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Panama politics  contaminated by criminal links


Posted 16/11/2021

Former Attorney General and presidential candidate Ana Matilde Gómez said on Monday, November 15 that in Panama political power has been contaminated by criminal power.

"Justice has been contaminated by political power and political power has been contaminated by criminal power and criminal power has a high business component, that is to say, economic power," she said on Telemetro responding to The murder of the deputy director of the Public Registry, and a leader of the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) , Agustín Lara.

She pointed out that "from the moment they began to finance political campaigns, they have already gone to another level, which is to be able to occupy public positions."

The killing has triggered reactions about the intrusion of organized crime into politics.

The secretary-general of the PRD, Pedro Miguel González, made a call on his personal social  network: "Enough of being tolerant of the infiltration of organized crime in politics." and added that the authorities should deepen the investigations, "regardless of political affiliation or social status."

Lara's case is not the first in which public servants and people close to the PRD party organization have been victims of similar crimes reports La Prensa.

In August last year, an official of the Presidency, and leader of the Women's Front of the PRD, Wendy Rodríguez, was murdered in the South Corridor by hitmen in a car.

The same car was later linked to the investigations into the murder of former PRD deputy, Diógenes Yoyi Vergara, in Pacora. Vergara, who was a deputy between 2014 and 2019, was shot dead on February 9, 2021, on the main thoroughfare of Cabra de Pacora.

In August of this year, hitmen assassinated Ovidio Castro, in the basement of the parking lots of the Multiplaza shopping center, in the capital. Subsequent investigations revealed that Castro, alias Tulip, was an official in the San Miguelito mayor's office, the district where he resided.

Lara was a candidate for deputy in the elections passed in the 8-6 circuit and obtained more than 19,000 thousand votes. He was appointed deputy director of the Public Registry in July 2019, when President Cortizo took office. However, he still continued with the electoral and political organization in his circuit, as he walked closely with the current deputy Raúl Pineda and the candidates he supports.

The president of the Democratic Change party, Rómulo Roux, considers that "there is a serious problem of narco politics and organized crime infiltrated in national politics." he said on Telemetro Reporta. He assured that "it is something of years" but considers that the will to solve the problem does not exist.

After the assassination of alias Tulip,  Security Minister Juan Pino responded to questions and assured that "Panama is not an unsafe country" and that the cases of violence are about retaliation between gangs. At the moment, Pino has not referred to this case

Pino, who replaced Rolando Mirones in February 2020, argues that if he does not hit the "financial muscle" of organized crime the phenomenon will continue to grow.

Mirones resigned after a gang confrontation in a prison in December 2019 left 13 dead leading to the dismissal of the Minister of Government.

The president of the Panameñista Party, José Blandón , agrees with Roux. Both consider that it is necessary for the authorities to "recognize that there is a problem." Blandón says that Pino and the rest of the managers "are in denial."

He considers that other political and electoral aspects should be explored. "We must reduce the cost of campaigns or even eliminate private financing," said Blandón, because, it is through this route that organized crime infiltrates the political system.

In addition, he highlighted the importance of professionalizing the public service through the administrative career, in order to prevent those involved in illicit activities from serving as civil servants.

At this point, he agrees with the former director of the National Police, Ebrahim Asvat, who points out that drug trafficking has already entered politics, justice and security, because ex-convicts are allowed to be officials, lawyers and police.




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Gang members on political payroll

Posted 18/11/2021

Although the government lacks a coherent policy on citizen security, it is a complete shame that the National Assembly summons the Minister of Public Security to explain the reason for the increase in violence. And it is that the Assembly is largely responsible for crime in the country. His initiatives to prevent and suppress organized crime are absolutely non-existent. What is worse, many of the deputies promote legislative actions that seek greater opacity in terms of campaign donations, something that facilitates the penetration of organized crime into politics and government. They have promoted changes in the law that are of open benefit to the perpetrators and little or nothing in favor of the victims; their bills often seek to legalize what were previously crimes; Legislation on judicial processes has turned it into minefields, the sole purpose of which is to annul the investigations of the Public Ministry and gang members who enjoy political protection have been found on its payroll. So, the Assembly, as opposition politicians say, is not a solution, it is an important part of the problem. Let's just remember that,  who made the law, set the trap. - LA PRENSA, Nov. 18.



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Narco-politicians with high-level protection


Posted 24/11/2021

The Minister of Public Security gave few credible statements about narco politics. The official said he does not know who is involved in this type of crime, a confession as convenient as it is implausible. But, if you ignore it, the matter is worse, and it would explain why the police intelligence of this country is not reliable, at least for this purpose. The official is more likely to take refuge in his alleged ignorance than to admit what he knows since he must be aware that narco politics enjoys relationships and protection at the highest level, which is why his promise to bring those suspects - "whoever let it be ”- before authority is a promise that seeks to reassure, but unlikely. It's safer to end your days as a minister than to keep that promise. He described what happens with crime and the Government, but without providing solutions, He also knows that, whatever they may be, the last word on this issue is from the National Assembly, where narco politics has powerful allies. So, as much as he wants to, a single minister will never be able to eradicate organized crime from the government, especially if it is made up of white-collar gang members. – . LA PRENSA, Nov 24.



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OPINION: Impunity returns to the throne


Posted 26/11/2021

In the government of Ricardo Martinelli, irregular acts and corruption were notorious. The evidence abounds: verified overpricing, confessed bribes, money in banks without justification, unauthorized interceptions. The list of irregularities is long and the evidence tangible.

It is natural that those affected, united by a cause, now want to annul their cases on the grounds that they were "armed." And, indeed, the pieces that make up a criminal organization must be put together, like a puzzle. This is the only way to understand how a corruption scheme that seeks to hide its traces works. The investigations were made, but now, in a plot for which the prosecutor in charge has lent himself - and it would not be surprising if the lenders are government figures as well, since they are not very different from today's defendants -, Prosecutors who deciphered the puzzle of the organization that was put together in the government years ago have been removed from the files. Separating them is a dangerous precedent, since it is enough to file a simple complaint for the prosecutor - well commanded - to separate each prosecutor from their cases. Years of investigation will go to the pipe so that his majesty, impunity, returns to the throne. – LA PRENSA, Nov. 26.



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OPINION: Deaf and Blind by Choice

Posted 30/11/2021

Everything indicates that the Government considers it a very good idea to contract public works through the "turnkey" mechanism. This year, the Ministry of Public Works plans to make 25 contracts of this type, of which it already has 16. These are works that will add up to hundreds of millions of dollars, which, in essence, means buying now and paying later. The irony is that Panama - because of the pandemic - has had terrible fiscal deficits for two years that would complicate those payments, probably to the point of having to incur new debts to face old ones. Despite this, the government's operating expenses continue to rise, to the point of having to borrow to pay the payroll. This situation is simply unsustainable and sooner rather than later this will have consequences for the Treasury and all Panamanians, since the only way to obtain said income will be with more credit or increasing taxes, because it is proven that savings will not leave a penny. This government is taking the country to extremes that other countries have already experienced and with experiences that we do not want to suffer in Panama. But here they are blind and deaf by choice.  – LA PRENSA, Nov. 30.


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