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Thursday, April 17 2014 @ 05:36 PM EDT

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The War Of Competing Political Attack Ads Heats Up In Panama

PoliticsThe war of competing political ads is not stopping. The group "Independent for Change", which supports President Ricardo Martinelli, released a new attack ad on Friday, 6 July 2012 against Vice President Juan Carlos Varela, turning his most recent ad around and using it against him. The newest political attack ad against Varela, who is the President of the Panameñista political party, is focused on his dispute with the Ministry of Labor for allegedly not paying the minimum wage in his company Varela Hermanos, SA.

The group that supports Martinelli and is represented by Tourism Minister Salomon "Salo" Shamah, shows the front entrance of the Hacienda San Isidro de Varela Hermanos SA, where in January 2009 the alliance between Martinelli and Varela was sealed. What follows is an interplay of Varela's words where he says he supports an increase in the minimum wage, as well as interviews with people who are assumed to be his workers, with their faces disguised, who are saying they are not being payed the minimum wage.

The dispute is going through the roof. The national government paid for a political ad on Friday, 29 June 2012, accusing the opposition of inciting violence in the special sessions of the National Assembly, showing pictures of Varela together with other opposition politicians such as Mitchell Doens.

In response to this political attack ad, Vice President Varela responded on Monday, 2 July 2012 with an ad of his own, accusing the Martinelli administration of being involved in acts of corruption, while he (Varela) supports social projects such as the increase to the minimum wage.

The very next day, on Tuesday July 3, the Molirena party which is allied to Martinelli, took out their own political attack ad, identifying Varela as "just another politician" who voted for and supported controversial and contentious issues such as the Chorizo ​​Law, the law of land, and the purchase of the radars from Italy (before their alliance broke up in August 2011.)

In the morning of that same day Labor Minister Alma Cortes accused Varela of not paying the minimum wage during an interview on the channel 13 Telemetro morning news broadcast, and she revealed their case file in which they have fined the company Varela Hermanos SA $102,500 dollars - for not paying their workers the proper and legal minimum wage.

On Wednesday July 4 at legal team from the Panameñista political party filed a complaint before the Electoral Prosecutor, for supposed violation of electoral laws, saying the Labor Minister - who is also the Deputy General Secretary of the Cambio Democratico political party - for allegedly talking about politics during working hours.

The push and pull continued in the following days, and have increased since the breakup of the alliance on August 30, 2011, when president Martinelli fired Varela from his position as Foreign Minister.

This Friday July 6th the television media started transmitting a new political attack ad created by the "Independents for Change", now showing interviews with employees who allegedly work for the company owned by the Vice President, who are not being paid the $2.08 minimum wage salary as required by law.

They even show the cover of a recent edition of the Panama American newspaper, which according to their political opponents is owned by the Government, entitled "Unions Ask For Severe Punishments For Varela Hnos." "Juan Carlos Varela claims to defend the interests of the people ... but he put his interests first, denying their workers the minimum wage as required by law," says the attack ad, and it ends - "Juan Carlos Varela - just another politician."

Vice President Varela responded to the new ad on Twitter saying "the truth of Juan Hombrón and level of responsibility of senior government officials, has caused them to start a smear campaign against all." "Martinelli believes that by attacking me through a false organization will divert attention from the Juan Hombrón case, but he does not know the intelligence of the people," said the Panameñista Varela. He said Martinelli is using state resources and others that must come from the taxes of the people to make attacks against opposition leaders. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: We are still 22 months away from the May 2014 elections, and these guys are already going at one another's jugular's. Mathematically speaking, Varela and the Panameñistas are already toast. I'm sure the CD is going to pound away on them anyway, but their real threat will be coming from the PRD candidate. Varela's gang is so screwed up, it's almost like beating up the kid who gets to school on the short bus. And I'm sure the CD has more arrows in their quiver besides this minimum wage issue to use later. Any Panameñista with a brain will be jumping ship to the Molirena party, and it's still going to come down to a two horse race - the CD (+ Molirena) against the PRD (+ PP). The Panameñistas will come in third as the "also ran" candidate, just like they did in 2004. They will be lucky to break 10% of the vote.

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Camacho Says "The Video" Is Designed To Divert Attention Away From Varela Hermanos SA Case

Politics
Luis Eduardo Camacho - Official Spokesman For The Government of Panama
Luis Eduardo Camacho - Official Spokesman For The Government of Panama
"This view (the video of the statements of Raul Mata) was created to try to deflect the issue that has arisen in the public opinion about the non-payment of minimum wages by the company Varela Hermanos, SA". Thus spoke this Friday, July 6, the government spokesman Luis Eduardo Camacho, about the video circulating on the Internet which supposedly contains an alleged confession by Raul Mata on the case of the irregular sale of land in Juan Hombrón in the province of Cocle. Camacho referred to the statement made earlier this week by the Minister of Labor and Workforce Development, Alma Cortez, who said in a television interview they have issued a resolution against the company Varela Hermanos SA and the company was fined $102,500 dollars for failing to pay their workers minimum wage. "Here is the resolution, they did not pay minimum wage," Cortés said, referring to the Vice President Juan Carlo Varela, who is also the president of the Panameñista political party.

Alliance - While speaking on RPC Radio, Camacho said it is clear the publication of this video is part of a public partnership between the Panameñista party and the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), of which Balbina Herrera is a member, who also appears credited in the video. The official further noted that the controversial video, which supposedly reveals who would be linked to the irregular sale of 54.3 acres of beachfront land on the shores of Juan Hombrón, reflects the interest Varela has in the land in Juan Hombron, in the Hacienda Santo Monica, and in the sand industry. Camacho said "this is an orchestrated plan, which seeks to link the Minister of the Presidency, Demetrio Papadimitriu, who has repeatedly said he has nothing to do with the topic of Juan Hombrón". "And it also seeks to damage the image of the government," he said.

Editor's Comment: First of all, this video and the audio recorded on it will never make it into evidence as it is. The audio recording has obviously been altered and edited, and the only way to accurately and fairly judge the content is to hear the entire original with no edits. Secondly, it was clearly an illegal recording, made without the knowledge of the participants. In order to record a conversation in Panama you either need to make all parties aware that it's being recorded, or the judicial and legal authorities can do it with a court order. And obviously none of that was done in this case, so the recording is worthless as evidence. Third - the person or persons who are putting this forward obviously are driven by politics, so it can't be trusted. Who knows if it's even Raul Mata's voice on the recording. It might be, but how can anyone prove that it is?

So since it has no legal value whatsoever, the only thing left is to do what they are doing - to put it forward as a controversial hot potato. The La Prensa newspaper, at war with the Martinelli administration, can harp on it all day long and they will certainly ride this for all it's worth. Both sides continue to play their political game of "let's see who can do the most damage to the other side." I'll see your attack articles in La Prensa with an audit and a $3 million dollar fine. And, I'll raise your public statements about our administration with an audit and an inspection of your work force, and a fine of $102,500 for not paying minimum wage. On one side there's the press and public statements, and the government is responding with inspections, audits, and fines. Who do you think is going to win?

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Minister of the Presidency Rejects New Attack

PoliticsThe Minister of the Presidency, Jimmy Papadimitriu said: "For clear reasons of political opposition and using a video, whose authorship has no one responsible, Mrs. Balbina Herrera is trying again link me to the purchase of land in Juan Hombrón. It would be flippant of us react to the contents of an anonymous recording of dubious origin, and in its content presents a new hooded figure, with an electronically distorted voice, referring to the recording of an alleged conversation between several people, but where only one voice is heard, recounting alleged facts, some of which mention my name."  

The Minister said "the alleged person to whom the hooded figure attributes the voice, on 26 June this year, said publicly in a morning news program that he has never met me nor has he ever talked to me, I can add also, what's more, that I don't know any of the fishermen who sold their possessory rights."

"As I have stated publicly on several occasions, I have nothing to do with the issue of the purchase of the land of Juan Hombrón. As I said also, my parents are among the shareholders in the companies that participated in the purchase of land, and I made ​​it clear that anyone who has any further questions regarding this matter should be directed to Mr. Carlos Carrillo, the attorney for my parents."

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Martinelli Says Reforms To Electoral Code Will Go Forward

PoliticsPresident Ricardo Martinelli said Thursday that the National Assembly will discuss electoral reforms, because that is the cry. "Everyone here wanted electoral reform, and electoral reforms there will be," said Martinelli. The decision of the President was given even though the Electoral Reform Commission, which includes representatives of opposition parties, organized civil society and the Electoral Court asked for the withdrawal of the proposed reforms in the National Assembly of Deputies, saying there is no room for discussion, so that during the next government the reforms can be implemented as approved by consensus.

