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Thursday, July 19 2018 @ 01:25 PM EDT

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Varela Is "Killing the Messenger"

PoliticsThe journalist of the US based Diario de las Americas, Sergio Otálora, the author of the investigative article linking the Panameñista candidate Juan Carlos Varela to money laundering, said he would be presenting copies of the checks and documents related to the deposits today, and he said they show about 30 million dollars.

Otálora said "we have absolutely nothing to do" with the government of Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli or the government candidate, José Domingo Arias, following the publication of the article linking the possible use of funds from money laundering to the presidential campaign of Juan Carlos Varela.

Otálora says it is understood that within the world of politics, and even more so when a national election is about to be held, that there will be these types of suspicions.

Therefore, he wrote an article today in his newspaper with the title "Varela "Kills The Messenger" (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: And of course the Panama America newspaper is 100% on the side of the CD and Ricardo Martinelli. They already know exactly what information the UAF provided to the Diario de las Americas. They are now simply waiting for Otálora to publish what they leaked.

However I can tell you this - the reports being published by Otálora are far from perfect. In the first article he said one of the defendants in the money laundering case was sentenced to 20 years in prison. In fact, he was sentenced today to "time served." He conveniently leaves out specific details regarding the dates of certain transactions. However, in spite of the shoddy and obviously biased reporting, the underlying facts remain true. Varela apparently did benefit directly from the proceeds of laundered money.

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Varela Blames Arias For Allegations Of Money Laundering

PoliticsNational Assembly Deputy Jose Luis Varela, the brother and spokesman for the presidential campaign of Juan Carlos Varela, the presidential candidate for the Panameñista political party, denied yesterday that the Panameñista Party received illegal funds, as published yesterday by the Miami based newspaper Diario Las Americas.

Varela claimed these allegations are an attack coming from the campaign the candidate for the Democratic Change political party, José Domingo Arias.

"This is an attack by Arias, and (what was published) is as fake as him. This is a product of their desperation, upon seeing the momentum held by the Varela campaign and upon seeing how we are rising in the polls," he said.

Varela demanded a "public apology" from Arias for the candidate's family, and for the family of Jaime Lasso, Panama's former Consul in South Korea, who according to the Diario Las Americas was involved in transactions that were allegedly received by the political campaign of the Panameñista candidate.

"Any financial transaction made by ​​Mr. Lasso is a transaction that was done legally done and he can explain it," said the candidate's brother, who warned that "information was provided, possibly by the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF) of Panama, and that it has been leaked to the media in an illegal manner."

The UAF is an institution created during the administration of Ernesto Perez Balladares (1994-1999) to combat money laundering and the financing of crime, and it is accountable to the President of the Republic.

According to the publication, the funds were transferred to Varela by Michelle Lasso, the daughter of the former Panamanian Consul in South Korea, who was investigated and sentenced to three years probation in the United States for money laundering, monies generated from illegal Internet gambling.

According to published accounts, one of the bank accounts investigated by the US Justice Department is account number 001100000231, established on January 7, 2009 at the Banco Nacional de Panama, on behalf of the Don James Foundation, owned by Jaime Lasso. And this account saw $1.5 million dollars paid to Varela, his family members, and his campaign, according to the Diario de las Americas .

According to investigation documents to which La Prensa had access, there is no mention of Juan Carlos Varela or Jaime Lasso in the case opened by the US Justice Department against Michello Lasso in April 2013.

Press sources that have been following the case in the U.S. found no evidence that Juan Carlos Varela was involved in the investigation.

In the criminal complaint there are 11 bank accounts based in Panama where Michelle Lasso sent $1.2 million between November 24, 2010 and June 28, 2012.

Of these accounts, four were opened in Banco Nacional, between May and June 2012.

None of the accounts opened in 2009 figure into the criminal complaint, as indicated by the Diario Las Americas.

"As I had indicated, Michelle's father is not on our radar screen and never has been," said Robert Sharpe, the prosecutor handling the case in the U.S., in an email sent to attorneys representing Michelle Lasso on 3 October 2013 and made public yesterday by the Varela campaign.

The Panameñista deputy said the defendant made ​​a mistake, but that the case is closed in the U.S. and he said "any transaction by Mr Jaime Lasso or the Don James Foundation is completely separate from the investigation." (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: The La Prensa newspaper and the Varela campaign is now in full-on spin control mode. There are two separate and distinct things going on here. The first is the fact that Michelle Lasso has been convicted as a money laundered, who will now be deported from the United States and returned to Panama. I suspect she might be arrested at the airport upon her return by the Panamanian authorities.

The second part of this unfolding story is the fact that the money generated by the illegal online gambling went to Juan Carlos Varela, his family members, and his campaign. And no - so far Varela or Michelle Lasso's father have not been named in the investigation being conducted by the US Justice Department into illegal online gambling and money laundering.

One thing to point out here. The case in the United States is not yet "closed" - and there might still be more arrests in the future.

According to the reports from the Diario Las Americas, the total amount of money is more like $30 million - according to the documents provided to them by the UAF.

Varela is right in saying that the documents provided by the UAF to the Diario Las Americas were probably leaked illegally, by Ricardo Martinelli himself or at the very least under his orders. And what's more - that conduct is completely in line with what Martinelli's administration has done in the past when they have intelligence information that will serve them to cause damage to a political adversary.

But the fact remains - that Varela received a whole lot of money - somewhere between the $1.2 million being reported by the US and the $30 million being reported by the UAF - and every dime of that money was obtained through illegal activity. That makes Varela - at the very least - the beneficiary of money laundering activities.

As I said yesterday, you have to pay close attention to the source of the information as this scandal unfolds. The La Prensa newspaper is 100% in the Varela and Panameñista camp. They will be using their newspaper as hard as they can to help Varela try to clean this mess up before the election.

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Martinelli BlamesJimmy Papdimitriu For The Article Against Him In The Wall Street Journal

PoliticsMary O'Grady, a reporter and columnist for The Wall Street Journal, published a column this Sunday saying Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli clearly intends to "stay in power" using his influence in the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), by making his wife Marta Linares de Martinelli the running mate of Jose Domingo Arias.

The President of the Republic, after learning about the publication of the article, did not hesitate to respond via his Twitter account, where he linked Jimmy Papdimitriu, his former Minister of the Presidency, with the reporter for the Wall Street Journal who wrote the article.

"This same WSJ reporter interviewed me once because she was a close friend of Jimmy Papdimitriu, who now advises Varela," said the president in his twitter account.

The article says Martinelli at the start of his administration did not have control of the National Assembly, and later he was able to obtain control.

"Since taking office in 2009, Mr. Martinelli has nearly doubled the national debt to almost $20 billion. His CD party won only 14 out of 71 seats in the last election, but it has since acquired 23 additional legislators from other parties. Four other legislators have joined in a governing coalition" says the article.

(Snip) (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: The rest of this article - the part I cut out - was just a translation of the Wall Street Journal article, which I currently have up in the original English.

It's interesting that Jimmy Papadimitriu is now working for the Varela campaign. He also got fired by Martinelli, because of the Juan Hombron and Paitilla land scandals.

Anyway, it's a busy day today for Panamanian politics. First the article in the Diario Las Americas about Varela, countered by this publication in the Wall Street Journal. The difference was - in one the FBI was arresting people, seizing accounts, and busting people for money laundering the illegal proceeds from illegal gambling, and Varela was using that money to finance his campaign. However the Wall Street Journal article as a big "so what" feel to it. There's nothing new there, for people who regularly follow Panamanian politics. Martinelli is setting himself up to be a dictator. And? What's your point? I mean, didn't everyone know that already?

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Varela-Gate: "Two Main Sources: The US Justice Department and Panama's Financial Analysis Unit"

Politics

The journalist Sergio Otálora, of the Diario Las Americas, denied statements being made by Juan Carlos Varela, and he said the information from the investigation linking the candidate for the Panameñista political party to monies that are the proceeds from money laundering comes from the Justice Department of the United States, and from the Financial Analysis Unit of the government of Panama.

