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Thursday, April 17 2014 @ 11:32 AM EDT

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Challenge Filed Asking For Pinilla's Credit's From The University of Panama

Law & LawyersJavier Alexis Bosso Campbell filed a request for information with the General Secretary of the University of Panama in order to see if the President of the Electoral Tribunal, Erasmo Pinilla, graduated as a lawyer from the university. (more)

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There Will Be No Special Supreme Court Meeting To Hear Ballesteros' Allegaions

Law & LawyersThe Supreme Court will hold a regular meeting of the full body of nine judges on 10 April to debate whatever the members propose, instead of a special meeting today to discuss the complaints filed by the former judge Alexis Ballesteros. (more)

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The President Controls Panama's Judiciary (As Usual)

Law & LawyersThe independence of the judiciary is once again in jeopardy. (more)

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Delays By Electoral Prosecutor Draw Criticism

Law & LawyersThe work - or rather the inactivity - of the Electoral Prosecutor Eduardo Penaloza continues to attract criticism. (more)

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Eisenmann vs. Martinelli (a.k.a. La Prensa vs. TCT) - Forcing A Judge To Resign

Law & LawyersThe judge of the Fourth Criminal Circuit Court of Panama, Alexis Ballesteros, said he was asked to resign for not "following directions" and for having overridden a decision made by a lower court to throw out the criminal case against five employees of the company Transcaribe Trading SA (TCT), for having blocked access to the office of the La Prensa newspaper on 2 and 3 August, 2012. (more)

Editor's Comment: (This is why you should subscribe - the comments on this article alone are worth the price of admission.)

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Free eBook Helps Make Relocating to Panama Easy

Law & Lawyers

Relocating to Panama, let alone moving to any foreign country, can be stressful. Learning Panamanian laws, customs, and discovering how to get things done can take months, if not longer. That is why we've prepared a detailed Panama relocation checklist which will help make your move easier. And for a complete how to guide, download the free Panama relocation EBook.


Download Free Panama Relocation eBook


Panama Relocation Checklist

1. Research Panama Immigration Visas to see which one would be the best fit for your family. Panama has numerous permanent residency programs for entire families including pensioners, investors, businessmen, job offers, and even for citizens of 48 “friendly nations”. While Panama’s embassy and consulate websites can provide basic information, it is better to consulate with a Panama immigration lawyer as the rules and regulations are constantly changing and securing a visa without legal assistance can take a very long time.

2. Research the Types of Vaccines needed to relocate to Panama. The U.S. Center for Disease Control recommends contacting your doctor to determine what vaccines are necessary depending on your health, vaccine history and which part of Panama you will relocate to. For instance, make sure you are up to date with routine inoculations for mumps/measles/rubella (MMR) vaccine, poliovirus vaccine, and diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine. The CDC website has a map of the world indicating Panama has an intermediate risk of Hepatitis A virus but no risk of contracting Hepatitis B Surface Antigen. Some areas east of the Panama Canal Zone heading towards the border with Colombia may require a Yellow Fever vaccination.

3. Research Customs Duty and Taxes for new vehicles and luxury items being shipped to Panama. As a foreigner on a pensioner visa in Panama, you are afforded special tax incentives when importing a car and household goods. Learn more here.

4. Bringing Pets to Panama requires rabies vaccines and specific forms from your vet and other documents. Learn about the specific steps to take when bring a pet to Panama in our free relocation EBook.

5. Medical Health Insurance covering travel to Panama may be purchased. However if you plan to fly to Panama City’s International Airport (Tocumen), you will receive a brochure explaining the government of Panama’s free medical insurance program covering you and your family for the first 30 days. After that period you can purchase health insurance plans in Panama. For information and contact details on the best hospitals and health insurance in Panama, read more here.

6. Gather Important Documents to take with you and have them Apostilled by your government within 3 months before applying for a Panama immigration visa, a Panama driver’s license, and opening a Panama bank account. These documents include:

  • Marriage and birth certificates
  • Passport, naturalization document, green card, proof of citizenship, etc.
  • Social security cards
  • Vaccinations, dental and medical records
  • Insurance policies
  • Academic records and diplomas
  • Employment records
  • Proof of residency (utility bills with your name and address)
  • Driver’s licenses
  • Original reference letter from your bank (two banks would be better) addressed to a specific Panama bank and signed by a bank official.

An Apostille is an internationally recognized method of authenticating government issued documents such as birth and marriage certificates and driver’s licenses. In the U.S., a state’s Secretary of State Office can do the Apostille.

7. Moving & Shipping: Locate an international moving & shipping company to help facilitate your moving needs. There are many options available, but it is recommended to read some reviews, compare prices, and look for recommendations.

