corruption Secretary Fernando Nunez Fabrega today described the actions of Panama's Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez as a "game of baseball." "This is like the start of a game of baseball - no hits and no runs. The first player comes to bat and hits a homerum, and she (Gomez) says 'No, that guy cannot play.' What's that?" Complained Nunez Fabrega on the morning television news program TVN Noticias. The Secretary of the National Council of Transparency remains critical of the legal position assumed by Attorney General Gomez who says that Decree Number 231 could "conflict with the actions being developed by other institutions." The controversy comes after the Corruption Czar was given powers to investigate corruption cases that should not fall to him, explained Anti Corruption Prosecutor Yolanda Austin. Now, Nunez Fabrega wonders "how come Alma Montenegro de Fletcher [the previous anti-corruption czarina] did not investigate or accuse anyone, even though she had the power to do so?" It appears Gomez "thinks we should just take afternoon tea" at the National Council of Transparency, he said. (See Comments)
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Anti Corruption Czar Cites "Poor Performance" of Panama's Attorney General

Corruption By Denise Lara for Telemetro Reporta - Panama's Anti Corruption Czar, Fernando Núñez Fábrega, lashed out today against Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez, after she sent a letter to the Ministry of the Presidency in which she spoke of the "legal excesses" of the Executive Secretariat of the National Council Transparency. For Núñez Fábrega it seems suspicious that the Attorney General decided to voice her complaints on the same day that the Council presented its first formal complaints against two senior members of the administration of former president Martin Torrijos. He described as "poor" the management of Gomez considering her failure to fulfill her promises to pursue crime. "Her silence is inexplicable, given the excesses of corruption that marked the administration of Martín Torrijos, who appointed her to the position, is suspicious." Nunez Fabrega denied the allegations made by Gomez, who says the investigative functions of Decree 179 created by the cabinet in 2004 were "abolished in virtue that they conflict with the attributions and constitutional and legal order which fall to other institutions of the government." (See Comments)
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Hillarious - "Mireya Moscoso Defends the PARLACEN"

Corruption By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Today in the Panama America there appears and article with the title "La ex presidenta Moscoso defiende al Parlacen", (Former President Moscoso Defends the Parlacen). Of course she does. All former presidents of nations who are members of the Central American Parliament (Parlacen) automatically become representatives to the Parlacen as soon as they leave office. And, they remain representatives for ten years. And, as long as they are representatives to the Parlacen, they are granted immunity from prosecution. Mireya Moscoso was the President of Panama from 1999 to 2004. Therefore, if Panama remains as a member of the Parlacen, she would enjoy this immunity for another five years. And what's more, normally the statute of limitations for the investigation and prosecution for any potential acts of corruption committed under her administration would have elapsed by 2014, when her Parlacen protection would have normally elapsed. "He who is now sweating" is Ernesto Perez Balladares, who was the President of Panama from 1994 to 1999, so he's fair game whether Panama leaves the Parlacen or not. But Mireya Moscoso is sweating it hard. Ricardo Martinelli is going after all of the old cases of corruption he can find. Because the people want him to. Because these guys have always been "untouchable." Because it's a smart move, politically speaking. Because if they keep this up for five years, the Cambio Democratico will repeat in 2014. All of the old corrupt dinosaurs are shaking in their boots. Martinelli simply is not respecting the unwritten political rules that have controlled this country since the 1940's. He scares them, and of course they have reason to be scared. "Moscoso defends the Parlacen..." I bet she does...

