Isthmian Update – Vol. 21#13

Scholarship awards under scrutiny

Former ministers, friends and political cronies of former President Ricardo Martinelli received expensive scholarships from the National Secretariat of Science, Technology and Innovation (Senacyt) to study abroad. Among the beneficiaries are: Mario Martinelli Matute and Patricia Villanueva, the ex-president’s nephew and niece. Also Soledad Filipionok, ex-girlfriend of former Minister of the Presidency, Demetrio Jimmy Papdimitriu; the ex-administrator of the Panama Tourism Authority, Salomón Shamah, among others. Yesterday, the auditing prosecutor, Guido Rodriguez, announced that he would submit an application to the Comptroller to conduct an audit of the scholarship program for doctoral and master levels at the Senacyt.

Contruction at a standstill on new convention center

The construction of the new convention center in Amador is at a standstill and The HPC-Hire-P & V consortium faces problems in finishing the work for which it bid $193.7 million to win the contract in 2012. The Panama Tourism Authority indicated that it will void the contract of the companies HPC consortium (Panama), Architectural Solutions (Costa Rica), P & V (Panama), Heliopol (Spain) and Quality Construction (Puerto Rico). Companies such as the Mexican Civil Engineers Asociados (ICA), Norberto Odebrecht, of Brazil and China Engineering, of Asia, have shown interest in completing the project, which should be operational by the end of 2015.

Energy market to receive billion dollar boost

Nearly a billion dollars will be invested over the next four years to strengthen the national energy market with the installation of thermal plants that will come into operation between 2017 and 2019. The Electric Transmission Company, SA (Etesa) has convened two tenders, one in May and another in August, in which 700 megawatts of thermal energy will be hired. Some 50 investors are interested in these tenders.

Minera Panama back in business

The partial work stoppage at the Minera Panama copper mine at Donoso, was suspended yesterday with the signing of an agreement with the Ministry of Labor (Mitradel). The mining company yielded to the demand of the workers affiliated to the Suntracs construction union to be allowed to establish an office on the construction site to recruit workers. Mitradel gave assurances that it would establish permanent inspection rounds in the project, in which, according to the Suntracs union, there are 1,000 Filipinos working. An argument that the company disputes with their numbers of just about 300 foreign workers.

Possible price reduction in electricity

In a meeting with a group of journalists last week, Miguel Bolinaga, president of the generating company AES Panama, announced a possible decrease in the price of electricity in the second half of 2015 due to the fact that the Bayano and Fortuna hydroelectric dams are experiencing good levels of water, which has lowered the cost of energy in the spot market (about $99 a megawatt, compared with $217 in 2014) and the oil price is below $50. Notwithstanding this welcom news, he predicted power rationing in the next two years.

Fourth Bridge will be completed under President Varela’s administration

The fourth bridge over the Panama Canal will be ready by the end of the administration of Juan Carlos Varela and he will open the final connection to the Northern Corridor. These were the predictions made by Minister of Public Works (MOP), Ramon Arosemena who stated that projections have been made indicating that this administration will complete the new bridge which will be similar to the Centennial Bridge with a bracing design, three lanes in each direction and two additional lines for the transit of Subway Line 3 trains.

Colon Free Port project revived

President Juan Carlos Varela has presented Colon Free Zone (CFZ) businessmen with the prospect of reviving the project of a Colón Free Port, first approved in December 1992. The project extends to the 16 streets of the city and surrounding areas, allowing tourists and Panamanians to make purchases at retail level. “We have concluded a mutual commitment to establish the strategic plan for the launch of this project, adapting it to the realities of what the Free Zone can do to strengthen their competitiveness in the region and in the world”, said the president.

Banking Secrecy still protected

The confidentiality policy that has kept the Panama International Banking Center attractive has been maintained with the creation of a law against money laundering, financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The law states in Article 49 that “information obtained by an oversight body and the Financial Analysis Unit shall be kept strictly confidential and may only be supplied to third parties by order of a competent judicial authority”.

Indigenous summit mirrors Summit of the Americas

The heads of states of 35 countries will not be the only ones holding a meeting in Panama on April 10 and 11. So will representatives of indigenous peoples of the United States, Canada, Central America, Amazonia and transnational regions in Panama in the V Summit of Indigenous Abya Yala People. The theme of this meeting will be “Defending the Future of our Nations,” said Jeremiah Cansari, chief of the National Coordinator of Indigenous Peoples. The aim of this summit is to draw the attention of the Heads of State on the situation of indigenous peoples who are victims of discrimination, Cansari said.

Immunity lifted for Juan Carlos Navarro

The Electoral Tribunal lifted the immunity of former presidential candidate Juan Carlos Navarro, of the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), investigated by the Third Anti-Corruption Prosecutor for the alleged commission of offenses against economic wealth to the detriment of the Municipality of Panama. Navarro was mayor of the capital district between 1999 and 2009. Lawyer Alejandro Pérez, who filed the complaint in 2013, accuses Navarro of a “scam”. He argues that companies that charged for work did not do it, and some officials billed for irregular repairs to vehicles in the Municipal Department of Urban and Household Cleaning.

Venezula’s debts not up for discussion

Ministries of the Presidency and Foreign Affairs confirmed yesterday that cases of debts of Venezuela with Panamanian businessmen in the Colon Free Zone (CFZ) and Copa Airlines will not be discussed in the framework of the Summit of the Americas, on April 10 and 11. According to the organization, the topics discussed by 35 leaders of the hemisphere who will meet in Panama are already defined and multilateral.

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