"It is quite right what the President said," said Edwin Zuniga, of the ruling Cambio Democratico after hearing about what Martinelli said. Deputy Hernan Delgado also considered it to be a negligence of the judges of the Electoral Court to request the withdrawal of the project. Zuniga made ​​the proviso that as Deputies, they can add Articles at any point, and they are not limited to what was said in the Roundtable discussions. Meanwhile, Delgado said the petition of the magistrates of the Electoral Tribunal is an ignorance of the functions of the National Assembly. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: The job of the Electoral Tribunal is to oversee elections, as defined by the laws of Panama. The problem is that currently, the three judges on the Electoral Tribunal are not, in fact, neutral. The Electoral Tribunal is owned and operated by the PRD, and it would better serve the interests of the PRD political party if the proposed electoral reforms are not implemented. There is a movement and push by the minority parties to kill the initiative to pass the reforms to the electoral code, and the CD is indicating strongly they will proceed with those changes anyway. Expect another fight, and more headlines. One of the reasons the CD wanted Sergio Galvez running the National Assembly is because he will jam shit through without caring about the consequences. If Raul Pineda gets in Galvez's face (the same way he bum rushed Marco Gonzalez) he'll get his ass kicked right there on the floor of the Assembly. Well, at the very least he'll get sat on by a relatively fat man.

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PRD Activist Wants "Peace and Tranquility" Among Their Party of "Combat and Action" - Huh?

Politics
Olga Cárdenas - PRD Political Activist in Panama
Olga Cárdenas - PRD Political Activist in Panama
Olga Cardenas, who is a member of the Women's Committee of El Chorrillo and a leader of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), said they don't want any more violence within the party. She made these statements in response to recent events in San Miguelito, where there was an incident in which the lawyer Gilberto Pinzon was murdered, who was a candidate for Representative, and the sister of National Assembly Deputy Raul Pineda, Anneth Pineda, was injured. She also summoned the members of the PRD to come out to vote on Sunday July 8, but in peace and tranquility among the members, "we are a party of combat and action, we don't waste time crying, but rather we have proposals to work better," she said. On 8 July 2012 the PRD will be holding a party-wide internal election to select 4,200 convention delegates, with all party members voting. Then in August these newly elected delegates will vote to select the new National Executive Committee of the PRD. (Telemetro)
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Milton Henríquez Would Like To See Gerardo Solís Remain On The Electoral Tribunal

PoliticsThe President of the Partido Popular political party Milton Henriquez said they would propose to the Electoral Reform Committee that the electoral system should remain intact. "We do not want the Electoral Law to be reformed, not even if they approve the reforms reached via consensus, because by now at this point in the game it's too late," he said. He said they would submit a proposal to the Commission on Electoral Reform asking the Supreme Court to re-appoint Gerardo Solis as a magistrate on the Electoral Tribunal. According to Henriquez, Judge Solis has proven he can withstand pressure. "Any other impartial person would have to prove they could endure pressure from President Ricardo Martinelli," he said. Henriquez said it would not be appropriate to appoint a judge who does not know what is happening in the Electoral Tribunal, because that would be some kind of brake on the good performance of the process.

"Let us come to the elections with the system we accepted in 2009 and which will serve us well in 2014," he added. On Wednesday the Electoral Reforms Committee will reconvene at 10:00 am, after they were requested to meet by the opposition parties, a request that was echoed by the Electoral Tribunal. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: First of all, according to my analysis there is absolutely zero chance of Geraldo Solis remaining on the Electoral Tribunal after his term expires this fall. I mean, none. There are three magistrates on the Electoral Tribunal, each of them named to the bench by one of the three branches of government. In the case of Geraldo Solis, his replacement will be named by the Supreme Court - which is controlled and dominated by Ricardo Martinelli. I think he is the only magistrate on the Electoral Tribunal who will be leaving before the 2014 elections.

Eduardo Valdés Escoffery's term on the bench of the Electoral Tribunal was renewed for another ten years on 29 December 2006, when he was reappointed by then president Martin Torrijos (PRD). He is serving a ten year stint until December 2016. And at about the same time the National Assembly reelected Erasmo Pinilla to remain on the bench of the Electoral Tribunal. The third judge, Geraldo Solis is 100% PRD. He worked in the Ministry of the Presidency under Ernesto Perez Balladares in the 90's, and he was also the Minister of Housing before being appointed by Perez Balladares as the Electoral Prosecutor in 1999. Then in 2006 the PRD controlled Supreme Court named him as a Judge on the Electoral Tribunal, in a term than ends on 14 November 2012. In the past few years the Electoral Tribunal has lost any sense of being neutral, and has repeatedly adopted positions and taken positions that are in favor of the PRD and against the CD. This is a very bad thing for something as important to Panama's democracy as the Electoral Tribunal - and it's the one thing Ricardo Martinelli does not control.

The statements made by Milton Henríquez in this article are so far out there in pipe dream territory that they surpass "wishful thinking" and enter the realm of "masturbatory hallucination." Solis was named by the PRD. As the President of the Electoral Tribunal he has ensured they make every possible decision to go in favor of the PRD whenever possible, and against the CD. In short, the CD guys hate his guts, and they are going to eject his ass over the wall with a display of fireworks, and then throw a party after he's gone. Remember, much of what drives Ricardo Martinelli is a desire for payback against Ernesto Perez Balladares and the PRD. There's no way in hell Solis stays on the bench one day after 14 November 2012. C'ya.

And what's more, Milton Henríquez's Popular Party is down to about 25,000 members at last count and they represent less than 1% of the voters. The chances are good the party will be dissolved after the 2014 elections. Once that happens, Milton Henríquez will become just another talking head and a member of the "civil society" the journalists turn to whenever they need content and comments to fill their columns and air time. He's a politically weak and fading politician who's simply on the wrong team, but he does manage to get his name and face in the papers and on television with surprising regularity. Mostly because very few people ever take the time to ask themselves the fundamental question - "why should I care about what that dude thinks?"

And on a side note, if you guys can follow this shit, you'll know more about Panamanian politics and the functioning of the Electoral Court than most Panamanians.

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Labor Minister Cortes Defends Herself Against Attacks

Politics
Alma Cortés - Panama's Minister of Labor and Workforce Development
Alma Cortés - Panama's Minister of Labor and Workforce Development
The Minister of Labor and Workforce Development, Alma Cortez, responded to questions raised after the statements she made about the President of the Panameñista political party, Vice President Juan Carlos Varela, during working hours. "My participation was entirely institutional," said Cortes, who yesterday on the channel 13 Telemetro Report morning news broadcast reacted to a television spot issued under Varela's responsibility that is critical of the administration of Ricardo Martinelli. Cortez said again today Varela "cannot talk about the minimum wage" when the companies he owns fails to make the minimum required payments to their employees, referring to Varela Hermanos, SA. On the same morning news program, Cortez said the Labor Ministry does not only oversee Varela Hermanos. She said her organization has already forced other companies to pay the minimum wage to their workers as well.

Complaint - Earlier, a lawyer representing the Panameñista political party, Yodalis Cuello, announced she has drafted a criminal complaint against Cortes, arguing that the information provided during the interview "was not institutional or characteristic of her work as a public figure." In this regard, Cortes said, "I'm not surprised by the Panamanian Party's initiative," and she added the collective will do whatever it takes so that the public does not know about the "irregularities" of one of its members. The minister further said she would be waiting for the complaint to be filed. She said "I will bring with me all of the proof and evidence I have because at no time did I violate the ethics as an officer" of the government," and even less on political campaigning in the media. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Varela and the Panameñistas don't have a leg to stand on here. By all accounts the company Varela Hermanos SA was, in fact, not properly paying the minimum required wage to their employees. The employees in question are people who work in the sugar cane fields, used to make "Seco". The employees filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labor, their inspectors reviewed the company's books and records, and issued a fine for $102,500 dollars - for having failed to pay the minimum wage. So how does the Panameñista party (and the La Prensa newspaper) react? By trying to shift the focus of blame to the Minister of Labor Cortes, and trying to say she was playing politics during working hours.

