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Saturday, April 19 2014 @ 01:16 PM EDT

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Political Implications of Noriega's Return to Panama

PoliticsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Earlier today as the "twittershere" started to heat up in anticipation of the return of the former military dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega to Panama, president Ricardo Martinelli wrote via his Twitter account "No les dâ risa escuchar ahora a todos los furibundos prds ex norieguistas renegandolo y hablando como si aqui nada hubiera pasado?" (Doesn't it make you laugh to hear now all of the angry PRD former Noriega supporters who are now renegades and talking as if nothing had ever happened here?) In fact Omar Torrijos created the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) to give some form of legitimacy to his military dictatorship, and the PRD was and is still the political party of the military dictators. There are several current PRD politicians who were very closely associated with Manuel Antonio Noriega. If Balbina Herrera had won the last general election in May 2009, they probably would have met him with a hero's welcome at the airport.

Convicted Criminal: Noriega's return serves to remind the Panamanian people that he is, in fact, a convicted criminal who is guilty of drug trafficking, money laundering, and murder. And in fact those convictions only just barely scratch the surface of the crimes he actually committed. And politically speaking, his return further reduces the already dismal chances of the myriad of PRD hopefuls who are jockeying for position to win the party's nomination for the 2014 elections (there are at least nine, at last count). In the minds of the Panamanian electorate the PRD will once again be the party of the murderous dictator - and they don't want any more of that stuff. Meanwhile, Martinelli and his Cambio Democratico administration will be seen as the guys who managed to bring him back to Panama, slam his ass in a cell, and force him to face justice here - finally. And of course the PRD guys are doing everything they can to spin it back around to make Martinelli look bad, any way they can. Politics, it's all politics.

Copyright 2011 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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PRD President Says Microphones Were Planted To Record Secret Meeting

PoliticsThe President of the opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party, Francisco Sanchez Cardenas, denied today on the channel 2 TVN morning news that the PRD is conspiring against the government, and instead he denounced the placement of microphones at the residence of the Secretary General of the PRD, Mitchell Doens. The opposition leader said the only ones conspiring against them is the government themselves because they are committing so many errors, while noting that in turn they are using the same people and the same techniques to record conversations of members of the PRD, a fact that is a very serious crime. Sánchez Cárdenas' comments came after Foreign Minister Roberto Henriquez reported on the TVN morning news last Tuesday that the PRD, in collusion with several journalists, has mounted a campaign to discredit the Government on the subject of the radars. Sánchez Cárdenas denounced that in the residence of the Secretary General of his party, Mitchell Doens, microphones were placed to record a conversation the two had over some documents received by the former presidential candidate Balbina Herrera, related to the Finmeccanica scandal, the Italian company with which the Government signed a contract to purchase security equipment.

Sánchez Cárdenas said the intention was to release those documents nationwide, including those delivered to Monsignor Jose Domingo Ulloa, because in them the close relationship that existed between President Ricardo Martinelli and the Italian businessman who is wanted by the justice system in Italy, Valter Lavitola, is evident. Sánchez Cárdenas explained that Balbina Herrera received those documents from an Italian, Mauro Belucho, who felt disgruntled because he had been left out of the business.

Sánchez Cárdenas said the PRD will first finish with the alleged irregularities in elections held at El Bebedero in Tonosí, then they will proceed with the case of the placement of microphones in the residence de Doens and Finmeccanica. (TVN)

Francisco Sánchez Cárdenas - President of the PRD

Editor's Comment: I listened to those recorded conversations on YouTube, and I don't believe microphones were planted in Mitchell Doens' house. You can hear noise and interference that sounds to me like "clothes scraping" - meaning - someone had a recording device on their person. Someone who attended the meeting, and who taped the conversations clandestinely, without the knowledge of the others who were present. I've done this myself, and this is what the result sounds like. Now, supposedly journalists were invited to this meeting to plan a strategy on how they were going to handle and manipulate the release of the documents for maximum effect against Ricardo Martinelli and the Cambio Democratico party. And if I had been invited to this meeting I would have had a recording running in my pocket. Both the PRD and the Panameņistas are facing the same dilemma - Martinelli and the CD are drawing their new members to the middle from both sides. Obviously the exceptionally arrogant Sánchez Cárdenas and Mitchell Doens invited someone to their little meeting whom they thought they could trust, but in fact that person screwed them over by first taping and then releasing the conversation. And now Sánchez Cárdenas is still trying to milk it for all it's worth, blaming the CD of planting microphones. Politics. It's all politics. The fact of the matter is that the PRD is actively conspiring against Ricardo Martinelli and the CD, and trying to do as much political damage to them as possible, every day. In the press these two - Sánchez Cárdenas and Mitchell Doens - are regularly depicted as "dinosaurs" because they've been clinging on to political power in the PRD for all of their lives. These are the kinds of guys who are tainted with the blood let by Noriega, and they are not helping their party at all by hanging around, in my opinion. The younger generation is saying "screw that" and turning to the CD, eschewing the PRD. And the youngsters out number the geezers by about four to one.

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Ferrufino Says They - Not the Panameņistas - Created The "$100 for 70" Program

PoliticsSocial Development Minister Guillermo Ferrufino said they created the program "$100 for 70" on instructions from president Ricardo Martinelli, not their former allies. "Before we made an alliance with the Panameņista party I worked on the Martinelli campaign for ten months where I was in charge of the social affairs desk of the government's plan, and we had in development a program to work with older adults who had no other kind of social insurance or pension," he told local media. Ferrufino said anyone can think or say they created something when that's not the case. "We were the ones who baptized the program," he said. He said the Bill was introduced in the National Assembly and was approved. Ferrufino also requested that these professional politicians remove their hands from the social programs being run by this administration.

As for the results of a recent poll in which he appears as a favorite to replace Martinelli in 2014, Ferrufino said if given the opportunity he would be happy to do the job. "The surveys are the perception of the people and they feel identified with the Ministry (for Social Development) due to the good work that has been done, but there is still a long time (before the next elections)," he said. He said it is too early to talk about politics, more than two years and several months before the election. "I'm happy and very proud of the work we have developed during the first two years of this administration," he added. (Panama America)

Guillermo Ferrufino - Minister of Social Development and Potential Presidential Candidate

Editor's Comment: Vice President Juan Carlos Varela has been trying to take credit for the "$100 for 70" program, and Ferrufino is telling him to shove off. Guillermo Ferrufino - the Minister of Social Development - is one of the leading names emerging from the ranks of Ricardo Martinelli's Cambio Democratico political party as a possible candidate for the party in the May 2014 national elections. In this same interview, which I saw on television this morning, Ferrufino went even further to say his name is being mentioned as a possible CD presidential candidate, but there are others within the Cambio Democratico party who are also possible contenders whose names are mentioned in public less frequently. And he placed a lot of emphasis on "it's too early" for these kinds of conversations. The fact of the matter is that because Ricardo Martinelli cannot be reelected there will be a primary process within the Cambio Democratico, and whoever wins that internal election will eventually emerge as the party's candidate. I think it's clear that Guillermo Ferrufino will be running in that primary, and I also expect Foreign Minister Roberto Henriquez will also run, and there are a couple of others who might take a shot. For the Panameņista party it's pretty clear that Juan Carlos Varela will be their candidate, despite the fact that Mireya Moscoso is thinking about coming back to life and challenging him as a "zombie" candidate. Over in the PRD there are - at last count - about nine different hopefuls, and none of them is sparking anyone's imagination. They will also hold their primary process to sort out the mess, then they will join ranks and get the same 35% (minimum) that they always do in the general election. Noriega's return will actually hurt the PRD because most of their rank and file members achieved positions and power and names for themselves in the 70's and 80's by riding his coattails. Balbina Herrera, for example, cannot disassociate herself from the drug trafficking, money laundering, murdering Noriega. The PRD is severely tainted with Noriega's blood stains.

