Isthmian Update June 16

Martinelli arrested

The former Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli was arrested on Monday, June 12 in Coral Gables, Miami, by officers of the United States Marshals’ Corps, a branch of the US Justice Department. He is required in Panama for a case of illegal wiretaps during his presidency.

Good bye Taiwan, hello China

President Juan Carlos Varela announced recently that Panama has established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. The announcement came from the Presidency and simultaneously, the Vice-Chancellor, Luis Miguel Hincapié, sent a message to Taiwan indicating the rupture of diplomatic relations between the two countries. An hour and a half after the announcement by Varela, Chancellor Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado, at a press conference in Beijing, China, with her Chinese counterpart Wang Hi, announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two nations. The rupture of Panama’s diplomatic relations with Taiwan and the recognition of China has left many Panamanian students, traders and investors in limbo. Of the 191 Panamanian students in 20 universities in Taiwan, 104 are pursuing graduate studies and 87 studying Chinese, according to data from the Taiwan Ministry of Education.

Misunderstood legislation

The Executive Decree 130, which updates the procedures regarding property value, was suspended with the aim of opening a period of consultation with citizens and groups connected with real estate. The decree which in effect creates a new property tax was badly received by the population who protested loudly by picketing President Juan Carlos Varela’s apartment on Balboa Avenue. University of Panama students closed the Transistmica . The Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) insisted that Executive Decree 130 does not introduce new appraisals on properties, but rather seeks to put records on property holdings in order in public institutions that administer land and collect property taxes.

Unhappy farmers

From 6:00 a.m., on Tuesday, June 13, Chiriquí Highland producers stopped sending horticultural products to the national markets, as a measure of pressure for President Juan Carlos Varela to sign Bill 443 amending Decree 11 of 2006 that created the Panamanian Authority for Food Safety (AUPSA), and gives farmers more participation in the food sanitary regulation of the country.

Pricey education

The price of private education is the one that has increased the most, reveals the latest report of the Consumer Price Index (CPI, an index of the variation in prices paid by typical consumers for retail goods and other items), calculated by the Comptroller’s Office. According to the Comptroller’s report, while general prices increased 0.8% in April 2017, compared to the same month last year, the price of private education increased 3.5% in the same period.

Minimum wage headache

Agreeing on what will be the new official minimum wage that will begin to govern in Panama City and the rest of the country as of January 15, 2018, is an issue that must be agreed upon by the workers and the business guild. Unlike other years, workers want an indicator to be made to measure the cost of living and to eliminate a wage zone. Eduardo Gil, a member of Convergencia Sindical (Union Convergence) pointed out that first it is necessary to define what the minimum wage amount should be to achieve an objective and then negotiate it.

Legalizing tax evasion

The possibility of penalizing tax evasion is an issue that continues to generate rejection by members of civil society. Attorney Ariel Corbetti said that criminalizing tax evasion would constitute a deterrent to investment and could become the ultimate nail in the coffin of our international service system and the principle of territoriality that governs Panama.

Terrorist alert

The Government of Panama reported that in 2014 it followed up and took the respective migratory alert measures concerning the alleged terrorists Samer el Debek and Ali Kourani. These are the two US citizens that according to the FBI, have ties to Hezbollah and conducted “pre-operational surveillance” on possible targets that could be attacked in New York and other parts of the United States. Some of the targets were the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Panama, according to US federal prosecutors. “The United States authorities alerted Panama to the possible arrival of Debek in July 2014. Immediately the actions contemplated by the law were taken to prevent them from entering the country. Neither before nor after the FBI alert, were Debek and Kourani allowed entry into Panama.”

The gender factor

The bishops of Panama expressed to Pope Francisco their concern for the introduction into society of the so-called gender ideology, during a nearly two-hour meeting on the occasion of the “ad limina” visit, held every five years by the Churches of each country with the pontiff. The archbishop of Panama, José Domingo Ulloa, explained to the media that with Pope Francisco they discussed the importance of the laity and the role of the young people, in view of the World Youth Day of the Catholic Church to be held in Panama in January of 2019.

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