In my opinion the strategy they are adopting is faulty at a fundamental level. Almost everyone reading this story has already made up their minds on this issue. It seems true that Varela (and the company owned by his family) were in fact taking advantage of their employees and they simply got caught red handed. No one, except those with a tattoo of Arnulfo Arias somewhere on their bodies, is going to side with the Panameñistas on this one. Trying to spin the blame back around on Cortes is a really (really) stupid and faulty gambit.

This situation seems to be a repeat of many other similar stories. The very large and very rich company owners in Panama have traditionally been able to get away with murder, because they have always had either the money required to pay bribes, or the political power so they didn't have to worry about it, or both. There are a great many large business owners in Panama who are beyond "pissed" at Martinelli because his administration is quite simply enforcing both the Tax Code and the Labor Laws, making them pay what they owe the government in taxes, and making them pay what they owe their employees in wages. Nothing can piss off an arrogant rich and "powerful" businessman more.

Anyway, it really doesn't matter all that much. It's mathematically impossible for the Panameñistas to do any better than third place in the 2014 elections. Juan Carlos Varela is not going to be the next President of Panama. Their party will continue to lose power and influence over time, and they will win fewer and fewer elected positions until the party eventually disappears. The CD had better spend more time concentrating on their real challenger - the PRD.

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Killing the "Martinelli Reelection" Myth

Politics
Luis Eduardo Camacho - Panama Government Spokesman
Luis Eduardo Camacho - Panama Government Spokesman
Government spokesman Luis Eduardo Camacho said the Government is neither thinking about nor talking about the reelection of the President of the Republic. "The opposition are those who say President Martinelli wants to be reelected, however this is not true," he said. He said all administrations would like to see the election of a figure (person) who would continue with the projects for the country, but nothing more. As for governance, he said they will continue to execute the works and projects that will benefit the country. He said on the channel 2 TVN morning news the amount of projects they are developing will not leave the country without money. "This is so because the Panamanian economy is a role model for the world. Panama is not bankrupt, nor is it going to be," he added. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Also true. Every time any opposition politician claims Ricardo Martinelli wants to be reelected, the Presidency should issue a press release directed at whichever member of the political opposition who made that statement and address the issue again and again - and repeat the simple fact (truth) that Ricardo Martinelli will not be seeking reelection in 2014. He's preventing from doing so by the Constitution. Martinelli personally does not want the job after 2014. And what's more, the people pf Panama would not vote for him anyway, because while they might like what the CD has done under this administration, but not to the point of supporting a Martinelli reelection bid. And, it's natural and normal for the CD as a political party to want to see their candidate win the election in 2014, whoever that person or candidate might turn out to be. The CD like the rest of the political parties will have to hold their primary election first to sort out the field of potential candidates. In the meantime, they can continue to work to kill this never ending "Martinelli reelection" myth. Just keep pounding the stake, and eventually the vampire will die, or at least anyone who continues to repeat it will be see as an uninformed self-serving manipulative compulsive liar (a.k.a. - "politician").

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"We Have Done In Three Years What No Other Government Has Been Able To Do" - Henriquez

PoliticsPanama's Foreign Minister Roberto Henriquez defended the government of Ricardo Martinelli today. Upon completion of three years (out of five) in office, Henriquez said "what we have done in three years, no one else has been able to do." Henriquez said the speech given by Martinelli on Sunday 1 July 2012 was was conciliatory, in which he called for a dialog. In his speech before the National Assembly, the President asked others to "stop denigrating" the country abroad, said Henriquez, who is also the Vice President of the Cambio Democratico (CD) political party. Henriquez also spoke about the CD rally held on Sunday at the 5th of May Plaza. He said the activity was done to demonstrate that the government has backing. In fact he said the CD brought together 100,000 people. "Nobody has been forced ... this country belongs to everyone," he said. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Yup, concur. I've been in Panama for more than 25 years, and this is the very first time any administration will be able to simply point at their accomplishments and the work they have done and just say - "See what we have done? Want more of that? If so, then you should elect the CD candidate in 2014." Without a doubt, they have been getting it done, making improvements, upgrades, building the country. You might not like the CD as a whole or Ricardo Martinelli personally, but they sure have been knocking it out, and I applaud them for that. This is by far the best and most productive administration I've seen, in 25 years. And I should say I consider a certain degree of corruption to be a common denominator between all Panamanian politicians, so it get's eliminated when solving for "x".

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A Possible "Hidden Chicken" In The National Assembly?

PoliticsEverything is ready for the installation tomorrow, Sunday, of the fourth legislative period of the National Assembly. The Deputies should define the presidents of the fourteen standing committees of this body.

Security - Wigberto Quintero, the Secretary General of the Chamber, said yesterday they are coordinating the final security details that will be used to monitor the premises of the National Assembly during the official events.

Rumors - Although the CD Deputy José Muñoz reported late Thursday that Sergio "Chello" Galvez would be the next President of the National Assembly, the caucus of the Democratic Change (CD) has not yet officially defined who will take the lead. On the grounds of the National Assembly there are rumors of a "hidden chicken" and that Galvez will not occupy the presidential chair of the National Assembly. (Mi Diario)

Editor's Comment: The CD will be holding a big political rally tomorrow, Sunday, 1 July 2012, in the area of the 5th of May Plaza to celebrate the accomplishments of the first three years of the administration of Ricardo Martinelli.

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Electoral Prosecutor Says There's No Evidence Of Wrongdoing in El Bebedero Election

PoliticsThe Electoral Prosecutor Dilia Cornejo, who held a random sampling yesterday, with the selection of 20 random people to see if there was any event that could have affected the elections on 4 December 2011 in El Bebedero in Tonosí. This is the second sampling they have performed, after they decided to expand the first one done nearly two months ago. Electoral prosecutors are investigating the possibility of an electoral offense over the alleged use of state assets, denounced by the opposition candidate Dario Saavedra. After the process yesterday, the Electoral Prosecutor for the central provinces said so far there was not sufficient evidence or merit to indicate any irregularity, but it will be up to the electoral criminal judge to decide the case. Meanwhile, the Justice of the Peace of the area, Juan Andres Ortiz, broke his silence and accused the opposition Partido Revolucionario Democratico (PRD) party of the abandonment of the township. He said they have not received any funds to help the community, "everything is paralyzed and the people have been forgotten." (TVN)
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Electoral Tribunal Grants Extension For New FAD Party (Panamanian Political Party Primer)

PoliticsThe Electoral Tribunal through Decree 11 of June 2012, decided to extend the registration of new political parties that are in formation, as a compensation for the days registrations were suspended. These new parties can now hold registration drives on Sunday 1 July, Thursday 5 July, Friday 6 July, Thursday 19 July, Friday 20 July, Saturday 21 July, and Sunday 22 July 2012. The document, which bears the signature of magistrates Gerardo Solís, Eduardo Valdés Escoffery y Erasmo Pinilla C., adding that during the additional days enabled, registration of new political party members must be done in accordance with the provisions of Decree 5 of 9 February 2012, and during the regular work schedule. According to the decree, the Electoral Tribunal decided to adopt this compensation measure because earlier they had suspended the registration of new political party members in stationary positions from 5 to 8 April 2012 because of the Holy Week, because 30 April 2012 was declared a holiday to commemorate because of Labor Day, on 7 May 2012 as a day of national mourning, and Sunday 17 June 2012 for the celebration of Father's Day. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: In Panama the Electoral Tribunal oversees, manages, and regulates the process of the formation of new political parties. Currently the only political party "in formation" is the "Frente Amplio por la Democracia" (FAD) (Broad Democracy Front). They are actively trying to sign up new members, so this resolution by the Electoral Tribunal only applies to them. The FAD is basically a collection of all of the extreme left radicals - guys like the leadership of the SUNTRACS construction union, the FRENADESO group, radical teacher's unions, as well as public health workers from the Office of Social Security. The problem these people are facing is - the vast majority of the people they supposedly lead or represent do not share their extreme political views.

According to the official statistics maintained by the Electoral Tribunal, as of March 2012 the FAD had only signed up 7,451 new members. In the past few months they have had a couple of recruitment drives, and according to their statements to the press they have expanded their membership to about 15,000 members. From what I understand they need more than 63,000 members - based on the current electoral law, rules, and regulations - in order to be recognized as an active and valid political party to be able to participate in the 2014 elections, to run candidates for public office, etc. Here's the math; They need to sign up at least 4% of the total valid votes cast during the last presidential election. During the May 2009 elections a total of 1,586,427 valid votes were cast. So therefore the FAD needs to sign up exactly (at least) 63,457 members - before the deadline established by the Electoral Tribunal - in order to be recognized as a valid political party to participate in the 2014 elections.