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Samuel Lewis Navarro Criticizes Appointment of Castillero to Beijing

PoliticsAt a time when an investigation is being conducted into alleged irregularities in degrees issued by the National Land Authority (Anati), PRD opposition leader Samuel Lewis Navarro criticized the appointment of Alejandro Castillero to the Commercial Office in the People's Republic of China. Castillero was the Director of the ANATI who resigned amid a scandal over the issuance of a title on a 1.3 hectare parcel of land in Paitilla to a flower vendor named César Segura. Lewis Navarro accused the government of Ricardo Martinelli of lying, of not fulfilling their promises, and of slapping the faces of the Panamanian people in designating Castillero to that office. "The appointment (of Castillero, in Beijing) is a mockery and a great political blunder," said Lewis. The candidate insisted that the land scandals, which has among its most notorious cases the parcel of land in Paitilla and the beaches of Juan Hombrón, should be investigated to know the truth and punish the guilty. Lewis Navarro said "this seems like a prize (for Castillero), but more than an award it is a slap to the Panamanian people, which requires and wants to know the truth about land titling in Anati." (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: Samuel Lewis Navarro is a member of the PRD political party. He was the Vice President and Foreign Minister during the administration of Martin Torrijos (2004 - 2009). And now he's one of the primary PRD contenders who wants to represent the party in the 2014 presidential elections. There are about nine PRD hopefuls right now, and in that pack Samuel Lewis Navarro and his cousin former Panama City Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro stand the best chance of winning a primary election. Anyway, Martinelli's decision to appoint Castillero to China raised quite a few eyebrows over the weekend.

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Electoral Tribunal Rejects Fusion of MOLIRENA and CD Political Parties (Again)

PoliticsThe merger of the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement Party (Molirena) with the Democratic Change (CD) was rejected by the Electoral Tribunal. Failure to comply with the formality of the two-thirds of conventional meeting in special session on October 2 was the reason why the judges rejected the fusion of the two parties. The decision was shared by all three judges of the Electoral Tribunal. The ruling was based on the number of representatives who attended the convention (642), of which 428 voted for the merger and 413 rejected it, and with this figure the was not enough to support the decision taken at the convention, according to Article 32 of the rules of Procedure of Molirena. (Telemetro)

Founding Members of the MOLIRENA party who reject the proposal to merge with the Cambio Democratico party.

Editor's Comment: The numbers (math) as presented in this article looks weird but the bottom line is clear - the MOLIRENA is not merged with the Cambio Democratico party. This was the second time they tried to make this happen. There is strong resistance among the founding members of the MOLIRENA party who have been fighting this tooth and nail.

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I'm Not Going To Help Bring Moscoso Back To Life

Politics By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Mireya Moscoso is a former president of Panama who served from 1999 - 2004. Her administration was easily the most corrupt of the five that have been installed since the end of the military dictatorship era. Because Moscoso left office in 2004 she is technically eligible to run as a candidate in the 2014 elections. The Constitution of Panama requires any former president to sit on the sidelines for at least ten years, and Moscoso has done her time. Lately she's been popping up in the various news media outlets, and for the most part the Panamanian journalists will listen to whatever she has to say and run with it, just because she's a former president. However at the end of her administration the people of Panama were literally disgusted with the outright graft and corruption her government came to represent. The PRD's Martin Torrijos ran on an anti-corruption platform and he won handily (47%). Moscoso's hand-picked successor - José Miguel Alemán - came in third place with just 16% of the vote. The people didn't just throw the "Arnuflistas" out of office, they ran them out on a rail. As a result the party members even changed the name of the party to the "Panameņistas" in an attempt to erase Moscoso's memory. But now, here she comes again. Every time she sticks her head out of her hole, the Panameņistas lose votes. She's playing political games in the media, trying to get her name and face back in the press, and I suspect those activities will continue for the next couple of years or so. I just wanted to say once - I'm going to be ignoring the woman. The same way I'm ignoring another political burn-out Balbina Herrera. They can do whatever they want and say whatever they want, but if you want to hear about it you'll have to look elsewhere. I really (really) don't give two craps about what either of them think, about anything. Out.

Copyright 2011 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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Camacho Say Varela "Doesn't Even Dare To Show His Face"

PoliticsThe press conference the formation of the "Front For Truth" to defend Vice President Juan Carlos Varela was announced is just another sign that Varela is alone and afraid, said political analyst Luis Eduardo Camacho. The group is composed of Ramón Fonseca Mora, Luis Ernesto Carles, Zulema Sucre de Vega, Nadgee Bonilla de Castillo, and Panameņista Deputies in the National Assembly Adolfo “Beby” Valderrama, José I. Blandón and Luis Eduardo Quirós. "He does not even dare to show his face. The strategy of creating this so-called "Front for Truth" merely demonstrates the fact that Varela is good at asking for explanations, but not so good at giving them," he said. Camacho, who after leaving the ranks of the Panameņista political party now leads a group called "Independents for Change," said "it's obvious that Varela, afraid of the reactions he might encounter if he faces the news media, who will ask him why everything is bad now, those same things that he supported for 26 months when he was part of the government." "Varela is left alone. It's enough to see what happened in the press conference, where the dominant feature was the absence of senior Panameņista party leaders, who until only recently backed him," said Camacho. (Estrella)

Juan Carlos Varela - Vice President of Panama

Editor's Comment: I'm being told there are factions and elements within the Panameņista party who smell blood and sense a potential for political weakness when it comes to Varela. Up until 30 August 2011 when the political alliance between the Panameņista party and the Cambio Democratico party fell apart, Varela was clearly the strongest figure within his party. However now it's been about two and a half months since the breakup, and it's clear the political machinery of the Cambio Democratico will be targeting Varela with everything they have, in order to make him weaker as a potential presidential candidate for the 2014 elections. There are even rumors and rumblings that Mireya Moscoso might return from the dead and make a run in an internal party primary election. And of course there are others with aspirations within the Panameņista party as well. If the CD can make something solid stick to Varela - enough to start calling witnesses and open an investigation or something like that, then he might even fall further. This group of Panameņista politicians - Ramón Fonseca Mora, Luis Ernesto Carles, Zulema Sucre de Vega, Nadgee Bonilla de Castillo, Adolfo “Beby” Valderrama, José I. Blandón and Luis Eduardo Quirós - form the core of people who are the anchors of Varela's team. Their political futures are hitched to his star at this point, so what's good for him is good for them, and what's bad for him is likewise bad for them. These are the primary actors who pushed for the breakup of the alliance, because they thought they could win the whole thing by themselves in 2014. Let's see if they were right, or if they simply set their own house on fire for the the temporary feeling of warmth.