Copyright 2009 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Perez B. Promises To 'Settle Accounts' With La Prensa

CorruptionBy KEMY LOO PINZÓN for La Prensa - Former President Ernesto Pérez Balladares yesterday reiterated his threats against La Prensa for the investigations conducted by this newspaper linking him with a company engaged in the operation of games of chance. On Saturday 15 August, Perez Balladares said through an email sent to a reporter from this newspaper that at some point the "accounts will be settled" referring to the series of publications that revealed his links with the gambling business. Yesterday in an interview published in the newspaper Panama America, the former president, claiming that La Prensa hurt him with the publications, reiterated that he will settle the account, but did not specify exactly what action he would take. He did rule out the possibility of filing a lawsuit in the courts. The attitude of the former President of Panama drew criticism from at least three news organizations. The Forum of Journalists, the Union of Journalists and the National Journalism Council rejected the threats. The Forum stated that to threaten the media and journalists for seeking the truth is an outburst, "a caveman attack." La Prensa tried to obtain the position of the Ombudsman, but Ricardo Vargas did not return messages. (See Comments)
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Embezzelment of More Than $1 Million From The "Network of Opportunities"

CorruptionBy Grisel Bethancourt for La Critica - The organization called the "Red de Oportunidades" (Network of Opportunities), stated under the administration of Martin Torrijos, is once again in the eye of the storm. Yesterday a criminal complaint was filed for the alleged crime of embezzlement, forgery, corruption of public officials and conspiracy to commit a crime. Social Development Minister Guillermo Ferrufino said that during a preliminary audit of only 20% of the resources managed by the program they detected irregularities of more than $1 million dollars. Irregularities were detected in the payment of travel expenses, in the payroll, checks with insufficient supporting documentation, and the repetition of the same document to justify several payments. What's more, checks were written payable to permanent staff members, who then cashed those checks and handed the money over to three officers of the Network of Opportunities, who then supposedly had the responsibility of making cash payments to other staff members who supposedly conducted the census to identify those people who could be included as beneficiaries of the Network of Opportunities program. "No supporting documentation exists to prove what the money was used for, how it was spent, nor are there any receipts or documentation to support the payment of expenses and payments made with these checks," said the criminal complaint. Meanwhile, Panama's Minister of Health Franklyn Vergara filed a complaint with the Office of the Special Anti Corruption Prosecutor for the loss of a motorboat and over "employees" who don't show up to work but who are receiving salaries. This case involves more than 10 officers of all ranks who receive salaries of up to $2,800 per month. (See Comments)
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Clash Between Martinelli and Perez Balladares

Corruption By EDUARDO MENDOZA for La Prensa - Former Panamanian President Ernesto Pérez Balladares hinted yesterday during an interview given to the Panama America newspaper that the current President Ricardo Martinelli was behind recent allegations linking him to a company dedicated to the operation of games of chance. According to Perez Balladares all of this is due to the fact that Martinelli is a shareholder of the Thunderbird company, which operates the Fiesta Casino in Panama. The allegation made by Perez Balladares provoked a reaction from Martinelli, who through his spokesperson Judy Meana said that their participation in Thunderbird Resort - which represents less than 1% ownership - is perfectly legal. "It is understandable the former president ... was trying to look after his interests, as he will no longer receive millions of dollars for shares his government took against Cirsa." Hours later, the spokesman for Perez Balladares, Catia Rojas, posted a statement in which they reiterated the former president "is not a partner in businesses such as casinos or slot machine rooms." In that communique Perez Balladares qualified the position of President Martinelli as "demagogic and false."
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"The President Cannot Put Anyone In Prison" - Ana Matilde Gomez

