Run-up to the May 4 election

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Accusations and allegations mark behavior of candidates

By Marijulia Pujol Lloyd

Juan Carlos Navarro

Juan Carlos Navarro

General elections in every country of the world are chaotic, but in Panama it seems especially strong passions are aroused. All the main presidential candidates: José Domingo Arias of Cambio Democrático (CD), Juan Carlos Navarro of the Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD) and Juan Carlos Varela from the Panameñista Party, keep accusing each other of conducting a dirty campaign.

The Panamanian Episcopal Conference (all the bishops of the Catholic Church in the country) under the leadership of Archbishop Monsignor Jose Domingo Ulloa, created an ethical pact to keep the presidential contenders behaving in a civilized manner which was eventually signed by Varela, Navarro and Arias.

However, the ethical pact has not managed to stop the character assassination being carried out through social media, newspapers, radio and television. The latest from the ruling party, Cambio Democrático, purports that the campaign of the PRD presidential candidate, Juan Carlos Navarro, is being funded by the Venezuelan leader, Nicolás Maduro. It also alleges that he embezzled funds when he was mayor and received money from the Colombian mafia.

Navarro, on the other hand, promised that if he wins the elections, he will take the current president of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli (CD), to the Italian and Panamanian courts for allegedly accepting bribes from the entrepreneur, Valter Lavitola, who negotiated a contract for $250 million between Finmeccanica and the Panamanian government to buy 19 radars, six helicopters and a digital map. The PRD presidential candidate is also adamant that he will return all the equipment back to Finmeccanica.

Varela, on the other hand, said that he will keep the equipment, because, after all, he was part of the cabinet as Vice-President of the Republic and endorsed the contract. However, he quickly added that he was in disagreement about “taking money for those purchases.”

Arias did not comment about the case, leaving Roberto Henriquez, the Minister of the Presidency, to defend the CD and President Martinelli. Arias level of popularity is slipping down and Navarro, who was in second place, has managed a draw in the latest poll.

As an amusing note, two Panamanian engineers who live in Taiwan created a videogame call Mentirelli, an app for smart phones in which the Panamanian president, Ricardo Martinelli, jumps between the presidential candidates looking for money. It can be downloaded for free by going to Guerra Politica and clocking on Mentirelli. The game is dedicated to opposition.

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