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Monday, October 20 2014 @ 12:23 AM EDT

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Mulino's Future Will Be Defined In Cabinet Council Meeting Tomorrow

PoliticsPanama's Foreign Minister Roberto Henriquez said on Monday, March 12, the future of José Mulino in the office of Minister of Public Safety may be defined tomorrow, Tuesday, when the Cabinet Council meets. "We hope the situation will be defined, including the permanence or otherwise of Mulino in the job," Henriquez said to local media. He said Mulino resigned as of 15 March 2012, a situation "that leaves option for a reconsideration. I feel Mulino has been working hard," said the chancellor. He said this this issue is being handled with "great intensity" between President Ricardo Martinelli, Minister Mulino, and the various directors making up the country's security agencies.

The Chancellor said the central theme of the ministerial meeting on Tuesday, which is already confirmed, will be the review of the earlier resolution which creates the System of Administration of Disciplinary Justice, which created the differences between Mulino and the former police chief Gustavo Perez. Last Friday, March 9, Mulino resigned "irrevocably" from his post as the Minister of Public Security, because he considered the actions of the Director of National Police Gustavo Perez to be "unacceptable, illegal and unconstitutional." A day earlier, Perez had rejected the draft law intended to create a single office to administer internal affairs of all of the security agencies.

In this regard, Henriquez insisted that the meeting of the Cabinet Council tomorrow there will be a clearer picture of how things will be after these events. Yesterday, the President made ​​no announcement regarding the appointment of a replacement for the head of Public Safety. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: There are ever growing rumblings that seem to indicate Mulino might end up withdrawing his "irrevocable" letter of resignation, staying in the job. Gustavo Perez won't be staying at his former position as the Director of the National Police, however. Yesterday Martinelli announced that he would be moved to the Security Council. So now he won't be in charge of thousands of armed police officers, or managing a multi million dollars budget, but he will be in charge of those cell tap devices that can listen to your telephone calls. There's an argument going on right now over whether this change for Perez is a punishment or a promotion.

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Martinelli Asks For A Vote Of Confidence To Fix Security Issues

PoliticsOn Saturday Panama's president Ricardo Martinelli asked for "time and a vote of confidence" to assess and address security issues. The president, who made ​​statements to the media during his participation in the Jumbo Fair at the 5th of May Plaza, said he still maintains friendships with both the security minister, Jose Raul Mulino (who yesterday submitted his resignation), and the National Police director, Gustavo Perez. Martinelli urged people not to make a "zaperoco" speculating on the changes the government will make in the state security agencies, and he avoided giving further details, reiterating his request. "I think things are going to be fixed. Give us a vote of confidence because the security agencies are very sensitive things. We cannot be making insinuations." (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Everyone is covering the same three lines uttered by Martinelli to the press at this Jumbo Fair event. Extra points for the use of the slang term "zaperoco" which basically means disorder or chaos (messy, unorganized, disorderly; dirty; mixed up; making a mess, dirtying) In Venezuela this word is used for "riot." In the Caribbean it's used to mean "muddle" or "a mess." Martinelli likes to use these kinds of slang expressions in his everyday speech. And that's the end of today's Spanish lesson.

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Martinelli Denies Government Crisis - Perez Will Not Replace Mulino

PoliticsPresident Ricardo Martinelli spoke on Saturday about the resignation of Jose Raul Mulino as Minister of Public Security, saying the security agencies are a sensitive issue, where one cannot make decisions that might harm the nation, regarding the new changes that will be made. After Mulino's resignation yesterday, Friday, 9 March 2012, Martinelli denied there is a political crisis within the government he leads, and at the same time he asked everyone to not speculate on the issue of security. President asked citizens for a vote of confidence and he announced that on Monday, 12 March 2012, he will present more details of the changes that will be made in the security sectors. In this regard Martinelli said the Director of the National Police Gustavo Perez will not be Mulino's successor at the Ministry of Public Security.

The President's statements came during a tour of the "Mega Jumbo Fair", held today in the 5th of May Plaza. Jose Raul Mulino, submitted his resignation as Minister of Public Security, arguing that the director of the National Police had "illegal and unconstitutional" behavior, after making public statements, which made ​​clear his opposition to the bill seeking the creation of a disciplinary system for public safety entities, which he rejected. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: Whoever Martinelli appoints as the Minister of Public Security, his first public act should be to hold a press conference with Gustavo Perez present, in which he tells the world through the press - "make no mistake about it, Gustavo Perez works for me, he is my subordinate, I am his boss, and if he pulls another stunt like that I will either fire his ass, or resign myself." Anything less will be completely "unsat." And of course the Cabinet Council should vote to continue with the plan to create a new system of administrative justice for the security forces, as a sure sign that civilian rule is alive and well. In my opinion Perez blew it when he flexed his muscles, and Martinelli blew it when he let him.

And this feels like a good time to add that this little mini crisis is a 100% Panamanian issue. Those of us who live in this country as members of the English speaking expatriate community - foreigners - we don't get a vote. It is my job to observe these kinds of events and provide my opinion (for what it's worth) to help put things in perspective for the expats who live here. I know Gustavo Perez personally and I think he's done a whole lot of good to improve the National Police, especially in terms of professionalism. And I know he's a personal friend of president Ricardo Martinelli. But whatever they decide to do is up to them. I provide my insights, analysis, and opinions in an effort to help the expats to live here better understand what's going on. That's it. End. (Read between the lines - no need to take me out guys because I really don't care who's driving the boat, as long as the boat's afloat.)

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Martinelli Will Reveal His Security Plan on Monday After Mulino's Resignation

Politics "The security agencies are very sensitive things," said President Ricardo Martinelli, referring to the resignation of Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino, because one should not make insinuations that could harm the country, he said. The president asked for a "vote of confidence" because the "things are going to be fixed," said Martinelli during a tour of the Jumbo Fair in the 5th of May Plaza. The president said again he would wait until Monday, and then he would provide further details and information on the measures that will be taken. Yesterday, 9 March 2012, the Public Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino, submitted his irrevocable resignation letter, effective March 15, after a bill that would have created a disciplinary system for public safety entities was rejected. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: President Martinelli might not understand it, but Gustavo Perez is now making everyone very, very nervous. There is a long history of military coups in Panama, and Gustavo Perez was a member of the Panamanian Defense Forces under Manuel Antonio Noriega. As the expression goes "once burned, twice shy" and in Panama there are hundreds of thousands of people still living who have vivid memories of the coup of Omar Torrijos and the continuing military dictatorship under Manuel Antonio Noriega. It took a military invasion by the United States and Operation Just Cause in 1989 to restore democracy to Panama. And with democracy comes a respect for civilian rule and the subordination to elected officials. Gustavo Perez might be the best Police Chief on the planet, and he might be doing a wonderful job. However he also just demonstrated his true power in this administration and his ability to buck the chain of command in an act the Minister of Public Security qualified as "illegal, unacceptable, and unconstitutional." My jaw literally dropped open when I saw the video tape of Gustavo Perez telling the press "it has been explained" to Minister Mulino and the new law has been "rejected" - and this, after it had already been passed and accepted by the Cabinet Council. Since when does a subordinate "explain" shit to his boss and then get his way, backed by the president? Hop, skip, and jump over the chain of command. Does Gustavo Perez really yield that much power in Panama under this government of Ricardo Martinelli? If so, that is completely and totally unacceptable - and scary. Gustavo Perez sees himself as a military officer who happens to wear a suit and tie instead of a uniform. In his position as the Chief of the National Police he can have an opinion - but he also needs to know how to take a direct order from the civilian authorities who are his boss - and on paper anyway Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino was supposed to be Gustavo Perez's boss. Basically what happened is that Gustavo Perez went out in public, on the news, and flexed his political muscles. In my opinion that was a tremendous mistake on his part. And the result is that now everyone is afraid of the National Police and Gustavo Perez. People are checking their windsocks to see if a coup is in the offing. Really. No shit. In 2012. Panama. Sometimes fears are irrational. Sometimes fear is justified. This case falls somewhere in the middle. Some Panamanians are about ready to freak the fuck out ... and move to Miami, just like last time. The PRD guys are polishing their machetes and breaking out their "been there, done that CODEPADI" t-shirts. Can Martinelli cage or control Gustavo Perez? Let's watch as the situation develops to find out. There's a whole lot of shit going on, just barely below the surface...