Corruption By Marggie Trejos for El Siglo - During the last presidential election campaign, Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli publicly promised to put in prison anyone who steals, kills, or is corrupt, and now it looks like that's easier said than done. That is exactly what Panama's Solicitor General of the Nation, Ana Matilde Gomez, said yesterday during the program "Debate Abierto" on channel 4, noting that "no president can decide and take action to put a person behind bars, because they have stolen or committed some other act of corruption as promised by Martinelli during the campaign." "The president cannot put anyone in prison, it is the judges who decide who is going to jail and who's not," said Gomez. "And everyone is innocent until proven guilty," she added. When discussing the slowness of legal proceedings, and even slower when dealing with "white collar" criminals, Gomez said cases are often delayed because these types of criminals are often more adept at doing things. "Many times the process for a person who has committed an act of corruption it takes more time to conduct the investigation, because often it is a person who has studied and who has great abilities, but likewise that person is still an offender just like any other citizen, they know exactly that they are doing, and this may take even longer if there are others involved in the case," she said. Gomez added that investigative journalism can help clarify the facts in corruption cases, as long as it is done in a responsible manner. However, according to the prosecutor, it is usually much easier to prosecute a common criminal when an object is stolen, because it is easier to investigate and it often takes less time. On the other hand, Gomez also pointed to the order given by the Minister of Government and Justice Jose Raul Mulino, to shoot any prisoner attempting to escape from prison. "Perhaps this was not what Mulino really meant," she said. Gomez says the order to shoot prisoners attempting to escape "goes against the rights of prisoners, because there are laws that protect them and this is not something is not something that can be done so easily."
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Education Minister Denounces Irregularities

Corruption TVN Noticias - Panama's Minister of Education, Lucy Molinar, filed a complaint before the Public Ministry over a series of irregularities in contract awards to more than 12 companies who were supposed to do construction work and infrastructure improvements at schools, but who actually did work on other types of buildings. Molinar said they found letters indicating there were promises to pay these companies but without those payments having been approved by the Comptroller of the Republic. The Minister called for an investigation into what appears to be acts of corruption on the part of the previous administration. Molinar said they have been able to find irregularities in the investigations undertaken by the various departments of the Ministry as Engineering and Purchasing, from the very first day they began their administration.
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Former Government Officials Reported for Embezzlement

CorruptionBy Yessika Valdés for the Panama America - The Executive Secretary of the National Council of Transparency Against Corruption, Fernando Núñez Fábrega, today brought a criminal complaint before the Public Ministry (MP) against the former CEO of the Caja de Ahorros, Eudoro Jaén, and the former Administrator of the Interoceanic Region Authority (ARI), Julio Ross Anguizola, for an alleged embezzlement of more than $1.5 million dollars from State funds. According to Núñez Fábrega, Jaén and Anguizola conspired to transfer lands located in the province of Colón in such a way as to not pay the proper funds to the State. He said the property is worth $1.7 billion dollars and was passed to the hands of the Colon Water Front Properties company without them paying for it or getting a mortgage on the property. The anti-corruption Czar said the company paid only 10% of the value of the land when the buy-sell contract was signed. Other crimes reported by Núñez Fábrega is abuse of authority, corruption, and official negligence. (See Comments)
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Speed Called For in CEMIS Corruption Case

CorruptionBy NEIR CARRASCO KEREKES for La Estrella - After La Estrella published the statements of Carlos Afú regarding the massive CEMIS corruption case and the ratification of the Magistrates of the Supreme Court of Panama, sectors of civil society are demanding authorities speed up the process of reopening their investigations. The Executive President of Transparency International in Panama, Angélica Maytín Justiniani, asked judicial officials to quickly prosecute those who are found to be guilty in this case. "It does not matter if it's a President, a Deputy in the National Assembly, or a Magistrate on the Supreme Court, all are equal before the law," she said. She said this case is a perfect example of why judicial independence must be maintained.

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Perez Balladares Tries To Explain Away His Links To Lucky Games

Corruption By SANTIAGO FASCETTO for La Prensa - Former Panamanian President Ernesto Perez Balladares sent an email to his friends with his version of an explanation of the connections that tie him to the business Lucky Games SA. The email was sent by Perez Balladares and has been circulating since last Monday, and was then uploaded to a website. In the email Perez Balladares acknowledged that during his administration (1994-1999) his friend Roosevelt Lito Thayer and his son in law Enrique Pretelt were given a license to operate slot machine rooms. "To say these people are close to me is not a lie, it is a lie to insinuate I did them a special favor on the margins of the law," he said. The former president Perez Balladares says he was never a shareholder of Lucky Games SA, despite the fact that this company constantly deposited sums of money into an account held by one of his companies, and also diverted funds to the companies that own his yacht and private airplane. Furthermore, the email referred to the advisability of installing gambling rooms in popular neighborhoods: "Is the social vice of gambling the same or worse than the sale of alcoholic beverages or the sale of lottery tickets in poor or middle class neighborhoods? Is it a function of the government to prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages in the supermarkets of these areas," he asks? (See Comments)
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Twelve Garbage Workers Fired For Selling Recyclable Materials

