This evening I watched the TVN Channel 2 's special program evaluating "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" of President Martinelli's first three years in office. TVN has a reputation for being negative toward this president, and so I was curious regarding what would be presented as well as how it would be done.
I lost track of the time, but the show was at least 60 minutes long, probably more. I think the station did a reasonable job of presenting both sides, and found myself actually more sympathetic to President Martinelli than previously.
Negative criticism had to do with allegations of corruption by family of the president or cabinet members in the president's administration; ie, ---the alleged money laundering in Mexico by a cousin of the President, the selling of Panamanian visas to person's of questionable foreign citizenry and the irregular release of persons suspected of narcotrafficking by the minister of immigration---(this under investigation since March) and the free adjudication of lands worth 12 million dollars to a florist represented by an attorney affiliated with allies of Martinelli. This apparently was quickly questioned and the land has since been returned, with a lawsuit pending against Anabel Villamonte, the head of the agency that issues land titles, ANATI. Shortly after this came to light, Ms. Villamonte apparently gifted 54 hectares of protected beachfront property at Juan Hombron to 14 individual corporations, some of which are run by the family of the Minister of the Presidency, Demetrio Papadimitriu. There was also a scandal involving the provision of contracts for the construction of new Panamanian prisons to an Italian company.
During the program, representatives of the Martinelli administration---Frank De Lima, minister of economy & finance and Alma Cortes, minister of work (labor?) convincingly defended the charges regarding the Italian contracts. However nothing was discussed regarding the other issues mentioned. At one point, Panama's ex-controller, Alvin Weeden, stated that Panama's supreme court judges ruled according to President Martinelli's wishes---something both De Lima and Cortes vehemently denied. Mr. Weeden lacked credibility, in my humble opinion.
On a more positive note, President Martinelli and administration were credited with accomplishing many beneficial projects, including the governmental distribution of a $100 monthly income to persons over 70 years of age, the implementation of the new metro buses to replace the Diablos Rojos, the breaking of ground on the Panama City railway system, the provision of universal scholarships to Panamanian students, the implementation of roadway amplification in many parts of the country, the development of governmental housing projects in Curundu [a destitute area of Panama City], an increase in the minimum wage, the yellow color identification and regulation of taxis thoughout the country, and additional income and improvement in work conditions for the police. Raul Mendez, with the Chamber of Commerce, also mentioned the positive influence created by economic growth as a result of increased investment and improved infrastructure in the country's interior regions. Mr. De Lima mentioned that President Martinelli has also increased the amount of investment dedicated to public improvements over prior administrations---from 4 billion to 13 billion. He also commented on President Martinelli's strong work ethic and stated the president works 7 days a week non-stop.
From that point the program degenerated, in my opinion, into political posturing by both sides of the discussion table. Alvin Weeden, ex-controller, and Ana Matilda Gomez, ex-procurator, representing the opposition and Alma Cortes and Frank De Lima representing the President. Mr. Mendez and the two television announcers presented as more neutral. The opposition attacked the President's manner, personality and management style, bringing up personal issues that made them seem petty and less professional.
At the end of the program, I was more impressed with the accomplishments of the President and his administration, while at the same time possessing a better understanding of why his popularity has taken such a strong dip and why he will continue to be under attack by opposition parties. His management style---that of a successful business entrepreneur accustomed to doing things his way---has forcefully collided with what is considered appropriate for public administrators and bureaucrats. Ms. Gomez suggested that she resigned after being told not to present President Martinelli with "technicisms". She mentioned that what he referred to as "technicisms" were actually laws regarding governance procedures and process. Her feeling was that he tended to run roughshod over the laws of the land in his eagerness to accomplish all the goals of his administration in his 5 year term. This is a feeling that the opposition has been able to successfully convey to the Panamanian populace in these first 3 years of the President's administration. Perhaps it has stuck so well because of the massive changes the country has been obliged to undergo in the first half of Martinelli's presidency.
Hopefully the momentum will continue to focus on the positive work to be done and there will be less attempts at corruption and personal gain by the party's politicians in the two remaining years.
July 3rd addendum: Just read Don Winner's blog re: the three year benchmark for the present administration. He, of course, sang the Cambio Democratico's praises, then ended his post with the following remark:
"And I should say I consider a certain degree of corruption to be a common denominator between all Panamanian politicians, so it get's eliminated when solving for "x". "
How sad! Perhaps it's true, I don't know and wouldn't venture to guess. But to address the assumption that it is true, I would only say that this administration has been very unsympathetic to environmental issues. Many of the transgressions have had to do with violation of the environment and protected lands. I'd rather see business corruption than destruction of the country's lands and natural beauty. Whenever there's the chance to choose between development and construction of resorts, parking lots, open pit mines, ---you name it, over protecting natural resources, it's a done deal that the CD will go with corporate interests unless stopped in their tracks by other people and processes. That's my chief complaint with the current administration. Otherwise, they've accomplished a lot. My second criticism is the fact that life has not improved for the ordinary Panamanian. Other than rare $100 governmental handouts, the average Panamanian wage-earner is being squeezed with record high tax and cost of living increases to pay for the "accomplishments".