At this point it does not look like the FAD is going to be able to reach the minimum number of people they need to be recognized as a political party - and here's the really sweet part. If they now have only 15,000 members, that means only 0.94% of the population agrees with these idiots, and these are the guys who manage to make about 80% of the noise. So at the very least, this exercise will work to prove exactly how out of sync these guys are with everyone else. At least they're spending Comrade Hugo's money in Panama, so that's something.

The Panamanian Electoral Code also contains clear rules and regulations governing how old political parties are made "extinct" or dissolved. First of all, they can be dissolved voluntarily by their leadership. Secondly, they can merge with another, larger or more active party. Or if they fail to obtain 4% of the total valid votes cast for president, then the party is dissolved after the election. Three old political parties were dissolved after the May 2009 elections. The Union Patriotica merged with the Cambio Democratico on 25 July 2011 and ceased to exist. The Liberal Party was declared extinct based on the results of the May 2009 elections, for having achieved only 7,794 (or .49%) of the votes cast. The Vanguard Moral de la Patria party faced the same fate and was declared extinct in February 2011, for having achieved only 36,867 (or 2.32%) of the votes cast, with the now deceased (RIP) Guillermo Endara running as their candidate.

Right now the Electoral Tribunal only recognizes five political parties as being active and valid. Here they are, presented in order of size and the number of party members they had as of the latest official data of March 2012. The largest is the Cambio Democratico (CD) party with 483,217 members. In second place is the former champ - the Partido Revolucionario Democratico (PRD) party with 480,666 members. Now in third place is the declining Panameñista party with 273,615 members. In fourth is the Movimiento Liberal Republicano Nacionalista (MOLIRENA) party with 61,112 members. And in last place (strangely) is the Partido Popular (PP) with 25,960 total members. In the 2014 elections the CD and the MOLIRENA will be joining forces and running as allies, even though there is a dissident element within the party and they won't be voting as a block. The PRD and PP will also join forces. Finally, the Panameñistas will run alone. Therefore, I expect there will be a total of three presidential candidates vying for next election in 2014. And of course all of these parties will also put forward their candidates for Deputies to the National Assembly, the Mayor of Panama City and every other position of Mayor throughout the country, as well as the Representatives for every local municipal government as well.

But these numbers are enlightening. What I don't understand is - how does Milton Henriquez and his Partido Popular (PP) continue to exist with only 25,960 members? They only got 35,459 votes or 2.24% of the total turnout during the 2014 elections. So, according to the current and valid Electoral Code they should have been dissolved - just like the Liberal party and the Vanguard Moral de la Patria. Why didn't they? Why have they not faced the same fate? I suspect it's because the Electoral Tribunal is dominated by judges who were appointed by the PRD political party, and the PP is allies with the PRD. But, I'm going to be asking this question. Maybe I'm missing something.

Update: I asked an expert (Panamanian politician) about the situation with the Partido Popular, and he said "A party is formed and recognized with 64,000 members, which is equivalent to 4% of the total votes for president of the last previous election, but can decrease its membership afterwards until the next election when it has to again receive a minimum of 4% of the vote to survive. But the amount of votes can be either for President, Deputies, or Representatives. The Partido Popular has survived the last three elections because of the votes received by their candidates for Representative. In the next elections they might disappear."

Copyright 2012 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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Politicians Ask Mulino To Reveal Names

PoliticsIn response to the statements made yesterday by the Minister of Public Security Jose Raul Mulino on the alleged infiltration of drug trafficking into politics, many political leaders asked him to reveal the names of the persons involved. The Vice President of the Panameñista political party, Alcibiades Vasquez, urged the minister to file a complaint with the Public Ministry. "What politicians are they? It is very unfortunate that the minister generalized," said Vasquez. Meanwhile, the leader of the Partido Popular, Teresita Yániz de Arias, said the electoral reform bill contains a cap on campaign spending policies and the obligation to disclose the names of the donors, but "it was the Democratic Change which was opposed."

Olimpo Saenz of the MOLIRENA party also asked the Minister to disclose the names of the politicians. "They should know who they are," he said. On Thursday, Minister Mulino said citizens should be careful when voting for a candidate in 2014, because many people who are running have been linked to drug trafficking. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: If the CD guys have solid information that candidates from other political parties are receiving donations from drug traffickers, then I expect they will wait until it gets closer to the next general election in May 2014 to file those complaints. If they filed them now, then the opposition parties would have time to fill those spots with new candidates. If they wait, then they can tarnish the candidate and the party he or she represents, and there won't be enough time for a replacement to mount a successful challenge. Remember the allegations that both Bobby Velasquez and Balbina Herrera had supposedly received $3 million dollars in cash (each) from David Murcia? That came out right at the end of the campaign season and just before the election, and it helped Ricardo Martinelli to win the Presidency, and Bosco Vallarino to win as the Mayor of Panama City. These recent statements by Jose Raul Mulino just smell like a reaction to the murder of a PRD politician in San Miguelito last weekend, and he was vague because he can't be specific and get away with it.

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Electoral Prosecutor Conducting Investigations in El Bebedero Case

PoliticsTo clarify whether or not there was an electoral crime committed in the case of the elections in the district of El Bebedero de Tonosí in the province of Los Santos, the electoral prosecutor of the Azuero, Dilia Cornejo, will choose 20 people at random this Friday June 29 to question them on the subject. The diligence being conducted today would be the second sampling that has been done, after Dario Savvedra from the PRD political party, who was a candidate at the time of the election to be the Representative for El Bebadero, denounced that the candidate from the Cambio Democratico political party, Nidia Cureña - who won the election - allegedly used public funds to encourage voters to choose her.

The interrogations today will also be done, as Cornejo explained on TVN News, because they think it is necessary to expand the first diligence that was conducted about two months ago. The prosecutor said likewise, that this sampling will conclude the investigation of the Electoral Prosecutor in order to later present their opinion to the Electoral Tribunal, which will have the last word. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: No matter what the evidence states, the decision by the Electoral Tribunal will probably go in favor of the PRD and against the CD. The Electoral Tribunal is now completely corrupted, and it's basically a PRD controlled entity that has lost any sense of being a fair arbitrator of disputes.

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Government Stiff-Arms Advisory Council

PoliticsThe government of President Ricardo Martinelli was elected to govern until 2014, so the decision maker is the government. With such confidence responded Deputy Jose Munoz when he was asked about the issues that were sent to the Coalition, specifically on the sale of land in some areas of the country, an initiative rejected by the members of this group and civil society. According to Muñoz, although the government has much respect for the National Coalition, in the end it is the government that will be making the decisions on the issues discussed in this forum.

Due to the past incidents in the National Assembly over the sale of state owned shares in joint ventures, and the appointment of judges of the Fifth Chamber, the President decided to send these issues to the National Coalition for discussion. On 22 June, the Coalition agreed to reject the proposal to sell state owned shares in the electrical companies and the Cable & Wireless telecommunications company, as well as the lands of the Free Zone of Colon and on Amador.

On this subject, Martinelli said yesterday the Coalition is an advisory body, and their advice is not binding on the decisions adopted by the government.

Munoz said on TVN Noticias they hope the Coalition would reach a consensus, and he indicated the government would be looking for the needed resources, referring to the $400 million dollar budget shortfall arising from the failure to sell the state owned shares.

The Minister of Economy and Finance, Frank De Lima has admitted there will be a $400 million dollar shortfall in the budget, because when the budget for 2012 was created, which was submitted in July 2011, the government's plan at the time was to sell the state owned shares and they anticipated the sale would have generated about $400 million dollars in new revenue. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Recently, and increasingly, members of Martinelli's cabinet and president Ricardo Martinelli himself have been using the expression, in Spanish, of "co-gobernar" (co-govern). Meaning, there are all kinds of groups and organizations out there who were not elected, but for some reason they seem to think that they have a better plan on how to run things, and they want to "co-govern" with the elected officials. They try to take over or somehow usurp power from the government, and they use the news media outlets to manipulate the government into doing what they want. Obviously the opposition politicians of the PRD and Panameñista political parties are the two most guilty of this, because they literally want to take over Martinelli's job. However there are other groups and organizations out there who would also try to impose their will on the government.