Corruption Telemetro Reporta - A total of twelve employees who worked at the Municipal Direction of Urban and Household Cleanliness (DIMAUD) who were reported for selling recyclable materials during working hours, were fired. This, according to the Director of DIMAUD Harmodio Montaner. The director added that three supervisors will be suspended for three days without pay, for allowing such irregularities. Montaner said they are working on a draft of a new law which would allow for the sanctioning of companies that purchase these materials from their staff during working hours. The director made a clear warning to their employees. (See Comments)
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Stolen Social Security Medicines Found In A Private House

Corruption By VICTOR A. J. SANTOS for El Siglo - The Specialized Intellectual Property Prosecutor raided a house in Milla 8 in the area of Las Cumbres looking for counterfeit drugs but they found an even bigger surprise. There was a pharmacy operating inside of the house and they found 369 boxes of pills for the heart and blood pressure that has supposedly been stolen from the Office of Social Security (CSS). Ramiro Esquivel, the Specialized Intellectual Property Prosecutor, confiscated the pills that were supposedly stolen at the time of the search, and immediately notified the Third Anti Corruption Prosecutor Yolanda Austin. In the house they found 224 boxes of "Plavix," a pill used by patients with heart problems. Each box of this product with 14 tablets is valued at over $40 dollars on the open market. In addition they found 145 boxes of "Norvasc" a medicine used by people with high blood pressure. Each box contains 30 tablets, and each pill costs $1 dollar. The also seized about 14 containers with 33 loose boxes of "Plavix." Both "Plavix" and "Norvasc" are hardly ever available in the pharmacies of the CSS. One woman was arrested during the raid and charged with theft and crimes against the collective security. The prosecutor Austin explained they would investigate to determine who was behind this alleged theft, to see if there were higher ranking CSS officers involved or if this is just the front of a larger network that illegally takes medicines from the institution. She added that an official of the CSS confirmed the drugs belonged to the institution, because the boxes of both drugs had the CSS identification markings scratched out. The pharmacy operating in the house was run by the family that resides there. Now, the Third Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office is trying to locate the husband of the woman who was arrested, so he can also answer for the alleged theft of the drugs. The pills were also sold in a pharmacy in Punta Pacifica.
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Seven Post Office Officials Fired in "Network of Opportinitites" Scandal

Corruption By Zelideth Cortez for La Critica - Seven people who were working at Panama's National Directorate of Mail and Telegraphs (COTEL) have been fired, according to the Minister of Government and Justice Jose Raul Mulino, who stressed this was a "national network dedicated to crime." The seven were fired after losses totaling more than $1.4 million dollars from the program "Network of Opportunities" were discovered. Mulino said this criminal network, which has been operating since 2006, was involved in embezzling funds intended for poor people. Mulino said the program was handled with "disorder and disheveledness" by post official officials who received in their names checks of up to $60,000 dollars to later be distributed. However, there is no paper record to prove the money actually was later distributed to the intended recipients. Other officials traveled via air with millions of dollars in cash, traveling from province to province like some kind of an "official Santa Claus" to supposedly distribute the money. According to the investigations that have already been initiated, the majority of these thefts used the same "modus operandi" and already there is one person under arrest who has confessed, and there are others under investigation by the authorities. With the start of the "Network of Opportunities", an interinstitutional agreement was established assigning the job of distributing the money to the families that were supposed to receive the financial support to the post office. According to the director of this entity, Teresa de Montilla, their first indication of a problem was detected on 24 July 2009 when her office received a large quantity of checks with "exorbitant amounts" written in the names of post office employees. She immediately ordered an investigation that uncovered surprising results. Meanwhile, Vice Minister of MIDES, Susy de Varela, said the program will not be eliminated, but each payment will be made while the investigations continue. DETAILS - The senior leadership of MIDES said they are conducting internal audits in order to submit the appropriate legal denouncements before the Public Ministry. (See Comments)
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Irregularitities In The Post Office Worth $500,000

