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Childcare Scandal: Governor of Panama Replaced; Carla García Assumes the Helm, But Finds Herself Amid Senniaf Controversy Regarding Children's Shelter Abuses


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Two arrested in Shelter investigation

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Posted 04/03/2021

Authorities made two arrests, on  Thursday, February  4  related to the childcare scandal in government monitored shelters.

In the first instance, it was reported that a woman was apprehended in La Chorrera, Panama West for her alleged involvement in irregularities in a shelter. Police removed technological equipment during the raid.

A second arrest was made at a residence in Arriajan of a woman linked to alleged child abuse.

 For three weeks there have been protests outside the National Secretariat for Children, Adolescents, and the Family (Senniaf) headquarters to demand justice for the abuses that occurred in at least 14 shelters, documented in an extensive report by the Women's Commission. , Children and the Family of the National Assembly.

The protesters demand the names of those in charge of the shelters where the abuses against minors were committed.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/two-arrested-in-shelter-investigation

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SHELTER PROBE 2 women in preventive detention

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Posted 05/03/2021

Two women who were arrested Thursday, March 4, in Panamá Oeste, as part of the investigations that are being carried out for irregularities in shelters supervised by the National Secretariat for Children, Adolescents and Family (Senniaf), will remain under provisional detention after separate court the on Friday.

In the first hearing) the charge was made for a crime against the public administration, in the form of embezzlement in a shelter in Tocumen, whose population is minors between one year and 17 years of age.

According to the investigations of the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office carried out to date, irregularities have been registered in the handling of more than $90,000 relating to state subsidies for the operation of the shelter. This person was the signatory of the subsidies that were received by the State. It is not ruled out that the figure for that amount is higher or the involvement of other people.

The facts are related to a complaint filed by the Ministry of Social Development in July 2020.

For this same period, the MP, through the Family Section of the Metropolitan Prosecutor's Office, issued a protection measure in favor of minors and evicted the administrators of the shelter.

Second hearing 

In the second hearing, at the request of the Family Section of the Metropolitan Prosecutor's Office, a woman was placed under provisional detention and charged with the alleged commission of the crime of mistreatment of a child or adolescent, for acts recorded in a shelter.

Prosecutor Jessika Taylor presented elements collected in field procedures, searches, inspections and interviews, which link the accused today in these events registered in a shelter in Tocumen.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/shelter-probe-2-women-in-preventive-detention-1

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Scandal boss fired AFTER she resigned

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Posted 05/03/2021

Another layer of confusion has been added to the scandal of abuse in shelters for children and adolescents that has ignited three weeks of street protests.

Mayra Inés Silvera, director for a month of the National Secretariat for Children, Adolescents and the Family (Senniaf), was forced to resign and aired her version of events in an interview on Radio Panama.

She said that on March 3, she was summoned to the Presidency and presented with a letter of resignation already that she had to sign. It does not detail the reasons for her removal from office. However, Silvera claims to have sent a resignation note written by her on February 25, in which she describes as "impossible under these circumstances" to make the necessary changes in the institution.

Despite circulating rumors about the change of command the Presidency press office claimed: "not to have details." This, despite Silvera having been in the Presidency on March 3, signing her resignation reports La Prensa.

Mayra Inés Silvera became the first official to leave the government in the midst of the scandal over the abuses committed in shelters under the custody Senniaf which she took over on February 2.

One of PresidentCortizo's assistants presented her with a letter of resignation already drawn up, a document that she signed.

She was surprised, she said because she had tried to resign from the position and they did not accept it in the Presidency. According to her version, they told her that they were going to support her, and she had even started hiring staff. "I feel humiliated and betrayed," she said.

Silvera disclosed the two resignation letters: the one that they made her sign on March 3, that does not state the reasons for her departure and only says that it is for "reasons of a personal and professional nature." and the one he presented on February 25, in which he reveals the entity's realities: “Unfortunately I do not have the infrastructure, the equipment or the support to face the problems that have shocked the entire nation [... ] Without the required support, I cannot fight this great problem that involves aberrations against children and adolescents ”.