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Grimaldo: I was pressured to change to the CD in order to keep my job

Politics#Panama - The former Deputy Director of the Colon Free Trade Zone and member of the Panameņista political party Manuel Grimaldo said that during the meeting of the Municipal Council meeting that took place on 5 November in the province of Colon, he learned of his dismissal in the news media. "Once I heard the news I could not believe it, because this was not the first time this has been said. However, during the luncheon I attended the President of the Republic was there. He hugged me and told me I was his friend, who loved me, but this is a political decision," he said. During an interview on Telemetro Reports, Grimaldo revealed that for two months he has been pressured to change to the ranks of the Democratic Change party from the Panameņistas, in order to remain in his post.

According Grimaldo everything started on 13 September 2011 when he received a telephone call from the Director of the Colon Free Trade Zone, Leopoldo Benedetti, where he was informed of his dismissal, however it was not until now that the order has taken effect. "I have ethics, values ​​and principles, and for that I leave the Free Trade Zone with dignity. I will continue in the ranks of my party and from there I will make a responsible opposition, saying both the good and bad that is being done by this administration," he said. He added that all of the people of Colon were not expecting that would be dismissed, but rather that the president would bring solutions to a province that so needs it. He said politics is to serve the people, and one one's self.

The President of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli, moments before the start of the parade to celebrate the November 5, made the announcement of the dismissal of deputy manager of the Free Zone of Colon, Manuel Grimaldo, who is a member of the Panameņista political party. Grimaldo will be replaced by Miguel Figueroa, a medical doctor and leader of Democratic Change in the Atlantic Coast. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Manuel Grimaldo's appointment as the Deputy Manager of the Colon Free Trade Zone was political. The only reason he got the job was because he is a prominent member of the Panameņista political party in the province of Colon. And what's more, he was informed that he would be fired on 13 September 2011 - exactly two weeks after the breakup of the alliance between the Panameņista party and Ricardo Martinelli's Cambio Democratico party. So it took about six weeks for that decision to be implemented, and this morning Grimaldo was on both the channel 2 TVN and channel 13 Telemetro morning news broadcasts to whine, bitch, and complain - both about the fact that he was fired and the manner in which it occurred. Dude, whatever. If he wasn't a politician he never would have gotten the job, and he got fired because Juan Carlos Varela and Jose Blandon decided their own political chances would be better if they melted down the alliance. So, you can add this Grimaldo dude to the long list of political casualties in the war between the Cambio Democratico and the Panameņistas. Martinelli told him to his face - it's not personal, it's politics. Deal with it - as is every other member of the Panameņista party, who are all now on the outside, looking in.

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Panameņista Politicians In Fistfight During Parade in Colon

PoliticsIt came to blows. The National Assembly Deputy from the Panameņista political party Miguel Salas and the recently fired (but still in his position) assistant manager of the Colon Free Trade Zone Manuel Grimaldo went to blows during the festivities to celebrate Panama's separation from Colombia in Colon. The confrontation occurred on 6th Street Bolivar, in the city of Colon, which caused an uproar among the people who were there. The reasons behind the fight between the two members of the Panameņista party are unknown. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Yeah, those goofy Panameņistas are getting more and more stressed by the minute. The political facts on the ground are simple to comprehend. The Cambio Democratico now has the support of about 45% of the people, the PRD has about 35%, leaving just 20% or so for the Panameņistas. Therefore, every time someone like this deputy director dude of the Colon Free Trade Zone gets fired, they lose more and more of what used to be relevance. Meaning, with each passing day the Panameņista party becomes more and more irrelevant, at least within the current dynamic of the political realities on the ground. What remains to be seen is if there is a dynamic and charismatic political leader who can carry on with the momentum gained by the CD after Ricardo Martinelli leaves office. But no matter what, for the next few elections the Panameņistas will be sucking third tit. And the stress of that reality shows in the fistfights. Gawd, the only thing that would make this even more entertaining would be if Mireya Moscoso could come back from the dead...

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Martinelli Fires Deputy Director of Colon Free Trade Zone

PoliticsThe President of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli, moments before the start of the parade to celebrate 5 November, announced the dismissal of the Deputy Manager of the Colon Free Trade Zone, Manuel Grimaldo, who is a member of the Panameņista political party. Martinelli appointed Miguel Figueroa, who is a medical doctor and the leader of the Cambio Democratico political party on the Atlantic Coast, to replace Grimaldo. The manager of the Colon Free Zone, Leopoldo Bendetti, told RPC Radio that the grounds for dismissal due to purely political reasons. Bendetti said Grimaldo has not been fired because so far he has not received an official written notice from the executive, even though the expect the notice will be delivered on Monday once regular activities resume. After ensuring that the positions of hierarchy in the country are what the government wants, Benedetti said Grimaldo was aware of his dismissal, "but the news has been postponed so he can finish his business through the front door," said Benedetti, a while adding "he is an excellent professional."

In other news the Minister of Education, Lucy Molinar, was made the parade Marshall. However, such recognition attracted adverse reactions from a group of teachers in the province, who claim the minister does not deserve such recognition. The teachers, led by union leader Felipe Cabeza, declared Molinar as a persona non-grata in Colon, because of shortcomings in her performance. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Another Panameņista bites the dust. Martinelli probably hadn't fired this guy, just because he forgot about it.

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Health Minister Vergara Says There's A Political Agenda Behind Striking Doctors

Politics #Panama - Ola, Cocle - The strike declared by the medical unions in the country are nothing more than the following of a failed political agenda imposed by a "small group" of persons (on the rest of them) who still don't even know why they are protesting. Panama's Health Minister Franklin Vergara made these statements today, Friday, 28 October 2011, after the doctors who work for the public sector decided to continue their strike in protest of Bill 349, which creates the association scheme Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). The strike began on Oct 20 at the Santo Tomas hospital and these doctors have been joined by doctors from other hospitals.

"90% Of Doctors Are Working" - Vergara, who made a tour on Friday of the Cocle province, said that despite the imposition of "small groups of doctors who respond to a political agenda," right now about 90% of the doctors in the country are treating patients. "They have launched a strike in which they are still entangled, and they don't even know why they are on strike, there is a reason why they are not talking and they don't want to talk or negotiate. So, the strike for them is against the patients," said the minister. Vergara said that "fortunately smart doctors in the country are treating their patients." The health minister made the remarks in the community of El Palenque in the area of La Pava, district of Ola, where he inaugurated a new rural water supply system that the residents of the area have been requesting for more than 25 years. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: This happens often. A small group of dissidents from with the larger group go out on a strike or protest or what have you, but in fact it turns out they only represent a relatively small proportion of the whole. And about the "political agenda" angle, consider this. About 35% of the people (and doctors) in Panama are members of the PRD political party, and about 20% of the people (and doctors) in Panama are members of the Panameņista political party. So, any small cluster of those guys can start a ruckus over (whatever) in order to cause chaos, to make the administration of Martinelli look bad.