CorruptionLa Critica - Alleged irregularities in the Panamanian National Post Office for an amount of $500,000 will be denounced today by the new authorities of this entity who have called a press conference. Audits reveal the irregularities are related to funds coming from the "Network of Opportunities" that were stolen through various frauds from the Post Office where they were sent to be distributed to various parts of the country. They have also detected funds missing in several post offices around the country. (See Comments)
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Confirmation From The Public Ministry About Embassy Employees

Corruption
José Ayú Prado
José Ayú Prado
By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - This afternoon after I saw the different news articles reporting on statements made by Panama's Organized Crime Prosecutor José Ayú Prado regarding the possible involvement on the part of employees of the US Embassy in Panama, and particularly the section of the US Consulate where visas are issued to Panamanians wishing to travel to the United States, I put a call into his office seeking clarificaiton. While I did not speak to Prosecutor José Ayú Prado himself, he took the questions I had through a person in the press office and they just got back to me with his clarification. They told me the articles that appeared in the El Siglo and La Critica newspapers took his statements and comments slightly out of context. He said they are indeed seeking to obtain information from the State Department and the US Embassy of the United States in Panama through the Foreign Ministry. However, he said at this point in time they are not willing to go the extra step to imply or allege that these employees are potentially involved or associated with the network of people who were creating falsified Panamanian passports and identification cards, and then using those documents to obtain visas to visit the United States and Europe to eventually traffic drugs. So, again, at this point they have simply asked for a list of names of people who work in that section of the US Consulate in Panama. Period. It's obvious they are conducting an investigation and they are following the information they have available, based on statements made by people involved in this network who are already in custody. In addition I have submitted a list of questions to the US Embassy here in Panama and I await their response.

Copyright 2009 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Public Ministry About To Open Corruption Investigation Against Perez Balladares

Corruption
Ernesto Pérez Balladares
Ernesto Pérez Balladares
By Santiago Fascetto for La Prensa - Panama's Public Ministry is considering opening an investigation into the alleged involvement of former President Ernesto Pérez Balladares in the gambling industry and the money trail in the local financial system. "The Anti Corruption Prosecutor is in this monents considering whether it is necessary to open an investigation," said a high ranking source within the Public Ministry to La Prensa. Perez Balladares granted a direct concession to the Lucky Games company to operate nine slot machine rooms. According to a report that appeared in La Prensa, money from this company ended up in bank accounts belonging to people within the inner circle of Perez Balladares.
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Investigations Into "Bobby" Velasquez Campaign Donations Continues

Corruption TVN Noticias - Investigations in the case of political campaign donations allegedly made by the David Murcia Guzmán to the campaign of former Mayoral candidate Roberto "Bobby" Velasquez are ongoing. Prosecutor Jose Ayu Prado said they are still waiting for the official report from the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF), and added Roberto Velásquez Arango and Roberto "Bobby" Velasquez have made sworn statements in the case. Ayu Prado said "Bobby" Velasquez explained in a clear manner all of the donations that were made to his campaign, however he said they have to follow procedure and they will continue the investigation with the results of the report of financial analysis. The prosecutor added that so far no one has been charged with a crime in this case. The scandal of alleged donations to the PRD campaign erupted when Colombian David Murcia Guzmán told TVN News exclusively that he gave $6 million dollars to Roberto Velasquez Arango, and that supposedly half of the money would be for his son, former candidate Roberto "Bobby" Velasquez and the other half was for the former presidential candidate Balbina Herrera. (See Comments)
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Panama's Housing Minister Denounces Irregularities