What's more, Otálora said both the DEA and FBI are participating in the continuing investigation.

This drags to the ground Varela's attempts to link the campaign of Jose Domingo Arias and the Democratic Change political party to the investigation.

The reporter who works for the American newspaper Diario Las Americas also denied having any sort of contact or ties with the Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli.

"Not at all. We have no contact with President Martinelli. We have no relationship with him ," replied Otálora, the author of the article, when questioned about alleged links with the Panamanian leader. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Watch carefully how the different news media outlets cover this story in Panama. Obviously, the pro-government Panama America is going to be gleefully dancing around the flagpole, as they continue to pour as much gasoline as possible on the flaming Varela campaign. Today the channel 2 TVN news report basically let Varela talk and talk and talk and talk - without really pressing him about the allegations. They gave him a platform to "poo poo" the reports, to his heart's content. There's going to be a lot of reports on this story in the next three weeks, from all sides...

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Blowing Up Now - Was Juan Carlos Varela's Campaign Financed By Proceeds From Illegal Online Gambling?

PoliticsBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - Here's the story in a nutshell. On 10 April several people were arrested in Florida, New York and other locations, charged with being part of an Internet sports gambling operation.

Then today a Spanish language newspaper published in Miami called the "Diario Las Americas" printed an article directly implicating the presidential candidate for the Panameñista political party Juan Carlos Varela, as having received those funds, laundered through 26 Panamanian bank accounts, and used to finance his political campaign.

The source of information for these reports is the "Financial Analysis Unit" of the government of Panama, which falls under the control of the Executive branch and president Ricardo Martinelli.

These are the sorts of unexpected political bombs one can expect in Panamanian politics, now less than three weeks before the upcoming general elections on 4 May. This story ranks right up there with the "bribes" paid by David Murcia to Balbina Herrera and Bobby Velasquez, in the run-up to the elections in May 2009. Notice the similarities?

I expect the political operatives working for Ricardo Martinelli have been setting this up for a very long time, and the FBI pulled the trigger for them on 10 April.

In doing the political math, anyone who abandons Juan Carlos Varela as their candidate of choice is more likely to migrate towards Jose Domingo Arias and the CD, as opposed to Juan Carlos Navarro and the PRD.

I'm going to put up all of the associated articles and supporting documents from all sources, so you can make up your own mind. Of course, Juan Carlos Varela will deny, deny, deny - no matter the truth. I'm sure the CD will now spend a lot of time piling more information onto the smoking pile, and what used to be Varela's campaign will turn into a nice bonfire.

Did I mention that Ricardo Martinelli now hates Varela, his branch of the Panameñistas, and the support he's getting from I. Roberto Eisenmann and the La Prensa newspaper? He's going to find every way do to do as much damage to them as possible. You can count on it.

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"They Were Going To Give Me A Fatal Blow" - Pinilla

PoliticsThe President of the Electoral Tribunal judge Erasmo Pinilla reported a new attack against him.

He said now they are attempting to question his suitability as a lawyer, a profession he has practiced for 40 years.

In his view, someone should determine why they "have that attitude."

Pinilla was referring to the request made ​​last Thursday by Javier Alexis Bosso Campbell, at the General Secretariat of the University of Panama, with the idea of certifying if judge Pinilla actually graduated from the Faculty of Law and Political Science at the university.

"At first I was told that on the 15th (of April) I was going to be given a fatal blow, and it seems like they moved it up," said the judge in Chiriquí.

He thinks this is a serious problem because (the people who are doing this) seek to affect the institutions of the Electoral Court a few days before the election.

"The Panamanian (person) should think about why they want to do this," he questioned.

He then quoted a line from a Chinese philosopher: "The ruin of the puppeteer is measured by the insolence and the ability of the puppets."

He added: "Here it seems there are people who pay for everything, and there are those who are getting paid. One has to think who is the puppeteer."

He called upon the Panamanian people to ponder things.

At the same time , he said he was not going to respond to this issue, but he was forced to because "my conclusion is that they are using this to distract public opinion, to divert public opinion from more serious matters."

Maribel Jaén, of the Commission for Justice and Peace, said this new action is "very dangerous" just 22 days before the election, and especially because it's going against the institution that will be the arbitrator for the upcoming electoral contest.

"Definitely weakening the arbiter of the electoral process is a very dangerous prelude, so that the population does not trust the election results, because as we all know, the vote count and the electoral process are done through the joint committees at the table," she said.

She warned these attacks threaten the 25-year period of electoral procedures, since the end of the period of military dictatorship.

"I appeal to the highest levels, to generate confidence in the Electoral Tribunal," she said.

According to the former Electoral Tribunal magistrate Guillermo Márquez Amado, there are people who are voluntarily acting out a sort of "sick pleasure" on behalf of the sitting government, so that Pinillia is not sitting on the bench.

According to Amado Marquez, they are trying to find anything that might serve as an excuse to disqualify him, "something which they should have tried to do a long time ago, and not at this moment in time when the entire State is committed to the electoral process."

All of this, he said, makes the general public have doubts about the ability of the members of Electoral Tribunal.

Meanwhile, the former Electoral Tribunal judge and now Vice Presidential candidate for the opposition Partido Revolucionario Democratico (PRD) political party Gerardo Solis, said the criticism and attacks against the Electoral Tribunal show that the government is desperate.

The National Assembly Deputy from the Panameñista political party Luis Eduardo Quirós thinks this is a "coup" aimed at the institutionalization of the Electoral Tribunal.

He said putting Pinilla's qualifications in doubt "is like looking for the fifth leg on a cat."

MICI Admits Taking Data From The Electoral Tribunal

The Ministry of Trade and Industry yesterday denied having deliberately stolen information from the database guarded by the Electoral Tribunal, which was later used as part of a website backing the campaign of Jose Domingo Arias.

What happened, according to the ministry, is that there was an "attack" on their computers.

The product of this attack - according to the MICI - was "they made 33,000 visits in a short period of time on September 16, 2011 which can only be possible through a virulent program."

The MICI said they are cooperating with the investigation being carried out by the Electoral Tribunal.

The Electoral Tribunal has filed a complaint over the theft of the data. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Hearing the PRD and Panameñistas complain about what the CD is trying to pull on Pinilla just sort of sticks in my throat - especially anything said by Gerardo Solis. The PRD set the (low) standard of manipulating the Electoral Tribunal, through Solis and Pinilla. So now this is nothing more than a "right back at you, bitch" campaign.

And the whole thing about "who is the puppeteer" and all that? Pinilla can't come right out and directly accuse Ricardo Martinelli of anything. That would make him look like he's less than neutral. In fact, he is less than neutral. He's a PRD lap-dog and has been for years.

I agree with Amado's assessment, that this most recent action against Pinilla was more timed to get headlines, and put put Pinilla's credibility in question. If they actually had any solid information against Pinilla, they would have used it years ago to have him removed from the bench. By waiting until just three weeks before the election, they don't think they will actually be able to have him removed, so they simply want to weaken the Electoral Tribunal as much as possible going into the election.

The fact of the matter remains - the PRD controls the Electoral Tribunal - and anything Ricardo Martinelli does not control makes him nervous. He can't take it over, so he's doing whatever he can instead.

And the Panameñista quote? He's a Panameñista and his "fifth leg" quote is just, well, dumb.

Solis? He was a hard-core PRD operative the entire time he served as the Electoral Prosecutor, then as a judge on the Electoral Tribunal, and finally as the President of the Electoral Tribunal. He manipulated the Electoral Tribunal and every decision so that it favored the PRD as much as humanly possible. And what was his reward? Now he's running as the Vice Presidential candidate with Juan Carlos Navarro. The CD is not desperate, they are leading in every poll, have been for months, and are pulling away. In fact the PRD ticket has been losing ground, and Varela has been approaching them and is now in a position to challenge for second place - precisely because the PRD put Solis on the ticket. He is not widely liked or popular, except in his own brain.