8. Vehicle Insurance should be purchased and used while driving in Panama. Click here to learn more about Panama Vehicle Insurance.

9. Property Insurance is a good thing to have during shipping and relocation. There are international insurance companies who can provide coverage for expats and their relocation. Read this web page explaining Panama Fire Insurance.

10. Maintaining Bank and Credit Card Accounts requires notifying them of your move so they won’t treat you like an identity theft fraudster. Learn more about how to open a Panama Bank Account.

11. Prescription Drugs requires taking a quantity with you and obtaining the pertinent medical records which need to be kept in a safe place.

12. International Driving Permit must be obtained which will be carried with your original driver’s license. Find more information here on how to get a Panama Driver’s License and How to Drive in Panama.

13. Cancel Subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and anything else which will be delivered or mailed to your former home.

14. Hotel & Flight Reservations should be made as soon as you verify your travel date.

15. VOIP Phone Service (Voice Over Internet Protocol) like the free Skype account to make free international calls.

16. Research the culture, neighborhoods, things you need which are not available (so you can stock up), schools, job opportunities, real estate prices, Spanish language schools, and Panama’s expat community groups and forums for networking. Download the EBook explaining all of these in details here: Panama Relocation EBook.

Panama Offshore Legal Services provides first-class legal advice, consultation, and various services to help make relocating to Panama more efficient and less stressful. Visit our website or download the Panama Relocation EBook to learn more.

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Jose Ayu Prado Elected As New President of Supreme Court

Law & LawyersJose Ayu Prado was sworn in Thursday as the new President of the Supreme Court for the period 2014-2015, succeeding Alejandro Moncada Luna this position.

Ayu Prado won the election with five out of nine votes.

The remaining votes went to Judge Victor Benavides.

The nominations began at 2:45 pm and the voting began at 4:45 pm. (Telemetro)

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New Supreme Court President To Be Elected Today

Law & LawyersAt 2:00 pm this afternoon the nine Magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice will elect Alejandro Moncada Luna's successor to be the new president of the Supreme Court.

Moncada Luna, who has been a target of strong criticism from civil society groups due to his recent decisions, gave up his aspirations to be reelected for the period 2014-2015.

Another judge who also declined a possible bid for the presidency of the Court was Justice Harry Diaz. (Prensa)

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Diaz gives up; Ayu Prado is the new favorite

Law & LawyersJust a few days before the date established to elect a new President of the Supreme Court, the current Supreme Court Vice President Harry Diaz - the only pretender for the office - has announced he has given up his aspirations for the position.

Sources within the Gil Ponce Palace of Justice in Ancon said reached his decision after he discovered he lacked the five votes necessary to become the President of the Supreme Court for the next two years.

Those same judicial sources say now Magistrate Jose Ayu Prado is the new favorite to take over the top post in the judiciary after the current president, Alejandro Moncada Luna, decided to not run for reelection. (Prensa)

The nine sitting judges on the Supreme Court will vote to elect the new President of the Supreme Court on 2 January 2014. (Prensa)

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Law 47 Passed: Panama Corporation Bearer Shares to be Restricted

Law & Lawyers

On August 6, 2013, the National Assembly of Panama passed Law 47, which once it goes into effect two years from now, will require that everyone in possession of Panama corporation bearer shares to designate an authorized custodian to take possession of the bearer shares. An authorized custodian could be a licensed bank, a Panama attorney (or law firm), Panama fiduciaries, or brokerage houses regulated by the Superintendence of the Panama Securities Market.

Bearer shares are corporate stock certificates that do not have anyone’s name, but only “bearer”, which means whoever is in possession of the bearer certificate is the owner. This effectively allows for anonymous ownership of a corporation. Similar to government or corporate “bearer” bonds, only the name “bearer” appears on the bond allowing the first owner to pass it onto to anyone who holds it as the new owner.

Law 47 takes effect on August 6, 2015, and from that date on, every holder of a bearer share certificate will have three years to submit the bearer shares to an authorized custodian, along with a sworn declaration providing basic identity information about the true owner and the corporation which issued the shares, as well as its resident agent.

After Law 47 comes into effect, every corporation issuing bearer shares must submit the bearer shares certificates to the authorized custodian within 20 days from the date of issuance, along with the corresponding sworn declaration.

The authorized custodian must provide the sworn declaration to competent authorities who request it while investigating acts related to money laundering, financing of terrorist activities, or other illegal activities in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Panama, or otherwise, to comply with the agreements and international double taxation treaties signed by the Republic of Panama.

