Week in Review – Vol. 34 No. 20

STRIKE HITS CANAL

The 24 hours’ strike on the construction project of the third set of locks on the part of the workers, left a loss estimated at $1 million, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) said. “This strike affects us greatly, not only the Canal, but the country,” said the institution, referring to the strike endorsed by the Single National Union of Construction Workers and Similar (SUNTRACS), to which workers who are building the locks are affiliated.

CFZ RESPONSIBILITY

With an investment of $2.8 million, the Colón Free Zone (CFZ) paid for the placement of the marble floors of the Cathedral of the Atlantic capital as part of the restoration work to change the image of the forgotten province, reported the makers of the project. The initiative is part of the Corporate Social Responsibility Program of the Colón Free Zone.

COSTLY “GIFT”

The National Assembly approved a budget transfer to the Ministry of Public Security for $1.2 million to repair four of the six patrol boats that were donated by Italy to Panama in 2012, but not as part of the contracts with Finmeccanica for the purchase of 19 radar, six helicopters and a cartographic map for a total of $250 million.

FORKED TONGUE

Panama Ports Company (PPC), which has operated the ports of Balboa and Cristobal since 1997, requested the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) to give it a direct concession of land located in Corozal for port and logistics development. PPC is the same company that, since 2013, has pointed out at different times that Corozal should not become a container port, since it claimed this would hinder the safety of navigation and efficiency of the Canal.

WELCOME HOME

Former President Ernesto Perez Balladares urged former president Ricardo Martinelli to return home and face justice. “Martinelli should not flee as a chicken to the United States, invoking his immunity and hiding behind his lawyers,” he said. Balladares recalled Martinelli’s phrase when he said that “anyone who went against him would feel lead.”

CHARGES LAID

After a preliminary hearing that lasted more than 12 hours, the Second Anticorruption Prosecutor, Vielka Broce, asked for the charging of the nine accused in the trial for alleged irregularities in the contract for purchase of dehydrated food, signed in 2010 by the National Assistance Program (PAN) for $44.9 million. In extensive arguments, the defense lawyers disassociated their clients from the contracts and asked the judge to order a dismissal.

NOT A “SOAP”

The Court of Naples upheld the three-year jail sentence for extorting against Valter Lavítola, involving the Italian company Impregilo to fund the pediatric hospital in Veraguas. In this case the Italian courts linked former Panamanian president, Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal. The government deputy Jorge Alberto Rosas said the sentence confirms that in Italy they are not watching “soap operas” as Martinelli said, but are dealing with cases of “obvious” corruption in the past Panamanian administration.

LEGAL SQUIRMING

Defense lawyers for former officials and businessmen being investigated over the contract for dehydrated food through the National Assistance Program (PAN) strongly questioned the investigation by the Second Anti-Corruption Prosecutor. The lawyers emphasized the inadequacy of audit reports used by the prosecutor, Vielka Broce. Edna Ramos, the defender of Adolfo De Obarrio, former secretary to former president, Ricardo Martinelli (both fugitives), claimed that the prosecutor had lied at the hearings and violated the terms of the investigation and pressured witnesses.

CARBON TOWER

The tower to monitor carbon flow, located in Panama Bay protected wetland area, in February 2016 will provide the world with local reports on climate change, greenhouse effects and capturing carbon flux. This information will be collected through the tower, located within the Panamanian mangrove ecosystem.

DROUGHT SEEN

An extensive drought is forecast for 2016, but it will not cause food shortages in the country. This was stated by the Minister of Agricultural Development (MIDA), Jorge Arango, reporting that to face the coming dry season, they are working to save water for the summer and there is no shortage of products.

TIT FOR TAT

Lawyer Sydney Sittón formally reported to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) three government ministers of President Juan Carlos Varela for alleged “fraudulent tax activity.” He alleges that the three ministers, according to the indictment, “are American citizens and must declare taxes in the United States”, and he also denounced the former Minister of the Presidency, Demetrio Papadimitriu. The Panamanian Department of Revenue (DGI), started an audit of the law firm of Sitton, to check compliance with tax obligations. Notification by the DGI reached the hands of Sitton a day after the lawyer made a complaint to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) against three ministers.

DROUGHT PLAN

The low rainfall plaguing the region in a dry arc for livestock has forced authorities to develop a contingency plan. It is known as the Drought Plan, which was initially implemented in the region of Los Santos and next week will reach the province of Herrera. With an investment of $2.5 million. The Drought Plan will help mitigate the effects generated by climate change by building water reservoirs, drilling wells and providing livestock feed.

DEBT RISES

Panama’s public debt at the end of October amounted to $19,998 million, representing an increase of $1,613 million compared with the same month of 2014.

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