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Presidential debate or cat fight?
Election Day, Sunday, May 4, is coming fast and the squabbles among the presidential candidates are increasing. During the presidential debate, organized by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Panama, the true colors of José Domingo Arias (Cambio Democrático CD); Juan Carlos Navarro (Partido Revolucionario Democratico PRD) and Juan Carlos Varela (Partido Panameñista) came to light.
José Domingo Arias 35%
Juan Carlos Navarro 35%
Juan Carlos Varela 28%
A big difference in this debate was that, for the first time in all of the campaign, the candidates threw questions at each other, disputing one another’s government plans, past scandals and political expertise.
Arias, the candidate of the ruling party, CD, was very evasive when he was interrogated about the Finmeccanica case, in which President Ricardo Martinelli allegedly accepted bribes from the Italian entrepreneur, Valter La Vitola, and his millionaire political campaign. He deflected attention by talking about his government plans, such as creating a cooperative for farmers to reduce the price of the basic food basket.
When Varela asked him why he did not continue with the renovation project for Colón while he was the Minister of Housing, Arias denied the existence of the program and went back to his government’s plans, while looking though his phone’s Twitter account to download graphics about domestic violence to explain his brainchild, the City of Women.
Navarro (PRD), kept subtly attacking Martinelli by saying that he will support farmers and will stop the monopoly of the supermarkets by creating 100 municipal markets while repeating again and again “Vote for me.” He reiterated that he wants to change the current penal code, with tougher sentences for criminals and treat the underage as adults for certain offences.
The PRD candidate continued his veiled attack against Martinelli with statements like, “We will only give subsidies to people who really need them,” implying that the government is wasting money in certain areas. Navarro also promised that if he wins he will ask the people for a referendum to create a new constitution.
Varela, from the Panameñista Party, was in a fighting mood attacking his opponents equally, while reinforcing the message: “I will reduce the prices of 22 basic products,” then proceeded to attack Arias mercilessly. Talking about the similar projects they have for Curundu and claiming his will be better at reducing the basic food basket price.
After he finished with Arias, he proceeded to accuse Navarro of asking for Martinelli’s help with a relative who has case pending in the Supreme Court. Finally, once he accused every one of the candidates of different indiscretions, he said: “I am nobody’s puppet.”
¿Who was the winner? Panamanians will know the answer on May 4.