Week in Review January 12


From Switzerland the bribes were paid in Panama. Investigations in Switzerland confirm the payment of bribes during the government of Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal. Without revealing even the names of the Panamanians who received these bribes from Odebrecht – the largest contractor of the Panamanian State – Switzerland confirmed the existence of bank accounts that would have reached more than $20 million in illegal payments.


The government of Juan Carlos Varela announced that it would not award more public infrastructure works to Brazil’s Odebrecht construction company until the company – which admitted paying multi-million dollar bribes to officials of several countries, including Panama – collaborates in the investigations by the Attorney General’s Office. Likewise, the construction company will be required to commit itself to compensate the State “for the damages caused”, after admitting to the US authorities that it paid $59 million in bribes to high Panamanian officials between the years 2010-2014.


The Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Panama (Cciap) asked the president of the country, Juan Carlos Varela, to suspend the purchase for “30 million dollars” of two boats from the Navy of Colombia until both countries resolve a controversy which was decided in favor of Panama by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and which Colombia refuses to accept. “Our call to the president is to please stop that purchase. Do not buy the boats for $30 million and send a message to the Colombian president (Juan Manuel) Santos,” said the Cciap president, Jorge García speaking to the news agency Efe.


The Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) hopes that the cruise terminal that will be built on the Amador causeway will become a starting point for cruises, known as a Home Port. In this way, the economic benefit for the country would be greater, because the tourists would arrive in Panama to board the cruises, having the opportunity to spend the night.


The container ship “Valparaíso Express” established a new standard in the Panama Canal, becoming the largest vessel to transit through the new locks with a capacity of 10,589 TEUs (20 ft container equivalents) and was recognized for its environmental efficiency. The neo-panamax vessel, owned by the shipping company, Hapag Lloyd, completed its inaugural transit through the expanded Canal as part of a liner service that covers ports along the west coast of South America, the Caribbean and northern Europe, including Panama.


The debt held by Venezuelan importers with Panamanian companies in the Colon Free Zone (ZLC) was reduced from $400 million to about $40 million, officials said. Deputy Foreign Minister, Luis Miguel Hincapié, told the news agency Acan-Efe that the lowering of the debt is the result of a “document clearance” carried out between the companies and the Panamanian free zone.


In a single voice, businessmen, civil organizations, trade unions and journalists of the country asked the United States to remove the Editorial Group El Siglo y La Estrella de Panama (GESE) from the “Clinton list”.


The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) President, Matt Sanders and Robert Cook, who is in charge of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, sent a letter to the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, requesting that sanctions be lifted on the newspapers La Estrella de Panama and El Siglo. In a statement posted on its website, the IAPA reported that it has asked Kerry “to intercede to prevent the closure of the Panamanian newspapers, El Siglo and La Estrella de Panama in January and to removing them from the “Clinton List”.


A few hours after the license expires (January 5), which allows GESE to maintain commercial and financial relations with companies and citizens of the United States, the US ambassador to Panama. John Feely, compared the situation of the media group with a ship in a storm that requires a change of command. “If the captain (of the ship) is not capable at the helm he should turn it over to other crew. I have nothing further to say”, said Feely, who last December suggested that the company’s main owner, Abdul Waked, sell 51% of his shares. GESE has a reprieve until July 13.


A new call to defend Panamanian sovereignty has been made in an expression by the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) deputy, Elías Castillo, so that the government hitch up its pants and request the exclusion of the Editorial Group El Siglo and La Estrella (GESE) from the Clinton List. Castillo said that Panama has to exercise its sovereignty by not allowing the United States to break into the country and do whatever it wishes.


The Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) requested the services of Mexican experts to restore the flagpole with the national flag located at the top of Cerro Ancón. The specialists are working to know the magnitude of the damages on the existing structure, whose base also shows signs of fatigue. Mexico is recognized for managing large monuments, said the Minister of the MEF, Dulcidio De La Guardia.

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