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Panama shows little progress in fight against corruption

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Posted 23/01/2020

Panama continues its slide down the corruption scale and now stands in the 101st position of 180 countries evaluated by Transparency International. (TI). It shares this position with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Peru and Thailand.

During a Thursday. January 23 presentation by the Foundation for the Development of Citizen Freedom, the, Panamanian Chapter of Transparency International 

The report shows that in 2019 Panama obtained a rating of 36 points (on a scale where 0 is higher perception and 100 lower  The country 6 points below the regional average of 43 Panama has gone down, as it is among the countries that have achieved little or no results in the fight against corruption said Olga de Obaldía, executive director

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/business/panama-shows-little-progress-in-fight-against-corruption

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Anti-crime boss  fires three  prosecutors and administrator

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The Publix Ministry

Posted 30/01/2020

Panama’s new Attorney  General, Eduardo Ulloa, announced the firing of three prosecutors and an administrative official on Thursday, January 30.

The Twitter account of the Public Ministry (MP) indicated that the officials were dismissed was due to improper acts Ulloa warned that with this they send a message to prosecutors that they have a commitment to society, which demands effective work.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/anti-crime-boss-fires-three-prosecutors-and-administrator-1

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OPINION: Picking the Public Pocket

Posted 30/01/2020

In 2015, the then Comptroller General of the Republic, Federico Humbert, suspended additional payments to alternate deputies who were appointed in some other State institution or municipalities.

In a decision of the Supreme Court of March 13, 2019, and released more than 10 months later, it supported the actions taken by the ex-comptroller and makes it clear that in our constitutional order, the general principle of compensation of public servants is limited to a single salary.

It is a real shame that the Supreme Court took more than 4 years to define the answer to this judicial questioning, since its effects on the deputy deputies will be effective as of this sentence. The precedent is established so that the current Comptroller General will continue with this effort to avoid abuses with the resources of the State and other precautions enjoyed by deputies and other senior officials. For example, the appointment of the same officer could be controlled on several boards of directors, which implies that he must disregard his obligations, both in his main position and in the directives of which he participates. The defense of state assets must be a permanent struggle. - LA PRENSA, Jan. 30,

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/opinion-picking-the-public-pocket

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OPINION : Crooks remain  on streets mocking Panamanians

Posted 01/02/2020

It seems that we are in the season of judicial hunting in the National Assembly. This week, apart from the legislative shrimp in the project of imprescriptibility of sexual crimes against minors, deputies backed the bill 50, which eliminated the competence of prosecutors to order preventive detentions in cases prior to 2018, under the mixed inquisitive system. This sudden concern for justice comes from a deputy who is an expert in making impunity. We are in the final phase of high profile corruption cases, almost all under the inquisitive system, and if justice has been able to advance a little, it has been thanks to the fact that prosecutors have this tool. Bill 50 seeks to evade justice, and those involved in cases such as Odebrecht, FCC, and others, stay on the street, mocking Panamanians, and delaying their processes as much as possible. It is not an accident that this project was returned to the first debate since the deputies were clear of their agenda of releasing those already convicted, and then work on those who should be detained for the most heinous cases of corruption and money laundering. capitals that the country has known - LA PRENSA, Feb. 1

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/opinion-crooks-remain-on-streets-mocking-panamanians-1

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Business leaders denounce lawmakers’ jail dodge amendment

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Posted 02/02/2020

Panama ‘s  Chamber of Commerce(Cciap), has joined the growing outcry against a legislative amendment that would allow people convicted of corruption, drug trafficking, money laundering or other  high profile crimes  to escape time  behind bars in return  for  community work

Cciap said  on  Sunday, February 2,: "It is incomprehensible that the National Assembly introduces surprising, unclear and excessive elements at the last minute as has been the modification to Article 65of the Criminal Code  "

“We trust that the Executive Branch will be consistent, as it has been shown so far, with what society claims. At the same time, we expect all officials that make up this state power to conduct themselves vertically and with strict adherence to the law, ”.

The Cciap called on all civil society to denounce all acts of corruption of which it witnesses.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/business/business-leaders-denounce-lawmakers-jail-dodge-amendment

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No laws to promote impunity says Cortizo

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Posted 02/02/2020

Panama President, Laurentino Cortizo said on   Saturday, February 1 that he would never sanction a law that promoted impunity for high profile offenders.