CorruptionBy Yessika Valdés for the Panama America - Panamas Minister of Housing (MIVI), Carlos Duhau, reported today that more than 90 housing projects were not completed in the last three years, initiated by the previous administration. "During an audit we realized that within MIVI there are are many irregularities in housing projects nationwide," said Duhau. The Housing Minister said the projects only have been advanced 38%. "We are evaluating quick and direct solution for the citizens of the provinces of Cocle, Darien and Los Santos" among others. He added they are studying the various sanctions which will be applied to the building contractors who have not completed the contracts. These housing projects have a total value of more than $17 million dollars. (See Comments)
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Investigations Continue Into the "Compita" Case

Corruption La Prensa - The Director of the Institute of Agricultural Marketing (IMA), José Pablo Ramos, said today the investigation to determine who is responsible for the loss of the products of the "Compita" program are still ongoing. In early July authorities discovered food items belonging to the "Compita" program - piles of onions, hundreds of bags of rice, nutritive creams, and beans - in a state of total abandonment in the IMA installations in Coclé. In total an inventory of the rotting food indicated there were ten thousand five hundred 50-pound bags of onions, two thousand 125-pound bags of rice, and a pallet of beans and nutritive creams. Investigations being conducted by the Public Ministry continue, said Ramos on RPC Radio. The IMA also ordered a complete audit of the "Compita" program to determine the amount of money invested into the program and if there were any irregularities in the way contracts were handled. (See Comments)
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"The Reopening Of The CEMIS Case Won't Amount To Anything" - Jerry Wilson

Corruption
Jerry Wilson
Jerry Wilson
Panama America - Former PRD National Assembly Deputy Jerry Wilson believes the reopening of the CEMIS corruption case will end up with the same outcome as the investigations conducted during previous administrations. "My personal opinion is that they are not going to arrive at anything," said the former President of the National Assembly, the institution splashed by the scandalous corruption case. Wilson said on TVN Noticias that the declarations being used today to reopen the investigations are the same that were investigated at the time. For Wilson, the investigations could end up causing further frustration for the Panamanian people who thing that the CEMIS case holds some kind of "impenetrable mystery". (See Comments)
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CEMIS Investigator Now Rodin's Lawyer

Corruption By ISIDRO RODRIGUEZ for La Estrella - It has been seven and a half years since the CEMIS scandal exploded. Since then many things have changed. For example Panama's Supreme Court of Justice has changed its mind and has now decided to resume the investigation into the scandal. There are people who were Deputies in the National Assembly at that time who are now no longer engaged in public service, and lawyers who worked in senior positions within the Public Ministry who are now in private practice. That is the case of José María Castillo, who in 2002 was the General Secretary for Panama's Solicitor General José Antonio Sossa. Today, Castillo is in a peculiar situation. He is now defending the person who he was investigating before. He is the lawyer for Martin Rodin, the businessman accused of paying off PRD lawmakers in exchange for their votes to approve the CEMIS law. This case, in which Castillo participated, was ordered to be filed by the Supreme Court twice, saying prosecutors violated due process. Castillo did not want to discuss the matter, and for him everything is a question of professional services. "Sir, many years have passed, and I'm a lawyer," was the only response he was willing to make on the matter. Now it remains to be seen what will happen to his status as Rodin's lawyer, if in the new investigations he is called as a witness.
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Laurentino Cortizo Tries To Distance Himself From The CEMIS Scandal