Lastly, the new law requires that the Supreme Court keep a registry of the lawyers and law firms that serve as authorized custodians and authorizes the court to apply sanctions for noncompliance with their obligations as custodians under this law.

Please note that this law does not obligate Panama offshore corporations to register the names of the shareholders at the Public Registry. Only the corporation’s officers, directors, and registered agent’s names are registered at the Public Registry.

While the global tendency of other tax haven jurisdictions is to completely eliminate bearer shares resulting from pressures from the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), Panama has creatively found a solution to protecting privacy while creating mechanisms to control illegal activities by immobilizing bearer shares instead of eliminating them.

Contact our Panama law firm with any questions concerning this new law and our English speaking staff will gladly answer them for you.

For more information on other Panama legal matters, visit: http://www.panama-offshore-services.com/

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Top 4 Ways to Get Residency in Panama

Law & LawyersIn the past year, Panama has become the easiest nation in the world to obtain permanent residency.

Here is a summary of the four best immigration visas for relocating to Panama.

1. Friendly Nations Visa: Citizens from any of the 48 nations considered “friendly” with Panama can relocate here and obtain the quickest permanent residency visa.  To qualify, the friendly foreigner must either purchase an existing Panama business, start a new business in Panama, or be hired to work as a “professional” for a Panama professional services company.

The 48 friendly nations are: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein,  Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Marino, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United States of America, Uruguay, United Kingdom (Great Britain & Northern Ireland).

A big difference from all of the other Panama immigration visas is that the Friendly Nations Visa has a lower solvency requirement.  An applicant needs to only show ownership of $5,000 USD.

Another Executive Decree ordered the Ministry of Labor to fast track Work Permits for these “professional” employees.

2.  Panama Retired or Pensioner Visa: Retired people, and those over 18 years old, with lifetime pensions or annuities of at least $1,000 USD per month qualify.  An additional $250 must be received every month for each dependent.  The pension or annuity can come from government agencies, military, banks, corporations, an insurance company, private company, or a Trust. This residency program offers many discounts from restaurants, pharmacies, movie theaters, hotels, concerts, and domestic airlines amongst others.

Note:  The above two are the only Panama visa options that grant immediate permanent residency.  The visas below require a two year provisional temporary residency period before being able to apply for permanent residency.

3. Panama Reforestation Investor Visa: Invest a minimum of $80,000 USD in a government certified reforestation project by buying at least five hectares (12.35 acres) of titled land with an additional investment of $2,000 for each dependent.  An individual or a Panama corporation can buy the required hectares. There are many government certified reforestation projects in Panama to choose from.

Reforestation is the process of growing trees (teak and mahogany are the most popular in Panama) and replanting after they are cut down and harvested.  It takes 20 years for a tree to mature for harvesting with a thinning down process every 6, 12 and 16 years which produces commercial wood for sale.  After harvesting, the land is replanted with new trees and resold to existing or new investors.

Profitability: Besides obtaining legal residency and citizenship, a reforestation investment is profitable.  At just an average of 2% yearly increase in teak market prices, the $80,000 initial investment can bring a return of $370,586 in 20 years.  That’s a return of 460% in 20 years, or an annual average of 23%.  That’s not bad when compared to the current stock market.  According to Standard & Poor’s the average S&P 500 Index only averaged 7.33% annually from 1990 to 2008.

4. Panama Self Economic Solvency Residency: Three options exist to qualify for this permanent residency in Panama option which was created to attract wealthy foreigners:

a) Deposit at least $300,000 USD in a three year Panama bank CD.  An additional $2,000 deposit is required for each dependent.

b) Invest at least $300,000 USD equity in any Panama real estate with an additional $2,000 USD for each dependent.

c) Combine the first two options by making an investment in both Panama real estate and a Panama bank CD where the equity and cash total at least $300,000 USD (or foreign currency equivalent).  An additional $2,000 USD must be invested for each dependent.

Panama Citizenship is offered by three of the above mentioned visas after being a permanent resident for five years: Friendly Nations Visa, Reforestation Visa, and the Economic Solvency Visa.

Since this is only a summary, consult with our English speaking immigration department to learn more details regarding any of these four permanent visas.

For more information on Panama immigration, visas, and residency, visit http://www.panama-offshore-services.com/ or call +(507) 227-6645 in Panama, or from the U.S. dial (239) 206-1955.

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Lawyers Report Issues Regarding The Elections Of The New Directive

Law & LawyersAt least 120 lawyers have complained about not appearing in the register to vote in the elections of the new directive of the National Bar Association (CNA) organized for today, July 12.

Most lawyers, who assure they sent their details by the due date to be registered, belong to the “red” payroll of the candidate Antonio Loaiza.