He was referring to an amendment that was passed in the National Assembly and that would allow community work benefits to people who have been convicted of high-profile crimes, and reached a plea deal.

"Rest assured that we are not going to pass any law that promotes impunity or illegality," said the president, adding that "we are not going to sanction any kind of law that benefits crime," said the President in Tolé, Chiriquí.

According to Cortizo  after a meeting with the Attorney General, prosecutors, executives of the National Police and the Minister of Security, some new strategies have been proposed to attack crime and insecurity in the country.

“Obviously we have deficiencies at all levels and what we have to do is identify them and in one column put what needs to be done, in another column put the person in charge and in another third column put in what time, that's what we are doing, ”said the president.

In the midst of a community work tour in Tolé, , Cortizo said he seeks to hear from his own people their needs and provide solutions to the most priority, without promising what cannot be fulfilled. , but what can be done in the short and medium term.

DURING   Community Cabinet Council, funds of more than$50 million were committed in health, water infrastructure, roads, housing and sustainableO development.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/business/no-laws-to-promote-impunity-says-cortizo

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Bill to nail child rapists tangled by  amendments

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Posted 03/02/2020

Modifications made to a bill that would allow people convicted of crimes such as corruption, drug trafficking, money laundering, and other high profile crimes, to escape time behind bars in return for community work continue to generate reactions in citizen and legal circles.

The independent deputy, Juan Diego Vásquez told  TVN News, that in the first instance, bill 91, had been proposed by the deputy Gabriel Silva and it was a noble, commendable and simple project, which established the imprescriptibility of the criminal action in Rape crimes against minors.

What was sought with the initiative, was that people regardless of age, and how much time has passed since a violation is committed, is that victims can seek justice and file their complaint. That had been made clear, both in the explanatory statement and in the articles, until when it reached the second debate, other deputies talked about introducing a modification that referred to the substitute penalty, Vasquez said.

“What we wanted to do, in the beginning, was to establish that no person convicted of the crimes of rape against minors can receive a substitute penalty. There would have been four deputies who introduced the modification: Leandro Ávila, Zulay Rodríguez, Corina Cano and a fourth deputy, whose signature was not recognized by Vásquez.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/bill-to-nail-child-rapists-tangled-by-amendments

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Ministerial firings-first step against crime and corruption

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Former Security Minister Rolando Mirones and Government Minister Carols Romero shown the door

Posted 06/02/2020

The decision of the President to dispense with the services of his Government and Public Security ministers - visible heads and heads of national security - is a message that is received as a first good step to face the rising tide of crime and corruption that face the country. 

However, it is only the beginning, because neither a minister nor a uniformed person can solve the problems of such enormous complexity, such as crime or corruption inside and outside the security institutions. Public policies are needed in which the whole country must participate; It is necessary to measure and make decisions based on results and not based on political harangues. For years, presidents have appointed uniformed or ex-military officers in positions that were once occupied by civilians, thinking maybe that being knowledgeable about security issues could solve this problem. The main consequence has been erratic policies that have allowed it to become worse.

 Mr President, this country belongs to all its nationals, not only to the party in power. And for more good intentions and knowledge that the new designated have, they, by themselves, will not be able to solve this crisis. –  Hoyporhoy LA PRENSA, Feb. 5

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/ministerial-firings-first-step-against-crime-and-corruption

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Corruption and public debt threats

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Posted 08/02/2020

The risk rating agencies have begun to indicate that the level of indebtedness of the Panamanian State is disturbing. In 2019, public debt increased by more than 5.5 billion dollars, that is, the equivalent of the Canal expansion, or almost three lines of the Panama Metro.

The horizon we face requires responsible action by the political class. The options left to the government of Laurentino Cortizo are obvious: reduce public spending, with less payroll and less populist subsidies, and increase the income of the State in a sustainable way, which means more taxes and better collection. The route chosen must be accompanied by the strengthening of the fight against corruption, and the improvement of the public procurement regime. Every penny stolen, Lost or squandered is a stab at the finances of the State and the heritage of all Panamanians. It is time for the State to civilly sue national and international companies that made fun of everyone, and also that the best habit of all is encouraged: savings - LA PRENSA Feb.8

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/corruption-and-public-debt-threats-1

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Bill seeks to block escape holes for public purse thieves

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Gabriel Silva

Posted 10/02/2020

A bill that would close a couple of bolt holes for high profile robbers of the public purse has been submitted to the plenary of the National Assembly by independent deputy Gabriel Silva

He seeks to exclude those who commit a crime against the public administration from the benefit of substitute penalties of house arrest and community work.