Silvera also gave an interview to journalist Álvaro Alvarado through Instagram. She reiterated what she said on Radio Panama, and also said that the person who recommended her for the position was Carla García, former deputy director of Senniaf and today the governor of Panama.

Silvera was ratified as Senniaf director on February 1 Eight days after she received the approval of the Legislative Assembly the Legislative Commission on Women, Children, Youth, and the Family presented the report that has triggered almost three continuous weeks of citizen protests and investigations in the Public Ministry.

Her name, along with that of Carla García, former deputy director of the entity,  was mentioned over and over again in the unstoppable citizen protests that demand actions in favor of the rights of children. and teenagers. 

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/scandal-boss-fired-after-she-resigned

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OPINION - A shameful outrage

Posted 05/03/2021

Yesterday, after hours and hours of speculation about the resignation of the hitherto director of the National Secretariat for Children, Adolescents and the Family (Senniaf), the shameful outcome was known. On February 25, the director resigned from her position, but her letter was not received. Instead, a week later, the Government presented her with another note, drawn up by who knows who in the Presidency of the Republic, and which she wanted the official to sign without question. So there were two resignation letters: one written by the victim and the other spurious. But the author of the brilliant idea did not count on the director being able to report the outrage, as she did yesterday. And the reason for leaving office lies in the shameful fact that this institution is starved of support, equipment and infrastructure, necessary to deal with the serious problems afflicting the shelters. It is a reality that the Presidency wanted to hide. Now we realize (just in case there was the benefit of the doubt ...) that the Government, with this clumsy action, is acting as an accomplice to the scandal. They have handled everything related to this case so badly that it has exploded in their faces and they have not realized it.- LA PRENSA, Mar 5

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/opinion-a-shameful-outrage

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Third arrest in government shelters scandal

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Posted 06/03/2021

A third woman was arrested in Panama City on Saturday afternoon for her alleged involvement in the irregularities detected in government-supervised shelters in the country.

The person is under investigation for the alleged embezzlement; she was allegedly in charge of running a shelter.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/third-arrest-in-government-shelters-scandal

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Ombudaman's shelter report to UN, and prosecutor

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Posted 07/03/2021

The Ombudsman Eduardo Leblanc will present a report on 44 government monitored child care shelters to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Tuesday.

Due to the distance and being an area of difficult access, it was not possible to visit a shelter in the community of Kankintú, Ngäbe-Buglé region, but it will be visited soon and an independent report will be made.

The shelters report will also go to the Ministry of Social Development (Mides), to the National Secretariat for Children and Adolescents (Senniaf) and as a result of some issues, it will be transferred to the Public Ministry so that the Attorney General, Javier Caraballo can determine whether or not there was a crime.

"We believe that the most important thing is to ensure the interest of children who are in shelters, also a call to the population to avoid comments that may hurt children who surely already present a psychological issue due to all this information," said Leblanc.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/ombudamans-shelter-report-to-un-and-prosecutor

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Third woman held in shelters case

Posted 07/03/2021

The Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office obtained the provisional detention of a woman apprehended on Saturday in a Panama hotel in the case of the child shelters. in The judge admitted the legalization, arrest, and imputed embezzlement charges in an investigation related to the shelters, according to the Public Ministry.

Earlier it was reported and that she allegedly served as the director of a shelter. The Public Ministry is advancing in the investigations of mistreatment and sexual abuse of minors. On Friday, two other women were ordered provisional arrest in the same case.

One was charged with a crime against the public administration and another with mistreatment of a child or adolescent

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/third-woman-held-in-shelters-case

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First alleged rape arrest in child shelter scandal

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Posted 08/03/2021

The Metropolitan Prosecutor's Office  has reported the arrest of a man for the alleged commission of the crime against sexual freedom [rape] to the.detriment of a minor under 15 years of age, who was in a government-monitored shelter

In a statement issued on Monday, March 8, the Public Ministry specified that the arrest took place in the village of Las Garzas and that the investigation of the Prosecutor's Office is linked to the irregularities committed against minors while they remained in some shelters at the same level.