So both the PRD and Panameñistas continue to self destruct. Pinilla will of course remain on the Electoral Tribunal through this election. After Arias wins then he will be appointing the two new judges who are currently PRD (the CD has one) - and that will give them a three-man control of this institution as well. When Arias leaves office, all nine of the Supreme Court justices will also be CD appointed.

So who's desperate, Solis? The PRD is the most desperate, by far. Dissident Panameñistas can migrate to the MOLIRENA, or take up with a splinter element such as that lead by former presiden Mireya Moscoso. But rabid PRD lap-dogs like Solis and Pinilla have seen their best days, way far away, and behind them. The future's not so bright for those dudes.

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"A Person Who Steals Credit For A Project Is Capable Of Stealing Anything, From Anyone" - Martinelli

PoliticsThe President of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli expressed his discomfort with statements made by the candidate of the Panameñista political party Juan Carlos Varela, who said that if he wins the election he will continue to build the Metro subway project.

Martinelli said Varela refused to accept the position as the Director of the Metro, or to be the Minister of Social Development at the start of his administration, and since he refused the position when he now says he will "put the interests of the people first" then in fact he's "lying about everything."

"Varela campaigned against the expansion of the Panama Canal, and now he says he will put the people first. That's just another lie," wrote Martinelli.

Earlier Martinelli wrote via Twitter "whoever steals the credit for a project is capable of stealing anything from anyone. In politics I have never seen so many lies being told for (a project someone else can actually take credit for.)"

It should be pointed out that the presidential candidate from the Panmeñista political party Juan Carlos Varela has taken credit for many of the projects recently inaugurated by the administration of President Martinelli.  

Among them are the construction of the Panama Metro, the "120 for 70" social program, and the housing projects in Curundú, among others.  

Similarly, the presidential candidate of the opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) Juan Carlos Navarro said the idea of ​​building a subway came from their party. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Both Varela and Navarro know they're toast. They simply cannot compete with all of the stuff Martinelli has built. So, they are reduced to trying to claim credit for things they did not do themselves. In short, now at the end of the political campaign season and with the election date looming just 23 days away - they are getting desperate.

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Medcom (Channel 13 - Telemetro) Refuses To Air Controversial Political Advertisements

PoliticsFollowing the guidelines established in the Electoral Ethics Pact, Medcom informed all advertising agencies and political parties of its decision to refrain from transmitting - via channel 13 Telemetro and RPC TV - any political advertisements with content that is "clearly libelous" or which violates the spirit of the Pact.

Medcom quoted Articles 576, 577 and 578 of Chapter II of the Family Code, that deals with the disclosure of facts concerning the private or family life of a person, or the unauthorized use of a person's image, which requires the consent of the person.

In addition Medcom said they would comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act in this respect.

"The interest of Medcom is to enact democratic values ​that guarantee equitable use of social media." (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Interesting tactic. Telemetro (channel 13) and Medcom are basically PRD puppets. So, they don't want to air any more of the CD's political propaganda. In their eyes, they see themselves as basically helping the enemy defeat their boy, Juan Carlos Navarro.

So, they simply point to the Electoral Ethics Pact and decide not to air any more ads. Cute ploy.

Normally, the media would try to stay neutral, and if a candidate has a problem with any particular political advertisement, then it's up to them to complain to the Electoral Tribunal. But now by doing this, the CD finds themselves in the position of basically having to justify the ad, or to try to force Telemetro to air it.

I don't think I've seen this stunt before in Panama. It's coming down to the wire, so the gloves are coming off all around. If anyone has any ammo left in the shed, now is the time to pull it out...

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Quijano Steps Down From Ministry of Trade and Industry Position To Work On Arias' Campaign

PoliticsPanama's Minister of Trade and Industry Ricardo Quijano left office to take a month off, according to government spokesman Eduardo Camacho.

Zahadia Estela Barrera G. has been designated to replace him, from her previous position as the National Director of Mineral Resources.

Barrera's appointment as Minister of Commerce and Industry was made official on Wednesday by Decree No. 69, published in the Official Gazette, and which bears the signature of President Ricardo Martinelli.

Barrera was appointed to assume the position as of 9 April 2014, to replace Quijano. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: The fact that she was the National Director of Mineral Resources (Mining) is interesting. Panama is going to be seeing more than $6 billion in foreign direct investment in mining in the next few years, as the new copper mine is built. Quijano is spending his time helping the presidential campaign of Jose Domingo Arias, and he needed to get out of office in order to avoid "double dipping" - or working full time on an election campaign while simultaneously drawing a paycheck for running the MICI.

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Candidates Participated in Presidential Debate Last Night

PoliticsFor the first time the presidential candidates had the opportunity to discuss among themselves their proposals and ideas in a debate organized by the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama, dubbed "Country Agenda."

There was everything in the debate. Most of the people know all about the proposals of the various candidates thanks to the constant bombardment through the political ads appearing in the media. And there were accusations of corruption.

The friction occurred mainly among the opposition candidates Juan Carlos Navarro, Juan Carlos Varela and José Domingo Arias of the ruling CD political party.

In the two-hour presidential debate, held last night at the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce, the candidates spoke generally about the institutions of the country, food security, education, and public safety and security.

Arias avoided the most uncomfortable and thorny questions and promised more jumbo fairs.

Navarro talked about his plan to get tough on crime and closed his speech by asking for people to vote for him.

Varela reiterated his plan to lower the price of 22 basic food products.

López defended the right to unionize and called for a general wage increase.

Jované questioned the millions of dollars being spent on political advertising spending in the current election campaign. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Rote exercise. I doubt many people changed their minds on who they will vote for as a result of this debate.

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Arias Continues To Lead In New Polling Data

PoliticsThe presidential candidate for the ruling Democratic Change (CD) political party, José Domingo Arias, maintains his lead over the PRD and Panameñista candidates, according to the most recent polling data from Dichter & Neira, with 38%.

The poll taken last week shows the PRD candidate Juan Carlos Navarro in second place with 31%.

The Panameñista candidate Juan Carlos Varela remains in third place at 29%.

Comparing this week's data to the prior week, Arias increased by 1%, improving from 37% to 38%.

Navarro dropped 1%, from 32% last week to 31%.

Varela climbed 3%, improving from 26% to 29%. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: The polling data really has not changed in months, and all of the polls are basically consistent. Arias will win, Navarro will come in second, and Varela will come in third. The "also ran" independent candidates won't matter. I predict that during the actual election, about 7% to 10% will "break" for Arias in the only poll that really matters. I think he will end up with that many points above whatever the final poll taken before the election says. And, that's exactly what happened to Martinelli. The final poll put Martinelli at 50%, and on election day he got 60%. I expect a repeat of that voter behavior in this election.

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Electoral Prosecutor Files A Complaint Saying His Privacy Has Been Violated

PoliticsAt 11:00 am the Electoral Prosecutor Eduardo Peñaloza, who remained anonymous, appeared before the Attorney General to request an investigation into the alleged violation of his privacy and that of his two adult children, through articles published in the La Prensa and Mi Diario newspapers.

Penaloza based his request on Article 29 of the Constitution of the Republic, which states: "private correspondence and other documents are inviolable and can not be examined or retained, except by order of a competent authority for specific purposes, in accordance with the legal formalities. In all cases, absolute secrecy about matters outside the purpose of examination or retention" is saved.

The prosecutor cited the article entitled "Official Data For The Campaign" published in the February 3 edition of the La Prensa newspaper, which reports that the ruling Democratic Change (CD) political party created a database for the presidential campaign of their candidate José Domingo Arias, which can be used to access information regarding the family members, work, and political affiliations of any Panamanian.

Precisely in this database it shows that the wife and two children of the Electoral Prosecutor are members of the CD political party, and that they are currently government employees.

Another article mentioned by Penaloza was published in yesterday's edition of Mi Diaro, "Es Un Fantasma" (He's A Ghost), in which various sources questioned his productivity, compared to the $10,000 he is paid monthly as the Electoral Prosecutor.

