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Volume 16, Number 2
February 11, 2010

news

Also in the news section:
Gómez trial process slowed
Election rule changes debated
Panama joins Colombian civil conflict
Bosco's Christmas village expense report called bogus
Gas explosion and fire in the banking district
Gómez ousted, Bonissi gets a job that doesn't exist under the constitution
Laura Chinchilla wins Costa Rica's presidency
UNESCO calls for ban on trade in Haitian artifacts
Small but broadly based protest against expanded presidential power
Constitutional crisis over Attorney General's trial

Many things that used to be in a Panama News Briefs feature of the website have now migrated to our constantly updated Facebook page, which you need not register with Facebook to see

Gómez gets February 19 indagatoria, Rojas gets more time
Martinelli's men slow down the judicial docket on suspended Attorney General
by Eric Jackson

The indagatoria [deposition for use at trial] of those alleged to be authors or participants in the crime shall, without demanding an oath and without compulsion, be immediately received.

In all cases, those... subjected to any preventive pretrial measure shall be deposed within 24 hours of the start of the application of such measure.
Article 2089, Judicial Code

The summary shall be perfected within four months [of the proceeding's] initiation, a term that may be lengthened by two more months when there are several defendants or crimes.
Article 2033, Judicial Code

On September 24, 2009, acting Administrative Prosecutor Nelson Rojas opened a criminal case against Attorney General Ana Matilde Gómez and several of her subordinates for abuse of authority. The four months were up on January 24, without any summary.

On February 5, 2010, a Friday,
two pretrial measures went into effect against  Gómez: she was suspended from her job and she was ordered not to leave the country. The following Monday she appeared at Rojas's office to give her indagatoria. Nobody would attend to her. The next day, she repeated the gesture with similar results.

In what's likely to be a marathon legal and political struggle, what 
Gómez did was demonstrate that her rights as a criminal defendant were being violated. It's not that it will make any difference with the current Supreme Court --- some of whose members will not be around when the time comes for her trial --- because in its ruling on a pretrial motion to remove her from office five of the nine members of that court held (without any proofs having been shown in any trial and without the accused being given any opportunity to present a defense) that it was proven that Gómez had committed a crime. It's a matter for later legal and political use.

And indeed, in a Dichter & Neira poll taken just after the Attorney General's removal, 65.3 percent of Panamanians said that they thought that the case against 
Gómez was politically motivated and only 22.9 percent said that it was being handled according to the law. Most Panamanians said that the decision was made by the president and not independently by the courts.

But Rojas need not worry, for now. On February 10, the Supreme Court gave him two more months to conduct his investigation before presenting his summary, that is, two weeks more than the law allows when a prosecutor asks for more time. The following day it was announced that Gomez's indagatoria will be held on February 17, again, two weeks later than what's procedurally legal.

(Also on February 11, Latin Americans learned --- but most who get their news from the English-language US mainstream corporate media did not learn, for lack of coverage --- that former Uruguayan President Juan María Bordaberry was handed a 30-year prison sentence for dissolving the legislature, closing the courts and creating a dictatorship back in 1973. On the same day in Peru, former President Alberto Fujimori, now serving life in prison for his coup against constitutional rule and other crimes, applied for a pass to briefly get out of prison to attend his daughter's wedding. At the same time in Miami, former Panamanian strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega prepared for his imminent extradition to France. Latin American strongmen and the psuedo-legal systems they design for themselves don't tend to last forever.)

A number of PRD legislators are preparing court challenges to Gomez's ouster, and to the appointment of Giuseppe Bonissi as alternate Attorney General because that office does not exist under the constitution and because in the legislative proceedings when Bonissi was approved the opposition deputies were not allowed to speak. None of these challenges will go anywhere with the high court composed as it now is, but whether their terms expire or, as is highly unlikely, the legislature acts to remove them, the two least reputable members of Martinelli's faction on the Supreme Court, magistrates Winston Spadafora and Alberto Cigarruista, will be leaving by the end of 2011. Two years is a relatively short time for a constitutional case to be resolved in this country, and in that time, despite the most elaborate and foolproof plans, political conditions can dramatically change.

Gomez's case will be speeded up or slowed down as is politically convenient, possibly on the instructions of Mr. Martinelli himself. At this point the court's verdict looks like a foregone conclusion, but the verdict is not going to be handed down at this point.

In any case, the Attorney General is not going through the motions to impress the magistrates. Her moves are intended for the court of public opinion, where her standing is much better than it is in the Supreme Court. That verdict is likely to come down in the next election, whether it's in May of 2014 or earlier, in a special constitutional reform referendum.


Also in the news section:
Gómez trial process slowed
Election rule changes debated
Panama joins Colombian civil conflict
Bosco's Christmas village expense report called bogus
Gas explosion and fire in the banking district
Gómez ousted, Bonissi gets a job that doesn't exist under the constitution
Laura Chinchilla wins Costa Rica's presidency
UNESCO calls for ban on trade in Haitian artifacts
Small but broadly based protest against expanded presidential power
Constitutional crisis over Attorney General's trial

Many things that used to be in a Panama News Briefs feature of the website have now migrated to our constantly updated Facebook page, which you need not register with Facebook to see

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