As explained by Rodrigo Del Cid, Loaiza’s campaign will be affected because "most lawyers left outside were from the red list," he said. He said it is puzzling that lawyers do not appear in the voter registration.

"This situation makes no sense, because all the documents were submitted in a timely manner, we request that our colleagues are allowed to exercise their right to vote.” However, they had to wait for the Electoral tribunal to open a manual table for those lawyers who do not appear in the record to cast their vote. (Prensa)

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Martinelli Passed The Law 44, Increasing The Sentence For Squatters

Law & LawyersThe president, Ricardo Martinelli, passed on Wednesday, June 19, the Law 44 which adds and modifies articles to the Criminal Code and increases the penalties by sentencing squatters with one to three years in prison.

The document states that anyone who promotes, sponsors, finances, facilitates, assists or encourages this type of crime will be punished with three to six years in prison.

This law also protects vulnerable areas prone to the risk of natural phenomena, stating that those who usurp or illegally occupy these areas will have their penalty increased by one third to a half more based on the regular sentence.

The same law applies whenever the scenario of this crime is in areas close to rivers or water sources, also near any area declared as a protected zone or as an environmental and ecological preservation area; basically any area with exceptional attributes that justify its inalienability and unavailability.

All this is contained in the Article 229-A added to the Criminal Code which also includes any area reserved for the construction of public works.

Law 44 also amends Article 356, stating the following: "A public official who illegally refuses, omits or delays any act related to his or her function will be sentenced with six months to a year in prison or its equivalent in days, fine or weekend imprisonment.” (Estrella)

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The European Union Rejects The Law Restricting Foreign Investment On Maritime Services

Law & LawyersThe restriction on foreign investment established in the bill 613, approved yesterday on third debate in the National Assembly and enacted in the Official Gazette within hours as Law 41, could bring friction in Panama's economic relations with the European Union (EU).

The law limits foreign investment by establishing that 75% of the shares of companies engaged in auxiliary maritime services of fuel distribution, provision and transportation of personnel must be owned by Panamanians.

Through a letter sent by the Italian Embassy in Panama, as president Pro Témpore of the EU, they warned they would be violating the commitments Panama made with Europe if the law is enacted under those conditions.

In particular, he was referring to the "national treatment principle" contained in the provisions related to services in the Partnership Agreement US-Central America, ratified by Panama, as well as the terms of some investment protection treaties signed by Panama with different European countries.

Despite the warnings from the European diplomacy, the project was approved yesterday on third debate, and the president, Ricardo Martinelli, passed and signed the law.

All this took place while the president Martinelli was visiting Italy.

In addition to EU’s warning, maritime businessmen have also said they do not agree with this law, which was passed within a few hours. (Prensa)

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Project Governing The Maritime Activity Was Approved in Third Debate

Law & LawyersThe National Assembly approved on Friday, June 14, the Bill No. 613 during third debate, which governs work on the sea and waterways. The Bill received 36 votes in favor and 7 against.

The project says 75% of the shares in the companies providing auxiliary maritime services must be owned by Panamanians.

With the proposal, 90% of the crew of those companies involved with foreign maritime service must be formed by Panamanians.

They also approved Bill No. 612 on third debate, which reorganizes the Board of the Maternal and Child Hospital José Domingo De Obaldía.

The special sessions in the National Assembly are now finalized with the approval of these two draft bills. (Estrella)

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APEDE Warns The Bill Seeking To Nationalize Auxiliary Maritime Services Represents A Risk For Panama

Law & LawyersThe Panamanian Association of Business Executives (APEDA) said the bill 613 "violates international legal security", because it restricts foreign investment in the auxiliary maritime industry. Yesterday, the bill was approved during second reading by a group from the official party, the Democratic Change (CD), and by the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement (MOLIRENA).

"The bill seeking to nationalize auxiliary maritime services is absurd and a violation of international treaties signed by Panama with other countries, and a violation to the participation Panama has in international forums aimed to liberalize global navigation," said the union in a statement.

In addition, the Apede expressed they fear these activities might disappear from Panama if this service is nationalized, as it would affect service providers and the country's competitiveness. (Prensa)

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Amendment On Decree Law 8 Favors Certain Law Firms

Law & LawyersThrough the amendments to Decree Law 8, which governs the work at sea, the operations of some companies providing auxiliary maritime services will be closed, but at the same time they seek to assure the legal business within the maritime industry for some law firms.

The bill, proposed by the deputy Yassir Purcait from the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), and adopted by the Executive Branch for special sessions will be discussed today in the first debate in the Committee of Commerce of the Assembly.

Some lawyers will have secured legal transactions in the maritime industry in compensation for clients they will lose with the immobilization of bearer shares project, which is frozen in the Assembly, according to a source.