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Quijano Says Mechanisms Must Be Improved To Change Pubic Perception

Politics#Panama - After a public opinion survey published by the Panama America newspaper revealed that the president Ricardo Martinelli fell one percentage point (40%) compared to the last measurement, the Minister of Trade and Industry, said Ricardo Quijano said this should improve. "I think we should give value to the opinion of Panamanians and improve each of the programs that were implemented for the benefit of the population," he said. On the issue of security and corruption, Quijano sees the need to strengthen mechanisms to improve the perception of the Panamanian people. "The change is necessary to reinforce and to bring responses to the population with transparency," he added while speaking to Telemetro Reports.

As for the "basic food basket," he believes that the Jumbos Shops and Fairs have not had the desired impact because their development has not been as expected, so they are going to do everything they can to get more cheap food to the people. He concluded if there is a negative perception then the country's course must be corrected. This survey interviewed 1,200 people across the country. The Panama Review survey has + / - 2.8% margin of error and a 95% reliability. (Panama America)

Ricardo Quijano, Panama's Minister of Trade and Industry

Editor's Comment: The original Panama America article mistakenly referred to Roberto Henriquez as the Minister of Trade and Industry, then spent the rest of the article quoting Ricardo Quijano. In fact, Henriquez has moved up to Foreign Minister, and he was replaced at the MICI by Ricardo Quijano. And, Quijano is right. Martinelli's administration is now getting daily attacks from two fronts, the PRD and the Panameņistas, so most of the message out there is anti-them and negative. The CD isn't doing a very good job of countering all of that negative press with their own message, and the perception among the Panamanian people is taking a hit. Added to this mix is the fact that all of the Panamanian news media outlets are owned or severely biased towards one political party or another, so accordingly their news and messages are slanted, to help their party and do harm to the other two. There was a screaming headline last week from Telemetro, saying that Martinelli's approval ratings had dropped 8% from June to September. However, more than 54% still qualified his administration as "good" or "excellent" - and during that time frame Martinelli had lost 18% of the voters - all those who align themselves with the Panameņista party. So, the counter would be that they might have lost 8% after the breakup of the alliance, but they managed to hold on to 10% of the Panameņista voters anyway. Without a doubt, the messages are jumbled, and it's a turbulent time in Panama, politically speaking.

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"PRD Youth Leaders" File Complaint Against Minister of the Presidency

PoliticsYouth leaders of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) asked the Attorney General Joseph Ayú Prado to ask the Supreme Court for the separation of the Minister of the Presidency, Demetrio Papadimitriu, for his alleged involvement in the scandal over land titles issued in the area of Juan Hombrón, province of Cocle. The request is included in a criminal complaint they filed at the Attorney General's office for alleged crimes against the public administration, in detriment to the State. The PRD members also called for an investigation against the former Director of Titling of the National Land Authority, Anabelle Villamonte. There are already two other cases that have been opened in the Public Ministry over the transfer of 54 hectares of land in Juan Hombrón. (TVN)

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Politically Motivated Fist Fight During Radio Program - Panameņista vs. Cambio Democratico

Politics#Panama - The National Assembly Deputy from the Panameņista political party Miguel Salas was attacked by a radio commentator, a member of the Democratic Change political party, after leaving the program "Hot Stereo" in the province of Colon. The incident occurred on Thursday morning, 20 October 2011, after the lawmaker participated in the radio program in which he made references to statements made earlier by Javier Campbell. Salas said he would not waste his time answering, because all he would be doing would be to create ratings for programs that have been paid for by his political rivals inside of the Panameņista party.

The radio commentator Campbell quickly entered the radio studio and started hurling insults at the lawmaker, who decided to end the interview. He stood up and went to leave, and while the show went to commercials Salas was physically assaulted by Campbell from behind. Another lawmaker who was there, National Assembly Deputy Iracema “Chema” de Dale had to intervene to break them up. Salas said he filed a complaint with the local Justice of the Peace in Cristóbal against his attacker. The National Police arrested Campbell and he was placed at the disposal of the competent authorities. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: I just hope somebody hit somebody else with a folding chair, WWF "Smack Down" Style. Ah, that's called a "chair shot." Why am I glad I didn't know that before?

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Papadimitriu Calls ANATI Land Titling Allegations "Cowardly Political Attacks"

Politics #Panama - While the Minister of the Presidency, Demetrio Papadimitriu, described the reports linking his parents to the land titling scandal in Juan Hombrón as a "cowardly political attack," President, Ricardo Martinelli said "I will not allow myself to be muddied by the acts of others." The Minister of the Presidency, who summoned the media yesterday to the Hotel Miramar, described as "a cowardly political attack" the revelations made by this newspaper (La Prensa) on the land titles granted in Juan Hombrón. Papadimitriu also denied that Anabelle Villamonte the former Director of Titling of the National Land Administration Authority (ANATI) had worked in a family business. "It's a lie" was the minister's reply when asked about the Villamonte past labor.

From La Pintada, Vice President Juan Carlos Varela said the publications in La Prensa have left the nation in shock. "Given the seriousness of the case, we ask the government to tell the truth and to clarify these land titles, and the full weight of the law should be applied to whoever is found to be guilty," said Varela.

Yesterday the Comptroller General of the Republic, Gioconda de Bianchini, said officials working for her office had already started an official investigation of the ANATI on 12 October 2011. (La Prensa)

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Jimmy Papadimitriu Says His Parents Have Become Victims of Politically Motivated Attacks

Politics#Panama - The minister of the President, Jimmy Papadimitriu called it a "political attack" by political elements from the opposition who linked his parents to the process of land titling in Juan Hombrón, in the province of Cocle. "I tell you this is nothing more than a political attack to try to discredit me," he said. He said that neither his mother nor his father are to blame because their son became the Minister of the Presidency. "My parents have been leading businesses in this country for more than 40 years and more than 8,000 families families depend on these businesses," he said. He said if anyone wants to "hit me" they should not be so cowardly as to do so through his parents. "Here I am," he said. Papadimitriu asked the authorities to initiate an investigation about the land in Juan Hombrón, and to clarify whether or not there is any kind of irregularity in the titling of land in that area. (Critica)

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PRD Leadership Desperately Trying To Stop The Bleeding

Politics#Panama - The PRD has come up with a kind of antidote against "turncoats" who quit one political party to join another, and this will be demonstrated during the internal elections to select the new leadership of the party, because to be a delegate for this group a member must have been enrolled for at least 36 months. "The political turncoats started from the first year of the government of Ricardo Martinelli, when they started with just 16 Deputies (in the National Assembly) and now they have 36, which is why our party members demanded that we punish the turncoats and reward loyalty," said the Vice President of the PRD, Rogelio Paredes Robles. He said that "those who left the party of Omar Torrijos, with these new statutes, already don't have enough time to even be delegates (at their convention.)"