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"It cannot be that the Chief of Police Has So Much Power"

PoliticsOne of the leading figures of the Panameñista political party Alejandro Perez questioned today the power of current National Police chief, Gustavo Perez, over other state entities. "It cannot be that the Chief of Police has so much weight that he can nullify the decisions made by the Cabinet Council," said Perez. The politician was referring to the resignation of Jose Raul Mulino from his post as the Minister of Public Security, following the statements and actions of Police Chief Perez. On this subject, the Panameñista told RPC Radio "here there is a great sin by Gustavo Perez," who demonstrated "a political inability to understand the role of each of the entities." In turn, the current director of the National Police Forces does not know that the Public Forces should not be belligerent, and they are subject to and obedient to civil authorities, Perez told the local radio station. The Panameñista leader also said Perez had no reason to speak out publicly about a decision that had been made by the Cabinet Council. What should apply in these cases - according to Perez - is the immediate dismissal (of Police Chief Gustavo Perez), but he also said "that's not going to happen" because he is a good friend of Ricardo Martinelli, the president of Panama.

Meanwhile, the constitutional lawyer Miguel Antonio Bernal described the situation that is occurring in the country as "dangerous." On Omega Stereo Bernal said after the performance of Perez, the police will think they can walk all over the rest of the population. In his resignation letter, Mulino considered the actions of the Director of the National Police to be unacceptable, illegal, and unconstitutional, when he rejected the draft law intended to create a single office of manage internal affairs. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Dual Perez Alert. This article might seem a little confusing because one Perez (the Panameñista politician Alejandro Perez) is talking about the situation regarding another Perez (the Chief of the National Police Gustavo Perez).

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"The Appointment of Gustavo Perez Was A Mistake" - Varela

Politics Panama's Vice President Juan Carlos Varela questioned the position of the National Police Director, Gustavo Perez, on his rejection of the bill that would create a new system of disciplinary administration of justice for the security sectors. Varela criticized Perez, saying he had "passed" (gone around) the Security Minister and the Cabinet Council, who have already approved the said project.

"This is a throwback to the advances made by law enforcement during the past 23 years, and it shows the error that was committed by appointing a former Officer of the Panama Defense Forces who did not make a career in law enforcement," said Varela. The statements by the Vice President came before the Congress of the Americas with students from Harvard University. Yesterday, the National Police Director Gustavo Perez announced that the project was ultimately rejected because there was no consensus among the state security agencies, and that the decision had been communicated to the Security Minister, Jose Raul Mulino. Later, the security minister, Jose Raul Mulino sent a letter to the Minister of the Presidency Demetrio Papadimitriu, in which he indicated that the process of drafting the bill that created the system of disciplinary administration of justice for the elements of state security, that none of those agencies had submitted or voiced their opposition to this initiative, so it is false that they had rejected the initiative. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: And then this afternoon, Mulino resigned over this controversy. Martinelli's decision to continue to support Gustavo Perez will once again be severely questioned. I wonder why Martinelli keeps going to bat for Gustavo Perez when there's a conflict like this...

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Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino Resigns

PoliticsAfter two years, eight months and nine days in office as a Minister of State as part of the present government of Ricardo Martinelli, the attorney Jose Raul Mulino resigned on Friday afternoon. Mulino, who served as the Minister of Public Security, said in a letter his resignation will take affect on 15 March 2012, and the resignation comes due to the actions of the Director of the National Police Gustavo Perez, which he described as "unacceptable." The Thursday afternoon Gustavo Perez spoke out against the proposal (Bill) to create a new Law for the Administration of Justice, a project presented by Mulino, which seeks to implement a board to hear and try administrative matters (not crimes) committed by police officers. Perez said "only the police judge the police," and said the project was not accepted. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Mulino - "It's either him, or me!" Martinelli - "It's you, get out."

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Public Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino Says "Fuck This, I'm Out..." (Resigns)

PoliticsPanama's Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino has resigned after a meeting with president Ricardo Martinelli, held at the Palace of the Herons in Panama City, Panama. Mulino differences with the National Police director, Gustavo Perez about a proposal to create a new Administrative System for Disciplinary for the security forces in Panama triggered Mulino's resignation. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: I concur, and agree with Mulino's decision. Supposedly and on paper the National Police work for him. But obviously that's not the case (in reality) because the Chief of Police Gustavo Perez can go over or around Mulino and run straight to president Martinelli, and get his way. That makes Mulino a placeholder or an empty suit, so he said "screw this." It's about big dogs pissing on fence posts. You can't have two bosses. It does not work. You can't have violations of a chain of command. It does not work. You cannot have a chief executive (Martinelli) who allows and supports a subordinate to bypass one of his Ministers. That doesn't work either. And guess who will probably replace Mulino? Even money on Gustavo Perez as the new Minister of Public Security. Either that, or it will be some soft piece of toast floating in a bowl of milk, who will be there simply to keep the chair warm.

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Martinelli Will Have Cabinet Council Reconsider Disciplinary Board Issue

PoliticsAfter the controversy that erupted yesterday following statements made by the Chief of Police Gustavo Perez, which were later supported by the president via his Twitter account, Martinelli clarified that he would ask the Cabinet Council to reconsider the project that creates a new Administrative System of Disciplinary Justice, because that is the legal procedure to be followed, after some opinions emerged which he thinks should be assessed. "I am the President, but I am also aware that I have legal limitations. The approval given by the Cabinet and the authorization to submit the draft to the Legislative Branch can only be revoked by them (the Cabinet)," said Martinelli, according to a statement issued by he Secretary of State. According to the President, his proposal seeks a return to the analysis of the issue, taking into account the views that have emerged.

"I have heard them, and in my opinion the objections deserve that the project not go ahead, and that's what I will sustain before the Cabinet Council. It is correct what Minister Mulino is saying, in that these objections should have been presented before, but most important is to understand that the objections are valid," said Martinelli.

"I regret that political groups want to exploit these differences to attack the National Police, indicating that its members seek impunity. This project is for administrative procedures, it has nothing to do with criminal proceedings," he said. "The police, led by Gustavo Perez is doing an excellent job. This has been expressed by Minister Mulino and it is something we all must recognize. But still, Perez made a mistake when he made a public statement on the project and referring to the decisions that have to be taken by the Cabinet Council," said President Martinelli. (Estrella)

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Security Minister Mulino Ready To Resign Over Disciplinary Board Issue

PoliticsPanama's Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino will submit his resignation publicly at noon on Friday, according to a source of complete confidence to La Estrella. However, at present president Ricardo Martinelli and Mulino are meeting and considering the consequences his resignation could bring. Unofficially, La Estrella learned that this week, in light of the adoption of the resolution by the Cabinet Council authorizing Mulino to submit to the National Assembly the draft of a Bill that would create a new Disciplinary Board of the Agencies of National Security, there has been heavy fighting between the senior ranks of the National Police and the authorities of the Ministry of Public Security; which denotes an open rebellion over the adoption of a document of this kind, which would take away from these agencies the ability to handle internally the investigation and prosecution of any uniformed officer who commits serious offenses.