According to Penaloza, information regarding his children and family is revealed in these articles, placing their lives and safety at risk.

"My sons have been monitored, they have been followed; what's more, a few nights ago they were approached by a stranger at the university, so we are asking the Attorney General to investigate the people who are responsible," he added.

He filed his complaint against whoever obtained the information and revealed it without his permission. (La Prensa)

Editor's Comment: The fact of the matter remains - that the Electoral Prosecutor Eduardo Peñaloza and his family are die hard Cambio Democratico members. That's why La Prensa published the information, because they are trying to say Martinelli has Peñaloza in his back pocket, and he does. Now, his lawsuit is ironic, because an investigation will probably conclude that the data and details regarding his family members is contained in the very same controversial database created by the CD, probably using data provided to them by Peñaloza himself. Things get goofy in the last couple of weeks before a big election in Panama.

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Two Constitutional Challenges Filed In The Supreme Court Against First Lady's VP Nomination

PoliticsTwo constitutional challenges were filed yesterday against the nomination of the first lady, Marta Martinelli, the wife of the current president, as the Vice Presidential candidate of the ruling alliance between the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement (MOLIRENA) political party and Democratic Change (CD).

The first action was filed with the Supreme Court of by Raul Figueroa , who is an architect and a former member of the now defunct Christian Democratic Party.

In his complaint Figueroa asks the Supreme Court to review the nomination and to "declare unconstitutional, on the merits" the resolution issued by the National Office of Electoral Organization of the Electoral Tribunal, which approved the candidacy of Marta de Martinelli - who was nominated by MOLIRENA - as the running mate of Jose Domingo Arias.

The suit is based on Article 193 of the Constitution, paragraph five. The rule states: "One cannot be elected as Vice President of the Republic (...) relatives within the fourth degree of consanguinity or second degree of affinity to the president of the Republic, for the period following that in which the President of the Republic has exercised the office."

Figueroa believes the first lady is unable to aspire to the vice presidency during the five-year period between 2014 and 2019.

According to the constitutional provision, Figueroa maintains, there exists a group of people who, because of their condition as being close family members of the sitting president, cannot be elected to the Vice Presidency.

So therefore "he will be impeded from being able to continue to exercise power through the family member who, at the presidency of the Republic, is ending his term."

The complaint says that although the Family Code does not establish relationship between spouses, ie the president and first lady, "they are family and she is the closest kin to the President."

He argues is the complaint that the nomination of Ricardo Martinelli's spouse as the Vice Presidential candidate has political undertones. Specifically, there is the intention of continuing Martinelli in power.

Figueroa says the Constitution establishes a fixed period that the President will be in office. "The time for which he is elected, he cannot adjust to his desire or whim. This time is unchanged," he said.

The existence of this unchangeable time period allows for "the alternation ( ... ) and so that this effect is effective it has been established that (the members) of the President's family group are not eligible to be chosen for such an important office (as the presidency) or the or vice president."

THE OTHER CLAIM

Yesterday afternoon a second lawsuit on the same legal context driven Figueroa was presented, but in reference to the vice presidential candidacy of the first lady, Marta Martinelli, of the Democratic Change Party (CD).

The plaintiff was the former Minister of Finance during the administration of Guillermo Endara (1989-1994) founder of the party and former member MOLIRENA, Mario Galindo.

Yesterday the first case filed against the decision issued by the National Electoral Organization was assigned to judge Oydén Ortega Durán.

If the case is admitted by the judge rapporteur, it will be sent to the office of the Attorned General and the Prosecutor for Administration, so they can issue their opinions.

Then he will write a draft ruling to be circulated among the other eight judges of the Full Supreme Court. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Martinelli appointed the Attorney General and a majority of the sitting judges of the Supreme Court. They have already played this out, and of course they did their legal and constitutional homework even before they decided to nominate the First Lady as Jose Domingo Arias' running mate. It's legal and constitutional. Martinelli found a loophole and now he's exploiting it. If he didn't control the Attorney General's office and the Supreme Court, they would decide against him and throw out the nomination. However he did appoint them (and, this is Panama...) so they will decide in his favor and allow her to remain on the ticket.

The PRD, Panameñistas, Figueroa, and Mario Galindo all know this as well. They fired off their complaints yesterday - with just one month before the election - because they know it will take all of the time that's left for the cases to make their way through the system. This issue will now be in the news until the election, so they are trying to score as many political points against Martinelli and the CD as possible, even though they already know they have no chance of actually winning the case. It's about headlines and votes at this point...

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Varela Says The Government Is On "Auto Pilot"

PoliticsIt seems that for the moment in the country, the government is adrift and lacking in authority. Both the President of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli, and most of his ministers, out campaigning, denounced yesterday the opposition candidate Juan Carlos Varela.

He says they are using the time and state resources to favor the CD's candidate, Jose Domingo Arias.

According to Varela, many senior government officials are neglecting their duties to devote themselves to the political campaign.

He said "this has to stop" and the ministers should return to attend to the issues that concern them, because the country cannot stop due to an electoral process.

Varela complained that the President, his ministers, and other government officials have been seen during working hours participating in official government ceremonies which turn into political activities, and they also go to the news media to participate in debates and interviews with political purposes, while sending out messages on the social networks.

Varela said all of these issues should be investigated by the Electoral Prosecutor, but he does not act, allowing it to keep happening.

Varela spoke about the murder of journalist Ramón ‘Monchi’ Cano, in Chiriquí which he says is a sign that the security officials are not working properly.

Varela says you can not measure the issue of national security on the basis of the amount of drugs that have been seized, from international drug traffickers who have a product destined for other nations, while leaving the safety in the neighborhoods to one side.

Varela says everything shows there is no comprehensive security policy that allows citizens to feel confident even in their own homes, and even if they are in the interior of the country, where people felt safe before. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: Varela is a hypocrite for giving this speech during a weekday, during office hours, when he's supposed to be fulfilling his duties as the Vice President of the Republic. Also, Varela apparently has not looked at the statistics for the homicide rate per 100,000 in Panama. It's been dropping every year since Martinelli took over. Starting with a low of 9.7 in 2004 - murders in Panama spiked under the PRD administration of Martin Torrijos to a peak of 22.9 in 2009. Since then, the rate as come down every year, to 21.1 in 2010, 19.3 in 2011, and 18.9 in 2012 (last data available).

The US Department of State issued a report which said "Violent crime started to rise in 2007 and topped 800 murders in 2009. However, efforts by Panama’s National Police (PNP) to combat this trend appear to have made an impact. In 2010, the number of homicides declined to 759. This number was maintained in 2011, and there was a further decline in 2012 with a total of 665 recorded homicides. This puts the homicide rate at 18.0 per 100,000 inhabitants for 2012."

Compare Panama's 18 to Belize at 44.3 murders per 100K in 2012, El Salvador at 42.4, Guatemala at 34.3, and Honduras at a whopping 85.5 - and it seems like a relative safe haven in the drug murder crazed rest of Central America. The difference is Panama has the money to spend to fight crime, much more than most of their neighbors. If you think things are bad in Panama, you have no idea what it's like in Guatemala or Honduras where there are sometimes a dozen murders per day.

Varela is pandering to the voters, trying to take advantage of the murder of a journalist to scrape up a few more votes. It won't work. He's still got third place all to himself. People show up at his political rallies just to get a few free t-shirts...

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"Varela Didn't Resign Because He Saw Irregularities, He Was Fired" - Henríquez

PoliticsWhile speaking about the Valter Lavitola case, the Minister of the Presidency Roberto Henriquez said they (the news media) is judging a person and some Panamanian government officials who have not been accused in Italy, and although the possibility exists they might be called to testify, it is hoped when it is proven otherwise, the news media outlets that have claimed this linkage will be man enough to say "we were wrong."

He said the presidential candidate of the Panameñista party Juan Carlos Varela was in the middle of the negotiations between Panama and Finmeccanica the entire time.

He said the entire process was managed by the Minister of Economy and Finance at the time, Alberto Vallarino, who is also a prominent member of the Panameñista political party.