Since the Bill was shown to the public, the maritime business community has rejected the amendments because it limits foreign companies as 75% of the shares of companies providing auxiliary maritime services must be owned by Panamanians.

For the former secretary of the Maritime Authority of Panama, Carlos Ernesto González De la Lastra, this is a real government orchestrated plan to benefit some companies engaged in the maritime business. "Now I understand why they were not approving the operating licenses for different maritime activities such as barge service," he said. (Prensa)

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Harry Diaz in The Middle Of A Surprise Volley

Law & LawyersIn less than a month Harry Diaz, Vice Magistrate of the Supreme Court became the target of six lawsuits.

The legal community is in astonishment, as for one moment it seemed the situation was taking a turn for the best in the highest levels of the Judicial Branch; however, the six lawsuits took everyone by surprise.

Five of the lawsuits claim Diaz's appointment was unconstitutional, and attack the resolution through which the President of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli, appointed him.

This is the Cabinet Decree No. 68 of April 20, 2011, and the last lawsuit questions the ratification of the position by the National Assembly.

EVERYTHING TOOK PLACE IN THREE WEEKS

The claims were filed between mid-March and early April. These were 22 days of legal volley. The former Procurator-General, Rogelio Cruz, presented two on March 18, 2013; three were filed 11 days later, on March 29. The lawyers were Rolando Sanchez Nunez, Yamilka Pitty and Melissa Jeanette. The last one was filed 11 days later, on April 9, 2013, by the lawyer Rosendo Rivera. The latter represents the president Ricardo Martinelli and others linked to the government party, in cases of defamation against political opponents and the media.

The essence of the legal resources retake an issue previously raised back in 2011, when the President Martinelli had to seek a replacement for Jose Abel Almengor in the Supreme Court.

THE ARGUMENT

The lawsuits are based on the violation from the Cabinet Council of paragraph 2 from the article 203 of the Constitution, which states: 'No person shall be appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court who is exercising or has held positions with authority and jurisdiction of the Executive Body during the ongoing constitutional term.'

Both Diaz and the team of advisers from the Executive Branch denied there was any legal offense, however two years later it seems many from the legal community think otherwise.

The argument is based on Harry Diaz appearing in 13 resolutions of the Cabinet in which he was appointed as Deputy Minister of Finance during the administration of Martinelli in May 2010.

This, according to the organizational chart of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) and judgments from the Dispute Tribunal, would represent the functions of an officer with authority and jurisdiction.

THE DECISION

The issue has been in the hands of the group's newest judge, Jose Ayu Prado, who is the rapporteur of the case after the Criminal Chamber of the Court decided to join the unconstitutionality suits.

However, the key of this issue is the time it will take the Court to resolve these mishaps for Diaz. 'It is the responsibility of the plenary to define this as quickly as possible,' says Esmeralda de Troitino, former magistrate of the Supreme Court. 'They should have a priority decision to avoid affecting the image of the judiciary system,’ she adds.

Troitino believes this is not easy for the magistrates. 'These are decisions that sometimes are difficult, but those are the challenges of the position' she says.

The important thing for her is that the Plenary of the Court defines the situation. 'It has to be resolved. It questions the legitimacy of the actions of the judge and there is no certainty of the validity of those actions,’ said Troitino. (Estrella)

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Homosexuals Are Not Included in The Bill 551

Law & LawyersThe Bill 551, on adoption, which was approved yesterday during third reading by the National Assembly, excludes couples of the same sex for the eligibility of adopting children, as confirmed by Gloria Lozano de Diaz, director of the National Secretariat of Children, Youth and Family.

She sustained this measure by pointing out that just as marriage between people of the same sex is illegal, their good practice guidelines bans them from adopting children as well.

The deputy Marilyn Vallarino, advocate of the proposal, said the Act 61 of 2008, which currently governs the topic on adoptions, is very tedious and involves a long process. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: I would like to see this Bill, particularly to learn how it handles adoption of Panamanian children by foreigners.

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Project For The Protection Of Government Officials is Handed To The Executive Branch To Be Enacted

Law & LawyersThe Bill No. 610, which seeks to protect public servants, was passed on third debate, receiving 37 votes in favor from the official party, 1 against it and 1 withheld. It was then sent to the Presidency of the Republic to be enacted.

The vote on third debate was given nominally with all the votes from the official party representatives.

During the debate the ideas of the opposition deputies were swift. The first to speak was the Panamenista deputy Jose Isabel Blandon, who said the project is not fair, because it only seeks to benefit certain officials from the current government while those who were dismissed two years ago have not been paid.