Mulino served as the Minister of Government and Justice starting in 2009. Then, with the division of the Ministry of Government and Justice and the creation of two new Ministries - the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Government - Mulino became the first Minister of Public Security and the following institutions were placed under his responsibility; the National Police, the State Border Service, the National Naval Air Service, and the National Immigration Service. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: Good. No sense in filling the chair as an empty suit. Either Gustavo Perez works for him, or he doesn't. This is important. You can't have a Chief of Police that can "trump" the Minister of Public Security by running straight to the President any time he does not like an order. As a former military man, Gustavo Perez should understand that sometimes you just snap to attention, salute smartly, say "yes, sir," and comply with the order you have been given. Even if you think it's fucking stupid ... because that's what happens sometimes when you're part of the chain of command, if you're not at the very top of that chain. I would not be surprised at all if the conversation between Martinelli and Mulino has an "it's either him, or me" element to it.

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The President Gave In To Perez's Statements, According To Blandon

Politics President Ricardo Martinelli yielded to the "threats" made by Police Chief Gustavo Perez, on the creation of a System of Administration of Disciplinary Justice. This was stated on Friday, 9 March 2012, by the National Assembly Deputy from the Panameñista political party Jose Isabel Blandon, who referred to the new conflict between the security minister, Jose Raul Mulino, and the chief of police, over the establishment of such and office of internal affairs.

Yesterday, Thursday, Perez said both the Police and other security agencies rejected the proposal, but Minister Mulino said that was false.

In the end, president Martinelli said via his Twitter account that the resolution to create the Administrative System of Disciplinary Justice had been withdrawn from the Cabinet Council.

While speaking about this issue, Blandon told TVN News that the President took the words of Perez to be a threat, and he gave in to them. Blandon said today "we live in a very delicate moment for democracy", before this type of situations that have occurred in the country. Blandon said Perez is not thinking about about what the Constitution dictates, but rather in Martinelli's own interests. On the news program Blandon explained that whenever there is a crisis in the country, Martinelli uses the police to quell demonstrations.

Meanwhile, the former director of the former Judicial Technical Police, Jaime Abad expressed during the same newscast his concern over the direction of the National Police. Abad said the police chief rejected the creation of the System of Administration of Disciplinary Justice because he wants to continue to be able to select which complaint against which member of the entity to investigate, or not. "We are not going well," said Abad, who said he is pessimistic about the management of the police. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: There's little doubt Gustavo Perez would much rather have total control over the discipline system within the ranks of the National Police, without someone else looking over this shoulder or second guessing his decisions. Since taking over Gustavo Perez has been working hard to improve discipline and eliminate corruption in the ranks of the National Police. More than 2,000 "bad apples" have been fired in a purge during the past two years, and new recruits are being trained and instilled with Perez's version of a more professional "Protect and Serve" corporate image, which is laudable.

However the fact of the matter is there have been several cases Gustavo Perez has apparently not wanted to investigate involving key or select members of the police force. For example - what ever happened to the high ranking police officer who pulled out a non-standard 9 mm semi automatic sidearm from his belt and started firing at the protesting indigenous Ngabe Bugle Indians? Probably nothing, because that dude is a friend of Gustavo Perez. So therefore with that one case Gustavo Perez has demonstrated that whoever is sitting in the chair as the Director of the National Police Force should not have the last word on who gets investigated, who gets disciplined, and who goes to jail for a crime. And while it's natural for Perez to want to retain the power he has now, in the long run I think it's a mistake. That's my opinion, for what it's worth.

What's more, Mulino is becoming more of an empty suit. On paper Gustavo Perez supposedly works for him, but in reality Perez can obviously go over his head, go straight to president Martinelli, and trump the power Mulino supposedly has on paper. If Mulino had a shred of dignity he could demand that Gustavo Perez be fired for going over this head. But in reality Mulino can't fire Perez because he doesn't have the real political power to back up his paper power. Or, Mulino could resign his post in protest.

You can't manage with a broken chain of command - it simply does not work. Yesterday Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino sent a long "WTF" letter to the Minister of the Presidency, Jimmy Papadimitriu. I just read the letter but I'm not going to take the time to translate it. Mulino mentions the participation, training, and support from the US military and the US Embassy at least three or four times in the letter. It's absolutely clear Mulino intends to seek reconsideration, and to have the System of Administration of Disciplinary Justice reinstated. Here's a link to Mulino's letter (in Spanish) in case you're interested; http://www.minseg.gob.pa/?pag=vernoticias&idnoticia=505&tipo=1

Finally, this isn't the first time Ricardo Martinelli has demonstrated his loyalty to a small group of inner circle people he trusts. He supported Gustavo Perez when the US Embassy expressed their concern over this selection as the Chief of Police because as a young Lieutenant in Panama's Special Forces during Operation Just Cause, Perez participated in the abduction of American civilians to be used as hostages for Noriega in what was described as a "war crime" and a direct violation of the Geneva Convention. Martinelli just shrugged that off and stuck with Gustavo Perez, basically telling the US Embassy to pound sand. When Tourism Minister Solomon Shamah lost his visa to visit the United States over allegations of ties to money launderers, Martinelli shrugged that off as well, saying something like "since when is a visa to visit the United States necessary to be the Minister of Tourism in Panama?" Right after Christmas it came out that Martinelli's Minister of the Presidency, Jimmy Papadimitriu, was the guy behind the whole Juan Hombron land titling scandal, once again, it was swept under the rug and Papadimitriu remains in his post. These three are all members of Martinelli's inner circle.

But Jose Raul Mulino is not part of that group. In fact Jose Raul Mulino got his job (first) as the Minister of Government and Justice and (then) as the Minister of Public Security because of politics. He was the President of the Solidaridad political party - the left overs of the political following of former President Guillermo Endara. In fact during that administration Jose Raul Mulino served as the Deputy Foreign Minister. And then prior to the elections in 2009 Mulino became the co-president of the newly formed Union Patriotica political party with Anibal Galindo. And this group went into the elections of May 2009 as a political ally with Martinelli. They took about 126,000 votes to the table so Mulino got the job he has now as a reward. But in reality he does not hold as much sway with Martinelli as Gustavo Perez.

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Martinelli Sets Varela Packing To Azerbaijan

PoliticsOnce again the president of Panama Ricardo Martinelli has scheduled assignments for this Vice President Juan Carlos Varela, with whom he has been fighting since August 2011. Varela will have to pack his suitcases, because this time he's going to Azerbaijan. In a note DSPR-N-12/1, of February 28, 2012, published Monday by the Panamanian presidency, Martinelli reminded Varela of paragraph 4 of Article 185 of the Constitution that gives him the power to send Varela on assignments such as this. The presidency also published the invitation to participate in the 23rd annual meeting of the Crans Montana Forum, whose motto is "Which Energy For Which World" to be held in Baku. Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan, a Eurasian country located on the south side of the Abseron peninsula and is the main port on the Caspian Sea. Thus, the vice president of Panama, and the president of the opposition Panameñista political party, will have to travel to Baku from Thursday, 28 June 2012 until Sunday, 1 July 2012.