Henriquez advised Varela, that if he has any doubts about how the negotiations went down, all he has to do is pick up the telephone.

"Varela did not resign from his position because he saw irregularities. Rather, he was fired by the President because was not doing the job he was given. He was the President of his political party, Vice President of the Republic, and the Chancellor - and the President did not feel supported."

Henriquez added they tried to find a way for the former Minister of Housing Carlos Dubois and Alberto Vallarino to remain in their posts, however Varela pressured them to leave.

Politically Motivated Protests

About the protests that have occurred in the recent weeks in the country, Henriquez said they have been sponsored by opposition politicians.

He said the SUNTRACS leader was a candidate for the position of Representative for his town for the PRD political party and he lost.

He said the protests by the squatters from Arraiján are being supported by an independent candidate for Mayor, and the teachers are against having their raises tied to a self evaluation process. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Sort of dancing the tightrope in this one. In fact Martinelli fired Varela because he was the one who was right in the middle of the whole Finmeccanica scandal. When it all blew up in Italy, Martinelli blamed Varela for the whole thing and threw him out. However at the same time (according to Henriquez) Alberto Vallarino was also supposedly playing a big role. They tried hard at the time to keep Vallarino as the Minister of Economy and Finance, but he eventually decided to leave. The CD wants to pick up as many Panameñista votes as possible, which is why they are sucking up in public to guys like Dubois and Vallarino, while trying to set Varela on fire. There are a great many Panameñista party members who are disenfranchised with Varela, who the CD thinks they can woo for the elections on May 4th. So Varela sucks, but the rest of you Panameñista guys aren't so bad. Got it...

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Electoral Tribunal Responds To Communication Secretary

PoliticsIn response to the government's Communication Secretary Luis Eduardo Camacho, the Electoral Tribunal listed the laws that support the creation of the Identity Verification Service, which has been plagiarized on a website supporting the presidential campaign of José Domingo Arias, of the Democratic Change political party.

"The Identity Verification Service will be provided solely to verify the identity of people who have a 'cedula' of personal identity, so its use for other personal goals or purposes is prohibited, and only that information and data which appears on the personal identification 'cedula' can be accessed," said Article 1 of Decree 15 of 2013.

Camacho 's request comes after the Electoral Tribunal filed a complaint before the Attorney General with charges of plagiarism of the Identity Verification System and other information contained in their database, for use in a website supporting Arias which shows the political afiliation, social, and employment status of all Panamanian citizens, their relatives, and acquaintances.

The Electoral Tribunal said all of the income received by the service from 2002 to 2013 totaled $2.4 million.

According to documents filed by the Electoral Tribunal, 49 public institutions use this system, while in the private sector 101 companies have access to the information, including the company Importadora Ricamar, owned by the family of the president Ricardo Martinelli, and who acquired access to this service in 2009.

The Attorney General Ana Belfon said her first action in this case would be to analyze the laws that underpin the Identity Verification Service. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: There are now 38 days to go before the presidential election to be held on 4 May 2014. You can bet the entire legal and judicial system - including the Attorney General's office - won't be doing a damn thing related to any of these cases until after the election. When Belfon said "we're going to analyze that" what she was really saying was "don't hold your breath." After Arias wins, Belfon (who was appointed by Martinelli) will sweep the whole thing under the rug, and they will forget about it. Arias will be appointing the new judges to sit on the Electoral Tribunal so they will complete their takeover of the government. The only reason this has become a problem is because two of the three judges on the Electoral Tribunal were appointed by the PRD's Martin Torrijos, so they are making as much noise and trouble for Martinelli as they can. The Electoral Tribunal is one of the last few remaining bastions or centers of political power that Martinelli and the CD have not successfully taken over. And of course that will change once Arias wins.

These are some of the reasons why I've been predicting the CD is poised to not only win reelection this year, but they are in fact positioned to retain control of the government of Panama for decades. You have to "repeat" in office to completely dominate things like the Electoral Tribunal, the Supreme Court, and many of the appointed positions that have seven or ten year terms of office. These things - in addition to a prohibition on reelection - were set up to prevent another dictator (like Noriega) from taking control of Panama. Ironically, Martinelli is now poised to pull it off, and he put himself in this position (ironically enough) by doing a really good job of building stuff. Anyway, a campaign slogan of "stick with the CD one more time in 2054" might not been too far-fetched, as Martinelli's grandson Kim Jong Martinelli takes control of the country...

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CD's Arias Leads All Polls in Panama's Presidential Campaign

PoliticsPromising to continue on the path started by the administration of president Ricardo Martinelli (who enjoys a 60% approval rating) has allowed the candidate of the ruing Democratic Change political party José Domingo Arias to lead all polls of likely voters, now with five weeks to go before the upcoming general national elections on 4 May 2014.

Speaking on behalf of the current administration, the Interior Minister, Jorge Ricardo Fabrega, was satisfied with the results of all surveys that show Arias in first place.

The same polling data also agrees PRD candidate Juan Carlos Navarro is in second place, while the Panameñista candidate Juan Carlos Varela sits in third place.

Fabrega said "the data reflected in the polls confirms a trend that has been consolidating in recent months."

The politician made ​​a further prediction, saying "it is unlikely the voting intentions will vary" between now and the actual election.

In an interview with TVN, Fabrega also defended the manifest sympathy of the incumbent candidate President Martinelli .

Fabrega said neither the Constitution nor the Electoral Code of Panama prevents the president Ricardo Martinelli from expressing his support for a particular candidate, but he made it clear the president is prohibited from seeking reelection or from using government money to fund an election campaign, "which has not happened," he said

In conclusion, he said president Martinelli's real contribution to the campaign of José Domingo Arias has been his administration, which reflects an unprecedented "good standing" among the Panamanian people at the end of a president's term in office.

Actual Vote

The government's Communication Secretary Luis Eduardo Camacho was also discussing the latest polling data in the media on Tuesday.

In an interview with Telemetro, Camacho recognized the value of surveys as a scientific measurement taken at the moment, but he said "polls do not make presidents, voters do."

Therefore he stressed the importance actually turning out to vote on 4 May. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: I agree with Camacho's assessment. The only way Arias can lose is if the CD voters get complacent, thinking it's "in the bag" and they fail to actually go to vote. That's about the only possible scenario in which Navarro could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. But that's also note likely to happen. The CD's campaign organization has been based on a 10 to 1 strategy. Meaning, every single supporter is responsible for getting ten underlings to the polls.

I stand by the prediction I've been making since 30 August 2011. Arias wins, Navarro gets second, Varela gets third.

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No Change In Polling Data - Arias Still Firmly In The Lead

PoliticsAlthough recent history has shown that the winner of the presidential election would come from the ranks of the opposition political parties, this time it appears this trend will be broken in favor of the government's candidate, as reflected in the results of the weekly Dichter & Neira survey conducted for TVN.

The CD's candidate José Domingo Arias has remained stable at 39%, the same result as last week.

The same is true for the PRD candidate Juan Carlos Navarro, who remains firm in second place with 32%.

The Panameñista Juan Carlos Varela rose two points this week to 26%, although there is still a considerable distance between him and Arias, so it would seem that his chances are minimal.

Dichter & Neira noted in their poll that nothing has been defined yet, "but the consistency of the measurements is irrefutable."

They add that "the more firmly the opposition continues to deny this reality, the more difficult it will be for them to create effective strategies, they will be further away from triumph, and the post-election consequences will be even worse." (TVN)

Editor's Comment: 39 + 32 + 26 = 97% accounted for. I think when push comes to shove on election day, quite a few of those who are now willing to say "sure, I'm going to vote for Varela" will actually throw their vote to Arias when it matters. The polling at this point in time for Martinelli five years ago was exactly ten points low. They had him polling at 50% but he actually scored 60% in the election. I'm betting Arias will actually come in just over 50% during the election. He will win, and he will get more than 39% of the vote. The only real sliding point in my brain is exactly how many will depart from Varela and cast their vote for Arias, when it matters. Whatever, it doesn't matter at this point. The PRD numbers are solid - they used to be able to count on 35% but Martinelli has gleaned many of their numbers, and converted a lot of old PRD die-hards to new born CD believers. Remember, these are the same people who used to fall down and suck Noriega's pud when he was in charge. They are accustomed to following the money, honey...