Last September the Electoral Tribunal approved the reforms to the PRD internal rules approved during the Extraordinary Congress of February 13, 2011, which includes changes in the time required as a party member to run for an internal elected position. The rule states that in order to vote in party primary elections a member must have at least six months on the rolls. In order to be a party delegate to the convention they must have been enrolled for at least 36 months or three years, minimum

In order to be a member of the National Executive Committee, PRD members now need 120 months or ten years of enrollment. In order to be the President of the Area of Organization (of the National Board of Directors) members need 60 months or five years in the PRD. For the National Disciplinary Court and the Commission of Honor and Credentials, both require ten years of party membership. Those who wish to serve as the Directors of the Area of Organization must have been inscribed for at least 60 months or five years, and they must reside in their respective Areas of Organization. District Directors are required to be registered 36 months or 3 years before the election. Township Directors require five years of residence and three years as a party member. Members of the Electoral Ethics Commission require a minimum of 10 years of being registered, and they must have a "recognized militancy and moral rectitude." The National Elections Commission have ten years of membership and Member Advocate must also have ten years in the party. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: Err, who cares? People are leaving both the PRD and Panameņista parties in droves to join the ruling Cambio Democratico party. And now the PRD thinks they will be "punishing turncoats" by increasing the amount of time it takes for someone to be elected to one of their internal party positions. In reality, this might backfire on them. Remember, the PRD was in charge from 2004 - 2009, and they had about 650,000 members at the end of the administration of Martin Torrijos. Since then about 200,000 members have left, but that's not the point. When the PRD was in charge they signed up a whole bunch of new members, just like the CD is doing now. Those relatively new members won't have the "seniority" to run for any of the internal party positions, so rather than punishing turncoats, in fact the PRD is simply punishing their own members who signed up for their party, relatively recently. The CD can quickly and easily counter this by saying they are the most open and democratic party, and anyone who is a member can run for any internal position. Back in the 70's we would have said "snap". Anyway, more goofy political games. Both the PRD and Panameņistas are desperately trying to find ways to stop the bleeding. But in the process they should remember that applying a tourniquet around one's neck to stop a nosebleed is almost always a bad idea. And, someone should explain to the dinosaurs running the PRD that most of the bleeding is occurring with young people under 35. That's where the CD is growing. The PRD "geezer brigade" is loosing relevance with each passing day. Omar Torrijos said - "be a nice boy, pass me my walker and turn on the oxygen, will 'ya..." Young and energetic newly activated politicians really don't give a crap about what some dead dude said 50 years ago. But whatever, it's their strategy, so I guess they will have to live with the fruit it bears.

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"If Nominated, I Would Accept" - Classic Politics From Ferrufino

Politics#Panama - What if I tell you that the Minister of Social Development Guillermo Ferrufino said yesterday that if his party nominates him as the presidential candidate for the Democratic Change (CD), he would accept? "If elected, I would assume the commitment, I don't see it as a challenge, because I have had to face larger situations, and if I have to run for president, then I'll be there," said Ferrufino, who is also a Deputy in the National Assembly from the 8-5 circuit in La Chorrera. The Minister of Social Development said, amid the celebration of the first National "Sombrero Pinta'o" Festival in La Pintada, where he was the the standard bearer, that if elected, he would be there working for the country. Ferrufino's announcement comes after the president, Ricardo Martinelli, said on Saturday that the minister is an excellent figure for president in the next elections in 2014 and that everything depends on him and the circumstances. (Siglo)

Guillermo Ferrufino, Panama's Minister of Social Development, and Presidential Candidate for the Cambio Democratico party.

Editor's Comment: None of the three important political parties have clearly defined who will be their candidates going into the 2014 elections. There are no less than seven "pre-candidates" for the PRD party. Just last week former president Mireya Moscoso hinted she might take a run and challenge the dominance of Juan Carlos Varela within the Panameņista party. And within Ricardo Martinelli's Cambio Democratico party, there are a handful of hopefuls, including Guillermo Ferrufino. I think when Martinelli said Ferrufino would make an excellent candidate, the press over did it a little to assume he was getting the nod as Martinelli's personal choice of a successor. Personally, I think Roberto Henriquez also has a good chance of winning an internal primary in the CD, but to be honest with you I don't know how their process would work. For that matter I'm not even sure if they do. I mean, the CD has been "all Martinelli, all the time" since it was created. And yeah, Ferrufino wants the job.

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Martinelli Wants 500,000 CD Party Members By Year's End

Politics #Panama - The President of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli, revealed on Saturday in the town of Aguadulce in the province of Cocle they are already starting to coordinate for the next series of party registrations (recruitment drive) for the party he leads, the Democratic Change (CD), in an attempt to have more than 500,000 members by the end of this year. Martinelli offered these remarks in a recess of the meeting, held behind closed doors, of deputies, mayors and representatives of the district. At the meeting, which was also attended by ministers and deputy ministers of state, local authorities explained to Martinelli how to solve the problems in their areas. Martinelli reiterated in the town of Aguadulce that his government is the only one that will be reelected and given a mandate after the 2014 elections "because it is the only one that has solved the problems of the people." Last night the president said in the city of Chitre in the province of Herrera that he is sure the CD will win the 2014 elections, and he said this government is the only one that can be repeated. Thus, Martinelli said he is coordinating with the deputies, mayors and township representatives to get the job done so the government succeeds in repeating the command in 2014. (Prensa)

Editor 's Comment: According to the official statistics released in the end of September 2011 by the Electoral Tribunal, Ricardo Martinelli's Cambio Democratico party surpassed the PRD for the first time as the largest political party in Panama. According to the official numbers the PRD has 461,148 members while the CD has 462,072 members. The MOLIRENA party which is about to be merged with the CD has another 41,284 members so you can practically add most of them to the CD's numbers. The Panameņistas are the third largest party with 311,811 members. Finally the nation's fifth active political party, the Partido Popular, has just 26,913 members. It should be noted that at the end of the administration of Martin Torrijos, just one month before the elections in April 2009, the PRD had 641,651 members while the CD had just 126,807. People in Panama tend to migrate from one party to another because if you're a card carrying party member then you've got a better chance of getting a job or a government contract. If you're a member of either the PRD or the Panameņistas then this administration will see you as the enemy. So yes, the CD will be signing people up like mad from now until May 2014, and those numbers really won't mean a damn thing, but it's the way the game is played.