Vice President Varela had disappeared from the Panamanian media publicly until Sunday, 4 March, when he attended the Sugar Festival in Herrera, and there met with the former vice president, opposition leader Samuel Lewis. According to the note released by the Government, Martinelli had been invited to Azerbaijan, a little known country, on 13 December 2011 by the President of Crans Montana Forum, Jean-Paul Carteron. Ever since the breakup of the alliance, Martinelli has assigned duties to Varela to attend events, forums, and to represent the country. (Estrella)

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Electoral Tribunal Will Continue Investigation - Against Prosecutor's Wishes

PoliticsThe President of the Electoral Tribunal Gerardo Solis said the investigation of irregularities in the recent elections in El Bebedero in Tonosi will continue. This, despite the fact that the Electoral Prosecutor, Eduardo Peñaloza, requested that they be rejected. Solis said as the investigation takes its course, those involved will be called to appear before the Electoral Tribunal to make sworn statements. The case remains under investigation, after the leadership of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) interpose an application to the Electoral Tribunal, complaining about the supposed use of state resources by the Democratic Change party, during the elections on 4 December. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: This Gerardo Solis guy is now blatantly supporting the PRD political party (that appointed him to the position) and he has lost all credibility or neutrality that is supposed to go with the Electoral Tribunal. His term ends this year so his days on the court are numbered. His replacement will be named by the CD controlled Supreme Court. Normally in the Panamanian legal system a prosecutor investigates the case and then brings it before the court to decide on the facts and evidence. In this case the prosecutor has asked for the case to be dismissed, however Solis has now apparently taken it upon himself to continue the investigation single handedly. It's political.

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Ferrufino Would Be An "Interesting" CD Candidate in 2014

Politics If the ruling party Democratic Change were to hold an internal primary election today, there's no doubt Guillermo Ferrufino would win as the candidate for President of the Republic for this political group. This, according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Vice President of the Cambio Democratico political party Roberto Henriquez, who on Monday, 5 March 2012 described Ferrufino (currently the Minister of Social Development) as an "interesting" candidate for the 2014 elections.

The Chancellor said, while speaking on the channel 13 Telemetro morning news, that Ferrufino is registering in the polls being published by the media. In fact, he said there is a technical tie between Ferrufino, Juan Carlos Varela from the Panameñista political party, and Juan Carlos Navarro from the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD).

According to the Vice President of the CD, the importance of the figure of Ferrufino is his social focus. He added that the present Minister of Social Development has a "demonstrated ability" to meet the social needs being generated by the intense and undeniable growth of Panama, which, he added, is envied by other countries. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: By now it's perfectly clear that president Ricardo Martinelli wants to be replaced by Guillermo Ferrufino. And, Martinelli's loyal lieutenants such as Roberto Henriquez are helping him to carry that ball. However Ferrufino is widely views as being way too young for the position - he's only 38 years old. He manages two popular social programs, both of which he inherited from others. I'm sure there are a handful of ambitious CD politicians who would challenge him for the CD candidacy in 2014, and a couple of them would make much better national candidates to run against Juan Carlos Varela from the Panameñistas and whoever the PRD picks from their wide field of aspirants - there are about nine who want the job at last count. No matter what happens it's going to be interesting to see how it all comes down. I'm sure the CD is going to spend a whole lot of money to get their guy elected. Buckets and buckets of money. They've got a whole lot more of a war chest than the Panameñistas and PRD combined, and right now they are just keeping their powder dry and waiting for the situation to mature. It's still very, very early.

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CD Politicians Prepare To Return To Controversial PARLACEN

Politics The seven members of Central American Parliament (Parlacen) from the ruling Democratic Change political party on Monday will request that the Electoral Tribunal give them their credentials to assume their positions. They are Mayín Correa, the Governor of the province of Panama, Manuel Hernández, the Vice Governor of the Province of Panama, Julio César Pinzón, David Arce, Noriel Ceitu, Irving Centeno and Esteban Ruiz. According to the Deputy David Arce, a team of lawyers will submit the necessary documentation for the credentials delivered to them, stating the period is from 2009 to 2014. The credentials that were already provided by the Electoral Tribunal on 10 February 2010 fixed an end date of 24 November 2010.

On that date Law 78 of 2009 came into force, through which Panama left the Central American Parliament. Arce said yesterday they received the edict of the decision of the (Supreme) Court which established that Law 78 passed by the National Assembly, which established the resignation of the country of that regional organization, was unconstitutional. After the credentials are delivered to them, they plan to go to the headquarters of the Central American Parliament in Guatemala on 23 March 2012 to be sworn in, and to take possession of their positions.

Gilberto Sucari, a Deputy in the Parlacen from the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), said he would file a compliant before the Central American Court of Justice, because "they (the CD politicians) were never chosen in an election, and this is illegal." (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: This Central American Parliament thing is a mess. I know the Supreme Court overturned Law 78, so therefore Panama has to remain in the PARLACEN. I know these seven CD politicians were (somehow or another) granted seats in the PARLACEN, even though they never appeared on the ballot in May 2009, and I forget the details of how that happened. Whatever. It's a mess, and the whole PARLACEN thing is a massive worthless gaggle anyway. When I see the word "PARLACEN" I think "self interested politicians at their worst" and "massive waste of time and money."

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Director of National Police Says He Won't Allow Political Attacks Against His Officers

PoliticsThe National Police director, Gustavo Perez, denied today that his police officers committed carnal acts of rape during the riots in Chiriqui. Perez considered these accusations to be political, and he said he would not allow his police officers to be used for political purposes. The National Police Director reiterated he did not order the use of firearms to his units to control the situation in Chiriqui. However, he asked the Director of the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences, Humberto Mas, to conduct further research on the two deaths that occurred during the riots, and Perez said he has confidence in him (Mas). Yesterday Mas said the last victim in the indigenous conflict, Mauricio Mendez, died from a blunt blow to the face, which could have been a tear gas canister. The traditional chief of the Ngäbe Bugle district, Celio Guerra, reported this week about the complaints in the sense that police officers had violated (raped) indigenous girls. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: OK, I guess I got confused yesterday. I thought Humberto Mas was talking about the 16 year old kid who's face was blown off. Apparently he was talking about the "last" or third victim who was found dead in a ravine. Apparently that guy might have been killed by taking a tear gas canister to the face. Anyway, I think the allegations that police officers had supposedly raped little girls are obviously politically motivated.

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Martinelli Blames The Media, Again...

PoliticsPresident Ricardo Martinelli reiterated his criticism today of the news media outlets in Panama during a ceremony to inaugurate a new loan program for retirees of the Social Security Fund (CSS). Martinelli criticized the media and the political opposition because during the crisis created by the KPC bacteria they were on the verge of destroying the whole image of the CSS. According to Martinelli, the destruction of the image of the Office of Social Security was done for simple political pettiness and ratings in the media. The president would not comment on other issues during his speech at the Bolivar building of the CSS. Retirees complained to the media because they were waiting at the building since 5:00 am, and after more than five hours of waiting they still had not been seen (attended by doctors) in the Bolivar building. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Well, I can see both sides of the issue on this one. There's no doubt whatsoever that in Panama all of the news media outlets (except this one) have been bought by one of the political parties or the other. They are used as weapons against the Martinelli administration, and there are no truly neutral or unbiased local news media outlets anymore. On the issue of the KPC bacteria in the CSS, I followed that one very closely. The Director of the CSS mishandled that crisis terribly. His mismanagement of the crisis undoubtedly cost the lives of some people who died unnecessarily. It's really very simple. The Director of the CSS tried to cover up the existence of the KPC bacteria, and they did little or nothing that was effective in stopping the bacteria from killing people. Only after the news of the existence of the KPC bacteria was reported to the public was the Director of the KPC forced to "do something" effective. And that's when they got help from outside experts, formed a committee of experts, closed down a part of the hospital, curtailed visits by the public, started to enforce strict sanitary measures, etc. So, the Director's hand was forced, but only after the story came out in the news. That, my friends, is a case of blatant mismanagement that probably resulted in the unnecessary deaths of patients in the CSS hospital. And for the record, I have no political dog in any fight. They blew it, plain and simple. Not only should he have been fired, he should have been brought up on charges. Not based on politics, but based on the facts of what happened. Once again, my analysis, for what it's worth.