For example now this "Citizen's Pro-Justice Alliance" are trying to create pressure against the President of the Supreme Court, Moncada Luna, and they're pissed over the way the whole Fifth Chamber thing went down. They think they can file a lawsuit or a complaint to try to get him thrown off of the bench. In reality they are just creating headlines for political reasons. There are literally dozens of little special interest groups - sort of like lobbyists in the United States - who push or pull this direction or that - in trying to get the best result for their own little special interest group. It might be school teachers, or construction workers, or business leaders, or (whatever.) Just remember that none of those guys were elected by the people of Panama to do anything. They know how to hold a meeting, issue a press release, march down the street and hold signs, or whatever. And in this article the government is starting to stiff arm these kinds of people a little, saying "thanks for the advice, but we've got it from here." Good call.

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Martinelli Kept His Promise - Withdraws Fifth Chamber Supreme Court Nominees

PoliticsYesterday the executive Cabinet Council passed a resolution revoking their earlier resolution Number 58 of 14 June 2012, which had appointed Arturo Vallarino, Anabel Padilla and Lilia Herrera as the new magistrates on the Supreme Court to fill the three new positions in the Fifth Chamber. On 20 June President Ricardo Martinelli promised to withdraw the appointments and to repeal the Fifth Chamber, following the widespread rejection by citizens in the streets. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Martinelli kept his word, and the Fifth Chamber thing won't be happening on his watch. I believe the the people on Martinelli's team are finally starting to figure out a few fundamental truths. First of all, Martinelli himself is not going to be running for reelection in 2014. It's illegal, he's prevented from being reelected by the Constitution, and there's no way the people would either stand for it, or vote for him if they managed to figure out a way to rig the rules. So if that's your starting premise then the focus and priority for the CD political party should be on working towards getting their candidate elected in 2014. It seems to me like all three "teams" (the PRD, Panameñistas, and CD) are still divided, splintered, fractured, and sort of flying without a compass. All they know is they have to attack the other side, but they seem to be doing it without a strategic plan. It's still very early in the game, and someone should tell Martinelli that he's accumulated enough political and economic power, and they should simply forget all of the political power plays - leave that to the opposition - and focus on getting things done. More work, less political bullshit.

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Carles Says A Group Of "Para-Governmentals" Is Working For The Martinelli Administration To Attack Panameñistas

Politics
Luis Ernesto Carles - Careera Politician and Member Of The Panameñista Political Party
Luis Ernesto Carles - Careera Politician and Member Of The Panameñista Political Party
The former minister and member of the Panameñista political party Luis Ernesto Carles described people who were handing out fliers as "infamous." The fliers contained attacks against the Vice President of Panama who is also the President of the Panameñista party Juan Carlos Varela, saying he has interests in the lands of John Hombrón along the coast of Cocle, the titling of which is under investigation.

Carles denounced this Tuesday, 26 June 2012, on Telemetro Report, that there is a group of "para-governmentals," financed by the high command of this Government, who are dedicated to "do this kind of leafleting, to make banners, upload videos to Youtube, and to [make] wiretaps of opposition leaders, union leaders, and civil society." According to Carles, who is also the former Vice Minister of Labor, this group is responsible for making a "dirty campaign" to discredit those who question the government. "[This] is a persistent action of this Government that after they screw up, that after they put their hand (into the pot), then they want to blame and smear other people," he said.

When asked about the people who were handing out flyers, Juan Carlos Varela told the newspaper La Prensa that "no kind of attack, lie or intimidation by the government is going to silence me," while he attributed the situation to "the President [of the Republic ] who wants to divert attention from the serious attacks on democracy."

An investigation by La Prensa revealed that Villamonte - who worked in a Papadimitriu family business - approved the title for 54 hectares of land in Juan Hombrón free of charge, to be divided into parcels smaller than five hectares. The investigation also revealed that the real owners of the original societies, as well as those to which the lands were transferred, are the Papadimitriu family. Yesterday the National Land Authority (Anati) reported that the decisions of annulment of the titles still do not apply, because the victims have filed complaints that have not yet been resolved. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Remember that La Prensa is practically the official news outlet for the Panameñista political party, and it's owner Roberto Eisenmann is at war with Ricardo Martinelli over a $3 million dollar bill for back taxes. Anything in La Prensa will always been 100% in favor of the Panameñista position, and 100% against the Cambio Democratico and Ricardo Martinelli. They have completely lost any sense of impartiality, and are now a completely biased news media outlet. They don't like the PRD either, but they flat-out HATE Martinelli. Carles was the guy who was featured in a recording of a cell phone conversation, uploaded on YouTube, in which he was buying chain saws to be used by protesting Indians in the province of Bocas del Toro to cut down trees and block roads, and welding equipment they were going to use in order to cut down cell phone or power transmission towers. So yeah, he's complaining about these groups, but he also got caught, and now he's trying to shift the blame (apparently) to those who caught him. And of course La Prensa left all of that out. All of these guys from all three teams are all playing the same game.

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The Incidents Which Shot Down The Aspirations Of The National Assembly's Vice President

Politics
In January Marco González Showed His Fist To Another Deputy In The National Assembly
In January Marco González Showed His Fist To Another Deputy In The National Assembly
The first vice president of the National Assembly Deputy Marco Gonzalez was dreaming, maybe every night, of becoming the next President of the National Assembly for the period 2012-2013, but on the way these aspirations died. The political landscape does not accompany the deputy from the ruling Democratic Change (CD) political party.

On Tuesday afternoon, 31 January 2012 there was hand wringing, pushing and shoving in the National Assembly when they were going to vote on the proposal from that collective (the CD) to withdraw Bill 402 to adjust the functions of the Fifth Chamber. In the confrontation, Gonzalez, who was serving as the acting President of the National Assembly at the time, took off his ring, his watch and unbuttoned his shirt as a sign he was ready to fight, challenging Deputy Jose Luis "Popi" Varela to fight, and he even showed him his fist. Other deputies were pulled into the altercation, but Gonzalez showing his fist was criticized and became the talk on social networks.

On Monday, 18 June 2012, the area outside of the National Assembly were troubled by the discussions over Bill 486 and the proposed sale state owned shares in the electric companies; and later with the presentation by the Minister of Economy and Finance Frank De Lima, he included the proposed sale of the state owned shares in the Cable & Wireless telecommunications company, the tense atmosphere forced the debate to be suspended.

The next day, on Tuesday 19 June 2012, with riot police using movable cyclone fences deployed to secure the perimeter of the National Assembly, the atmosphere was further impeded, and Gonzalez led the debate on Bill 486 for the electric companies and Bill 488 for Cable and Wireless. During an attempt by the opposition, united and agitated, who were trying to stop the debate, Deputy Raul Pineda from the PRD interrupted the session wielding a police baton in his hand. The intention, he said, was to stop the discussion with this political strategy, but not assault Vice President Gonzalez. On stage in the area of the Presidency the full membership of the National Assembly observed as Pineda closed on Gonzalez with the police baton in his hand, and he shoved him hard, while Gonzalez froze and others intervened.

In the heat of the moment on that same day, Tuesday 19 June 2012 in the National Assembly, Gonzalez made some harsh statements against Pineda. "I have kept my composure as I committed to the media, but he who keeps his composure is not to say that things will remain as they are. I'm from San Miguelito, and it should be known that I'm from San Miguelito, and let's see what happens in San Miguelito. In San Miguelito we're going to meet up in Patio Limoso and we're going to fix this crap," he said. He even announced he would be filing a complaint against Deputy Pineda.

But on Thursday night, 21 June, an event occurred that made all eyes turn toward Gonzalez. The team of the PRD Deputy was attacked near K Street, in Paraiso (San Miguelito). In the attack Pineda's assistant and friend Gilberto "Kiki" Pinzon was killed, and his sister the teacher Annet Pineda was seriously wounded.

Perhaps due to the the heat of it all, the President Ricardo Martinelli appeared before midnight at the San Fernando Hospital to visit Deputy Pineda in this hard time. "Here at the San Fernando hospital attending the Pineda family in difficult times," Martinelli Tweeted at 11:39 pm that night.

Then, at midnight Deputy Pineda made a statement to the press to disassociate (the attack) from the vice president of the Assembly, and he spoke of threats made by the candidate for deputy, Juan Ramon Messina. That same morning, the president takes his words and emphasizes that it is an internal problem of the PRD.

On Friday June 22, the PRD politician Kathy Ramos, wife of Messina, called a press conference in the morning where she rejected the accusations being made by Pineda. In the afternoon, the National Executive Committee (CEN) of the PRD accused Martinelli of entangling the political party and called for an investigation.