"The person apprehended is investigated for being identified as responsible for acting through threats and intimidation to sexually access the victim, a minor, while both were in a rehabilitation center," says the note from the Public Ministry.

The person will be taken to a hearing of guarantees, where the imputation of charges will be requested.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/first-alleged-rape-arrest-in-child-shelter-scandal-4

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17 ongoing probes into shelters abuse

Posted 09/03/2021

The Public Ministry (MP) has opened 17 investigations related to alleged mistreatment and sexual abuse of children and adolescents, as well as mismanagement of funds in shelters under the supervision of the Secretariat for Children, Adolescents and Family (Senniaf).

Public Ministry sources confirmed that some of the investigations date back to 2017 and that in one of these cases there was already a 10-year prison sentence reports La Prensa.

On Monday officials from the Metropolitan Prosecutor's Office and the National Police detained a man for the alleged commission of the crime of rape and libidinous acts to the detriment of a 15-year-old adolescent.

According to investigations, the minor was transferred along with other adolescents to a rehabilitation center for adults in Las Garzas de Pacora and there she was a victim.

Last weekend, the authorities arrested three women, who were charged with alleged abuse of minors and embezzlement.

The authorities arrested yesterday a fourth person allegedly involved in the scandal of sexual abuse and mistreatment of children and adolescents, as well as administrative mismanagement in shelters under the tutelage of the State.

Sources from the Public Ministry (MP) confirmed that it is a man, who is accused of the alleged rape of a 15-year-old adolescent.

According to information published by La Prensa in August 2020, in June of that year the Secretariat for Children, Adolescents and the Family (Senniaf) sent 13 adolescents at risk to the center, despite the fact that it was a site to rehabilitate adults.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/17-ongoing-probes-into-shelters-abuse

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Devastating shelter reports from ombudsman and prosecutor

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Javier Caraballo

Posted 10/03/2021

Reports delivered on Tuesday, March 9, by Attorney General Javier Caraballo and Ombudsman Eduardo Leblanc paint a grim picture of Panama’s government-supervised children’s shelters.

Caraballo said that 18 investigations are underway for alleged abuses in shelters and inspections have been carried out in 57 of the centers and 20  children have been relocated. Five people have been charged

Leblanc said that they made inspections in 44 shelters and found that 70% lack suitable personnel.

“In these shelters there are children who reach the age of majority and the responsible authorities do not follow up on these cases, including the Secretariat for Children, Adolescents and the Family (Senniaf).”

The report states that shelter staff admits that there is little monitoring by Senniaf and that some of the buildings are in poor condition.

Caraballo said that as part of the investigations carried out by the MP, prosecutors have interviewed at least 280 minors who remain in the 57 shelters.

To date, five people have been charged with crimes ranging from embezzlement to rape and child abuse,  although this figure could increase in the coming days.

He acknowledged that, on occasions, judicial investigations do not proceed at the speed demanded by the community, but affirmed that they are working to clarify the facts and bring those responsible for the abuses to justice.

 Ombudsman, Leblanc, revealed that 70% of the 44 shelters inspected do not have suitable personnel to care for minors. Psychologists, health personnel, and social workers, among other professionals, are lacking, he said.

Leblanc warned that there are minors who reach adulthood inside shelters without the competent authorities finding),  a home for them, and said that among those authorities is Senniaf which does not follow up on the cases.

Another of the anomalies reported is the little access to education for young people in the centers.

Rape charge

Meanwhile, a guarantee judge yesterday ordered the provisional detention of a man allegedly involved in the rape of a minor under 14 years of age, in a rehabilitation center for adults with drug addictions. located in Las Garzas de Pacora. The adolescent was taken to the home from a shelter under the supervision of Senniaf.

Sources linked to the investigation said that this center provided assistance not only to men addicted to drugs, but also to women, including prostitutes.