To Blandon, the document itself is not bad. "What strikes me is that a project of this kind is presented a year before the end of this term," he said, labeling the document as "spirit of defeat."

Meanwhile, the deputy from the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), Leandro Avila, said this project would have been noble if it entered into effect this year and not on January 1, 2014 as established.

"The government will continue firing officials until the elections come, there is no retro activity of the law. This government has fired over 35 thousand officials," he said.

Hernan Delgado was the only one who decided to defend this document, assuring only this government has decided to help officials.

The document, which will be enacted by the President Ricardo Martinelli in the next few weeks, establishes that any official working for the Executive Branch, in semi-autonomous or autonomous entities, must be compensated by the Government in the case they are fired without justification.

It also adds this compensation will correspond to any employee who was appointed permanently or temporary. These benefits shall be calculated based on the last salary earned, over each year worked at the service of the Government.

It also states that public servants chosen by popular election, ministers, vice ministers, directors and assistant directors of autonomous and semi autonomous entities do not qualify for this compensation. Also, administrators and assistant administrators of Government entities are not subject to this law, among other things. (Prensa)

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In A Second Reading, The Assembly Approved Contracts Between The State And Two Companies

Law & LawyersThe National Assembly approved today, Friday 31 May 2013, at debate II, project of the 607 law, authorizing a contract between the state and society of United Crown Construction, Inc.

The purpose of the project is the granting by the State of an authority through contracts for the construction and management of a container yard and logistics park in Margarita Island, province of Colon.

The project of the 607 law was also endorsed, approving the contract between the state and the Panama Canal Colon Port Company, Inc.

This initiative aims at granting of the state of the authorization for the company to develop, build, manage and run a terminal for handling and transportation of containers.

Both projects were rejected by the opposition, who reported abstaining to vote. (Panama America)

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Technological Failures Affect Criminal Trials

Law & LawyersThe lack of infrastructure to assist judgments of multiple accused citizens and the limitations in the technological system have become one of the main obstacles in the Judicial Branch’s ability to comply with the Criminal Trial Procedure Video.

The first judgment conducted through the Criminal Trial Procedure Video program took place 10 years ago and, since then, it runs depending on the speed and capacity of the data and voice system.

When the program was launched in 2005, the Judicial Branch set the goal of conducting seven hearings per day, 35 every week and 2 thousand 100 per year. However, last year only 835 trials were registered and there are reports showing up to three trials being cancelled per day and, furthermore, sometimes not even one trial is conducted per week.

The program is simple. First, a camera is installed, as well as equipment for the production of evidence, a sound system and a telephone line. All of this assists the criminal defendant to directly communicate with the judge without the need of moving from the prison. The system installed at the prisons is the same used at courts.

Cesar Ruiloba, president of the Attorney’s National Institute, assures the infrastructure issue is the main limitation in the system; i.e., the hearing rooms at prisons have a limited space of one criminal defendant at a time.

Ruiloba also said the rooms at prisons are very small, which makes it difficult to conduct mass trials, due to the low coverage of the camera installed in the technological system. But, this issue is not only related to the capacity at the hearing rooms, the main concern is the security issue, because several custodians are required to take the accused to the hearing rooms to avoid them from harming each other. In some cases, the hearings are suspended because there are not enough custodians available.

This contradicts one of the main purposes of the video hearing because the biggest difficulty arises when there are several accused in the case, as it is complicated to transfer the prisoners to the courts, due to the amount of guards required in this task. This problem aggravated due to recent amendments applied to the Criminal Code, this is when there are gangs tried and several criminal defendants must be at the same hearing. Recently, a group of mothers and wives of about 20 inmates from La Joya and La Joyita Prisons were demanding to have their relatives called to proceedings in trial.

One of the mothers requested to have a video hearing, because she stated there was no need to leave the prison and the process would be faster.

The issue is these relatives have over four years waiting for the trial of these criminal defendants, after they were captured in a police operation in the year 2009 in El Chorrillo.

Regarding the limited space, the director of the Penitentiary System, Angel Calderon, made reference to a project in bidding process for the construction of 15 video hearing rooms in the prisons in the country, in order to solve this issue in the system.

Calderon explained the order to proceed with the works will be issued in 30 days; the goal is to have more programmed hearings than there are at the time.

The problem with this system is not only caused by the lack of space, because the Judiciary Branch has another situation, the rooms are more spacious; only in the province of Panama there are six rooms reserved for these proceedings.

Nevertheless, the system used at the hearings usually goes down. The reason is the technical failures that arise at the last minute and prevent the completion of the trial.

"This is because they have not paid their Internet service and it was deactivated," said a very displeased lawyer, who declined to give his name, after the announcement of the suspension of the trial they had been waiting on for months.