The initiative would modify articles of the Criminal Code. To make it clear, among other things, that the conditional suspension of the execution of the sentence does not apply when it comes to crimes against the administration. This would according to Silva, avoid the mockery of those who steal from the State and with bad money have converted their homes into mansions where they live under "house arrest."

Nor will women who are convicted of such crime and who are in a state of gravity or have had a recent birth have the benefit of changing their penalties until the child reaches one year of age. It is then, according to the initiative, that the judge may order house arrest.

In addition, an official who accepts an appointment for a public office or receives remuneration from the State without providing the service will be sanctioned with heavy fines.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/bill-seeks-to-block-escape-holes-for-public-purse-thieves

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Public Purchases: Advances and Changes in the Law

The restriction on hiring individuals who have been convicted in the five years preceding the public act of committing crimes is part of what is contemplated in the bill that is about to be approved in the first debate in Panama.

Friday, February 14, 2020

The new Public Hiring Law is in its final phase to be approved, in first debate, in the Commerce Commission, informed the National Assembly last February 12.

See "Panama: Changes in Contracting Law"

The official statement says that "... From the consensus, it is established that national companies participating in tenders of up to five million dollars will have preference. As for national products, goods and services, local companies will have a preference of up to 5% more than foreign ones. It also provided for penalties for crimes that may be incurred by public officials during public bidding events."

If the current initiative is approved, corrupt companies will not be able to benefit from contracts, since natural persons who have been sentenced by the courts for committing crimes against the public administration, the economic order, collective security, economic assets and the public faith will be unable to participate in the selection processes.

An article in Prensa.com explains that "... If the text is maintained as approved in the first debate, persons and companies that have reached agreements of judicial collaboration or penalty agreements, where they recognize the commission of crimes against public administration; against the economic order, crimes against collective security; crimes against the economic patrimony; and crimes against rthe public faith, will not be able to participate in public tenders either."

Source: Prensa.com

 

https://www.centralamericadata.com/en/article/main/Public_Purchases_Advances_and_Changes_in_the_Law

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OPINION A gauntlet challenge for comptroller

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Posted 17/02/2020

The Supreme Court of Justice has been reiterating the constitutional power of the Comptroller General of the Republic to audit the use of public funds managed by the deputies of the National Assembly.

 First, the Court ruled that the Assembly should provide information on the use of its budgetary items. In a ruling released on February 10, the Court determined again in favor of the Comptroller that could audit the 080 [forms. Without this shortcut and with all the support of the law on your part, the comptroller, Gerardo Solís, must audit the expenses of item 080 [staffing] of the deputies in the past period.

 This could face him with some of those who chose him, but precisely this challenge will prove his independence. The last decade was a period of much legislative corruption since the deputies rented their seats to favor initiatives of the president in office, in exchange for substantial rewards.

Now, Mr. Comptroller, you have a clear path to demand accountability on the funds of all Panamanians. We hope you proceed without further delay. LA PRENSA, Feb 17.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/opinion-a-gauntlet-challenge-for-comptroller

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Smoke and Mirrors Lobbying

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Jaime Lasso garnered multi-millions from Odebrecht for ex-pesident Varela's campaigns

Posted 06/03/2020

What is a lobbyist? He is a person dedicated to obtaining favors at the expense of the public treasury or the interests of the public in favor of a client. Powerfully draws attention to the fact that in the current phase of the Odebrecht case, public opinion follows up on the investigation of a self-declared “lobbyist” who served as an intermediary, presumably between a disgraceful company and senior leaders of political power. 

In Panama there is no official record or restrictions on the lobbyists' actions. Those who contribute today for a campaign or business tomorrow prepare public procurement documents or hold high government positions. As things stand, a lobbyist is a  cash and carry, a commission agent or even the godfather of a profitable relationship between Mr. Money and politicians. 

