Isthmian Update – Some of the news in Panama

Government intercedes for Colón mine workers

The Ministry of Labor and Workforce Development (Mitradel) retained the assets and businesses of the mining company, Petaquilla Gold, and “Panamá Desarrollo de Infraestructura” to ensure the payment of workers of the gold mine in the district of Donoso, Colón. The Minister of Labor, Luis E. Carles, said the “seizure of property” implies that the companies cannot “move or use” their assets, all part of the effort to ensure payment of wages for 605 workers, estimated at $3.5 million.

Hiccups in national healthcare

The director of the Social Security Fund (CSS), Estivenson Giron, faced his first challenge since taking office: a lack of medicines for patients with critical and chronic illnesses. Voicing their concerns on the matter, members of the Federation of Associations of Patients with Critical Illness, Chronic and Degenerative Illnesses made demands for drugs to alleviate their suffering.

Mixed economic figures

The monthly index of economic activity (MIEA) registered growth in the country’s economy of 4.61% in the first eight months of 2014 according to a report issued by the Comptroller’s Office. Nevertheless, August data confirmed a slowdown in economic activity in 2014 relative to previous years.

The conflict over ethanol

‘If ethanol is so expensive, we can live without it’, stated the Minister of Energy of the Presidency, Victor Urrutia. His position in the long-running debate over the cost of biofuel conflicts with Campos de Pesé, the producer. According to Urrutia, Campos de Pesé will not comply with government regulations because they do not consider the retail price suggested by the Executive as profitable. The government has been firm that the price of ethanol should not increase. Urrutia confirmed that Campos de Pesé has been authorized to sell ethanol at $1.02 a liter, which would represent $0.23 profit of the price declared by the Government in August, although it would still be $0.20 lower than used to be charged for the product up until the middle of this year.

Former president disrupts airport protocols

Former president Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal, with his personal bodyguard, recently burst into restricted areas of the Marcos A. Gelabert Airport in Albrook, jeopardizing the operations and safety of this terminal. The former leader claimed to be requesting information at the offices of Airport Operations of the aviation authority (AAC) about a private helicopter that made a low flight over his house. The Panameñista party deputy, Jose Luis Varela, himself a victim of overflights during the administration of Martinelli, questioned the former president for breaking protocols of airport security. For this breach, Martinelli will not go to jail though it has been unofficially revealed that he will face fines.

Ebola preparedness comes to Coclé

Health professionals, including nurses, technicians, medical and sanitation staff and dentists in the province of Coclé have been trained to handle a potential Ebola outbreak through better diagnosis, patient management and disease prevention. Obdulia Montilla, Chief of Public Health in the region, said the staff is ready for the management of patients with possible cases of Ebola through equipment and clinical treatment. According to Montilla, the healthcare professionals have prepared a regional contingency plan based on epidemiological surveillance, patient care, advocacy, biosecurity and health.

Moncada Luna lawyer claims human rights violations

The defense lawyer for suspended Supreme Court judge, Alejandro Moncada Luna, announced that he lodged two new complaints with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) against the Panamanian government and has requested for interim measures of protection for his client. “This demand is supported by the denial of justice, violation of due process and violation of guarantees established in the American Convention on Human Rights,” said lawyer, Sidney Sitton, defender of Moncada Luna.

Compensation delayed for “Red Devil” operators

A new extension has been requested by the Fourth Anticorruption Prosecutor for the processing of complaints over compensations for the operators of the old public transport system of the “Red Devil” buses. William Parodi, the anticorruption prosecutor, reported on this action explaining that the extension request was made because he had not yet completed the audit report required by the Comptroller General of the Republic.

The effect of strikes on Panama Ports

In recent years, Panama’s port system has had problems providing reliable service because of strikes that have affected their competitiveness and caused fragile operations. According to records, the movement of containers up until last August showed a growth of approximately 63,778 TEU or 1.4% over the same period in 2013. However, it is still below the 156,556 TEUs in the same period of 2012, meaning it has decreased by 3.38% with respect to that year.

State payroll on the rise

Although the government of Juan Carlos Varela announced a plan to contain costs, the recruitment of new staff has not yet been suspended and the state payroll continues to grow, as revealed by a report from the Comptroller’s Office. As of September 2014 the State had a total of 207,565 employees, of which 185,568 were permanent workers and 21,997 temporary. Of this total, 133,006 correspond to the central government and 74,539 to the decentralized sector. Comparing September 2014 with August 2014, the state bureaucracy recorded a net increase of $8.7 million in gross salary.


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