Isthmian Update – Some of the news in Panama

PAN funds found

The First Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that the former director of the National Assistance Program (PAN), Rafael Guardia Jaen, transferred a total of $5 million to accounts in the Bahamas. Before the discovery of the accounts, the prosecutor in charge, Nahaniel Murgas, requested international assistance to seize these funds, drawn by collaborators of Guardia Jaén from banks in Panama to be sent to affiliates in the Bahamas, considered a tax haven. The transfers were made in the past month from the BCT and Universal banks, the latter linked to the Virzi family.

Growth for Panamanian ports

The Panamanian port system grew by 2.3% between January and October, compared with the same period last year. This is a movement of 5 million TEU during the first 10 months of the year, or 124,909 more than in the previous period. Although this is an increase from a year earlier, the numbers are still below the peak in the movement of cargo reported three years ago in Panamanian ports.

Tremors rock the interior

On Monday, December 8, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake rocked the Panama Pacific coast without any reported casualties or damage, said the director of the Institute of Geosciences, Eduardo Camacho. The quake occurred at 3:54 a.m. and was centered in the Bay of Charco Azul, in the town of Puerto Armuelles, according to the institute. “So far there have been 10 aftershocks, the largest measuring 5.1 degrees, but there has been no damage except falling objects from the shelves of supermarkets,” said Camacho.

The Canal, an electric producer

The ability to generate power has doubled in the Panama Canal. The statistics speak for themselves. In the first nine months of this year, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) generated 848,334 kilowatts. The figure represents an increase of 437,185 kW more than in the same period last year. The waterway generates energy to operate, but also to help meet local demand. The ACP has budgeted for this year’s electricity sales, which amount to $174.91 million.

Firearm import ban extended pending new conditions

The Government has placed conditions on the lifting of the import ban on firearms with the approval of a new law regulating this activity. For this reason, the Government has also extended the import ban for an additional six months. The information was released by Luis Zegarro, head of institutional leadership in Public Security Affairs (DIASP).

A New Year promise to increase pension payments

The 240,000 pensioners who earn a minimum monthly pension of $245 are counting the days for the administration of President Juan Carlos Varela to finalize its commitment to increase pension payments by $50 starting 2015. The news comes on the heels of the Social Security Fund (CSS) reneging on their promise made during the previous administration to increase pension payments from $245 to $275. At that time, the former director of the CSS, Guillermo Sáez Llorens said that the finances of the CSS were sufficiently “healthy to support the programs for disability, old age and death.”

Panama’s commitment to clean money

Restructuring the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF) is one of the major advances that Panama can demonstrate to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), it was stated by the Minister of Economy and Finance, Dulcidio De La Guardia. The restructuring was done by improving Panama’s legal framework to prevent money laundering and financing of terrorist operations.

Moncada Luna defense team rejects prosecutor’s extension request

The defense of the suspended Supreme Court judge, Alejandro Moncada Luna, said he will ask for Constitutional Guarantees and for the Court to reject the request presented by the National Assembly prosecutor, Pedro Miguel Gonzalez, for a two-month extension to be granted to complete the investigation. The court of guarantees, made up of female members of Parliament Kathleen Levy, Zulay Rodríguez and Ana Matilde Gómez, has since met in the Assembly for a hearing to resolve requests by Moncada Luna’s lawyer, Sidney Sitton, who said that he disagrees with the prosecutor González asking for an extension of the investigation period.

Christmas tree imports on the rise

Some consumers are taking advantage of using their thirteenth month payment to purchase Christmas trees, which have prices ranging from $18 to $200. In the different malls people can acquire the exact pine tree of their choice, with retail cost varying according to tree size. Businesses with trees for sale enjoy ample leeway for setting the pricing of their products without much input from consumers. Most trees are imported from the U.S. and Canada. It is estimated that 10% more trees were brought into the country this year over last, for a total of over 200,000 units.

Varela’s Christmas gift to Panama NGOs

President Juan Carlos Varela said that before the end of December he would donate just over a million dollars to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Panama. Varela explained that this donation is the result of the savings that have been made in the discretionary budgets managed by the President. NGOs are civil society organizations that are run privately and that engage in activities ranging from educational to religious and that render some kind of benefit to society.

New meeting policy for the prison advisory board

The Penitentiary Policy Council will meet regularly – at least once every two months – (on the last Monday of the month) and in extraordinarily circumstances when necessary. So it was established in its Rules of Procedure, adopted under Resolution 354-R-89 of the Ministry of Government, laying down the basic rules governing the organization and its operation. The Council, composed of 15 members, is an advisory, consultation and guidance entity on prisons. The Rules also state that it may invite experts, but only to speak.

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