State Department upholds Martinelli extradition
by Eric Jackson
Warning that Martinelli suffers from certain chronic ailments and basing its action on four of the pending criminal charges against Panamas former president, the State Department has approved the decisions of US courts. At any moment Ricardo Martinelli will be put on a plane headed for Panama, where with or without a crowd of supporters police will take him into custody and conduct him to a jail cell of some sort.
La Estrella reports a political skirmish between former first lady and illegally state-financed 2014 Cambio Democratico vice presidential candidate Marta Linares de Martinelli and President Juan Carlos Varela on just what sort of flight will bring the fugitive former president back. Linares de Martinelli wants him put on a Copa Airlines flight so that supporters here will be able to converge on Tocumen Airport to welcome him home, while Varela want him brought on a private flight with undisclosed time and place of arrival to avoid any such demonstrations.
The man is a proven flight risk but it can be expected that lawyers will be in court arguing for his release on bail or into house arrest, and it should not be a surprise is a judge is purchased to issue such a ruling. Now that his old legal Mr. Fixit, former Supreme Court presiding magistrate Alejandro Moncada Luna, is out of prison on parole and practicing law again, perhaps Moncada Luna might represent him in such efforts. In any case, look for Martinelli to send in phalanxes of attorneys to delay and obstruct, early in the process to argue that ONLY the four cases for which the United States extradited him may proceed. (General Noriega tried that one with respect to his French extradition, lost, but then by that time he was too ill to withstand any more trials.)
At the top of the docket is the invasion of privacy and theft of state purchased espionage equipment case. Using Israeli hardware and Italian softwear, Martinelli not only tapped people’s phones but remotely turned on their cell phones and computers to turn them into room bugs. He had a top enemies list fo 150 people, about whom he received daily logs. Those who communicted with members of that list also were picked up, and in that much larger crowd you find this reporter. Martinelli misappropriated hundreds of millions of dollars from state coffers and had persons of different races than his killed, but it says a number of things about Panamanian culture that the case that got top billing in the courts here has been the intrusion into the private lives of mostly white professionals.
Cambio Democratico, which along with other parties in the legislature is embroiled in a battle with the comptroller general and public opinion about theft of public funds by way of the National Assembly’s payrolls, indicates that the defense of Ricardo Martinelli will be a key priority in this election year. For that to work as a path to victory for Martinelli’s party it would probably be necessary to get election authorities to knock anti-corruption independents off the ballot and have a race among the three discredited major parties. There would be a possible opening for small parties, some of them new, but their problem — with the exception of the far leftist Broad Front for Democracy (FAD) — is that the smaller parties are implicated in the peculations of the big ones and in fact exist not to promote any principle but to secure a piece of the action for their owners.