The mayor’s fate?

“I am waiting for a report from the Regional Director of Panama Oeste. I spoke with him yesterday and he indicated that he is awaiting the report of the National Police on what happened in that case and we must have that report today. No one is above the law.” Health Minister Luis Francisco Sucre on the Fábrega case. MINSA photo.

Possible pitfalls for Panama City’s mayor José Luis “ Tanque de Gas” Fábrega

by Eric Jackson

Panama City’s mayor messed up really badly. On the beach without a mask, in some other mayor’s bailiwick. (It was in Coronado, which is in the municipal district of Chame.) He may have had a pass to ignore quarantine restrictions, but he may have exceeded the scope of that pass. He may have gone to the beach in a city vehicle, which is pretty clearly prohibited even without a pandemic and attendant restrictions. So it might cost “Tanque de Gas” his job. Or it might not

This reporter sees five threats at the moment:

1. Panama provincial governor Judy Meana could suspend the mayor and, in the meantime, other processes might intervene. But the problems are that her powers are temporary, – a 30-day maximum suspension — and as she is also the capital’s vice mayor who would step in for Fábrega, she’s have a huge conflict of interest. The conflict would be nothing too weird for the ways that this country’s political system operates, but it could look bad for her if she has further political ambitions. Every step of the way She would need Nito’s support.

Especially with a political patronage system like we have here, a temporary suspension of a mayor can be very messy — rapid firings, hirings, refirings, rehirings and such. Would Panama province governor, and Panama City vice mayor, Judy Meana want to touch that with a 10-foot pole? Photo by the Gobernacion.

2. Health Minister Luis Francisco Sucre could impose heavy fines. We should expect him to do so. But time in prison? Or order Fábrega to withdraw? Those would likely be in excess of his powers. Or would he have just one more vote in a Cabinet that uses some other route to remove the mayor, given the decentralization law? He would surely need presidential support. Anyone else mentioned here looking to remove the mayor probably as a matter of practical politics need some expression of approval from the Minister of Health.

3. If the Transparency Authority’s director Elsa Fernández, who has already announced an investigation, finds that the mayor has violated various ethical rules, what can she do about it? ANTAI is a relatively new institution and the case gets into ground that has not been traveled before.

The mayor, left, first tried to make it sound as if he were in his front yard, but he was caught red-handed and fined $200 on the spot by the justice of the peace, the man in the white shirt. Anonymous video still from social media.

4. Attorney Rosendo Rivera’s denuncia makes some serious criminal charges – get a conviction and that could lead to years behind bars and would lead to the mayor’s definitive removal. But it would be easy to see a four-year series of delays by which the mayor beats that.

5. There is Raúl Ricardo Rodríguez, the young man who would move for a recall election. However, it is difficult to imagine collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures during a pandemic.

Never before done, but he’s going through the motions. Maybe he’ll shock us.

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