Among the evidence provided by the prosecution is the testimony of one of the managers of the rehabilitation center, in which he specified that minors were not welcomed in that place, but at the request of the Senniaf they received the aforementioned group.

The victim is a 14-year-old indigenous youth who was orphaned at the age of 2 and has a certain degree of disability. According to the investigation, the victim was abused at least three times

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/devastating-shelter-reports-from-ombudsman-and-prosecutor-1

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Sex crimes unit arrests woman linked to shelters abuse

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Posted 10/03/2021

A woman arrested  in the province of Coclé on Wednesday, March 10  is the sixth person related to the cases of abuse and irregularities in shelters to br apprehended, reported the Office of the Attorney General

According to the entity, the woman was will be presented to a hearing for a sexual offense to the detriment of a minor.

That arrest was ordered by the Sex Crimes Unit of the Metropolitan Prosecutor's Office, together with the Judicial Investigation Directorate.

Five people have already been arrested, three women and two men, who are allegedly involved in child abuse and embezzlement.

On March 4, the Public Ministry made two arrests as part of the investigations for alleged irregularities in shelters guarded by the National Secretariat for Children, Adolescents, and the Family.(Senniaf)

From the investigations carried out in the shelters, 20 victims have been identified. 

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/sex-crimes-unit-arrests-woman-linked-to-shelters-abuse

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Raid on shelters HQ seeks links

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Posted 10/03/2021

The Family Section of the Public Ministry and the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office carried out an ocular inspection process at the offices of the  e National Secretariat for Children, Adolescents and the Family (Senniaf ), as part of the investigations into abuses in shelters.

Anti-corruption prosecutor Aurelio Vásquez told La Prensa that he cannot provide information on the investigations, because they are currently in process and that it is a case in which minors are involved.

"The only thing we can anticipate right now is that we are conducting inspection procedures at Senniaf and that some situations will eventually be verified regarding what may come out today," said Vásquez.

While the proceedings were being conducted in Senniaf, the deputies of the Commission for Women, Children, Youth and the Family of the National Assembly met with the attorney general Javier Caraballo.

The substitute deputy Walkiria Chandler said that the visit was "quite cosmetic" and that Caraballo could not specify the exact number of open cases, for the abuse of minors in shelters subsidized by Senniaf.

Chandler indicated that they want the certainty of punishment and transform the reality of minors who are still in shelters.

The commission gave Caraballo more than 400 pages of information gathered, which includes three new cases of abuse in shelters.

The deputies reproached that the five accusations known so far are against "middle management" personnel, but that Caraballo guaranteed that he would investigate all equally.

"We know that there are quite important or powerful people involved within the State", linked - according to Chandler - to religious congregations, political parties, the "economic power" or with family affiliation with the rulers. The deputies did not specify the names of those involved.

Lawmaker  Zulay Rodríguez said that when Eduardo Ulloa, prosecutor until March 2, wanted to lead Sara Rodríguez and Carla García (former director and former deputy director of Senniaf), “the father came, he got very angry, and he [Ulloa] resigned. He couldn't stand the pressure ”

García's father - now the governor of the province of Panama - is the Vice Minister of the Presidency, Carlos García.

Rodríguez also asked to summon the former Minister of Social Development, Markova Concepción, who currently holds a diplomatic post in the United States.

This scandal is related to an investigation initiated ex officio by the Public Ministry in 2020, after the media - including La Prensa - reported the irregular transfer of minors to that center.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/raid-on-shelters-hq-seeks-links

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Powerful child abusers must be held to account

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Posted 11/03/2021

As expected, cases of child abuse, mistreatment, and other aberrations against minors continue to add up in the Assembly, where a legislative subcommittee gathered evidence that unleashed the Senniaf scandal, accepting complaints published in the pages of this newspaper. Yesterday, deputies affirmed that there are names of figures of economic or political power and / or both, that have come to light, although everything indicates that the Public Ministry has begun to investigate from below. We trust that the Attorney in charge will support his staff as these names appear in the investigations. Otherwise, this institution will continue to lose credibility in the face of high-profile cases, something that the former Attorney General managed to do with success. We must not forget that our most vulnerable population is children and that, Taking advantage of this fragility, they were abused, even sexually, so there should be no room for half-hearted investigations or looking the other way or indulgence out of friendship or affinity. They are serious and unforgivable crimes, which have deserved the attention of the whole of society. We demand that - whoever the abusers are - the full weight of the law falls on them.- LA PRENSA, Mar. 11

