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The news presses and media are running hot these days as ex-president Ricardo Martinelli launches out to defend himself against accusations of illicit spying, widespread corruption and unsurpassed theft of public funds during his administration. He has embarked on a personal quest to deny the obvious in a world forum, but is only making a mess of things. While President Juan Carlos Varela keeps plugging away with national issues and preparations for the Cumbre de las Americas in April, his former boss and 2009 running mate is acting bizarre on an international scale.
The ex-president was in a Parlacen meeting in Quatemala today, inquiring on the specifics of his diplomatic immunity. He is accusing President Varela of interference with other branches of government, coercing false testimonies, dictatorship, and disrespect for human rights. He flew there in his private jet, and is known to have later taken off for Ocaloca airport in Florida this same evening.
While in Quatemala, he was interviewed via Skype by CNNE journalist Carlos Montero, who asked him the question everyone in Panama is wondering about. Will he return to Panama or will he remain abroad? Interestingly enough, he didn't answer the question directly. Instead he ranted about an alleged personal vendetta President Varela has toward him because he and his party are the President's only opposition. Getting even more carried away with his own fantasies, he said he feared for his safety as well as that of his wife and family. He made the accusation that if Varela couldn't succeed in destroying him by all current means, Varela was capable of reaching to the extent of killing him. Seconds after making this statement, the CNNE audio on the ex-president's Skype call went dead, and shortly after, the phone connection was lost. Reporter Montero spent another 5 minutes or so ad libbing until connection was re-established and then Ricardo Martinelli continued his rant on a lesser scale, professing his innocence and promoting the political persecution spin.
I have tried to refrain from expressing my opinions publicly because of expat community concerns that political involvement can lead to deportation. I doubt I'm in any danger, but I do avoid active involvement in political dissent or demonstrations for this reason. Yet following ex-president Martinelli's most recent appearance on CNNE, it's hard to keep quiet. If ANYONE could be accused of the irregularities Martinelli attributes to Varela, it would be ex-president Ricardo Martinelli. Every Panamanian, and any informed expat, is poignantly aware of this contradiction. Examples of the Martinelli style of coercive government have been rampant over the past 5 years. Any high-ranking official in that administration who exhibited signs of personal and/or political integrity was callously outsted and their reputation impugned. The ones who remained were puppets who did the ex-president's bidding and took the spoils offered them. Now, having been thrown under the bus by their ex-boss, they are squealing from the recesses of their house arrests, or from their prison cells. Somehow the two biggest fish, the ex-president and his personal assistant, Adolfo de Obarrio, have managed to get out of the country ---at least temporarily. It will remain to be seen if they are granted political asylum, and by which country. Currently there are 16 denuncias against ex-president Martinelli for illicit wire tapping and interference with personal privacy of citizens. These are just the tip of the iceberg, as an estimated 150 persons have been so violated. The financial scandals, with testimonials of intermediaries surfacing daily, will hopefully be thoroughtly investigated now that the Supreme Court of Justice has authorized the investigations. The future is turning dim for Ricardo Martinelli, and desperation has lead him to desperate tactics. Rumors abound, but I've heard estimations ranging from 600 million to 1500 million dollars in theft of public funds attributed to the ex-president. The Panamanian judicial arm is attempting to locate and recoup some of these funds, but red tape and diplomatic privilege has favored Mr. Martinelli up to this point. The Panamanian populace is outraged and pressuring the Supreme Court to act expediently.