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Martinelli Might Support The Idea Of A National Consensus

PoliticsPresident Ricardo Martinelli could go along with the idea of a national consensus, suggested by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ricardo Quijano. "The president wants to have harmony with all of these groups (the opposition political parties) and that harmony can be achieved through a national consensus. This is a year of great national productivity where there are major investments for the country, and what we want is that all these reach a successful conclusion," said Minister Quijano when speaking on the channel 13 Telemetro Report. The Minister made these statements after the leaders of the opposition political parties met with the judges of the Electoral Tribunal yesterday, Tuesday, 14 February 2012, which he did not consider to be in the proper form.

"We (the ministers and National Assembly Deputies from the ruling Democratic Change political party) have a position right now that no other government has ever had before in this country (...) the Democratic Change political party is ruling alone right now," he said. Given this scenario, Quijano said, "when you see this, you realize we have all of the opposition political forces against us, and because of that, the Electoral Tribunal is also biased and has adopted positions outside of their mandate, in the sense that they are only supposed to ensure compliance with the electoral laws." After saying the position of the Electoral Tribunal is "inflexible", Quijano said if the judges of the Electoral Tribunal have a problem with the Supreme Court, then those problems should be directed to the Supreme Court, but not to the institutions of the President. "Trying to encourage them in what they believe, that by joining with the leadership of the opposition political parties in an attempt to put pressure on the national government, does not seem to be the most appropriate (course of action), and even less for an institution in which the people place credibility," Quijano said. (Panama America)

Ricardo Quijano, Panama's Minister of Commerce and Industry

Editor's Comment: Yup. That's the government party line. It's simply not the job of the Electoral Tribunal to be "playing politics." They are supposed to hear cases and issue rulings on issues related to the execution of the Electoral Code. Solis was way, way out of line when he made those statements. And all of that was only made worse when the opposition political leaders went there yesterday to "support" them. Politics. It's really getting out of hand. It's only February 2012 with more than two full years to go before the elections of May 2014 - and already political infighting is dominating everything. And Quijano is right - all of this bullshit is becoming a distraction that will eventually hurt Panama's economy. Foreign investors look for "stable democracies" to make their investments. And since all of the local news media is owned and dominated by one political party or the other - compounded by the fact that most international journalists don't pay enough attention to Panama to be able to figure it out - then the politically motivated background noise rises to the forefront. Think of this as a gang war, with the three primary political parties fighting over turf. Oh yeah, for the record - many people think Ricardo Quijano would be a logical replacement to take over for Martinelli in 2014. The idea of a "National Consensus" project would basically be a statement from all sides defining "what we can all agree on." It won't happen, but it's fun to talk about.

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Opposition Political Leaders Meet With The Judges of the Electoral Tribunal

PoliticsLeaders of the opposition political parties joined the alarm sounded by the judges of the Electoral Tribunal about the possibility of electoral fraud in 2014. Yesterday, representatives of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), the Panameñista political party, and the Popular Party (PP) met with the judges of the Electoral Tribunal to support their position, and warned they would defend the transparency of the 2014 elections, the country's democratic institutions, and the independence of the Electoral Tribunal. Jose Isabel Blandon of the Panameñista party said the remarks of the judges "are allegations and very serious concerns." For his part, the Secretary General of the PRD, Doens Mitchell said: "we should avoid at all costs that the elections are marred by intentions of [Ricardo] Martinelli to control all of the institutions." Milton Henriquez, president of the PP said the absolute control of the President in the other organs of state will "jeopardize" the rule of law and the 2014 elections. Just as the political leaders were meeting with the judges of the Electoral Tribunal, president Ricardo Martinelli yesterday signed an "affidavit" before thirteen Notaries in Panama City, in which he states he would not seek reelection. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Wow. First the judges of the Electoral Tribunal - violating what is supposed to be their independence, neutrality, and separation from politics in Panama - came out and made political statements against the President of Panama, making direct and serious accusations that he intends to commit a crime and steal the elections in 2014. They also spoke against the Supreme Court and the National Assembly. President Martinelli responded by saying that Electoral Tribunal judge Solis was just mad because he didn't get appointed to the Supreme Court. Martinelli also said if the Electoral Tribunal has a problem with the actions of the Supreme Court or the National Assembly, that they should take it up with them, but leave him out of it. Then Martinelli signed a sworn affidavit before 13 Notaries saying he has no intentions of trying to stay in office "under any circumstances." Yesterday afternoon the representatives from the opposition parties met with the judges of the Electoral Tribunal to "support" them. It should be pointed out to the neutral observer that none of the judges who are sitting on the Electoral Tribunal were appointed by Martinelli - they all owe their political allegiances to the "old" parties of the PRD and Panameñistas. So now, you can paint the supposedly "neutral" or "independent" Electoral Tribunal as playing for the opposition. Clearly, they are against Martinelli and his government. And that's just plain wrong. The opposition PRD and Panameñista politicians are scared about 2014, but not because Martinelli might try to steal the election or something. They know Martinelli's administration has gotten more done to advance the progress of Panama than the past four presidents, combined. When it comes down to the time to cast a ballot, there's a very good chance that the Panamanian people might give the Cambio Democratico candidate (whoever it is) another turn at the helm. And that's what keeps the PRD and Panameñistas up at night. With another turn in office - the CD will have 12 out of 12 Supreme Court judges sitting on the bench, for example. And who decides the cases against corrupt politicians? The Supreme Court. And who voted to put Martinelli in power? The people of Panama. What's the name of his party? Democratic Change. It sounds like it's working. It's a change all right, and the old, entrenched, corrupt politicians of the PRD and the Panameñistas don't like it, at all. And here's the scary part - they will do ANYTHING to keep that from happening. Anything.

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Martinelli Signs Notarized Statements - He's Not Running For Reelection Under Any Circumstances

PoliticsPresident Ricardo Martinelli signed an agreement notarized by thirteen Notaries in Panama City, in which he certifies that he has no intentions of aspiring to the immediate presidential reelection in the 2014 elections. The president thanked Notaries for coming to the Presidency "so quickly" for this ceremony, which he said has never been done before in Panama. "Today we have left it crushed. I do not have the slightest intention, under any circumstances, to go in the 2014 period (as a candidate)," Martinelli said. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: I don't know if this stunt is crazy, brilliant, desperate, hilarious, or a combination of the above. I literally don't know what else Martinelli could possibly do to "signal" that he has no intention whatsoever of trying to stay in office when his term ends in 2014. Maybe he could get a tattoo? One thing is sure - he's been gathering political power, and he has the opposition politicians shaking in their boots. Mostly because Martinelli is setting the table to eventually take them all down. Gulp... And what's more, Martinelli (the man) does not need to be in the chair after the 2014 elections. As long as his machine is still running, it's the same thing. If the CD wins, that's just as good as a Martinelli reelection as far as the PRD and the Panameñistas are concerned. Anyway, I love political stunts, they're fun to watch.

