The race for president, 2019

Blandón ~ Roux ~ Ameglio ~ Cortizo ~ Gómez ~ Lombana ~ Méndez

In the race for president of Panama…

by Eric Jackson

Who are the candidates?

This election cycle there is a narrow window of time for campaign ads. Otherwise radio and television would already be insufferable. Might that mean that instead of jingles and imagery the candidates will talk about issues? Mostly they have not done so at this point. There will be televised debates.

It’s a seven-way race among Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), José Isabel Blandón of the Panameñista Party, Rómulo Roux of Democratic Change (CD) and Saúl Méndez of the Broad Front for Democracy (FAD), plus independents Ana Matilde Gómez, Ricardo Lombana and Marco Ameglio.

Notes on what they say about themselves

Nito Cortizo – slow website to open
University studies in the USA – doesn’t say where, if he graduated or in which field
Went to the OAS right out of the university
Son of a chiva driver in Alcalde Diaz
Business background

Ana Matilde Gómez – slow website to open
Law degree, masters in criminology at University of Panama, Human Rights law studies at USMA
She has taught law
Business background

Ricardo Lombana
Law degree, University of Panama, LLM at George Washington University, continuing education courses at Harvard and Oxford
Journalist and assistant editor at La Prensa
Law and media person

Rómulo Roux
BS Babson College (Boston), JD Miami University, LLM USMA, MBA Northwestern
Minister of Canal Affairs. Says he solved the metro area’s water problems
Corporate lawyer

José Isabel Blandón
Uses social media, seems to have no website
University of Panama law degree, studies disrupted by exile in Noriega times
A few days in jail after arrest in anti-Noriega protest, twice exiled (USA and Puerto Rico)
Son of a PRD politician, from Chitre

Saúl Méndez
No specific website, but part of a leftist movement with much online presence
Labor relations degree from UDELAS, Political science degree from Universidad Panamericana
Construction worker, father of three, 30 years as a labor activist, secretary general of SUNTRACS

Marco Ameglio
Business degree from USMA, courses in business at INCAE and dairy processing at Penn State
Panameñista background: was the youngest legislator in Noriega times, later party president (2005-2006), was on the ACP board
Lists his family at the top of his qualifications

Some associations about which to be aware

Asking an uncomfortable question is not the same as making an accusation, and for some, it’s a welcome opportunity. With this year’s crop of presidential candidates there are many ties that may mean something, and at least ought to be the subject of questions:

  • Serves or served in the National Assembly, thus depending on variations on the concept, possibly vulnerable to the #NoALaReelección wrath (current legislator with asterisk): Cortizo, Gómez*, Blandón, Ameglio
  • Served as a cabinet minister or head of an autonomous branch of government: Gómez, Cortizo, Roux
  • Served as mayor of Panama City: Blandón
  • Had direct business dealings with Odebrecht or at least one of its subsidiaries: Cortizo, Roux, Méndez, Blandón
  • Have been set up on politically motivated and contrived or totally bogus criminal charges: Gómez, Méndez, Blandón
  • Beneficiaries of the Electoral Tribunal’s or Electoral Prosecutor’s largess in criminal matters: Roux (won’t lift his candidate’s immunity so that he can be investigated on an Odebrecht case); Ameglio (his petitions included a lot of forgeries and so far no big deal is made of it)
  • Served in or was politically allied with the Martinelli administration: Roux, Blandón
  • Served in or was appointed by the Martín Torrijos administration: Cortizo, Gómez, Lombana
  • Served in a public post during the dictatorship: Cortizo
  • Arnulfista roots, thus likely to split the Panameñista vote and doom their already slim chances: Blandón, Ameglio
  • Worked in US-Panamanian relations: Gómez (for USAID in Panama), Lombana (with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Washington), Cortizo (with the OAS in Washington)
  • Worked for a Motta company: Gómez (Banco Continental)
  • Worked in the banking / offshore corporations sector: Roux, Blandón, Gómez
  • Worked in the construction sector: Cortizo, Méndez, Ameglio
  • Worked for or served on the board of the Panama Canal Authority: Roux, Ameglio
  • Worked in or with the agriculture sector: Cortizo, Ameglio
  • Worked in or with the energy sector: Ameglio
  • Worked in or with the telecommunications sector: Roux
  • Union member: Méndez

Other signals

One important clue is to look at their campaign websites. Are they superficially beautiful but dysfunctional – slow to impossible to open, or difficult to impossible to navigate? THESE are generally people who employ young incompetents with the right surnames in their campaigns and could be expected to do so in government.

People who campaign on their families usually are saying that they are of the creole aristocracy or at least married or adopted into it and intend to defend its privileges.

Saúl Méndez brought media folks to his mother’s house in Colon and appeared there with his wife and three children for a different purpose. HIS point is that they are a respectable working class family and he won’t do the bidding of the usual elites.

Ricardo Lombana’s family reference is to his aunt, Clara González de Behringer, a legend whose bust faces the law school at the University of Panama. She was a feminist, leftist, the first woman to be a lawyer in Panama, a campaigner for women’s suffrage that did not come here until the 1940s and the country’s first juvenile judge.



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