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Volume 17, Number 7
July 45, 2011
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Also in this section:
Martinelistas win legislative post, Arnulfistas walk out
Rector with fake doctorate gets fewer votes, declares himself winner
GOP revolt sets back chances for US-RP free trade pact
40th anniversary of the War on Drugs
President blows off UNESCO, vows road around Casco Viejo
Varela routs his intra-party rivals
Who was that masked man?
US Trafficking in Persons Report, Panama section
Scenes from Gay Pride 2011 in Panama
Seguro Social director tries to impose gag order about health system shortages
Click here to go to our home page and look for recently added news stories

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Cambio Democratico minority grabs all legislative leadership posts, swallows up MOLIRENA party
Martinelli puts on goon show in the Assembly, demands respect
by Eric Jackson

Panama has taken two large steps toward becoming a one-party state. On July 1, the President's Cambio Democratico party laid its cards on the table and demonstrated that they don't actually have a 36-vote legislative majority that could by itself change the election laws, pass laws that violate the constitution, or put a constitutional referendum question before the voters. They only have 32 votes, and on this day, on the question of who would be the new president of the National Assembly they managed to also get the vote of Partido Popular deputy Irene Gallego.

However, as the PRD and Panameñista parties ran their own candidates, Cambio Democratico candidate Héctor Aparicio was elected with 33 of the body's 71 votes. The Cambio Democratico deputies were particularly obnoxious, especially Martinelli's Orange Shirt leader Sergio Gálvez, who disrupted Panameñista deputy José Blandón's speech nominating Alcibiades Vásquez for the legislature's presidency, sitting behind Blandón, talking on a blackberry, playing video games, waving and making faces for the television cameras. Gálvez then took the microphone, out of order, to give a screechy vitriolic diatribe against the Panameñistas. Cambio Democratico members at all times held the assembly gavel and by the normal rules of order should have ruled Gálvez out of order but instead condoned the behavior.

After Aparacio was elected, both the Panameñista and PRD caucuses walked out, leaving the Martinelistas without the quorum needed to elect the legislature's vice presidents or hear President Martinelli's speech. Martinelli, who had for the previous few days been claiming that he has nothing to do with the National Assembly, sent in his Minister of the Presidency Jimmy Papadimitriu, an American citizen and former aide to US Representative John Boehner, to talk to the PRD deputies. The PRD said that they would not go back so long as Cambio Democratico intended to elect Rony Araúz, a PRD turncoat, as second vice president. Believing that Martinelli's representative had given that assurance, most of the PRD deputies went back and very much as with the assurances that Martinelli has given the United States that environmental laws and and labor rights are enforced here, the Martinelistas reneged and elected Cambio Democratico members Marcos González as first vice president and Rony Araúz as second vice president.

Getting hoodwinked in this fashion has sparked bitter arguments within the PRD, with party secretary general Mitchell Doens rebuking the legislators for going back into the National Assembly chamber.

Martinelli, for his part, said that he's not interested in meeting with Panameñista legislators and demanded respect from them, his critics and the press. "I'm not going to take lack of respect from anybody," he warned.

Cambio Democratico takes over MOLIRENA

Ricardo Martinelli has predicted that the PRD will cease to exist and has tried to make that happen via selective criminal prosecutions, some justified  by actual corruption, and the massive use of his power over prosecutors to blackmail opposition elected officials into joining his party. However, his most effective existential threats against other political parties have been against those that were part of the coalition that elected him. This past March the Union Patriotica merged itself into Cambio Democratico. Now, despite resistance from some of its founding members, the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement (MOLIRENA) voted in a special convention to dissolve itself and join Cambio Democratico. Opponents allege a large cash payment to the party leadership and illegal procedures, but whether or not there is any merit in those claims, by a 459 to 107 vote the convention delegates approved the merger.

There will be legal challenges to the move, and a number of veteran activists will not join Martinelli's party and be looking for somewhere else to go. MOLIRENA was a conservative business-oriented party and the opposition to the merger reflects the criticism of Martinelli that frequently comes out of the business community. In this country's business culture the notion that a businessman's word should be trustworthy is not as strong as it is in many other places, but the ideal does persist here. The Martinelista victory in the legislature and the president's absorption of parties that were allied with him may silence some of his business critics, but it is unlikely that he has won many new friends in that sector.

A La Prensa poll conducted by Unimer finds Martinelli with 64.1 percent approval, about three points lower than Martín Torrijos stood at this point in his presidency. However, the pollster's method does not give those surveyed the choice of a neutral opinion. Those polls that do have Martinelli's positive ratings well below 50 percent. Moreover, on the main issue over which the Panameñistas and Cambio Democratico have parted ways, two-round presidential elections, only 26.6 percent of those surveyed by Unimer supported the president's position. Fewer than one-quarter believed that Martinelli's re-election would be a good thing.






Also in this section:
Martinelistas win legislative post, Arnulfistas walk out
Rector with fake doctorate gets fewer votes, declares himself winner
GOP revolt sets back chances for US-RP free trade pact
40th anniversary of the War on Drugs
President blows off UNESCO, vows road around Casco Viejo
Varela routs his intra-party rivals
Who was that masked man?
US Trafficking in Persons Report, Panama section
Scenes from Gay Pride 2011 in Panama
Seguro Social director tries to impose gag order about health system shortages
Click here to go to our home page and look for recently added news stories


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© 2011 by Eric Jackson
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