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Volume 14, Number 7
April 6 - 19, 2008


news

Also in this section:
Torrijos ran for president as undisclosed foreign agent
Dam protesters persevere, meet president
Arguments over private concessions on Cinta Costera
Dictatorship victim's kin and Tico video crew busted under nonexistent law
Panama News Briefs

Alternative report on human rights situation
US State Department report on human rights in Panama
Urrego says money laundering bust was ploy to grab his island property
Panama City mayor's race may get crowded
Navarro, Herrera in presidential race
Mitchell does damage control as statute of limitations affects bankruptcy fraud cases
Previous Panama News Briefs


No UK license to kill, but maybe a DR license to steal
Torrijos was an undisclosed foreign agent during his 2004 campaign
by Eric Jackson, largely from other media

Even though part of the next James Bond movie has been filmed in Panama, it does not appear that President Torrijos has achieved the status of double-aught spy. It seems he has never been issued a license to kill by Her Majesty's Secret Service.

However, if we are to believe campaign rhetoric coming out of Santo Domingo and documents that have come to light in the Dominican and Panamanian press and draw rational inferences from a slew of admissions and conflicting statements, Martín Torrijos may have been issued a license to steal by the Dominican Republic's Ministry of Public Works.

The president's relationship with the DR administration of ex-president Hipólito Mejía began in 2001 and ended shortly after Torrijos was elected in 2004, and was carried on through a company called Constructores y Consultores SA, 60 percent of which was owned by former Torrijos administration Minister of the Presidency Ubaldino Real and 40 percent by Martín Torrijos. Constructores y Consultores formed a consortium with a Dominican company and received $300,000 per year from the Dominican Ministry of Public Works, then headed by one Miguel Vargas Maldonado, who is now the opposition presidential challenger to the DR's incumbent President Leonel Fernández.

Vargas Maldonado "gave away the money," charged his successor, Secretary of Public Works Víctor Díaz Rúa. The Vargas campaign, former Dominican President Mejía and Torrijos administration have disputed that characterization, but for all $1 million or so paid out to Constructores y Consultores, all that they have been able to arguably document that they received from Real and Torrijos in return was two brief appearances by former Panamanian Minister of Public Works Luis Blanco at development seminars, one in 2003 where he gave a 30-minute speech on the PYCSA and ICA private toll road projects during the Pérez Balladares administration and another in 2001 in which he participated in a panel discussion. Vargas also claims that Constructores y Consultores helped to draft the DR's regulations on public contracting, but so far neither he, Torrijos, Real or Blanco have been able to produce any proofs of this.

Mejía claimed that Torrijos had nothing to do with the controversial consulting contract, but Torrijos himself admits that he did.

In a statement released on the presidential website, Torrijos said that he did what he did for his family. "You can be sure that I haven't done anything illegal or immoral, and that as a Panamanian and a parent I have a right to earn a living."

During all the time when Torrijos was being paid as a consultant for the government of the Dominican Republic, he was receiving a six-figure salary as secretary-general of Panama's Democratic Revolutionary Party. At no time during the 2004 presidential election campaign did he disclose to the voters of this country that he was receiving money from a foreign government.

In the Dominican Republic, which goes to the polls on May 16, the latest poll showed President Fernández holding a 24-point lead over Vargas in mid-March, and if that trend holds through the election the former would be re-elected in the first round. However, Fernández and his Dominican Liberation Party are increasing rather than reducing the pressure over this issue. They're calling for a search for any Panamanian contracts or assets that Vargas might hold, which might tend to show that there was a more substantial (if personal and illegal) exchange in the controversial consulting contract. "The Central Electoral Board," the party said in a press statement," should "open an investigation that clearly establishes what business relationships and assets Vargas Maldonado has in Panama." The Fernández campaign coordinator, Francisco Javier García, suggested to the DPA wire service that Vargas Maldonado is "disqualified in moral terms due to corruption."

But here in Panama, in an interview with the PRD-aligned Telemetro television network, Vice President and Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis Navarro called the questions about Torrijos's conduct in the matter "mindless" and the news reports out of the DR "fairytales." He added that it's all about President Torrijos's private affairs at a time when he held no public office and that it won't affect the Panamanian administration's public image.


Also in this section:
Torrijos ran for president as undisclosed foreign agent
Dam protesters persevere, meet president
Arguments over private concessions on Cinta Costera
Dictatorship victim's kin and Tico video crew busted under nonexistent law
Panama News Briefs

Alternative report on human rights situation
US State Department report on human rights in Panama
Urrego says money laundering bust was ploy to grab his island property
Panama City mayor's race may get crowded
Navarro, Herrera in presidential race
Mitchell does damage control as statute of limitations affects bankruptcy fraud cases
Previous Panama News Briefs

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