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/powerful-child-abusers-must-be-held-to-account

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Woman 23, charged  in shelter sex-crime probe

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Posted 12/03/2021

A 23 -year-old woman, arrested in Coclé is in preventive detention charged with crimes against sexual freedom and integrity, in the form of libidinous acts, and corruption of a minor, at a children's shelter in Panama City, reports the Public Ministry (MP).

At the Thursday hearing, the MP was represented by the circuit prosecutor, Yaritza Sánchez, who requested the guarantee judge, Adrián Hernández, the legalization of the arrest, the imputation of charges and the precautionary measure of provisional detention

The Judicial Branch reported that this is related to events that occurred between March 10 to September 20, 2020, in a family home located in the Sex Crimes Section of the MP has six months to conclude the investigation of this case in which there are three other women and two men arrested, accused of child abuse and embezzlement.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/woman-23-charged-in-shelter-sex-crime-probe

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Shelter abuse and embezzlement revelations

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Posted 17/03/2021

More details are emerging of the investigation of the Fundación Chilibre Panamá (Funchipa) –which ran a shelter in Tocumen and the part played by the former director of the center Xenia Medina,69, who was arrested on Saturday, March 6 and  in preventive detention for the alleged commission of the crimes of embezzlement and abuse of minors.

 Sources consulted by La Prensa  defined Medina as a woman "with ease of conviction to be supported in any project that she had in mind."

  She had no fixed address as she moved every two months but was located in San Felipe, and arrested on March 6

The investigations followed by the Public  Ministry also reveal that it was she who "recruited" Xenia Moreno, the foundation's former legal adviser - which began operations in 2009 - and who is also detained as part of the process.

The two are apparently connected by a family bond, according to sources.

In this case, there is a third detainee, Itzel De La Cruz, who faces abuse charges.

De La Cruz is pointed out by some of the victims as the person in charge of applying the "discipline." According to the minors, she locked them in a punishment cell known as “la comarca”, left them without food and even forced them to sleep on the floor for allegedly misbehaving.

The investigation into alleged mismanagement of the subsidies assigned to the shelter by the Ministry of Social Development (Mides) is based on an audit carried out by it and covers at least $90,000

The Mides audit - which denounced the case in 2020 - detected that between April and November 2019 there were unbudgeted and unauthorized expenses.

According to the document, invoices from the center were paid with the subsidy funds for up to $92,022. In addition, professional services not contemplated were invoiced to the company Ecsa Asesores Tributarios SA, for an amount of $18.000

Funchipa also had an allocation of $7,000 for the purchase of food, but the auditors found expired food.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/shelter-abuse-and-embezzlement-revelations

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Feet dragging in shelter abuse probe

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Posted 02/04/2021

There are 20 ongoing  Public Ministry investigations and six people  in custody for  abuses detected in shelters subsidized by the l Secretariat for Children, Adolescents and the Family (Senniaf)  while President Cortizo  has still  not designated the person who will take over the hot potato after the abrupt departure of Mayra Inés Silvera, on March 4.

The deputies of the National Assembly have also not agreed to set the date on which the Minister of Social Development, María Inés Castillo, and the former deputy director of the Senniaf  Carla García - now - Panama Governor must attend the plenary session to render accounts for the management of the shelters.

Until now, the public does not know the list of social organizations involved in the cases. There is also no clarity on those responsible for the events says LaPr ensa.

With just a few days to go until two months have passed since since day February 9 that a legislative commission published a report that revealed abuses committed in shelters under the custody of the National Secretariat for Children, Adolescents and the Family (Senniaf) , The investigations carried out by the Public Ministry for these cases are progressing slowly and the public still does not know which centers are involved.