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"Popi" Varela Calls Upon The Public Ministry To Investigate Wiretaps

Politics National Assembly Deputy from the Panameñista political party Jose Luis "Popi" Varela said on Tuesday, 14 February 2012, that the Public Ministry should open an investigation into the statements made by the Deputy and current Vice President of the National Assembly Marcos Gonzalez, on the existence of voice recordings. Gonzalez referred to a recording of the former Minister Luis Ernesto Carles and said he (Carles) admitted to a news outlet that it was in fact his voice on the recording, and he was talking about buying some chainsaws to cut down trees. Varela added investigations should be initiated not only over the statements made by Gonzalez, but also because the recordings of cellular telephone conversations of opposition politicians have been placed on YouTube. The politician said on channel 13 Telemetro Reports that this situation warrants an investigation, because only the Government and the Security Council have in their possession the equipment with the capability to intervene and record the cellular telephone conversations. Varela said the specialized equipment required to perform these actions might even sometimes be made with the advice and consent of the telephone companies. "Here is is very difficult to have these kinds of listening equipment either in a house, for an opposition political party to have them," said Varela. He emphasized that if the opposition had that kind of equipment they would record and place on YouTube the recordings of conversations of the ruling politicians, such as the administrator of the Tourism Authority of Panama, Solomon Shamah, or the President, Ricardo Martinelli. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Well, I guess you can also do anything if you spend enough money. Sure, the government of Panama does have this kind of equipment at their disposal. But Martinelli also might be smart enough to create a fire-break between his government and these recordings. They might have contracted for or outsourced (cash) to an outside or independent company to provide these kinds of monitoring and recording services, for a fee. Much of politics comes down to plausible deniability. Anyway, Varela is right. The Public Ministry should open an investigation, but they probably won't. And even if they do, they won't find anything, because they won't be looking very hard. This is going to turn into one of those "open secrets" - where everyone knows what's going on, but no one is going to do anything about it. And for the record, every sitting Panamanian president has monitored the telephone calls of his political rivals. Manuel Antonio Noriega had a building wired on Amador, back when the government owned the telephone company (before cell phones existed) so that every call made via landline had to go through that building. If you were calling from one room to the next in the same office complex, the call was routed through that building and could be recorded if necessary. I doubt Endara had much of that kind of capability, but starting with Ernesto Perez Balladares on down, they all have monitored the communications of their political rivals. It's part of the way the game is played.

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Papadimitriu - "The Electoral Tribunal Is Getting Involved in Politics"

PoliticsThe Minister of the Presidency, Jimmy Papadimitriu, said the judges of the Electoral Court are engaging in political issues, and it is especially dangerous for them to have hinted about a possible election fraud for the next election. He noted the work done by the Electoral Tribunal over the various elections has been praised, however, there are clear differences of opinion between the Electoral Tribunal and the Supreme Court about the issue of the Central American Parliament. Papadimitriu said one can clearly see how the Electoral Tribunal is inserting themselves into political issues, because they have not issued the credentials to the representatives from the area of El Bebedero in Tonosí, in the province of Los Santos, despite having won the recent elections. Meanwhile president Ricardo Martinelli said the President of the Electoral Tribunal Gerardo Solís made the statement on the possibility of electoral fraud in the upcoming elections in 2014 because his feelings were hurt when he was not appointed as a Magistrate on the Supreme Court. (Critica)

Jimmy Papadimitriu, the Minister of the Presidency in Panama

Editor's Comment: Let's see, who do you think is going to win this one? Everyone in town already knows that the Electoral Tribunal is about the only significant element of political power in Panama that is not under the control of Ricardo Martinelli. For him, it's like playing "whack a mole." Solis stuck his head up, so "whack". Whatever, Solis is gone before the end of this year, and Martinelli will almost certainly have the Electoral Tribunal in his back pocket before the 2014 elections, one way or the other.

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Gonzalez Points To State Intelligence Recordings of Cell Phone Conversations

Politics Apparently, telephone recordings were the evidence that a coup was being organized against President Ricardo Martinelli, as stated by the Vice President of the National Assembly Marcos Gonzalez. Gonzalez said the security agencies have evidence of the involvement of many people who have been behind the scenes, trying to intrude advice on the issue of the protesting indigenous people, in the form of recordings. Gonzalez hinted these recordings are being made by the elements of state security. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Duh. Obviously. Only the government of Panama has the technological access required to be able to record both ends of a cell phone conversation taking place between one person in Panama City and someone else in San Felix, Chiriqui. It's not an easy feat these days to record both channels of audio. You also have to know the cell phone number of the person you are targeting. Anyway, this is not a "Radio Shack" solution. The equipment required costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. The government of Panama has this equipment, and they are using it at will against their political opponents as a tool or a weapon. However, they are not doing it legally. They get the recordings or the information, then they release the recordings anonymously via YouTube in order to cause embarrassment. But when they do this, the government comes off just as bad, because they are obviously breaking the law. Next issue - who's going to either investigate this or shut it down? No one. It should fall to the Attorney General to investigate these recordings, to find out who is making them, who is breaking the law, who is violating the basic right to privacy. But that won't happen. And, they fell so incredibly powerful and untouchable that the Vice President of the National Assembly - who is also a high ranking member of the Cambio Democratico political party - can blatantly and fearlessly brag about these recordings during a television interview. I basically conduct all of my cell phone conversations as if they are being recorded by the government. I don't know if they are targeting me, but I assume they are. But whatever, it's going to be boring for them. I spent the better part of 20 years in the US military conducting exactly these kinds of electronic surveillance missions. I know exactly how it works, and I also know exactly what can happen when there are no limits, controls, checks, balances, or oversight. And that's what's lacking here in Panama - some sort of Intelligence Oversight organization. As a result, they're running wild. They are starting to make everyone very scared, and now their chances of getting elected in 2014 are diminished.

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Martinelli Says Solis Came To Him Many Times, Asking For Favors

PoliticsPresident Ricardo Martinelli came out on Monday and spoke against the statements made by the judges of the Electoral Tribunal, denying he intends to commit any kind of voter fraud, or that his administration is pushing the entity with budget issues. In an interview with TVN Channel 2, Martinelli said Electoral Tribunal judge Gerardo Solís, who is the President of the Electoral Tribunal, "is a man who has called me many times to ask for many favors." And that's not all. Martinelli said Solis appeared before the Cabinet Council on two occasions, and he was rejected both times in his attempts to be named to an opening on the Supreme Court. The Electoral Tribunal, in the figures of Solis and Judge Eduardo Valdés Escoffery, who said they represent the positions of all three of the judges on the Electoral Tribunal, accused the government of pressing them using their budget, and they warned of the possibility of electoral fraud in 2014, and they complained about the delays in the adoption of the electoral reforms (in the National Assembly) and the retroactive effects of some of the decisions handed down by the Supreme Court. (See Editor's Comment.)

But before the attack, the government issued a statement accusing Solis of trying to pressure the National Assembly, and explained how he was retaliating because he was not named to a position on the Supreme Court. Then, and within minutes, judge Valdés Escoffery, at a news conference, backed Solis.