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Martinelli Yanks Security Detail From Former President Torrijos

PoliticsFormer President Martin Torrijos claimed the bodyguards from the Institutional Protection Service assigned to guard his house have been ordered to leave and not return.

Torrijos, touring the province of Chiriqui to support the candidacy of Juan Carlos Navarro, made the report, and blaming whatever might happen to him or his family on President Ricardo Martinelli.

Torrijos said this action comes as retaliation for statements he made on ​​Tuesday by several PRD party members regarding the Lavítola case.

The organic law of the SPI (as amended in 2008, when Torrijos was President) states in Article 3, paragraph c: ... "To provide the security necessary to protect the life and physical integrity of each of the former presidents of the Republic, who choose up to twelve members of the institution for this purpose, under the provisions of Act 55 of 1996. This amount will increase depending on the household or when circumstances so warrant." (TVN)

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CD and Electoral Tribunal Clash Over Electoral Role Database Scandal

PoliticsSpokesmen for the ruling Democratic Change political party insist that the database being used by their presidential candidate José Domingo Arias to attract voters was created using data provided to them by the Electoral Tribunal.

"It comes from the electoral roll administered by the Electoral Tribunal at the request of all political parties, and we have even seen in the news how they even rent the data to private companies and institutions," said the Minister of the Presidency Roberto Henriquez on Telemetro yesterday.

Electoral Tribunal judge Erasmo Pinilla explained that while the institution does provide some information to certain companies, information regarding political affiliations and family trees, which appears on the Arias website, is restricted. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: And, there you have it. The Electoral Tribunal made the database available to the Cambio Democratico party, and they used it. Yesterday when questioned about this issue, president Martinelli said simply "we got the information from the Electoral Tribunal, so they should investigate themselves." So maybe the information regarding political affiliations and family tree data was supposed to be restricted, the Electoral Tribunal apparently let the cat out of the bag. This scandal is over a website created by people who are supporting the election campaign of the CD's Jose Domingo Arias. They can log on to a website to view information on practically any Panamanian by using their cedula number. It shows political party registration, date of birth, address, and "family tree" information such as sons, daughters, wives, brothers and sisters, etc. By having all of this information at their fingertips, supporters can "target" specific individuals in small areas or groups, who they think can most likely be convinced to vote for their guy. And of course that "convincing" will include underhanded elements of coercion - like "we will fire your son if you don't vote for..." - stuff like that. Martinelli plays hardball politics, and he's going to win in May.

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"Gerardo Solis Is A Promoter of Dirty Campaigns" - Martinelli

PoliticsPresident Ricardo Martinelli blamed the former Electoral Tribunal judge Gerardo Solis, who is currently running for Vice President on the PRD ticket, for being a promoter of dirty political campaigns.

In fact , the president released a photo of Solis with other people, and he said the person wearing glasses is Luciano Yanes "who is responsible for the political ad about the money."

The president reacted after the Electoral Tribunal ordered the cancellation of political ad being used by the PRD to attack the Vice Presidential candidate of the of the Democratic Change political party, showing a $1 dollar coin known in the country as a "Martinelli" - while making reference to a supposed under cover reelection bid.

In the propaganda, the coin had the faces of the current president, Ricardo Martinelli, of his wife Marta Martinelli who is the Vice Presidential candidate for the CD, and the CD's presidential candidate Jose Domingo Arias - and the ad said "no matter what side the coin falls on" the result is a "Martinelli" - implying that if Arias wins the election, it would still be Ricardo Martinelli who will be giving the orders in the Presidency.

Through Chamber Agreement 23-1, it was determined the political ad does not have an interest justified in the common good of the electoral process ending on 4 May, as established by Decree 14 of August 16, 2012.

The Electoral Tribunal also ordered the cancellation of the registration and the authorization by the Association for the Development of Ecotourism of Ubigandupu to buy political propaganda, and it instructs the media to adopt the corresponding measures.

The agreement said the authorization given to the Association for the Development of Ecotourism of Ubigandupu was intended to promote increased participation in the electoral process among the indigenous community in Panama.  

President Martinelli reacted immediately to the news of the suspension of the political attack ad through his Twitter account, saying "It should be noted that no one in the Cambio Democratico party asked them to remove the ad about the money. As we have said, the attacks from the opposition make us stronger."

Even further, president Martinelli said "taking down" a political ad - even though it was going against him - is an attack on freedom of expression anywhere in the world. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: I don't like this power the Electoral Tribunal has in Panama, to be able to shut down political attack ads because it's supposedly not "for the common good." What the hell does that mean? The underlying fundamental issues in the ad are true. Martinelli is the president today. His wife is running to be the Vice President. And Jose Domingo Arias is obviously a "keep the CD train going" candidate, who is actively campaigning on a "more of the same" campaign. Clearly, if the Panamanian people decide to elect Jose Domingo Arias, it's because they are happy with the job Martinelli has done. So what? The ad is right. And, Martinelli is smart enough to recognize that the ad does, in fact, help them. The CD is campaigning on exactly that strategy. The CD is saying "we've done more in the past five years than all previous administrations have done in the past 40 years." They are bragging about their accomplishments, and they are proud of them. I personally think the Electoral Tribunal screwed up big-time by stepping in to shut down this particular ad. There was nothing in it that wasn't true, so what's the problem? Yeah, it bugs me...

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Varela Denies Rumors Saying He's Going To Quit The Race

PoliticsRumors have been spreading this morning, Thursday, March 13 about the possible resignation of the Panameñista candidate for president of the Republic Juan Carlos Varela.

The news spread like wildfire in the social networks.

However political analyst Miguel Antonio Bernal dismissed the rumors and said they are being driven by the government to hurt the opposition political parties.

According to Bernal, it's an old practice that becomes fashionable during all of the electoral contests, and he thinks that the only candidate who's "going down" is José Domingo Arias.

On the topic, the candidate Juan Carlos Varela wrote a message on his Twitter account in which he downplayed the rumors, and he said he does not care about the falsehoods that arise against them.

"We do not care about the rumors, the lies, the falsehoods against us; our concern are the problems of the people of #Panama," he wrote.

In a second message he wrote "attacks on my wife, Isabel. False rumors. It's the same circle 0 of Arias and Navarro who are desperate for my proposal of Price Controls." (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: The only person in Panama who apparently has not figured out that he's not going to win in May is Juan Carlos Varela. And no, Arias and Navarro are not "desperate" for anything Varela can come up with. We are witnessing the end of a political career, whether or not Varela quits the race (he won't quit, and the rumors are false.) Varela will stick it out, he will lose, and then he will slowly but surely fall off of the political landscape. Remember Jose Miguel Aleman? No? That's where Varela will be in about ten years - forgotten.

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PRD activists detained by PN while conducting leafleting

PoliticsA group of activists of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), were arrested Wednesday afternoon by units of the National Police.

According to a statement released by the Public Relations office of the PRD, the activists were only doing a leafleting in the area of ​​Boca La Caja.

They were directed to the sub station of the National Police in San Francisco.

The activists arrested were Iván Mcklao and David Ramírez.

Javier “Patacón” Ortega - who is a PRD candidate for National Assembly Deputy and Representative - went to the scene. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: The channel 13 Telemetro news broadcast is solidly in the PRD camp, so who knows what really happened or why the police officers felt the need to arrest these two guys...

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Moscoso Doesn't Fear Panameñista Reprisals

PoliticsThe former president Mireya Moscoso said she does not fear possible disciplinary proceedings that will be opened internal to the Panameñista political party, after she openly announced her support for the Cambio Democratico candidate José Domingo Arias.

Moscoso met this afternoon with some of her former collaborators. She was apparently seeking additional support for Arias.

