Cortizo vs National Assembly over alleged serial rapist

“It’s a quite delicate matter about which I repeat, due process and the presumption of innocence must be respected. But the accusations that have been made against the deputy are very serious.” President Cortizo calling for legislator Arquesio Arias (PRD-Guna Yala) to step aside while charges that he’s a serial rapist are litigated. Arias refuses, says he’s the victim of a “political conspiracy” — he won’t say by whom — and his colleagues in the National Assembly’s PRD caucus have resolved to support Arias. Photo by the Presidencia.

Legislators’ impunity for crimes now comes front and center

by Eric Jackson

A small band of feminists outside the legislature singing derisive tamboritos is one thing. That movement is likely to grow so long as the issue remains.

A member of the National Assembly has been accused by several women and at least one girl of rape. Charges are pending before the Supreme Court and there is a hearing today (Friday, October 18). It’s certainly a notification as to whether a formal investigation will begin, and may continue into a hearing about what, if any, restrictions on deputy Arquesio Arias’s movements the court may impose. The man may wake up on Saturday morning in a prison cell, or may walk out of court with the investigations quashed.

The gravity of the situation is enhanced by a report from the nation’s medical research arm, the Gorgas Memorial Institute, about an outbreak of sexually transmitted diseases among school kids in Guna Yala, with suspicions that it’s about a pedophile ring operating there, perhaps involving teachers. The institute has not drawn a direct connection with the legislator’s case. The ministries of health and education have begun investigations.

The high court magistrate in charge of prosecuting the cases against Arias had complained of the difficulty of getting to and from Guna Yala to investigate the case. The executive branch stepped in, providing him with air transport via SENAN, the National Aeronaval Service, to get to and from the islands to do his work.

This apparent flap between the executive and legislative branches comes a few days after Security Minister Rolando called National Assembly vice president and firebrand demagogue Zulay Rodríuez’s (PRD-San Migulito) claims about foreigners on the ministry’s payroll lies during a televised appearance before a legislative committee. It also comes as the legislature is generating a controversial set of constitutional proposals a out which the president has yet to pronounce.


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