On February 15, the plenary session of the National Assembly approved to summon the Minister of Social Development, María Inés Castillo; to the then director of Senniaf, Mayra Inés Silvera, and to the former deputy director of the latter entity, Carla García (today the governor of Panama). The purpose is for them to give explanations of the actions they took to protect the rights of the child. The deputies have not dated this summons.

Sources linked to the investigations explained that all the victims were placed in new social centers, as a protection measure. According to what has been reported, they are being treated by psychologists, since some have presented affectations.

A 23-year-old man is also being detained, accused of the crimes of rape and libidinous acts to the detriment of a 14-year-old who was a refugee in the Vida Libre rehabilitation center for adults, located in Pacora.

Another man remains in prison for his alleged connection with mistreatment and abuse of children and adolescents in a shelter located in Ponuga, Santiago, in the province of Veraguas. In this case there are two other people charged, but not detained: they are prevented from leaving the country.
 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/feet-dragging-in-shelter-abuse-probe

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Shelters case ‘fading’

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Posted 05/04/2021

Walkiria Chandler, one of the three deputies who prepared the report on abuses in state-subsidized shelters, has warned that the case is "fading," without those responsible having been punished. It is not the first time that Chandler has expressed this concern reports La Prensa Three weeks ago, after a visit to Attorney General Javier Caraballo, she said  that "people who are quite important or powerful within the government have not been arrested."  Meanwhile, the youthful activists who for weeks gathered daily in front of the Senniaf headquarters or on Avenida Balboa are seeking another cause.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/shelters-case-fading

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Protests against child shelter abuse resume

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Posted 06/04/2021

Protesters against abuse in children’s shelters subsidized  and monitored by the Secretariat for Children, Adolescents and the Family (Senniaf) returned to the headquarters of the body in Panama City on Monday, April 5, while similar demonstrations were held across the country..

Part of Avenida Balboa was closed d inuring the protest in which posters read: Who will give them back their childhood? Justice for children; Senniafrespond; Stop supporting the usual corrupt, among others. a spokesman for “Out the Net” a citizen group, said that they are still waiting for a response from members of the Senniaf board of directors to whom they sent a request for action on the situation in the shelter signed by more than 600 people and 15 organizations, but they have not received any answer.

He regretted that minors are still vulnerable in places where they were abused or mistreated and living with their aggressors.

There were also protests in David, Chiriquí; Chitré, Herrera province and in Las Tablas, Los Santos.

there are 20 open processes in the Public Ministry (MP) and six people detained in cases of abuse in the shelters, which were made known in  February, but no big fish have been named.

President Laurentino Cortizo has yet to designate the person who will occupy the position of director of Senniaf, which has been vacant since March 4, when Mayra Inés Silvera was forced to leave the post. Her deputy, Carla Garcia was named Governor of Panama.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/protests-against-child-shelter-abuse-resume

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Four shelter cases opened by Family Prosecutor

Posted 07/04/2021

Four processes were initiated by the Family Prosecutor's Office after the inspection of 57 shelters in the country, which 500 interviews were conducted with minors by the Victims and Witnesses Protection Unit of the Public Ministry

Family Prosecutor, Aurelio Vásquez, said that in one of these cases the existence of a minor who was not brought to clinical care in a timely manner has been verified, "that is a negligent treatment that has a typology of crime ”.

In addition, Vásquez explained that two other cases have been due to situations of children who indicated that they have been touched and those shelters where some children could have said that due to their behavior they were repressed through blows.

"If we talk about the family prosecutor's office in these investigations of the 57 shelters, right now we are in an informal phase, that is, we do not have accused persons, but they have the quality of being indicted for the crime of child abuse," said prosecutor Vásquez.

These four processes to which the prosecutor Vásquez refers are apart from other investigations that the Public Ministry is carrying out for other complaints linked to the shelters.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/four-shelter-cases-opened-by-family-prosecutor-1

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