Among those at the meeting were the former Minister of Education Doris Rosas de Mata, the former Health Minister Fernando Gracia, and the former Minister of Economy and Finance Norberto Delgado, among others. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: Moscoso can still gather together a handful of votes and political supporters. I'm sure all of the people who attended this meeting held in public were already planning to support Arias anyway - but by showing up with Moscoso they place themselves on her "team" as it were. And it doesn't matter what the leadership of the Panameñista party thinks about Moscoso. The party's candidate Juan Carlos Varela is the party President, and obviously he's going to be pissed off by Moscoso's move. In reality she's just hitting him with some payback for his earlier maneuvers to take control of the party. Varela is not going to win, and the Panameñista party is pretty much "deader'n Arnulfo" anyway - so who cares? All of the really smart Panameñistas left a long time ago, anyway. They are now waving either CD or MOLIRENA flags...

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The Mystical, Magical 50 Days Prior To A Panamanian National Election

PoliticsBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - We're coming down to the wire, folks. You can expect basically anything to happen between now and the next Panamanian general election, to be held on 4 May.

With just a little more than 50 days to go, this is the moment in time where it no longer makes any sense to hold fire, on anything.

Panamanian politicians tend to find out very interesting things about their opponents and then hold on to that information, to be used as ammunition against them, when the moment is right.

This makes for some great fireworks when it matters the most.

Remember the scandal over allegations of payments made to Balbina Herrera by David Murcia? That came up right at the tail end of the 2009 campaign, and it almost certainly took votes away from Herrera and gave them to Martinelli.

You can almost hear the rumble of the engines starting up, as everyone sees the calendar clicking off the days towards May 4th. Or maybe it's more like the sound of fuses being lit for a gigantic fireworks display...

There are a couple of things I've been waiting to see in the press - which I've known about for a very long time - and quite frankly I'm sort of surprised they have not surfaced yet.

Most of these are particularly juicy tidbits to be used against members of the Panameñista party who are running as opposition candidates. And I mean, stuff that could result in arrest warrants and screaming front-page headlines that can't be ignored. The CD and Ricardo Martinelli have been gathering their ammunition for a long time.

So I guess I would say you should expect the unexpected. There's a saying in Panamanian Spanish which goes "there are no surprises in politics, only the surprised."

I'll be surprised if the Arias doesn't win. I also expect Roxana Mendez will win the office of the Mayor of Panama City, and that the CD will win more than enough seats to retain complete control over the National Assembly. I think they will pick up important ground by winning some more Mayor positions around the country, as well as local Representatives to municipal councils.

But between now and May 4th anything can happen. None of it will be dangerous or anything like that, just mostly interesting to political junkies like me. Stay tuned...

Copyright 2014 Panama-Guide.com.

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Mireya Moscoso Will Campaign Together With The CD's Arias

PoliticsThe former president Mireya Moscoso has officially come out in support of José Domingo Arias, and did so with the blessing of the Nazarene of Atalaya.

Moscoso had previously announced she would reveal during the religious festival which candidate she would support during the upcoming election.

As a result, she was surrounded by the media early on, but she decided to delay her announcement until after the mass had concluded.

When the time finally came, she read three pages before taking questions.

"It has taken months to reach this decision, which I assume after hearing voices from all over the country. It is my conviction that only José Domingo Arias ensures we continue the path of progress we all want," were her first lines.

And she herself anticipating the obvious question - Why not support your party? - She continued her statement: "You have to understand the vision of Dr. Arnulfo Arias, which is the vision we share with true Panameñistas. Panama is first."

Later she said the former president (Arias) always told her the country's interests should come before personal or partisan interests.

"In keeping with these values, I met with José Domingo Arias to express the concerns I heard from Panamanians. He not only listened, but he shares those same aspirations," as she explained her support for the CD campaign.

Moscoso went a little further, encouraging Panameñistas to "accept that our contribution to Panama is to step back in order to support the best choice for our country."

Celebration

Although José Domingo Arias was not present when Moscoso made her statements, he celebrated this decision in statements made to Panama America.

Arias confirmed recent meetings with the former president in which they agreed - he said - with the vision of governing as close as possible to the people and to know their needs.

"With this formality, President Moscoso became part of our team, and we'll be traveling around the country," he said.

Another who expressed her satisfaction at Moscoso's decision was the former First Lady Ana Mae Diaz. "I, like her, I think José Domingo is the best option for the country," she said .

For the lawyer Ernesto Cedeño, the support from Mireya Moscoso is important for any politician because it has weight from a technical point of view.

Meanwhile, the Panameñista National Assembly Deputy Luis Eduardo Quirós said the former president Moscoso, as all Panamanians, has the complete freedom to choose to vote for whoever she wants in the upcoming elections, and her decision should be respected as a personal choice.

"The call to Panameñista party members is irrelevant, because the members of the Panameñista political party are very clear on who is their candidate, and what their opitions are," he said.

We tried to get a reaction from the Panameñista Party presidential candidate Juan Carlos Varela, but he merely stated: "I have no comment on that." (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Moscoso's announcement further torpedo's Juan Carlos Varela's chances, but in fact it's just one more stone around his neck. He already had zero chance of finishing any better than third place. Ana Mae's announcement that she is also supporting the CD and Arias will bring in a few old die-hard Endara supporters as well. Arias and the CD already have a solid alliance with the MOLIRENA party which came about shortly after their alliance with the Panameñistas fell apart.

Panamanian voters are savvy - and in Panama there are tangible benefits to supporting the "right" (winning) candidate during any election. Meaning, political activists who bring in blocks of votes are rewarded with jobs (where they get paid but they don't have to work), positions of authority, gifts, cash, favors, access, power, etc. Everyone knows who is who, who is on what team, who had what flag flying in their yard, etc. And most importantly, they all know who is going to win.

I'm a good political analyst but it doesn't take a genius to figure this one out. All of the PRD guys already know Navarro is not going to win - so they are trying to find ways to support the CD and Arias. Some of them have to answer to their father's or grandfathers who are die-hard, PRD tattoo wearing, Omar Torrijos loving dinosaurs. I bet there are conversations going on like "listen man, if my father knew I was telling you this he would disown me, but you know I really am supporting the CD and Arias, and so are all of my friends." In some cases there will be one color of political flag flying from the front of the house, but on election day the vote will go to the CD (clandestinely). Of course Varela will lose (get third place) and the Panameñistas will continue to lose power and clout as a political party, as will the PRD.

Listen, folks. In Panama political parties are very often formed around the nucleus of one strong political leader. Omar Torrijos created the PRD in order to lend some degree of legitimacy to his military dictatorship. Torrijos is dead. His son Martin already had a turn. So that party is now dying a natural death, as it moves further and further away from the glue that created it, and held it together. The same thing is true for the Panameñistas and Arnulfo Arias (who is also dead). His wife Mireya Moscos had her turn, and now that party is also dying a natural death. The CD is strong and growing thanks to the gravity of Ricardo Martinelli, and it's sucking up the bits and pieces of political chaff being discharged by the PRD and the Panameñistas. So my prediction is that the political star of the CD will continue to burn brightly, while the PRD and Panameñistas will slowly die and eventually wink out. This is the primary reason why I think the CD will remain in power for a good long time, and it will be awhile before a new charismatic political leader from whatever orientation arises to form his own party and launch a successful challenge. That challenge will not be coming from any of the old warhorses, such as Jovane for example. It will come from someone who is currently in the first grade, and who just learned how to tie their own shoes...

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Venezuela's Maduro Announces His Support For The PRD and Juan Carlos Navarro

PoliticsThe socio-political crisis in Venezuela and its respective international impact seems to be sneaking into the Panamanian presidential campaign.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced the termination of political and economic ties with Panama, and he took the opportunity to demonstrate his affinity with the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), whose presidential candidate is Juan Carlos Navarro.

After throwing all kinds of diatribes against Panama and his government, Maduro said Chavez "always supported Torrijos" and he named a building after General Omar Torrijos in one of the popular sectors in Caracas.