Martinelli has not appeared in public since the Ngöbe protests against mining, however, he broke the silence yesterday. "You can not prejudge something before it happens. The only fraud that may have occurred in some (past) elections was done by the Electoral Tribunal," said Martinelli. The president said if the Electoral Tribunal has a problem with the Supreme Court then "do not mix me in with that mess, go to them and solve your problem. That's between the Supreme Court and the Electoral Tribunal."

Martinelli also said he was against the idea of having simultaneous primary elections by all of the political parties in the country on the same day. And, he would like the primary elections to occur before 2014. He said the "parties must have the power to decide who their candidates will be when they want. Not when the Court wants. The Court put it on them, and they made a mistake by putting the primary elections in January of 2014, and for all of the parties on the same day. I do not think that is the fairest and most appropriate."

Martinelli said again that he does not seek reelection, and as proof he will have that statement notarized. He said he would sign the document before the start of Carnival. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: About Solis - yeah, there's little doubt, his attacks against Martinelli are all about sour grapes. He really expected to be named to the Supreme Court, and by now it's pretty obvious that's not going to happen. So, he's tossing as many hand grenades as possible before he leaves office. Also in 2003 when Solis was the Electoral Prosecutor he filed a case before the Supreme Court, asking them to intervene and overrule a decision affecting about the PRD and the PP parties. So, I guess he only wants the Supreme Court to meddle in the business of the Electoral Tribunal when it suits his own personal political ambitions and goals? Solis has no credibility whatsoever. About the complaints being lodged by the Electoral Tribunal - Martinelli has a point. They want the National Assembly to pass the new electoral reforms quickly, so why drag Martinelli into that issue? I know, you know, everybody knows - Martinelli controls both the National Assembly and the Supreme Court. So as a matter of practicality if you want something done in the National Assembly, it makes sense to address the issue to Martinelli. But then Martinelli plays the "separation of powers" card - and and points out that if the Electoral Tribunal has a problem with the Supreme Court, then they should talk to the Supreme Court. And finally, I'm convinced that Martinelli has no intentions of trying to stay in power after 2014. What's more, he's desperate to find a way to kill that rumor. He's said "I'm not interested" so many times, but the political opposition continues to use that as fear mongering against him.

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Valdés Escoffery Says Solis Was Speaking For All Three Electoral Tribunal Judges

PoliticsIn response to the press release issued by the Secretary of State Communications (of the Executive branch) in relation to statements made by the President of the Electoral Tribunal, Gerardo Solis, on the fear of the possibilities of electoral fraud in 2014, the reactions did not wait. The Electoral Tribunal judge Eduardo Valdés Escoffery, said Solis' position is not personal, but rather is the position of all of the judges of the Electoral Tribunal. Valdés Escoffery said Solis made his statements to the La Prensa as the spokesman for the Electoral Tribunal and were duly authorized. He highlighted the concern that exists within the Electoral Tribunal faced with the pressure from the other branches of government such as the Judiciary and the Executive. He said the Electoral Tribunal has exclusive jurisdiction to interpret the election law. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Everyone knows the Electoral Tribunal is "next." It's about the only thing left that Martinelli has not taken over yet. Once he gets one guy on the Electoral Tribunal, then he just needs to "turn" one more (using money, threats, coercion, whatever), and then he will have control of that element of the government as well. Well, when he takes over everything, I just hope he doesn't decide to change my name to "Sally."

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Government Says Solis Is Spreading Unjustified Fears

PoliticsThe Secretariat of State Communications issued a press release on Monday qualifying recent statements made by Electoral Tribunal justice Gerardo Solis as "truly unfortunate." Judge Solis warned of the possibility of election fraud in the general election of 2014. But the Government believes his statement not only intended to bring into question the actions of the members of the Judicial Branch of government, but what's more, it also implied a questioning of the work of his colleagues - the other two judges on the Electoral Tribunal - because an electoral fraud equal to those committed during the times of the military dictatorship could only be possible with their participation.

The press release said the Electoral Tribunal itself has always said local and international organizations have pondered the transparency, fairness and honesty of the national elections held in 1994, 1999, 2004 and 2009, the conduct of which has been guaranteed by the electoral rules existence at the moment. Therefore it is a contradiction that the President of the Electoral Tribunal should suggest that the transparency, fairness and honesty of the 2014 elections could be in jeopardy if the new electoral reforms are not approved as Gerardo Solis said.

The press release from the Secretary of State Communications categorized the statements made by Solis as irresponsible, and in addition it was an obvious attempt by Solis to exert pressure over the National Assembly in the debates over the Bill of electoral reforms, arguing if they are not approved promptly it would be a compromise of the transparency, fairness and honesty of the 2014 elections. The President of the National Assembly has already made statements regarding these pressures.

It also ensures the failure to grant his request to be appointed as a Supreme Court Judge does not justify the fact that Judge Solis is spreading unjustified fears about the general election of 2014.

In our democratic system of government it is unacceptable that judge Solis intended to give an ultimatum to the National Assembly in order to apply pressure to the actions of this organ of the state. It would be like if the National Assembly would require the Electoral Tribunal to decide one of the cases they might be hearing within a certain period of time, and saying if they do not do so within the specified period of time there would be a threat to democracy, said the press release.

It also added in general terms, the proposed electoral reforms are well regarded by the majority of all of the different members of the political parties in the National Assembly. Obviously, there are some proposals that might not have the support of the majority if the Deputies, either from the government or the opposition. The ideal would be to adopt the majority of the proposals if that will help promote voter participation, but if the suggested reforms are adopted in part, or in the worst case if they are rejected, then this need not affect the transparency, fairness and honesty of the process because the existing rules are the same processes that have governed earlier elections, and which have received positive reviews from both local and international agencies, the Secretary of State concludes. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: With each passing week Solis is going further and further off the reservation. He is just one, of three, of the sitting judges on the Electoral Tribunal. His term in office ends this year. He will be replaced by the Supreme Court. In Panama each of the three judges of the Electoral Tribunal are selected by a different branch of the government - one each from the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches. Solis fills the Judicial slot, so therefore his replacement will be selected and seated by the Supreme Court. Martinelli already has control over the Supreme Court, a position which will only increase with the naming of the three new judges to fill the seats of the Fifth Chamber. And now - with just months left of cheesy government paychecks, Solis is starting to squawk and squeal more and more. He's becoming a noisemaker, but his days are numbered. Then he will be just another "former (whatever)" talking head on the morning news broadcasts. Someone who used to have a position of power and influence, who is now out on his ass. It's interesting that he tried for a spot on the Supreme Court, and when he didn't get it he starts this crap in retaliation. But then again Solis is right, to a point. By the time the 2014 election comes around Martinelli will have taken over every single position of power in the entire government. He's making a lot of people very nervous.