When you lobby in secret, between smoke and mirrors, The whole society loses, since state affairs and market games are arranged in favor of the highest bidder. This is the best moment, taking advantage of the reform of the Public Procurement Law and the start of the Electoral Reform Commission, to regulate and transparent lobbyists. Do not let us know about them through inquiries and courts - LA PRENSA, Mar 6

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/smoke-and-mirrors-lobbying-1

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OPINION: Unscrupulous legislators hide behind virus shield

Posted 13/03/2020

The dishonor in coronavirus time is highlighted in the National Assembly. The parents of the country took advantage of the distraction caused by the health crisis to put their goals in the draft Public Procurement Law. This does not appear to be exceptional. Taking advantage of the curtain of preventive health measures, the Panamanian Parliament has decided that it will not allow the public to enter. Thus, there will be no citizen participation in the legislative commissions and in the plenary session of the Assembly. Hot topics, such as the legalization of medicinal cannabis, the identity of the unborn, the appointment of the Ombudsman, the modification of the Internal Regulations, the reform of the Transparency Law, and others will be given behind the people's back because the television channel of the National Assembly only transmits the activities of a legislative commission at a time, and interrupts that programming for its live signal from the plenary session. Without active citizen oversight, we will be at the expense of the will of the deputies, at a time of deep national anguish.  A Sad fate of Panamanian democracy falling into such unscrupulous hands.- LA PRENSA, Mar.13

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/opinion-unscrupulous-legislators-hide-behind-virus-shield-1

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OPINION:   Rewarding party bagman

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Roberto Abrego

Posted 08/04/2020

A convenient interpretation of article 318 of the Constitution has allowed the National Assembly to assign one of its members as part of the board of directors of the Panama Canal Authority. This has brought Creole politicking to the heart of an entity that should be isolated from this virus. In the most recent case, the majority Legislative bench took advantage of the neglect due to the health crisis to offend the dignity of Panamanians with an appointment that lacks both the ethical record and the professional profile to carry out the important position. Thus, the deputies show us how they manage State affairs, with a folly of similar size. The “merits” that the assigned deputy has are his membership in the government party and that he has faithfully been able to annul the disturbing bills that have reached the Commission that he chairs. What indignity! -LA PRENSA, Apl.8

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/opinion-rewarding-party-bagman-1

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Justice  with “dynamism” awaits corruption suspects

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AG Eduardo Ulloa

Posted 13/04/2020

Once the suspension of the judicial terms is lifted, the Public Ministry (MP) and its prosecutors will start the processes with "dynamism determination to achieve justice" in cases such as Odebrecht and other high-profile ones, said Attorney General Eduardo Ulloa on Monday, April 13.

According to Ulloa, he asked prosecutors during the courts' coronavirus lockdown time to prepare and advance the proceedings so that they can act "efficiently" when the suspension of the judicial terms is lifted to respond to the clamor of the citizenry.

 "We have not paralyzed our activity," he said and  between the months of March and April 2020 they have participated in 4,000 meetings with the Judicial Branch and have received a similar number of criminal reports that have been followed,

The investigations of the Odebrecht case will be carried out once the suspension is lifted to achieve "the realization of justice." The same applies to the proceedings and audit reports in the Pandeportes case. There has been a decrease in the number of crimes that have been committed during the quarantine but there is still a significant incidence," of domestic violence, so there has been a special follow-up in conjunction with the Ministry of Social Development (Mides) and the National Institute for Women (Inamu).

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/justice-with-dynamism-awaits-corruption-suspects

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OPINION: Democracy quarantined

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Roberto Abrego

Posted 14/04/2020

Transparency and democracy are quarantined in the National Assembly. While the country faces the ravages of a global health crisis, the Credentials Committee approved in first debate the promised reforms to the Internal Regulations of the Assembly. In a blatant way, the President of the Commission, Deputy Roberto Ábrego, highlighted and ridiculed all the proposals that would bring more transparency and accountability to the Legislative Chamber and its members. The project approved by the government steamroller expands the privileges of the deputies, and maintains the opacity of their votes, and supports absenteeism from their functional tasks. So, the promises of the President of the Assembly, Marcos Castillero, that things would change in Parliament, making us believe that integrity would be the guest of honor of the Chamber. went to the garbage basket.