During a television interview Gonzalez said he only made his statements in the heat of the moment. On Saturday, 23 June at the Bronco Steak restaurant in the morning Gonzalez met with Pineda, who is from the same circuit in San Miguelito, where the politician apologized. They smoked the peace pipe. No one has pointed to Gonzalez directly with any crime after he spoke of Patio Limoso, but Pineda exempted him from the events.

On Sunday, 24 June 2012, Gonzalez was together with Sergio "Chello" Gálvez, who aspires to be the next President of the National Assembly, together with the current President Héctor Aparicio, at the racetrack.

On Monday morning, 25 June 2012, the PRD political candidate Kathy Ramos once again returned to raise her cannons against Deputy Pineda, and accused him of trying to get (her husband) Messina out of the way to later continue his game with Martinelli.

And then the unexpected - before noon, Deputy Gonzalez announced he was withdrawing his aspirations to preside over the National Assembly. "With the events that have occurred, I think I deserve to take a step back," he said at the press conference on Monday June 25.

Now the Deputy Chello Galvez, who has been criticized for his absenteeism in the National Assembly, has the space thanks to a Gonzalez who has been affected by the recent events, who even entered into a verbal fight in mid-April with his colleague Marylín Vallarino over a Bill about child support payments. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: They still call Marco Gonzalez "El Dedo" (The Finger) because on 31 January 2012 he flipped off the peanut gallery as he was being interviewed by TVN's Magda Maxwell in front of the National Assembly. There were several others who were also aspiring to be the next President of the National Assembly, but in reality for this next term it came down to Marco Gonzalez and Chello Galvez. Now that Gonzalez has pulled back, it's pretty much a clear path for the "sexual buffalo" for the win. Galvez is on his third political party this time around with the CD.

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Marcos Gonzalez Bows Out, Supports Sergio Galvez

PoliticsThe current First Vice President of the National Assembly, Marcos Gonzalez, announced today, Monday 25 June, that he would be abandoning his bid to become the next President of the National Assembly. Gonzalez said that now because he is not running as a candidate, he would be throwing his support behind the candidate who was his opponent, Deputy Sergio Galvez. "For the sake of unity I have decided to decline my aspirations to such office, and to support my colleague Sergio Galvez," Gonzalez said. The deputy acknowledged they have faced a "difficult period" and he has "worked with responsibility." Gonzalez thanked the 23 Deputies who he says have always been supportive. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Now that Marcos Gonzalez has bowed out, it's almost guaranteed Sergio Galvez will become the next President of the National Assembly. The next set of regular sessions will start on Monday, 2 July 2012, and the first order of business will be to elect the leadership for the next year. This will mark the start of the fourth year of the administration of Ricardo Martinelli as well.

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Martinelli Will Withdraw CD Lawsuit Against Electoral Tribunal Judges

Politics By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - This morning the news broke that the Cambio Democratico political party had filed a lawsuit against the three judges of the electoral tribunal. For details see Martinelli's Lawyer Files Complaint Against Judges of Electoral Tribunal and Camacho Says Lawsuit Against TE Judges Was Filed By CD, Not Martinelli.

Rapid And Widespread Rejection: Almost immediately all of the primary politicians from the opposition parties pounced, and made "pronouncements" against the suit. Then later this afternoon Martinelli announced that the lawsuit would be pulled first thing Monday morning. Four hours ago president Martinelli said via his Twitter account: "Days ago I gave power to attorneys on the case about the elections in El Bebedero versus the electoral court judges. On Monday I will withdraw that demand." So, the problem has gone away before it could really grow legs.

This Is Scary - I Can Predict Crazy Shit: In my comments of the original story this morning I predicted that Martinelli would be cancelling this lawsuit by Tuesday morning. Well, I was right. He cancelled it, but it only took a few hours, and not a couple of days. In 2009 Panamanians elected "Los Locos" and now they're doing even more crazy shit, even more frequently. Is anyone surprised? I mean, if you elect someone who runs on a slogan of being "loco" shouldn't you expect some crazy antics every now and again? Appoint Supreme Court judges - just kidding. Going to sell state owned shares for about $1 billion dollars - "Gotcha again!" We're going to be suing the Electoral Court judges and use the Supreme Court to kick them out of office. No, not really, just kidding... Everyone, the journalists, opposition politicians, talking heads, are having problems keeping up. When things are going nuts, that's a good time to not go nuts yourself. But then there's this...

Bullshit "Chicken Little" Alarmist Crap: Then this evening I was forwarded an email issued by an irresponsible yellow "journalist" who made it sound like the world was going to light itself on fire come Monday morning. It said, in part - "There may be road blockages. There may be violent demonstrations. There may be labor strikes. There may be shortages in stores. There may be utility cutoffs. There may be police roundups of opposition figures. There may be a coup d'etat. It is not certain that any of these things will happen, but you should be prepared for them. A coup? Really? Give me a friggin' break. None of that is going to happen. If you receive that particular piece of uninformed reactionary crap via email, feel free to ignore it completely. Just breathe deeply, pour yourself a warm cup of tea, and keep reading Panama Guide, and your clue bag will be full enough to know what's going on. That just means you'll be just as as confused as the rest of us. Welcome aboard.

Copyright 2012 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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Martinelli's Lawyer Files Complaint Against Judges of Electoral Tribunal

PoliticsThe lawyer for the Democratic Change (CD) political party, authorized by party President Ricardo Martinelli, filed a lawsuit before the Supreme Court against the magistrates of the Electoral Tribunal in the case of El Bebedero. The lawsuit calls for the separation and removal of the magistrates Gerardo Solís, who is the President of the Electoral Tribunal; Eduardo Valdés Escoffery, the Vice President of the Electoral Tribunal, Erasmo Pinilla, and their respective alternates. Martinelli empowered the attorney Hugo Polo to proceed with the lawsuit against the judges.

State Communications Secretary Luis Eduardo Camacho said the suit was filed by lawyers representing the Democratic Change political party, authorized by the President and legal representative of the group, Ricardo Martinelli, and he criticized those who directly accuse the president. Government spokesman questioned whether the opposition seeks to misinform (the public). "This is not a demand (filed by) President Ricardo Martinelli ... they want to bring by the hair that the president sued the judges, it's an act of politics," said Camacho.

For Mariano Mena, a spokesman for the newly formed Front for Democracy, said "the President is behind this move," and said it is a way to control the elections of 2014. He said the three judges of the Electoral Court are adverse the intentions of the president, and for that reason he seeks to have them out of position to achieve his intentions to stay in power. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: The PRD controls the Electoral Tribunal, and in fact these judges have made many decisions based on politics that greatly favor the PRD and that go against the CD, so there really should be no great surprise that the CD as an organization would file a complaint against them, because (in fact) they have not made decisions that are fair, non-partial, unbiased, and free of politics. And predictably, the politicians from both the PRD and Panameñista political parties have come out and made strong statements against this complaint. But at the same time the PRD political party (as an organization) and the Panameñista political party (as an organization) have both filed lawsuits in the past against things when they have felt wronged, so the CD isn't doing anything either unusual or illegal. The difference is that the CD and Ricardo Martinelli has control of the Supreme Court. But even this situation has been true in the past for both the PRD and the Panameñistas, so they are in effect complaining about things similar to what they themselves have done in the past. Martinelli is shooting against the Electoral Tribunal because it's practically the one thing he doesn't currently control. They're the last man standing, and now they're taking rounds. Is anyone surprised? And given Martinelli's recent behavior, he will probably drop this case by Tuesday. Crazy, eh?

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Position of Mireya Moscoso Criticized

PoliticsThe negative stance of former president Mireya Moscoso on the merger of the three opposition parties to counter the actions of President Ricardo Martinelli and his government, caused several people, through their Twitter accounts, to remind the former president of her encounters (meetings) with the former general Manuel Antonio Noriega. Moscoso said through several news outlets she was "offended" by the alliance of the Panameñista party with the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) and the Popular party, which seeks to prevent the appointment of the magistrates of the Fifth Chamber to the Supreme Court, and the sale of the state owned shares in the power and telecommunications companies.

Yesterday, through the popular social network Twitter, the account @Fer27Francisco, two photos showing Moscoso in a meeting with the current governor of Panama Mayín Correa, Manuel Antonio Noriega, and his wife Felicidad Noriega Sieiro. The photographs provoked a wave of reactions in the tweeters: "Mireya does not care about the values Fufo had," said one. Another said "Her performance is unworthy and worse now at this moment." And another, "I dread the double standards of some people."