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Martinelli Is Confident The CD Will Win The Elections in 2014

PoliticsPresident Ricardo Martinelli attended the inauguration of the new "Paseo Central" (Central Promenade) Mall in Chitre, Herrera province, and he took advantage of the opportunity to exalt Panama's economic growth, "growth envied throughout the world," he said. However, he was also questioned about several topics, among them politics. Martinelli said it is very difficult for any government to be reelected in Panama, but he but believes it is something this government can achieve. However, he said he does not know who would preside over the next CD government. The President said "I do not have the slightest interest" in being reelected. However he said Guillermo Ferrufino would make an "excellent candidate" but that will depend "on him and the circumstances." (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Although Ricardo Martinelli has repeated time and time again that he has no interest whatsoever in trying to be reelected in 2014, in Panama it's natural for people to be afraid of very strong politicians. Once Omar Torrijos took power in a military coup in 1968, he and then Manuel Antonio Noriega held on to power for the next 21 years. After Ernesto "El Toro" Perez Balladares took office in 1994 he submitted the country to a national referendum through which he wanted to change the constitution to allow for his immediate reelection. He lost, the "No" vote won, and he left office in 1999. Political power has resided in the hands of basically just two groups - one lead by Arnulfo Arias Madrid and the other by the PRD - basically since the 1940's. And now we have a new, third element in Panamanian politics led by Ricardo Martinelli. The emergence of his Cambio Democratico (CD) political party naturally leaves people wondering exactly what will happen after the May 2014 election. In Panama political parties such as the CD tend to be more of a sort of "cult of personality." Without a doubt the CD is Ricardo Martinelli and Ricardo Martinelli is the CD. What's more, since taking office in July 2009 Martinelli has slowly and deliberately gathered in all of the reins of political power in Panama - Executive, Legislative, Judicial, administrative - right down to the dog catcher and the garbage collector (literally). Now, will a strong political leader emerge as the replacement for Ricardo Martinelli in the 2014 elections? Can the CD repeat? If they do, it will be the first time in the post-dictatorship modern era, because up until now the PRD and Panameņistas have been simply taking turns in office every five years. I think they have the math and numbers on their side, but it really will come down to the strength of whoever wins their internal primary election.

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Mireya Moscoso Thinking About Making A Comeback

Politics #Panama - The former president Mireya Moscoso used a reflection of her husband Arnulfo Arias Madrid - elected three times as the country's president - to talk about her possible aspiration to the Presidency of the Republic in 2014, which she neither ruled out nor confirmed. "If there was something I learned from Dr. Arias it was to be patient and not rush; if it's to be then it's to be, and if not, then not; do not look for it or it will never come," said Moscoso. The (honorary) lifetime President of the Panameņista party said she has traveled the country to report on the transfer of the remains of the former President Arias from Penonomé, Cocle Province, on 7 November. She regretted that the government of Ricardo Martinelli is laying off her party members from public sector jobs, because they are "humble Panamanians who gave their votes so he could reach the presidency." (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: The fact that Mireya Moscoso is apparently coming back from the dead like a B-grade horror movie would be (minor) bad news for Juan Carlos Varela, but great news for the PRD and the Cambio Democratico. Apparently, the only person on the planet who has not figured out just how universally Mireya Moscoso is despised - is Mireya Moscoso herself. I mean, for some people just the simple mention of her name creates a "gag reflex." Every time her name or photo appears in the press, the Panameņistas lose votes. Her face and name are reminders of just how screwed up her administration was. Her own party knows this - they changed their name from the "Arnulfistas" to the "Panameņistas" after she left office in an attempt to erase her memory. And now she's thinking about trying to make a comeback? Amazing ... Endara's got a better chance of getting elected (and he's dead.)

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Martinelli Denies Existence of "Media Monitoring Center"

Politics#Panama - President Ricardo Martinelli denied the existence of a "monitoring center" to defend the government. According to Martinelli, that has nothing to do with the presidency, because he says when people want to work for free they are related to the administrative side, so he told journalists to ask Alfredo Prieto about this. The president said he answers to everyone, and he said if someone says "I am defending you," he would reply "good, go ahead and defend me." Martinelli's statements and reactions come after a person this morning said on the channel 2 TVN news broadcast that he worked for a year in a sort of "media monitoring center" to defend president Ricardo Martinelli and his administration, in a project coordinated by Prieto. For her part the Deputy Minister of the Presidency Maria Fabrega said the citizen who made ​​the complaint was not paid, because there is no contract with the government. Fabrega said monitoring of the press is only done in the press department of the Presidency.

Another who also reacted to this case was the President of the Popular Party, Milton Henriquez, who says the secret has been confirmed. While Idalia Martinez of the Free Voices Network said this complaint should be investigated to determine if staff are involved. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Bullshit political scandal of the day. The guy who made the complaint was wearing a "hoodie" to hide his identity, had his back turned to the camera, and he had a couple of emails exchanged between Prieto and Martinelli. A clear attempt to create yet another scandal - designed only to toss more darts and banana peels at Martinelli and his administration. Politicians monitor the press all the time - so what? They also use volunteers. I guess the good news for Martinelli is that - this is the best they can come up with - and it certainly falls into the "who gives a crap" category. He should just point to the Free Trade Agreement and smile ... negotiated by the Panameņistas, screwed up by the PRD (the election of Pedro Miguel Gonzalez as the President of the National Assembly was the first thing that put the brakes on what should have been an easy and automatic ratification in the US Congress back in 2007), and now the CD was able to get it done. Most likely the timing on this little bullshit scandal was chosen specifically to take some of the shine off of the FTA apple.

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Martinelli Says His Statements Were Misinterpreted

PoliticsPresident of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli said his words were misinterpreted words when he referred to the registration of new members made by the opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) on Sunday. He said that at no time has he lied, and what he said has been exaggerated. "I was just giving an exaggeration, I was not telling a lie," he told local media. He added that people should be a little more serious when interpreting a statement. Incidentally, Martinelli again congratulated all of the people who enroll in a political party, no matter which one, he said. On Monday, the president during an official ceremony in the amphitheater of the Presidency said "You know when you're in opposition, I did it many times, I inscribed a thousand people and said they were 8 000," said Martinelli, between laughter. These statements were criticized by members of the PRD who called him a liar. (Panama America)
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PRD Making Political Hay Over Martinelli's Statements

Politics#Panama - The opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) reacted yesterday afternoon to statements made yesterday morning by president Ricardo Martinelli, who hesitated and even gave a hearty laugh at the group's announcement that it had registered 25,000 persons over the weekend. Mitchell Does, the Secretary General of the PRD, said the president is "disturbed" because in the past two months the PRD has enrolled more than 45 thousand people "without the purchase of consciousness as has been done by Martinelli and his party" the Democratic Change (CD). He added, "Martinelli is a great liar, a major pathological liar" and people who lie with figures are discredited.

"What burns Mr. Martinelli is the fact that we do not offer scholarships, we offered no jobs, no contracts, nor did we threaten anyone with kicking him out of his job, nor did we use files to hire anyone," countered the politician. Doens attributed the massive entry in the PRD to people who are motivated by ideological and doctrinal reasons who are "disenchanted with Martinelli's government that has been a resounding failure." He confessed to have a final figure of 26,350 new PRD members, and the Electoral Court will say that it's official.

"(Lying about the number) never crossed our minds, because we're not corrupt liars as is Mr. Ricardo Martinelli, to give one figure when knowing it's another figure or lower," he said. To the words of Martinelli: "I inscribed a thousand people and then said I signed up eight", Doens replied that this ratifies the accusations that have been made and he ended by saying "a confession, relieved by proof." "What Mr. (Martinelli) is saying is that he is a liar, that he has lied, and that he continues to lie." The secretary general emphasized that the president is so discredited and booed when he goes to public events because "people know he is the great deceiver of national policy." (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: A better line from Martinelli to respond to the news that the PRD had signed up 25,000 new members would be - "yeah, and I just signed up three new Deputies in the National Assembly..." This morning Salomon Shamah came out on the channel 13 morning news broadcast to "spin" Martienlli's words yesterday. He tried to make everyone believe that Martinelli did not say what he said. In a classic "what the president meant to say" moment - Shamah said Martinelli was trying to say there's a difference sometimes between the initial numbers and the final numbers. That was bullshit. Martinelli came right out and admitted having lied about the figures in the past. There's no doubt about what he said, and it was ridiculous for Shamah to have tried to spin it. I mean, we're not stupid, you know. Whatever, it just goes to show you the kinds of day to day political crap that's being tossed around these days. The administration of Ricardo Martinelli would be better served to just put their hands up when asked about this kind of stuff and say "whoops, that's political bullshit. We're not going to waste ten seconds on that, because we've got work to do." And then let the PRD and Panameņistas spend all of their free time trying to bash them from the outside. You know, mostly because the PRD and Panameņistas have a lot of free time on their hands right now.