The video system at hearings was applied with ambitious expectations, taking into account that the suspension of trials due to the lack of logistics in the transfer of prisoners was the main headache of the Panamanian justice management.

A study prepared by the Ombudsman shows 70% of the hearings scheduled are suspended because the prisoners are unable to get to the court.

An attempt was made to know through the Press Office of the Supreme Court of Justice about the progress of this system, its obstacles and its benefits, but there was no answer. (Panama America)

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Case against Financial Pacific will be filed

Law & LawyersThe third Fiscal of the First Judicial Circuit of Panama, Franklin Amaya Jované, requested to file the process and final order of dismissal for Financial Pacific (FP).

The complaint was lodged by the Superintendent of the Stock Market (SMV), Alejandro Abood, against the Brokerage House on November 21, 2012 before the Public Ministry.

The prosecutor's arguments were expressed in the fiscal document No. 97, dated April 15.

The prosecutor indicates that the financial crimes set forth in the complaint were presented in other processes, and for the other two – for forgery of documents and alleged money laundering- there was not enough evidence.

West Valdes, main executive of Financial Pacific, confirmed he was already notified of this decision a couple of days ago.

The 15-page document contains the testimony of several employees of the Brokerage House and three officials of the SMV.

Among the employees was Sergio Barrio Martinez, who worked from 2005 to 2012 in the company.

The evidence presented in the case was the internal audit reports and copies of the criminal process against Mayte Pellegrini.

There were other evidences attached to the inspection reports made in situ.

(La Estrella)

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National Assembly approves 7 million for MIDA

Law & LawyersAn extraordinary credit for 6 million dollars and a transfer of budget amounts for an additional million dollars was approved by the Budget Committee of the National Assembly for the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MIDA).

This is to strengthen the Trust Fund Program for Agricultural Competitiveness, to compensate those producers who reported losses of money due to the weather.

The request was made by the Minister Oscar Osorio Casal, who explained that through this program they are returning 50% of the investment made by the producers on their lands, in order to promote productivity and competitiveness.

Also, the fund has to do with a remainder which will be delivered to the Institute of Agricultural Insurance, for the entity to pay the compensation to producers that suffered losses caused by natural disasters, due to the climate change.(Mi Diario)

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Inter American Press Association condemns trial against journalists in Panama

Law & LawyersBy Silvia Higuera - The decision by a judge to try a team of journalists from a Panamanian newspaper has been called “an alert for media that call out possible irregularities in public administration” by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) in a press release.

The case is related to a complaint filed by Lourdes Castillo, current head of the Panama Canal Authority, against four journalists from La Estrella newspaper for alleged crimes against her honor, said the newspaper. Between April and May of 2011, the paper published a series of reports on possible irregularities in contracts given by the state to Naves Supply S.A., of which Castillo is a shareholder.

The prosecutors that investigated the case had asked for a dismissal of the complaint on the grounds that only a living person, not a legal entity, can sue for crimes against honor, and the reports only mentioned the company – not names.

Claudio Paolillo, president of IAPA’s Freedom of the Press Commission, said that the judge’s decision was “incoherent” after the prosecutor’s office asked for the case to be dismissed. “More than finding out if investigations into journalistic claims are beneficial to correct possible errors, the underlying intention is to pacify the press so that, due a fear of reprisals, it will perform a tepid and doctored journalism. That is totally against the freedom of the press,” he added.

In its report on Panama, presented at its mid-year reunion last March, IAPA warned that the “level of confrontation” in the country between “important members of the government” and independent journalists carrying out investigations into corruption had not diminished. (knightcenter.utexas.edu)

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Law 564 Approved In Second Reading

Law & LawyersThe National Assembly approved, in the second reading, the Law 564 modifying Law 59 of 1996 and Law 10 of 2010 on the Panama Meritorious Fire Department.

The content of the initiative states technological, administrative, operational and financial help can be established so their needs can contribute to their mission.

One of the adjustments made ​​in the project was the establishment of a trust, ensuring interests constituted among other things in funds from the 5% of money from cancellations in fire insurance.

The use of the money acquires more fire protection equipment, ambulances, fuel, lubricants, vehicles and human resource training. (Panama America)

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Law Was Approved In Benefit Of The Fire Department

Law & LawyersToday, Bill No. 564, allowing the availability of funds deposited in the national trust, was approved during the first hearing by the Commission of Government.

This project involves allocating 14 million dollars towards the Fire Department to give them more access to the purchase of new equipment.

Through a statement, the Assembly explains that this law allowed the constitution of a trust fund that will ensure these interests, among other things, from the funds coming from the 5% tax generated by the net fees coming from fire insurances.