As a medal of merit for his legislative history, Deputy Ábrego represents the Assembly on the board of directors of the Panama Canal Authority. That this deputy occupies such a position, offends all Panamanians. without distinction.  -LA PRENSA, Apl. 14

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/opinion-democracy-quarantined

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Panama’s shameful  ‘for sale’ lawmakers

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Posted 01/05/2020

The National Assembly concluded its first year of ordinary sessions for the 2019-2024 five-year period. The promises of more transparency and integrity are already a distant memory. This Assembly premiered more first-time deputies than any other and was accompanied by a vigorous independent bench, but the results and the ways of making laws continued to worsen. The fiasco of constitutional reforms was drowned in the shameful dismissal of the Ombudsman, whose formal replacement is still pending; a dismissal –or execution on the spot– that provoked triumphant laughter, which later turned into judicial grimaces. The majority bench and, therefore, the national government, are hostages to a handful of mercenary deputies, who, in the mist of populism, trade with the highest bidder. Major national issues have no room to be debated in parliament unless games or spreadsheets are available. The Assembly's response to the pandemic has shown the worst face of the ambition of deputies who lack God and law. Too bad their rest is only two months. – LA PRENSA, May 1.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/panamas-shameful-for-sale-lawmakers

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....sigh.  Well, as it seems to be rolling everywhere. ....the COVID catastrophe has brought out the worst ( and best.....) of mankind.  Dark times brought out  a few roaches.

Meanwhile there are people starving.... their pet animals as well.......no scraps.     To demonstrate a light in a dark place...Amigos de Animals/ Dog Camp are still sheltering and caring for the lost and newborn animals in town.   BUT AS WELL....volunteers are taking bags of donated dog food up to the places where the poor live.   Boquete citizens ( working with the Alcalde) have donated their money to fill food bags for poor people. 

+The people are still making it...together.   

+The leaders ......well, these times seem to sift the bad out quick.  Critical eyes are more peeled these days.  Short tempers in Panama parliament just don't fly anymore.   

+ What will "normal" be?.....when it's "normal" again?     Alison

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9 minutes ago, Keith Woolford said:

The editorial is criticizing members of the National Assembly,  not the President.

Well aware of that. My reply was just an editorial comment about one thing that is happening right now.

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Justice skewered under virus umbrella

Posted 02/05/2020

One of the most recent attacks on the justice system was made by the Second Superior Court, which suddenly ended the investigation of bribes paid by the Spanish company FCC. What could be thought of as the complicit end of this scandal, now faces, amid the pandemic, an accurate protection of constitutional guarantees from the Public Ministry. The prosecutor in the case highlights the scope of this investigation and why it must continue until its purpose is fulfilled. There are sectors that seek to silence all inquiries and complaints about the corruption of past governments. Those interests continue to pressure the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation and the Supreme Court of Justice to derail these cases. Panamanians cannot allow the virus of impunity to continue infecting the political system. Many of the limitations that the country is experiencing in economic and health matters are due to the great corruption that hit us. The dance of billions that vanished, we now need more than ever. - LA PRENSA, May 2

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/justice-skewered-under-virus-umbrella

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MEDIAWATCH: Missed opportunity to sack vice president

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Cortizo and Carrizo

Posted 03/05/2020

FEW PEOPLE will be able to doubt that President Cortizo and part of his team have worked more in the last two months than some of his predecessors in a whole year.  As in marriage, he applied to run the country through thick and thin; in health and in Covid-19. In this context, it would have been difficult to foresee that the hairy hand of corruption would try - without alcohol gel or latex gloves - to illegitimately take advantage of the much-needed resources to deal with the health crisis. However, before and during the pandemic, the irregularities have pointed to the entourage of Vice President José Gabriel Carrizo. The unpresentable purchase of overpriced fans has not only been a slap in the masked faces of Panamanians, but threatens to completely drain the credibility of the present administration, which had started with several points of advantage, thanks to the half-truths of the previous government. The obviously forced resignation of Juan Carlos Muñoz - Deputy Minister of the Presidency until last Monday -, far from mitigating the undesirable political effects of the now-famous purchases, have fueled the discontent of an important segment of the population, who would have expected the President would turn what happened into an opportunity to indicate the exit door to the Minister of the Presidency.

 We must all keep in mind that to get ahead when we integrate into the new normal, Not only will international loan funds be needed. It will be just as important or more important to have robust and reliable leadership that can guide the country LA PRENSA  May 3

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/mediawatch-missed-opportunity-to-sack-vice-president

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