Death agony for Martinelli’s newspaper chain?


Page 2 of the January 15 edition of La Critica: “[Ricardo Martinelli] is a sure thing and rest of the candidates are like zombies hooked on fentanyl.” Unfortunately for Don Ricky, the most accomplished zombie show character in Panama is supporting Ricardo Lombana.

Time grows short, desperation sets in…

by Eric Jackson

Last year in the New Business trial, Judge Marquínez found that during the Martinelli administration there as a graft scheme, wherein overpriced public works contracts were skimmed and the money laundered and used to buy a newspaper chain that Ricardo Martinelli would control. The flagship was El Panamá América — originally the English-language The Panama American but for a long time the voice of the Arias Madrid brothers, presidents in their times Harmodio and Arnulfo Arias, then later their heirs. Tne newspaper chain, under the EPASA corporate umbrella, also includes the salacious tabloid La Crítica and the less outrageous tabloid Día a Día.

Most notoriously, Marquínez sentenced Martinelli to more than 10 years in prison. If it stands up on final appeal, that disqualifies the ex-president from running or serving again. Team Martinelli has filed appeal after appeal, with the goalpost at the deadline sometime in early March for the printing of the ballots.

Another part of the judgment confiscated the EPASA newspaper chain, ordering all of the shares to be put into the coffers of the Panamanian government. That has been appealed separately from the prison sentence, and on January 8 the Supreme Court rejected Team Martinelli’s constitutional challenge to that part of the ruling.

May there be further, more creative appeals as to the EPASA ruling? It would be a good bet, but over the holiday weekend things, cars and people began to get scarce around the EPASA headquarters. It has acquired that ghost company look, but so far no police or court officers have shown up to change the locks and take charge of the business. El Panama America and La Critica remain — for now — key components in an effort to return Martinelli to the presidency.

Let’s look at the numbers in the article linked to above. They are attributed to Gallup, wherein Martinelli has 33% and nobody else gets into double digits. But that gives Don Ricky a tiny lead over “don’t know / won’t say / undecided,” at 32%, really a statistical tie.

Safe to say that at the moment Martinelli leads the polls but the May presidential race is actually wide-open.

Corporate pollsters don’t tend to get into the remote areas or the indigenous comarcas, with the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca the traditionally biggest swing vote. Ricky might do well among the Bugle, who speak Buglere and are mostly Evangelicals, but he’s pretty well despised among the Ngabe, who remember the violence that he visited upon them when they objected to his proposal to sell Cerro Colorado, which many consider sacred or otherwise recognize as the source for most of their drinking and agricultural water.

And then, the strength and direction of this year’s first-time voters is quite the pollsters’ puzzle.

There are allegations from several directions that the PRD intend to use heavy-handed tactics to retain power. Most commonly it’s presumed that the party’s presidential candidate, Gaby Carrizo, is a ridiculous figure who has put in poor performances in those instants when he has stood in of the ailing President Cortizo. The strategy that’s more often suspected is a massive down-ticket vote-buying effort,, using funds appropriated by the National Assembly to retain PRD control of that unicameral legislature, and down the ballot to re-elect PRD mayors and representantes.

If the PRD intends to retain power at any level after the May 5 elections, it would see the Martinelli presidential campaign and a steady stream of Martinelista propaganda via the EPASA newspapers as obstacles to be removed. Look for a move to physically oust Martinelli and his minions from EPASA in the coming days. Listen for the screams when it does happen.


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