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Martinelli Denies Accusations Made By SUNTRACS Leaders

Politics "I have not called or talked to Genaro Lopez in 2 years. I do not have his cell number, bb chat, or anything, much less could I call him," said president Ricardo Martinelli in response to accusations made Saturday afternoon by the leaders of the SUNTRACS construction union. According to union leader Saul Mendez, "Martinelli himself has repeatedly called the Genaro to threaten him." The president's words were published through his official Twitter account. (Telemetro)
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Deputy Marcos Gonzalez Accuses Opposition and SUNTRACS (YouTube Videos)

PoliticsThe Vice President of the National Assembly, Marcos Gonzalez, used the media coverage of the dialogue on the controversial Article 5 of Law 415 (Mining Law), and called a press conference to denounce an alleged coup against the government. Gonzalez said the SUNTRACS labor union, the PRD, and the Panameñista political parties were behind the recent protests carried out by the indigenous Indians. "Those who promote the fall of the government are behind these movements. You have been witnesses to the recordings that have been made public in which they talk of chainsaws to cut down trees in order to block the roads," he said. After the fighting, two recordings were made public with voices of politicians allegedly whipping up the Indians. Although the former Deputy Minister of Labor Luis Ernesto Carles and the Secretary General of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, Mitchell Doens admitted that indeed their voices are on the recordings, they said everything was manipulated (or altered.) (TVN)

Editor's Comment: Here's the recording of the General Secretary of the PRD Mitchell Doens, giving instructions to an Indian leader in Ojo de Agua. He's flat out telling him that the government of Martinelli, who he calls these "locos de mierda" (crazy pieces of shit) are supposedly trying to manipulate the media over the issues of the foreigners who were trapped on the Pan-American highway, as well as people who were sick or injured who could not received medical attention because the Indians were not allowing ambulances to pass, or food to reach the populations in the area. Doens asks "where's the Chieftain" in a clear reference to Silvia Carrera, and ordered whoever he was talking to pass his instructions on to her. No, I don't think this recording was altered in any way. I do, however, think it was obtained illegally, not much doubt about that. I'm not going to take the time to transcribe and translate this recording, but it sounds very authentic to me. I think it's valid and factual, as advertised. I wonder - when is the government of Ricardo Martinelli going to learn their lesson. This recording has no value - other than for public opinion purposes - because it was obtained illegally. Why don't they take the time to get a warrant first, record this kind of crap, then unload their allegations and fire off official complaints of insurrection, domestic terrorism, or what have you. Doing it this way makes Martinelli look just as bad as Doens - so choose the lessor of two evils.

Editor's Comment (2): And here's the second YouTube video, which allegedly contains the voice of the Panameñista Luis Ernesto Carles, who is supposedly talking with organizers in Bocas del Toro, discussing the purchase of chainsaws and machetes that will be used to cut down trees in order to block roads in Bocas del Toro as part of the protests, as well as welding equipment that will be used to knock down the "towers of the company". Luis Ernesto Carles is a Panameñista politician. He was the former Vice Minister of Labor and has also served as the Vice Minister of Government. He lost his job on 30 August 2011 when the alliance between his Panameñista political party and the ruling Cambio Democratico political party broke apart.

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Lawmaker Gonzalez Denounces Plan To Overthrow Martinelli

PoliticsThe National Assembly Deputy from the ruling Cambio Democratico political party Marcos Gonzales, who is also the Vice President of the National Assembly, denounced the existence of a plan to overthrow the president, Ricardo Martinelli. According to Gonzalez, who claims to have the evidence to support his claims, said the recent indigenous protests are one of them. He said the demonstrations were urged on by opposition politicians and trade union leaders with the intention of promoting a "coup" against the president of Panama. In this regard, he pointed to the Popular Party (PP), Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), and the National Trade Union of Construction Workers and Allied (SUNTRACS), as the architects of the plan. And according to Gonzalez, a number of recordings exist which show the interest of the aforementioned groups to agitate the indigenous protests against mining and hydro electric projects which began on 30 January and which lasted until 7 February 2012. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: Ah, OK. So he didn't include the Panameñistas as co-conspirators in this evil plot.

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Vice President of National Assembly Says A Coup Is Underway...

Politics The Vice President of the National Assembly of Deputies, Marcos Gonzalez, said they have recordings of telephone conversations that allegedly show directed movements of leftist groups, rightist groups, and opposition political parties who intend to stage a coup against the government of Ricardo Martinelli. He said these groups are those who were allegedly behind everything that happened during the protests on the Pan-American Highway that led to clashes between protesting indigenous Ngabe Bugle Indians and the National Police. During the press conference he pointed to members of the Panameñista political party, the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), and the Trade Union of Construction Workers and Allied (SUNTRACS). (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Hoo boy, where to start? First of all, I would like someone to explain to me exactly how does the Vice President of the National Assembly obtain voice recordings of telephone conversations of opposition political leaders and union leaders? Anyone? Answer = He can't. It's impossible for Marcos Gonzalez to have obtained these types of recordings in a legal manner. Next issue; we already know that the government of Ricardo Martinelli is illegally using equipment to monitor cellular telephone conversations. There have been several instances when recordings have been "leaked" or released to the Internet by anonymous sources. Case in point - back in July 2010 there was this; Bombshell: PRD Coordinating Riot Actions With SUNTRACS - Caught On Tape!. In that cellular phone conversation which was taped and then released via YouTube, the president of the PRD can be heard coordinating strike actions with a member of the SUNTRACS in Bocas del Toro. Then on 25 November 2011 there was this - Telephone Of Zulay Rodriguez Wiretapped. Zulay Rodriguez was responsible for forcing the resignation of one of Martinelli's Supreme Court appointments. So anyway, it's pretty clear that the government of Panama can and will record any cellular telephone conversation they want, and they are targeting their political opposition rivals and union leaders.

A Slip, Or Planned?: Some people just can't keep a secret. It's possible that the government of Ricardo Martinelli has the recordings (I'm pretty sure they exist), and they were trying to decide what to do with them. So if that's the case, then why in the name of God would Marcos Gonzalez go out and hold a press conference to brag about them? There's only two options. If he just went off on his own without the expressed authorization and consent of Ricardo Martinelli - then he's an idiot. But, I don't think that's the case. I think Gonzalez was selected as the person to release this information to the public, on purpose. I think Martinelli spent the last couple of days trying to decide how to proceed. And here's the dilemma. You're supposed to get a warrant and approval from the court first - before conducting the wiretaps. Maybe they were monitoring the conversations (illegally) and then guess what? They came up with some really solid evidence that, in fact, the PRD and the Panameñistas and the SUNTRACS were actually working together and coordinating their actions in order to incite the riots. So now what? I suspect they might have tried to "back date" some kind of warrant or request through the back channels in the Attorney General's office and the Supreme Court in order to "make it legal" after the fact. Now of course this is all just pure speculation on my part. Maybe they did, in fact, go forth and obtain legal wiretap warrants. Maybe that's why it took them so long to break up the protesters and to clear the road. There are all kinds of potential scenarios in this one.

So, What's Next? This might be the baiting of the hook for the PRD and the Panameñistas. If they react as expected, they will get all indignant and demand an investigation. And then Martinelli holds a national press conference in which he announces the existence of the warrants, fully explains the contents of the recordings, and calls upon the Attorney General to initiate a full investigation into all those who are responsible for inciting riots - and then he reads the names of everyone who was involved. Lit the fuse, take cover, cover your ears, and gleefully wait for the "boom!" There are only so many ways this can work out in Martinelli's favor in the end - most of the other scenarios are composite negatives for him. But if they actually did pull off this "surprise, gotcha" scenario that I describe (once again, pure speculation on my part) then that would work. Anyway, it's going to get interesting in the next few days.

Things Were Too Quiet: Did you notice that all of the news today, prior to this, was traffic accidents, fires, cops getting hurt, and thefts? During the day I was thinking "it's too quiet" on the political front. I thought that one of two things might be going on. Either there was a group huddle and a negotiation process, to decide how to proceed from here. Or, more likely, all three teams were taking a day off to coordinate, sharpen their swords, consolidate their weapons, and decide how to attack or defend. Obviously, the latter was going on. Hey, the political circles in Panama don't stay quiet for long. I knew it would end sooner or later, but I wasn't expecting this announcement of a "coup."

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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