Moscoso, through the media, lamented that the PRD's Mitchel Doens and Pedro Miguel Gonzalez were at the headquarters of the Panameñista party, and denied that democracy is in danger. "When we were in the days of dictatorship, you could say there was no democracy. The PRD is only using the Panameñistas," she said. During her time in office Mireya reached a political agreement between the Arnulfistas and the PRD, so that the PRD Deputy Carlos 'Titi' Alvarado, who was as an advisor to Mitchel Doens, would be the President of the Chamber during that period. That was how she was able to get the National Assembly to endorse her appointments of Winston Spadafora and Alberto Cigarruista as judges of the Supreme Court (CSJ).

Moscoso acknowledged that the photos exist, but she said they were taken when Noriega was still a Colonel and not a General. "This is the work of my political opponents within the Panameñista party and the PRD, because I questioned the lack of respect for the memory of (Arnulfo) Arias has been done with this merger," she retorted. She said she would continue to criticize the alliance, because it was she who had to repeal the Fifth Chamber, created by the PRD at the hands of Ernesto Perez Balladares, and it was they who with the dictatorship caused so many deaths and who did so much damage to the country. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: There were a lot of people who met with Manuel Antonio Noriega while he was running the country. He had complete and total control over everything - and there were even stories of people who would seek meetings with "the General" in order to get a parking ticket taken care of. Noriega was a master at manipulating people and creating leverage to get what he wanted. If someone wanted to meet with him for whatever reason, then he would usually take the meeting, see what they wanted, and then try to find a way to turn the situation around so it would benefit him. I'm sure the higher levels of all active politicians would meet with Noriega at one point or another, for whatever reason. One of Noriega's favorite tricks was to have the Panamanian Defense Forces (before the National Police existed the country was run by the military) pull over some politician's kid. They would plant a kilo of cocaine in the trunk and then lock the kid up on trumped up, bullshit charges. Once the politician showed up at his office to get his kid released, Noriega "owned" him. Standard practice of the PRD, for many years. In my opinion, Varela was flat out WRONG to join forces with the PRD because they did a whole lot of evil for many years, especially against the members of the Panameñista party. Varela is ambitious, but at what cost?

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Protesters Tear Down Windows Separating Public From National Assembly Deputies - Session Suspended

PoliticsThe plastic windows that divide the public viewing stand area from the seats where the Deputies of the National Assembly work were torn down by protesters in the stands who reject the passage of the bills up for discussion. Among the protesters was a leader of the Youth Movement of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) who entered the session. The windows of the Assembly over the seats located in the back rows were broken, and the environment is out of control. The PRD youth leader along with other protesters who were in the stands tore down the windows and jumped down to the floor of the National Assembly. One of the protesters in the stands came to the session and started shouting insults against the deputies. The young man was removed by security agents working at the National Assembly.

The Bills the protesters are rejecting is Bill 486 which modifies the Law on Energy which allows for the sale of state owned shares, and the one presented by the Minister of Economy and Finance which allows for the sale of 24% of the state owned shares in the Cable and Wireless company. After the windows in the National Assembly were broken, Deputies from the opposition parties (Panameñistas and PRD) took flags and stood in front of the CD Deputies, covering their faces at the head table. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: During the chaos, some of the computers and the microphone system on the floor of the National Assembly was damaged. The CD has declared a "suspension" of the session today, but it has NOT been called off. This means they can reactivate the session at any time. It now seems like they will clear out the National Assembly and wait for tomorrow. Because of all of these protests and violent actions, I suspect that tomorrow the National Assembly will be surrounded by riot control police officers, and they will hold their sessions in an environment of control and security, and they will probably not allow public access. This is the first time protesters from the public have torn down the windows and jumped down to the floor of the National Assembly.

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Chaos In The National Assembly - Security Loses Control

PoliticsThe security guards at the doors of the National Assembly lost control of the situation at noon today, when several people tore down the partitions that separate the public access areas from the positions of the Deputies of the National Assembly. In television images, it could be seen how some people were grabbed by security agents amid fights and struggles, while others hit the doors because they are not allowed access to the legislative chamber. Amid the tense situation, some of the Deputies are backing the protesters, while others who support the position of the CD and Martinelli are concerned about what is happening. It has been said that the maximum number of people allowed in the National Assembly has been exceeded. The authorities are calling for calm, but the chaos does not stop, in the stands slogans are hears such as "Panama is not for sale" by those who are opposed to the adoption of Bill 486, which allows for the sale of state owned shares in the electrical companies, the sale of the state owned shares in the telephone company, and the ratification of the three newly appointed Supreme Court judges. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: The PRD presidential candidate and former Panama City Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro just arrived with a group of supporters, and they literally tore down the security gate and forced their entry. There are now too many people in the public stands of the National Assembly. There is apparently no security or any kind of control in the area. The Assembly has declared a recess, but the protesters remain. At this point I don't think the session has been officially suspended or cancelled for today.

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National Assembly Declares Recess To Calm Emotions In Debate of Bill 486

PoliticsAfter a group of people who were in the observation stands burst violently into the chamber, the National Assembly decided to declare a recess in the discussion of Bill 486. When the situation occurred, the deputies withdrew from the area of ​​the plenum. The session should end at 1:30 pm, if no deputies are present in the Chamber the debate on the project will be suspended for today. This initiative would allow the sale of state owned shares in the electricity companies on the Panamanian stock market, and establishes provisions for regulating the electricity market. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: At this moment a group of PRD lawmakers went to the front gate and tried to get the security guards to open a gate to let more people in. After they refused, they turned around and gave politically motivated speeches to the television cameras. Now Juan Carlos Navarro showed up with a group of supporters, and they are banging on the gates and demanding access to the National Assembly. Navarro is talking to the television cameras, through the closed gate (he's outside, the camera crew is inside.)

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Tense Atmosphere At The National Assembly

PoliticsAfter the doors were closed to the public observation area in the National Assembly a group of people forcibly entered the area to observe the actions of the session, after they were not allowed to enter. The atmosphere in the Assembly was even more tense, while at 12:15 pm outside the palace Justo Arosemena another group of demonstrators demanded entry to the stands. In the National Assembly they are debating the controversial bills that discuss the sale of state owned shares in joint ventures, and the appointment of three new judges to the Fifth Chamber of the Supreme Court. (Prensa)

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Moscoso and Aleman Reject "Front" Formed By Panameñistas and PRD

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Mireya Moscoso and José Miguel Alemán - Prominent Panameñista Politicians
Mireya Moscoso and José Miguel Alemán - Prominent Panameñista Politicians
The former presidential candidate of Panameñista political party, José Miguel Aleman, condemned on Friday the creation of a unified front the front between this group, the PRD and the Partido Popular (PP), especially the union between the PRD and the Panameñistas. In a press release Aleman said "the PRD has not apologized for its dictatorial past." Aleman ran as the candidate for the Panameñista party in 2004, an election won by Martin Torrijos. In that same election the now president Ricardo Martinelli came in last place.

This week there was a joint press conference at the headquarters of the Panameñista party on Ave. Peru there was a joint press conference, and the three political leaders - Juan Carlos Varela of the Panameñista party, Mitchell Doens, the Secretary General of the PRD, and Milton Henriquez, President of the PP, shook hands for the cameras. They joined forces in opposition to the appointment of the three new judges of the Fifth Chamber to the Supreme Court, and the sale of the state owned shares in the Cable & Wireless telecommunications company and the electric companies.

"We are very much dismayed today over the appearance of Vice President Varela with the Secretary General of the PRD party ... they have never apologized to the country. Not to the Panameñistas who were the most affected, but the country," Aleman said in a statement. While he added he is opposed to the way the current government of Ricardo Martinelli has handled the theme of the Fifth Chamber, "I do not agree with the inconsiderate and surprising appearance of Vice President Varela with Mr. Mitchell Doens." The Panameñista said they are a political party with a history and it does not right to sit with "a man who is the most conspicuous figure of the political party that for for 21 years, severed our political rights, exiled us, and imprisoned us."

The former President of the Republic Mireya Moscoso thinks the same way, saying on RPC television she was "surprised" by the pact signed by the PRD with the Panameñista party. "Everything they (the PRD) did to us," she criticized and castigated the meeting at the headquarters of (Panameñista) political collective. She regretted that Doens and Pedro Miguel Gonzalez were "in the house that was bought" for the Panameñistas. Moscoso not agree with the Fifth Chamber and the sale of shares in Cable & Wireless and the electrical companies, but she said they no not have to "get together" with people of the PRD.

