Martinelli’s projects: the beginning, or the end, of two illusions?

delusion 1
Polling over the years has shown, and US immigration records will buttress it, that a lot of Panamanians want to become Americans. The “if you were an American voter” question is slightly more than rhetorical here, and especially if you know that there are a lot of dual US and Panamanian citizens who conceal that fact while here. So Don Ricky did a poll of his Twitter followers, to which a little more than 2,000 of them responded. They LIKE the administration that extradited their leader from Miami, and seeks the extradition from Guatemala to face money laundering charges in Brooklyn? When you get elected to office on a platform of being crazy and then defend yourself against the criminal charges stemming from what you did as president, conspiracy theories do become the order of the day. Seems that the delusional thinking is contagious.

TWO Martinelli creations on the ballot?

by Eric Jackson

The Electoral Tribunal has just approved the RM Party — Realizando Metas — as a party in formation to go out and seek signatures to get on the ballot. The man can still buy lawyer services, and surely can hire plenty of signature gatherers. Maybe they, in turn, would have to buy signatures.

But what about the other party that Martinelli created, and rode to the presidency in 2009? Cambio Democratico still exists, and has, on paper, 18 deputies in the legislature. But while he was in jail and screaming that he’s too mentally ill to stand trial, he lost control of that party, often abbreviated as CD these days. Corporate lawyer and former foreign minister Rómulo Roux won both the presidential primary to be the CD standard bearer in the 2019 elections and five years in control of the party’s executive board in 2018.

Martinelli built CD with defectors from other parties, including, after he became president, legislators elected on other party tickets who were blackmailed with promises of not a dime going to their electoral circuits if they didn’t switch allegiance to Martinelli. Right after the 2014 loss of Martinelli’s proxy slate, he assembled the deputies elected on the CD ticket that year and told them that they had to do what he told them because he has assembled a file on each of them for use if need be. His flight from prosecution and subsequent legal battles in the USA and then Panama may have won him the occasional dubious court victory here and there, but other than lawyers to whom he paid retainers and former members of his government who themselves had legal troubles from that time, Ricardo Martinelli found few vocal supporters in the ranks of CD.

As it stands now, only three legislators elected on the CD ticket — Sergio Gálvez, Mayín Correa and Alaín Cedeño — have thrown their lot in with the new party in formation. It’s a problem for the potential new party, because there is the outside chance that Roux could move to expel turncoats from the legislature, and in any case you need at least five deputies to form a caucus in the National Assembly.

A party bearing Ricardo Martinelli’s initials! And with an emblem that looks like a bandshell with a leader sporting a halo standing front and center! He’ll say he’s a man FOR the people, but all pretense of being OF the people is discarded here.

Meanwhile, what’s Rómulo to do with CD?

Cambio Democratico won enough votes to be on the ballot for the next elections, but so long as President Cortizo’s PRD legislative caucus and its alliance with MOLIRENA deputies holds together, there is no bargaining power that Roux can wield with the votes of his deputies in the National Assembly. When you look at how those legislators have voted on certain things, it’s not just the Martinelistas who are chipping off of the ideal of a solid bloc.

Over the past few days, CD claims, they have signed up more than 2,500 new members. Mostly young voters. Might it be a different sort of transactional politics than Martinelli’s crude sort? With first-time voters the “I will pay you $X, or refrain from ending your political career, if you betray your old party boss” offer tends to be meaningless. But perhaps, in a corregimiento where the representante impedes food assistance to poor families that aren’t PRD, there are other sorts of more understandable offers. Maybe there is none of that. The photogenic Roux just looks like someone with whom younger voters would more readily identify than Martinelli, for one thing. Plus, none of his dealings with the Gringos were about battles with US federal prosecutors.

Early on a long campaign trail, Roux-style with new Cambio Democratico members. Photo from the CD Twitter feed.

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