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Friday, August 29 2014 @ 10:18 AM EDT

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Venezuela says near $1bn debt to Panama fraudulent

Panama NewsCARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s foreign minister says 90 percent of his government’s $1 billion debt to Panama is fraudulent and criminal charges are likely to result.

Elias Jaua says the government paid businessmen dollars for the imports and the goods never arrived. So Panama isn’t owed 90 percent of the debt.

Jaua’s comments broadcast Sunday on the Televen television station on Sunday come after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro broke relations with Panama last week over its call for the Organization of American States to discuss a crackdown on protests in Venezuela. He also froze economic transactions.

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli has said he hopes Venezuela’s break in relations would not affect payment of its debts to Panamanian businessmen. (AP)

Editor's Comment: What kind of an idiot would pay $1 billion dollars for something they never actually received. OK, I could see getting ripped off one time, on one order. But we're supposed to believe the government of Venezuela "paid businessmen dollars for the imports and the goods never arrived." That statement almost has to be a bald faced lie. There is of course the possibility that Hugo Chavez (dead commie) was laundering drug money through the Colon Free Trade Zone, and Maduro didn't know what was going on (or something like that). Whatever, who knows. It will be fun and interesting to learn the details, because someone is completely full of shit... In this case a billion dollars worth of shit.

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Maduro and Martinelli Exchange Accusations

Panama NewsThe third day of the crisis between Venezuela and Panama was marked by an exchange of insults between presidents, and an announcement of new new economic retaliation by the oil producing country.

Yesterday Venezuela's president Nicolas Maduro accused his Panamanian counterpart Ricardo Martinelli of charging the businessmen of the Colon Free Trade Zone 20% of the invoices paid by Venezuela, in order to "finance his domestic electoral campaign."

Minutes later, Martinelli demanded payment of the debt owed to the Colon Free Zone businesses, and he called the Venezuelan leader "immature" and a "bad payer."

Meanwhile, Panama's Foreign Minister Francisco Alvarez De Soto denied the allegations being made by Maduro, and he said they are analyzing the economic measures announced by Venezuela in order to determine the actions they will take in response.

Yesterday, the Venezuelan Economic Vice President Rafael Ramirez said they have cut off payments of money (foreign exchange) to people who are residents in Venezuela and who are traveling to Panama.

"This issue will remain frozen while relations with Panama are suspended," he said.

The dispute between the two countries was generated by a failed proposal put forth by Panama Panama, to summon the foreign ministers of the Organization of American States to address the crisis in Venezuela.

Last night, the Permanent Council of the OAS adopted a joint statement expressing solidarity with the situation in Venezuela, called for continued dialogue, and lamenting the deaths among the protesters.

The document obtained 29 votes in favor and 3 against: United States, Canada and Panama. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: The United States, Panama, and Canada are calling upon the OAS to do more - to be more assertive. “It is not balanced...I expected a greater neutrality from OAS” said the Panamanian ambassador Arturo Vallarino. “The declaration has good pieces but we believe it didn't go far enough” regarding dialogue conditions, said US representative Carmen Lomellin. The ambassador added that the document calls for solidarity with the Venezuelan people, sorrow for the victims and rejection of all forms of violence, 'plus requesting the Council to keep track of the dialogue, but does not specify how it will be achieved'.

This vote by the OAS is being called a "diplomatic victory" by Maduro and the current government of Venezuela. I see it as a bunch of Latin American chicken-shits who afraid to stand up to the thuggish Maduro. There is a real revolution going on in Venezuela, being led by brave protesters who are trying to wrest control of their country back, after decades of abuse by Hugo Chavez and the left-wing (bullshit) government he set up. Let's see how long it takes for them to get their country back. Let's see just how much blood has to flow in the streets before the chicken-shits in Latin America are willing to stand in solidarity with the protesters. I know two things for a fact. Venezuela is a cocaine trafficking nation. They allow planes carrying cocaine to depart from their country to land in Nicaragua, and from there it goes into the US via Mexico. They also allow planes and boats to depart Venezuela carrying cocaine through Cuba. This whole "leftist revolution" spin is nothing more than a disguise for the drug trafficking. And of course, all of the elections for Hugo Chavez were rigged, to make sure he won. Make no mistake about it - they stole the elections in order to take over the country, so they could traffic drugs. Questions?

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Martinelli: "I will not respond to immaturity"

Panama NewsPresident Ricardo Martinelli said via his Twitter account he would not respond to the "immaturity" of his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro.

"I already announced: I will not respond to the immaturity from President Maduro, be they attacks of profanity or false accusations used to divert attention," said Martinelli.

Maduro said this afternoon "the businessmen in the Colon Free Zone in Panama told us the Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli is charging them 20% for every bill coming out of Venezuela through the Foreign Exchange Administration Commission (Cadivi) which is being diverted to his electoral campaign."

He also said "the Government of Panama was left alone, alone and defeated," referring to the negativity within the OAS to hold a meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the crisis in Venezuela, where the Latin American countries refused to make "any interference" in the country. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: Martinelli is right, Maduro is wrong. The UN is calling for investigations into allegations of human rights abuses that are occurring in Venezuela right now. See: It's funny, but you're often "left alone" when you're leading. Panama is out front on this, calling on the OAS to do something. As they should. However the OAS is basically a dysfunctional left-leaning room full of talking heads who really don't do much of anything, no matter what happens, so no surprise there.

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Venezuela cuts ties with Panama, calling country a 'lackey' for the United States

Panama NewsBy Catherine E. Shoichet (CNN) -- Venezuela's President severed diplomatic relations with Panama Wednesday, accusing the Central American nation of being a "lackey" for the United States in a conspiracy plot against his government.

"There are maneuvers by the U.S. government plotting with a lackey government that has a right-wing president who is leaving in the next few months, who is not worthy of his people, who has been working actively against Venezuela," President Nicolas Maduro said in televised remarks.

He accused Panama of pushing for regional organizations to intervene in Venezuela. As a result, Maduro said he was cutting off diplomatic and political ties and freezing trade relations with Panama's current government "in defense of the homeland's sovereignty."

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said in a Twitter post that he was surprised by Venezuela's decision.

"Panama only longs for its brother country to find peace and strengthen its democracy," he said.

The latest bout of diplomatic wrangling comes after weeks of anti-government protests in Venezuela, which are the biggest threat Maduro has faced since his election last year.

In a statement late Wednesday, Panama's government denied Maduro's accusations and said it had tried to encourage action by the Organization of American States to help promote dialogue, democracy and human rights in Venezuela.

"We reject as unacceptable the insults uttered by President Nicolas Maduro against our country and its highest authority. The foul language used is inappropriate for the president of a brother country," the statement said.

Last month Maduro expelled three U.S. diplomats form Venezuela, accusing them of conspiring against his government.

The United States expelled three Venezuelan diplomats last week in retaliation.

The State Department has repeatedly denied Venezuela's accusations that it's funding opposition efforts to topple Maduro's government or involved in other conspiracy plots.

"Venezuela, rather than trying to distract from its own failings by making up false accusations against diplomats from the United States, the government ought to focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people," U.S. President Barack Obama told reporters last month.

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Venezuela Suspends Debt Repayment to Panama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Panama says rejects Venezuelan President Maduro's "offenses"

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

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

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The Government of Venezuelan Breaking Ties With Panama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lavitola Facing Trial For Panama Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cuban refugees in hunger strike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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