The assistant manager from the Fire Department, Rodrigo Baruco, said the rule legalizes availability, without time limits, of the money needed in order to strengthen the security of the community, requiring immediate response when a security event arises.

He stated the use of this money guarantees the acquisition of more protection equipment against fires, ambulances, lubricants, fuel, vehicles and human resource training.(TVN News)

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Adoption Law About To Be Approved

Law & LawyersThe Bill 551, dictates a new national law of adoptions, is expected to be approved next Tuesday on first debate.

Yesterday, the commissioners managed to pass the penultimate block of articles and now 26 points remain. The document has 127 articles.

However, articles 30 and 32 of the project are still suspended; these talk about the power that underage girls have to voluntarily give up their children for adoption, even if they are not born yet.

"The project is going very well, is well underway with the contributions of the magistrates, judges and lawyers", said the president of the commission, Marilyn Vallarino.

Among some of the amendments applied to this project is the establishment of the second degree of consanguinity and the possibility that uncles and aunts may, at some point, take care of their nephews and nieces.(Panama America)

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Sonda Will Be Sued Due To Failing In The Service Required In Their Contract

Law & LawyersThe Sonda company will be sued on Thursday, for alleged breach of the contract, according to attorney Víctor Martínez.

"The Sonda will be sued, so the contract of administrative concession, can be annihilated. 'This contract is not what it should be, because the Sonda has not complied with anything, besides, they haven't paid for anything, the state has paid everything for them', said Martinez.

He added the company has not complied with the contract where it determines the outlets and recharge card stations that must operate 24 hours.

Daniel Guerra, manager of Sonda, said the approach of the lawyer is a misinterpretation of the contract, according to him, Sonda paid everything in its investment and then the state paid it back in small portions. He also said "Out of 1000 rechargeable points, only 100 must be active 24 hours a day." (Siglo)

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PRD Will File Suit Against New Changes To Electoral Law

Law & LawyersThe controversial bill 592 amending the Electoral Code, passed yesterday on the third and final debates in the National Assembly, will be challenged in the coming days by the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD).

Yesterday, the opposition party announced it will file suit against the new reforms in the Supreme Court.

Despite the complaints lodged by the Electoral Tribunal and the rejection by the opposition political parties, this reform was approved yesterday by the overwhelming government majority.

This initiative, presented last week in the office of citizen participation by the former presidential candidate from the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), Honorio Quesada, received the three debates in just three days, with the absence of Electoral Tribunal, and without a prior consultation period.

The reform, passed yesterday with 38 votes in favor by members of the Democratic Change (CD) and MOLIRENA parties and nine votes against cast by members of the PRD and the Panameñista parties, eliminated Article 248 of the Electoral Code.

This article allowed the Deputies in multi member districts to benefit with a seat with the residual votes from the major political parties. Now, these votes cannot be added.

Reports from the Electoral Tribunal indicate 11 of the 71 Deputies currently serving in the National Assembly were elected thanks to residual votes.

With this new modification to the Electoral Code, made one year and thirteen days before the national elections of 2014, these could be affected.

Included in this reform is another article preventing political parties that are part of a political alliance from putting forth their own candidates for the positions of Mayor, Representative, and Deputy.

"The Reform Was Imposed"

"With these reforms or without these reforms, there will be an agreement between the members of the opposition so that the National Assembly has men and women who are citizens with criteria, and who are not willing to sell themselves to the highest bidder," said the National Assembly Deputy from the Panameñista political party Alcibiades Vasquez, who said these changes have been made by the CD.

Jorge Alberto Rosas from the MOLIRENA political party said the rule is unconstitutional, because it does not ensure equitable distribution of seats in multi-member circuits.

The President of the National Assembly, Sergio Gálvez, said he hoped the judges of TE are not thinking about doing another aberration like they have done when they changed the regulations of what the National Assembly has approved.

"Here the judges of the Electoral Tribunal are putting the next electoral contest in danger, and this cannot be tolerated," he said. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: A word about the "regulation" of a new law in Panama. What happens is that the National Assembly passes a law, the president signs it, and it's published in the National Gazette. At that point it's legally the law of the land. However then the affected institution, ministry, or agency has to publish the implementing regulation, which takes the new law and describes exactly how it will be implemented in a practical sense, where the rubber hits the road. In the case of the Electoral Tribunal, they have pulled some stunts with the laws passed by the National Assembly, and changed the way those new laws are implemented in the way they wrote the regulation. In this case, the CD is trying to make some changes that will help them maintain control of the National Assembly after the 2014 elections. They basically undid a change that helped the PRD, which they installed the last time around.

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