The Venezuelan president cut ties with Panama claiming a foreign "interference" in local politics.

However, just a few hours later, Maduro immersed himself in the same sorts of problems he was complaining about, intervening in the politics of another country by singing the praises of Torrijos and the PRD.

Panama is in the final stretch of an electoral campaign year and Maduro announced with great fanfare that he will not resume relations with Panama unless the country asks for forgiveness - or with another government, that according to his tastes would be the PRD, said a political analyst.

Contrary to many members of the opposition parties in Panama who have openly rejected Maduro's statements, the PRD and their candidate Navarro have maintained a cautious stance on the issue, and his statements have been "light" considering the seriousness of the matter.

Just so there is no doubt, the PRD leader and former Panamanian Ambassador to Cuba, Rafael Moreno Saavedra, instead of questioning Maduro, claimed that the position taken by Panama to elevate the Venezuela issue to the OAS was an "outburst" - and then he expanded with insults against President Ricardo Martinelli.

"I was shocked to hear a former ambassador who is said to be a member of the PRD party speaking incoherently about Panama's action before the OAS," said the lawyer Ernesto Cedeño via his Twitter account.

Another who has avoided addressing the issue of Venezuela and the insults being launched at Panama is the former president and International Socialist leader, Martin Torrijos.

Do not forget that in August 2004, Hugo Chavez froze relations with Panama after the then-President Mireya Moscoso pardoned Luis Posada Carriles, but then two weeks after the PRD and Torrijos took power, relations between the two countries were normalized.

Editor's Comment: This must be a big day of no surprises. Of course Venezuela is backing the PRD and Juan Carlos Navarro. Just like they backed the PRD and Balbina Herrera in the run-up to the 2009 election. See: Balbina Herrera's Campaign Financed By Hugo Chavez?. This is what Venezuela does. They have supported the winning candidates in Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Those countries then become their partners in drug trafficking. This play shows the difference between Chavez and Maduro. Chavez was smart enough to keep it under the table, while Maduro is apparently a political idiot. The PRD will lose, and he just openly confirmed what everyone already knew, anyway. He's not going to be changing anyone's vote in Panama - if anything the specter of a leftist commie dictator in Panama will send people running towards Arias. People still remember the 21 years of military dictatorship in Panama under Torrijos and Noriega very well, and they certainly don't want to return to anything like that. They will take their right-wing corrupt billionaire over their left-wing corrupt drug trafficker, any day. Don't you just love Latin American politics?

Fast Forward A Couple Of Months: "Panama's newly elected president Jose Domingo Arias announced Panama will be providing moral, political, and material support to the growing right-wing militant movement in Venezuela, trying to overthrow Maduro's increasingly isolated administration. Following months of protests and thousands of deaths, the UN and OAS finally passed resolutions condemning Maduro, and the unprecedented levels of violence and terror he has unleashed in an attempt to squash the rebel movement. Money and weapons from the United States are said to be flowing freely on ships from Panama to clandestine rebel outposts along the Caribbean coast..." Sound familiar? In Nicaragua, the name "Contra" came from "counter revolutionary." Meaning, they were the guys who were trying to overthrow the left wing revolutionary government of the Sandinistas. This sort of stuff isn't new in Latin America. Not by a long shot. In fact, the above paragraph - fiction today - might not be all that much of a reach.

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Mireya Moscoso Surprises No One - Throws Her Support Behind The CD and Arias

PoliticsThe former president of the republic and member of the opposition Panameñista political party, Mireya Moscoso, announced she would be supporting the candidate of the ruling Cambio Democratico political party José Domingo Arias during the upcoming general elections on 4 May.

Moscoso denied her decision was "political payback" against her party's presidential candidate Juan Carlos Varela. "For me, the past is in the past and I am not bitter," she said.  

She also said as the ceremonial "President for Life" of the Panameñista party, she has never been taken into account when Varela makes his decisions.

Moscoso described her title of "president for life" as an "old ruin."

She said she is not afraid of any reprisals her party might take against her as a result of her decision. She said she has received a lot of support from the members of the party.

She avoided talking about presidential candidate Juan Carlos Varela, simply saying "I'm not supporting him," but at the same time she did not have a message for him.

Editor's Comment: The message she had for Varela was "screw you." I hope absolutely no one who reads this website was surprised - at all - by Moscoso's announcement. She's been sucking up to Martinelli almost constantly since the alliance between the Panameñistas and the CD broke up in August 2011. She has appeared with him in public, and done all sorts of things to "signal" her support for the CD. So, no surprise here. Moscoso still has some followers, and she will now bring those votes with her to the polls on 4 May, further increasing the margin of victory for Arias. My prediction remains the same as it has been for years. Arias will win. The PRD and Navarro will come in second. Varela and the Panameñistas have third all locked up. And there will be a gaggle of "also rans" that no one will really care about. I know this. Everyone knows this. The only thing remaining to be done is to wait for the actual elections. The final poll will show Arias with about 45% of the vote, and then he will actually get somewhere between 50-55% on election day. This will be a continuation vote - the Panamanian people want the government to keep doing more of the same...

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Varela and Solis speak of a 'natural alliance'

PoliticsGerardo Solis, the Vice Presidential candidate for the PRD's Juan Carlos Navarro, and Juan Carlos Varela, the Presidential candidate for the Panameñista party, hinted at a "natural alliance" to defeat the ruling party in the elections.

"The people will vote for the person who has the option in the opposition. A natural alliance will occur from the Panamanian "juega vivo", which ultimately is popular wisdom," Solis said.

And Varela said "An alliance will happen ... without pressure. The people do not want this to continue."

Editor's Comment: Boy, are both of these guys wrong. First of all, it's important to note Varela is a Presidential candidate - so why is he having this sort of public conversation with Solis, who is a Vice Presidential candidate. Shouldn't Juan Carlos Navarro be making this sort of a statement? (Rhetorical question) Of course he should. But by not being involved in this conversation, Navarro can say "I never said that." What this really means is that Varela has figured out he has no chance of winning, so he's trying to suck up to the PRD, which is hilarious all by itself. The deadline for forming any sort of formal political alliance passed on 31 December 2013 - without an opposition alliance between the PRD and the Panameñistas. Arias, Navarro, and Varela will all appear on the ballot as their own separate candidates. Navarro and Varela are NOT in any sort of an opposition alliance - naturally occurring or otherwise. I think both Solis and Varela know they need each other, and without an alliance they are both dead in the water. That makes them desperate. And that's why we're reading this article. Late game silliness.

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Martinelli and Popi Varela Exchange Fire Via Tweets

PoliticsThere is no truce. President Ricardo Martinelli and Deputy Jose Luis "Popi" Varela have written another episode of their disputes.

Martinelli tweeted : "On July 1, 2014 the presidential terms of both the President and Vice President will end. I think both of us will not return in 2014."

That message seemed simple, but it was interpreted within the family of the Vice President Juan Carlos Varela, who is seeking to win the next election and to govern the country.

His brother, the National Assembly Deputy Jose Luis "Popi" Varela, responded via Twitter by saying "you will be going home, and the Vice President will be going to the Palace of the Herons. And he will certainly be improving the image which you have left so deteriorated."

The Democratic Change political party threw more gasoline on the fire, by saying "the Vice President will return to the Pub Herrerano."

Varela responded by saying "I hurt you so much."

And to seal the bickering , Martinelli, in a direct message to the opposition, said he is happy, so cheerful, and they are the ones who have not realized it. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: The Varela branch of the Panameñista party will definitely be winning the prize for being those who will be the most screwed after the elections in May. Juan Carlos Varela is not going to win. The Panameñista party in general is in serious decline. Martinelli is just sitting there smiling, because he knows the Varela brothers are done - toast. Juan Carlos Varela has third place all locked up. Remember that once upon a time, in the first year of the Martinelli administration, Popi Varela was the President of the National Assembly. Now, he can't even get a seat in McDonald's... Yup - those guys are skeee-ruuud.

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