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Martinelli's Approval Rating Rebounds To 53%

Politics #Panama - By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The most recent polling numbers released by Dichter & Neira in a survey conducted for channel 2 TVN reflect a rebound in popular public opinion for Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli. Last month the local political scene was completely dominated and distracted by the breakup of the political alliance between the Panameņista political party of Vice President Juan Carlos Varela, and the Cambio Democratico political party of Ricardo Martinelli. As a result the polling numbers during the month of September reflected a significant dip in Martinelli's general popularity. These numbers are perfectly understandable considering Martinelli had just fired Juan Carlos Varela as the Foreign Minister. Practically every member of the Panameņista party changed from being on the inside, part of the team, and Martinelli supporter - to being on the outside, part of the opposition, and against Martinelli, literally overnight. This change occurred on 30 August 2011, so obviously the polling results in September reflected the turmoil. No surprise there.

Martinelli's Approval Rating Dropped 18% in September: In July 2011 Martinelli's approval rating was at 60% and that's about where his numbers have been, slightly higher usually, since he took office in July 2009. This makes perfect sense because Martinelli was elected in May 2009 with 60% of the vote. But then after the breakup of the alliance on 30 August, in September 2011 his approval rating dropped to 42%. Local reporters and pundits gasped in observation - "Martinelli's approval ratings are dropping like a rock, this can't be good..." However when I saw those numbers I instantly realized this 18% drop in approval rating was little more than a reflection of the departure of the Panameņistas. When asked on the street, they "bitched" about the breakup by saying they disapprove of the way Martinelli is handling the government. And again, if you look at the election results from May 2009, 18% of the votes cast for Martinelli and his "Alliance for Change" came from the Panameņistas. So there's a perfect correlation between the drop in Martinelli's popularity and the percentage of Panameņistas who were, until 30 August 2011, part of his team.

Quickly Recovering - Back Up To 53%: Now that the people of Panama have had a full month to chew on and digest the reams of political rhetoric coming from all three sides (the PRD, Panameņistas, and the CD), it seems they are settling down somewhat, and are becoming more comfortable with Martinelli being in charge, with two other political parties on the outside in "opposition." October polling results show a strong rebound to a 53% approval rating for Martinelli. This is astoundingly good news for Martinelli's camp, because he shows he remains popular among the random dude on the street, despite the rapid fire politically motivated jabs and barbs being launched against him and his party, now from two different directions. It says they seem to have weathered this turmoil in pretty good shape.

It's A Long Time Until 2014: The Panamanian government is going to spend more than $14 billion dollars in fiscal year 2012. Then they will spend another $14 billion (plus) in 2013. Then they will start spending another $14 billion (plus) for fiscal year 2014 as we finally get to the next set of general elections. Quickly doing the easy math, Martinelli's government will oversee and direct more than $42 billion dollars of governmental spending between now and the next general election in May 2014. And that's a whole lot of money in relatively tiny Panama. To put it in perspective, the entire project to expand the Panama Canal is going to cost about $5.25 billion dollars, so $42 billion (plus) in new governmental spending in just three years is a pretty fat cow to milk. When it comes to politics Panamanians are generally pragmatic more than anything else, meaning they go where they can "get something" for their political support, it's part of the established Panamanian political culture. The Deputies in the National Assembly are jumping ship - leaving the Panameņista and PRD political parties for Ricardo Martinelli's Cambio Democratico for one simple reason - money. They are getting paid one way or the other, either directly or indirectly. The Cambio Democratico now has absolute control over the National Assembly. They can decide how to hand out money for road projects, infrastructure upgrades, to build bridges, schools, medical clinics, governmental buildings, etc. If your local and national level representatives are on the Cambio Democratico ticket, then your projects can get in the fast line, you can take a second pass at the buffet, and the money will get doled out to your region. However it you're a member of the PRD or the Panameņista party, well then we're going to be needing that in triplicate (again). You're missing this stamp, and by golly, if you keep dragging your feet this bridge might never get built (sweet smile). Right now every Panamanian politician is considering their options and making pragmatic decisions, mostly based on that $42 billion dollars of government spend which is yet to occur. It comes down to the "ka-friggin-ching" of political reality on the ground.

Votes Divided By Political Parties: You have to look at the Panamanian political scene as the PRD being on one side, the Panameņistas on the other side, and the Cambio Democratico in the middle. People and politicians will jump from the PRD to the Cambio Democratico, for example, but there's practically no chance (in this environment) of any PRD politician changing to become a member of the Panameņista party. Established in this way, the CD is positioned to siphon off members and talent from both sides and draw them into the middle and that's exactly what is happening. Both the PRD and Panameņistas are losing members to the CD, even though they are desperately trying to fight back and stop the bleeding. The PRD just held a recruiting drive last weekend and they say they signed up more than 25,000 new members. Anyway, historical polling and voting results demonstrate that the PRD can count on about 37% of the vote, no matter what. And that same data shows the Panameņistas now can count on no more than 18% of the vote. That would leave about 45% for whoever turns out to be the presidential candidate for the Cambio Democratico party, who will be fully backed and supported by the political weight and machinery of the sitting president Ricardo Martinelli. And of course there might also be a fourth independent "ego" candidate such as Juan Carlos Tapia, but he won't get more than 1% of the vote or so. So, by doing the math it's easy to see why Martinelli decided to jettison the Panameņistas - he doesn't need them anymore. In fact, be probably didn't need them in 2009 either, but he took the sure thing and cruised over the line with 60% of the vote and only one candidate to run against, Balbina Herrera. Today's approval ratings of 53% are certainly telling Martinelli and the CD that their strategy is working, while the PRD and Panameņistas continue to gnash their teeth and wail.

Copyright 2011 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 Breaks Out Laughing Over PRD Inscription Drive

PoliticsThe registration of 25,009 new members by the PRD political party on Saturday and Sunday caused president Ricardo Martinelli to break out laughing on Monday morning. After laughing out loud, President Martinelli said: "You know, when one is in opposition, I did it many times. I signed up 1,000 new members and then said I signed up 8,000. It makes me laugh." However, he said he did not know if the PRD is lying or not about the figure.