Meanwhile, the former president of the Republic, the PRD's Martin Torrijos, via Twitter sent his congratulations to Henriquez, Varela and Doens for the front created on Friday, 15 June. "A union in defense of democracy. Neither the past, nor the electoral selfishness can leave us without a future," said Torrijos, who Moscoso had accused of persecuting her just as her term in office ended (1999 - 2004). (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: Think about Roberto Eisenmann, the owner of the La Prensa newspaper. Who does he hate worse - the PRD or Ricardo Martinelli? Some of the Panameñistas like Varela and Blandon think they will be taking the "lesser of two evils" by going with the PRD over Martinelli. In fact Varela screwed up severely back in August 2011 when he and Blandon decided to torch their alliance with the CD, and Martinelli has been making them pay for it ever since. He's been chopping them out of positions of power one by one - a perfect example being the Mayor of Panama City with Ricardo Bosco Vallarino the Panameñista gone, replaced by Roxana Mendez of the CD. However I think this is yet another serious and significant miscalculation by Varela, who's calling the shots. What, does he expect to run as the Vice President for whoever is heading the PRD presidential ticket in 2014? Of course not. But this move to suck up to the PRD and form a "front" is only going to convince more Panameñistas that they have no political future whatsoever if they stick with Varela. Therefore, they will simply join the Molirena party (later) and combine forces with the CD candidate come election time. It's still going to be a three way race between the PRD, Panameñistas, and the CD. This is a sort of interim move, mostly because having seven out of twelve Supreme Court justices appointed by the CD scares the hell out of all of the relatively old and corrupt politicians, the guys who used to run this country. They are friggin' shaking in their boots. Trembling at the prospect. Really. Martin Torrijos and Balbina Herrera are still staring down the CEMIS case. Martinelli is trying to generate as much leverage and friction as possible against Blandon as well. Having the Supreme Court in his back pocket makes it easier to bust up (and throw in jail) the political opposition. Really, this is a game changer. I'm sure the wires between the US Embassy and Washington DC are glowing...

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Opposition Parties Unite Against Martinelli

PoliticsThe Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), the Popular Party (PP) and the Panameñista party joined together this Friday, 15 June 2012, to call for the creation of a United Front for Democracy, to reject the latest government actions, including the designation of the judges of the Fifth Chamber and the approval of bills that allow the sale of state shares in electric utilities. About the appointment of the judges to the Fifth Chamber, the president of the Panameñista party and Vice President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela said "what happened was an assault on democracy." "It is a State matter, not an election issue. It is a matter of defending democracy," said the Vice President, whose party broke the alliance with the ruling Democratic Change in August 2011, after President Ricardo Martinelli dismissed him from office of Minister of Foreign Affairs.

From the headquarters of the Panameñista political party and sitting in the center of the table together with the Secretary General of the PRD Mitchel Doens, and the President of the Popular Party Milton Henriquez, Varela said the three opposition parties have closed ranks in the defense of democracy. "Democracy belongs to three million Panamanians, not to political parties, so we call to defend democracy, because the Fifth Chamber is the beginning of disrespect for democracy," he said.

PRD - Doens said the President and his government "is destroying the country's institutions, acting against the law; they are trying to give continuity to his government to continue in a dance of millions and extract [the state] resources for their own interests." The PRD leader also said, faced with the nominations to the Fifth Chamber, "we have come together to make our positions known, and to echo those in the society who also share and make the same calls." At the time when the Fifth Chamber was approved, it was intended to address social and labor issues, said Doens, while saying Ricardo Martinelli wants to build it as a structure of constitutional interpretation and analysis, and "we are sure he wants to do it in his own way for his future electoral intentions." About the joining of the parties that have been antagonistic and strongly criticizing one another, Doens added: "We are not at war with the other political parties. Even at the grassroots level we have had a series of coincidences and demonstrations."

Popular Party - Meanwhile the President of the Popular Party Milton Henriquez said in addition to destroying institutions this government is auctioning off the national heritage, by selling the shares of the telephone and electricity companies, and the lands of the Colon Free Zone. "What is happening is that it seems they want to buy the goods of the Panamanian state cheaply," he said. On the issue of appointment of judges of the Fifth Chamber, Henriquez said the president is making an institution as he sees fit because he wants to open a path in his project to remain in power. "What is at stake is whether there will be elections, if there will be democracy, if there will be freedom of expression," he said. The PP president urged people to defend "our liberties from a person who was elected democratically but does not govern democratically." (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Pedro Miguel Gonzalez standing behind Juan Carlos Varela. Now, isn't that special. These guys will blow anybody to get back in power.

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Varela Says State Funds Will Be Used For Political Campaigns

PoliticsThe Vice President, Juan Carlos Varela said the actions taken by the National Assembly were irresponsible, when they approved on second reading Bill 486 in the early morning hours of Wednesday, which amends Articles of Law 6 of February 1997, which dictates the regulatory framework for the provision of public services. Varela said the government is preparing strategies to spend state money in political campaigns in 2014. (Telemetro)
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Mitchell Doens Announces His Candidacy For Secretary General of the PRD

Politics
Mitchell Doens - PRD Politician - Running For Reelection as Secretary General of the PRD
Mitchell Doens - PRD Politician - Running For Reelection as Secretary General of the PRD
The former Minister of Labor, Mitchell Doens, officially announced on Wednesday June 13 his candidacy for the General Secretariat of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), a collective with 480,666 enrolled members. At the Sheraton Hotel, Doens, who is currently the Secretary General of the opposition PRD party, formalized his intentions to be reelected to that position, after his nomination was launched on Sunday 11 March 2012 in Santiago de Veraguas during the celebration of the 33rd anniversary of the founding of the PRD political party. Doens has the backing of former presidents Ernesto Perez Balladares and Martin Torrijos, who accompanied him during this political event.

Doens, who is supported by the group All Against Martinelli (Tocoma) seeks to make opposition against the administration of Martinelli and those who are in elected positions that are not running for leadership positions in the PRD to maintain independence. Precisely the Tocoma group, which accompanied the former presidential candidate Balbina Herrera, the former vice president of Torrijos, Samuel Lewis, the former Minister Laurentino Cortizo and current president of the PRD, Francisco Sanchez Cardenas, plus supporters.

The presidential candidate Anel "Bolo" Flores, creator of Tocoma, was notably absent and the businessman has publicly supported the candidacy of Ernesto Perez Balladares, who has not yet stated he is running.

"Winning the government without giving up the party" is Doens' motto, who is running against the former Mayor of Panama City Juan Carlos Navarro, the other candidate for the General Secretariat PRD. Doens' motto reveals a dig at Navarro, who is accused by Doens of running a "soft" opposition against Martinelli.

Navarro, who wants to be elected as the General Secretary of the PRD and eventually reach the presidency, officially launched his candidacy in the event "A New PRD for a New Panama", Sunday March 25, 2012 in a full Roberto Duran arena. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: The first step for the PRD will be to elect the members and party leadership of their National Executive Committee (CEN). The most important position is that of General Secretary of the PRD, a position held by Martin Torrijos while he was the President of Panama. The PRD still has not fully recovered from the embarrassing defeat of Balbina Herrera at the polls in May 2009. Many political observers believe Navarro actually won the primary election last time around, but it was stolen from him and handed over to Balbina Herrera, who had produced much more money (bribes and kickbacks) as the Minister of Housing during the construction boom years in Panama City. As a consolation prize Navarro was made Balbina Herrera's running mate, and then they both went down in flames. Now Navarro is still trying to take the party over from the old "dinosaurs" - most of whom date back to the years of Omar Torrijos and Manuel Antonio Noriega. So it's the old buzzards vs. the new young guys, and what matters most is that the PRD is still broken, divided, and nowhere near as strong as they once were.

Look At The Numbers: Today there are 480,666 people in the PRD political party. In May 2009 a total of 1,586,427 Panamanians voted in the national general election. Therefore today just 30.2% of likely voters are PRD members. The worst possible scenario for the PRD would be if they once again steal the elections from Navarro and force Balbina Herrera again as a candidate. That move (a repeat of what they did last time around) would guarantee a win for the CD candidate (whoever that turns out to be.) A PRD win in 2014 is a long shot, no matter what candidate they put forward. But if they remain divided then their chances for a win are diminished even further.

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