Corruption
Laurentino Cortizo
Laurentino Cortizo
By ISIDRO RODRÍGUEZ/N.CARRASCO for La Estrella - Laurentino Cortizo was a PRD lawmaker in December 2001. At that time he chaired the Commerce Committee, responsible for reviewing the CEMIS contract. With new versions of the scandal emerging, Cortizo is trying to clarify his position: "If there was any bribery it was in the first proposal," he said, in reference to the project sent to the National Assembly three months earlier, in September 2001, by the government of Mireya Moscoso. In an interview with La Estrella, Cortizo confirmed that the day the CEMIS proposal passed in the first debate, and before the traveled to Colon to approve the project, he met with Manuel De La Hoz, who at that time was also a PRD lawmaker and the President of the Subcommission that analyzed the contract. Cortizon agreed with the version of events revealed by De La Hoz last week, in that the next day, on 29 December, there was a meeting of all of the PRD lawmakers. "De La Hoz seemed restless," says Cortizo, but can not remember having heard him say: "mamey". That afternoon the CEMIS project passed in the second debate and according to De La Hoz and Carlos Afú, who reported the bribes eight years ago, envelopes containing money were also distributed. Cortizo said he does not know anything about that, but he did not rule out the possibility. "I will not put my hand into the fire for anyone," he said. (See Comments)
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78 Cases of Corruption Being Investigated

Corruption RAFAEL E. R. BERROCAL R. for La Prensa - Panama's Comptroller of the Republic sent 78 cases to the newly created Court of Auditors, alleging corruption in the government where the total damage to the State could amount to more than $4.1 million dollars. All of the files submitted between February and July of this year are linked to actions taken by members of the administraion of Martin Torrijos. Among the new cases under investigation by the Court Auditors is a report on the management of the consulate in Rotterdam by Luis Ramirez, fresh evidence of the disappearance of sculptures from Parque Omar, and cases related to the scandal over the removal of fiberglass insulation from schools. In this last case several companies and a group of employees from the Ministry of Education (MEDUCA) are being investigated, according to the official report obtained by La Prensa. However, the Court refrained from providing any further details with regards to these corruption cases, to keep from damaging the investigations. Ramirez, who is still the consul in Rotterdam, said he has not been notified of the investigation being conducted by the Court of Audits, but said he has paid all of accounts with the State and they are up to date. In contrast, a report from the Panama Maritime Authority says Ramirez has an outstanding, unpaid, and unreported balance of $240,000 as of 27 July 2009. (See Comments)
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Panama's Solicitor General Should Investigate CEMIS Case

CorruptionBy Grisel Bethancourt for La Critica - Luis H. Moreno, of the Panamanian Foundation of Ethics and Civics, thinks Panama's Solicitor General should be the person charged with investigating the CEMIS corruption scandal, the case that was reopened last week by the Panama's Supreme Court of Justice. Moreno, who met yesterday with the primary magistrate responsible for the administration of the CEMIS case, Oydén Ortega, and Panama's Solicitor General Ana Matilde Gomez, contends that the bribery investigation should be conducted separately from that being carried out into the naming of judges mentioned in the case. He said this case is "disgraceful" and it is necessary to punish those responsible. According to Moreno, in the meeting with Judge Ortega he was told that very soon they would release the details of the decision ordering the reopening of the CEMIS case, which will decide the jurisdiction of investigation. He also thinks that with the reopening of the CEMIS case, this is a start of the healing of the justice system being called for by the Panamanian people. (See Comments)
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The "Toro Video" Checkmate

CorruptionCarlos Estrada Aguilar for La Critica - Former President of Panama Ernesto Pérez Balladares denied the video and audio tapes, which allegedly confirm the payment of bribes in return for the approval of the CEMIS project by Panama's National Assembly, were spying, and said they are recordings that he has had for seven years, and he was waiting for the right situation in the Supreme Court of Justice in order to be able to turn them over to authorities. According to Perez Balladares the impunity has come to an end and those committing illegal acts "have to pay." Hopefully we can get to the end of an investigation and that those who are guilty will be punished not for revenge, but because we have do safeguard the country's democratic institutions, he added. Should those members of the National Executive Committee (CEN) of the PRD, who are implicated in the CEMIS scandal, be separated from their positions? (Balladares said) they should not have waited until the CEMIS case was reopened, they should have resigned after 3 May 2009 when we lost the election in a landslide, he added. (See Comments)
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