On another subject, president Martinelli said he endorses the statements made by the Minister of Economy and Finance Frank de Lima about the financial tower project. De Lima said on the channel 2 TVN morning news program that the financial tower project has not been ruled out, but they would do a study, because he felt he is not fully informed as to how the project would be financed. De Lima said it was important for the National Assembly to expedite the debate on a bill regarding the public-private partnership that would be needed for the financial tower project and the city government to be built. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: Martinelli just admitted to having lied about the number of new members he signed up when he was building his Cambio Democratico party. Whatever. It doesn't really matter what the PRD does - they are fighting to remain in the game.

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Panameņista Party Threatens Three Lawmakers With Sanctions

Politics#Panama - Three Deputies in the National Assembly - Miguel Fanovich, Osman Gómez and Tito Rodríguez - are under the magnifying glass of the leadership of the Panameņista political party. According to party leaders, the three lawmakers have "little time" to return to party discipline, otherwise the legal adviser of the Panameņista party is empowered to open disciplinary proceedings against them. The party can apply a penalty against the dissident parliamentarians that would prevent them from running under the flag of the Panameņista party in the 2014 elections. The party prosecutor is lawmaker Jose Blandon, who already has the first evidence of dissent against these deputies, who rejected a resolution that sought call the Director of the Civil Aviation Authority to testify before the full membership of the National Assembly. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: I don't understand why the leadership of the Panameņista political party would threaten these three with sanctions. In fact Miguel Fanovich, Osman Gómez and Tito Rodríguez are probably going to switch sides to join Ricardo Martinelli's Cambio Democratico political party anyway, so they would think "big deal" if their former party wants to toss rotten eggs at them on the way out the door. The Panameņista party is in such disarray that this morning it surfaced Mireya Moscoso (spat) is making noises like she might challenge Juan Carlos Varela in a primary run. Hilarious.

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PRD Will Hold Inscription Drive This Weekend

Politics#Panama - Last August, the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) added 23,000 new members to their group, however this weekend they seek to add 20,000 more, as part of a national registration drive. Presidential candidates Juan Carlos Navarro, Laurentino Cortizo, Balbina Herrera, Samuel Lewis Navarro, Anel Flores and Javier Martínez Acha have prepared their teams for this project that will be held on 8 and 9 October 2011. This registration day celebration coincides with the "rise to power" Omar Torrijos Herrera, the historical leader of the Democratic Revolutionary Party. Mitchell Does, Secreterio General of the PRD, confirmed there will be more than 1,600 tables open and 1,108 books. In addition, the Electoral Court will oversee the entire election process. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Funny how they call the military coup by Omar Torrijos a "rise to power." The PRD is scrambling to stop the bleeding, just like the Panameņistas. And this article contains a list of the most prominent PRD presidential hopefuls for the 2014 elections. I was listening to a PRD radio program this morning, and the party faithful are obviously trying to rally the troops, instill some discipline, and - most importantly - stop the bleeding and the defections to the Cambio Democratico. Right now the Panameņistas have guaranteed themselves third place in a national election, and the PRD knows if they don't do something right now, then by May 2014 they will have a guaranteed second (with no chance of winning). You can hear a twinge of panic creeping into their rhetoric.

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The CD Has Not Yet Defined A Presidential Candidate

PoliticsJavier Tejeira, advisor to the Institute of Agricultural Marketing (IMA), said the Cambio Democratico political party still does not have a presidential candidate, but there are many applicants. He said the Democratic Change party is being accused to advancing the political landscape, however, the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) intends to conduct a primary election, and the Panameņista party now has its presidential candidate in the figure of Juan Carlos Varela. The former Deputy in the National Assembly Tejeira said the politicians who have jumped from other political parties to join the CD do so because they believe in the projects and the governmental agenda being executed by President Ricardo Martinelli, in order to achieve a better quality of life for Panamanians. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: True. There will be at least three candidates from the main parties, and possibly one independent, for a total of four. Of those, only the Panameņistas have defined their candidate in Juan Carlos Varela. At last count, there are at least seven rival camps within the badly injured PRD party, and anyone with any name recognition whatsoever thinks they can be the PRD candidate for 2014. And yes, they will have a primary election. As for the CD, a handful of hopefuls have expressed their interest in one way or the other. And I don't know what their internal process will be, considering that in fact the CD is a one-man show in Ricardo Martinelli. It the CD does have an internal primary election, whoever Martinelli backs will win, and I suspect that will be Roberto Henriquez. Right now the numbers shake out with a CD win with 43%+/-, the PRD in second with 35%+/-, the Panameņistas in third with 18%+/-, and the (ego run) independent in a distant fourth with 4% or less. Simple math, take the Panameņista votes away from the CD candidate and you get a repeat of the 2009 election, and the CD still wins. With every passing day the CD gets stronger, and the PRD and Panameņistas get weaker. This is a trend, and I don't see a reversal any time soon.

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Martinelli Looks For Ways To Improve His Image

PoliticsBefore leaving for his official visit to the Dominican Republic, President of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli, gathered his team of image consultants so they could present to him the results of a task he assigned to them weeks ago: What can be done to improve his image? The strategists already had an answer. They advised him to abandon unpopular projects which awaken voices against them among the people, which could be among the causes of the precipitous 20-point decline in Martinelli's popularity recorded in the last survey.

The Tower Falls: The Mega Project Financial Tower - popularly dubbed "La Tusa" - would be the first casualty of the new strategy to improve the presidential image. That's $250 million dollars that could be better used with greater impact, better social benefit, and what's more could also help contain the fall in popularity polls, the presidential strategists argued. The project, to be built on land where the former US Embassy was located, was a project created by the former Minister of Economy and Finance, the Panameņista Alberto Vallarino, and would serve to house government offices. The multi million dollar project raised voices among the popular sectors, historians, medical associations, artists, professionals and various sectors - that first opposed the destruction of the old headquarters of U.S. diplomacy - and who also warned that it would be invasive to the Santo Tomas historic monument.

The New Official Bet: The interviewers will take to the streets in the coming days to know the opinion of the population, and so the strategists expect the government to initiate action. Marcos Gandásegui, a sociologist and opposed the construction of the tower, gave his opinion to La Estrella, saying "the president actually played his cards well in the first two years of his government, skillfully using the media, the whole state apparatus was spent caring for the president's image. However, this picture fell. You can see in the polls, and I don't think these strategies will have the same results." However, he said it would be "an excellent decision to not build the tower." Gandásegui believes that with decisions such as this, "all the Panamanian people will breathe with a little hope that positive steps are being taken, which can be rectified."

Analyst Renato Pereira thinks the president is a man who is "very attentive" to the public, and he would not be surprised if in the coming days machinery shows up on the land in Paitilla that was transferred to a florist to begin the construction of a park, or if the construction of the tower is suspended to improve his image. Another person who is in favor of the suspension of the multi million dollar tower project is Fernando Aramburú Porras, of the Belisario Porras Foundation. He thinks the Executive should reconsider this "unnecessary and undesirable" project to give this land for public use for the benefit of the majority, he said.

More Popular Contact: Another recommendation from the strategists was to continue to promote the construction of small projects and visiting communities in both suburban and rural areas on the outskirts of the capital and in the interior of the Republic. They say such projects allow for greater contact with the population, and directly impact the way people see government management. At the end all of this can translate into a better perception and favorable votes when the pollsters take to the streets. (Estrella)

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