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Friday, May 22 2015 @ 10:29 AM EDT

Welcome to Panama-Guide.com

Panama Guide is the #1 English Language web site about the Republic of Panama. There are currently 24,324 articles in our ever-expanding database and we update daily so check back often. More than 7,000 people visit Panama-Guide.com every day to follow current events and to use the other resources available. We provide fresh English language Panama news daily, as well as information about all of the other things you need to know if you plan to visit or live here. We focus on those topics and issues which are of greatest importance to the English speaking expatriate community. And if you can't find what you need to know, we take requests. Welcome aboard, and tell your friends.

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Panama bourse calling Indian diamantaires

Money Matters By Melvyn Reggie Thomas (TNN) SURAT: After Dubai and Antwerp, Surat and Mumbai-based diamantaires are eyeing a big chunk of the $8 billion diamond market in Latin America. Over a dozen firms have already purchased office space in the Panama Diamond Exchange (PDE) which recently opened on April 30.

Also, for the first time, polished diamonds processed in the world's biggest diamond cutting and polishing centre, Surat, would be directly flown to the newly opened PDE.

About 15-20 Indian diamond and jewellery firms like Rosy Blue, Kiran Gems, Diarough (NV), Bhavani Gems, Interjewel, Jewelex, M Suresh, Niru Group, etc have purchased office space at the PDE and the upcoming World Jewellery Hub (WJH) to cater to the Latin American market.

These companies are joined by over 30 other companies from Israel, Belgium, United States, Italy and Latin America, to make up what already is the largest concentration of diamond and jewelry specialists in all of American continent.

Pankaj Parekh, vice-chairman, Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), who represented India at the inauguration of PDE told TOI, "The diamond bourse and jewellery centre in Panama is set to provide a major boost to the Indian diamond manufacturing centre. Until now, the Latin American market was isolated due to the absence of bourse, but now the diamonds and jewellery from India could directly reach to the consumers and buyers there."

Vallabh Lakhani, chairman of Kiran Gems said, "We want to tap the opportunity to penetrate into the Latin American market. The jewellery market is expected to reach at $10 billion in the next two years."

A lack of diamond bourse forced the Latin American buyers to travel to US and Europe to buy polished diamonds to cater its $8 billion worth of diamond jewellery market.

The entire PDE complex is located in the Vaguil Free Zone, which was established by an act of Panama's Parliament for the benefit of the international gem and jewelry trade, and exempts transactions conducted within its area from payments of customs duties and taxes, and corporations registered in the Free Zone from paying company tax.

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Investigations Proceeding in Tax Collection Scandal

CorruptionMaria Alejandra Salerno, the legal representative of the company Cobranzas del Istmo SA and the former Minister of Economy and Finance Frank De Lima will be interrogated in the coming days as part of the investigation being conducted by the Fourth Superior Prosecutor into allegations of irregularities in the collection of back taxes. (more)

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US Looks To Expand "Plan Colombia" To Panama

Drug TraffickingThe US government seeks an ally in Panama for counter narcotics. To achieve this, they want to replicate what was done in the so-called 'Plan Colombia'. (more)

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Audit Finds $10 Million In Damages To The State (Overflight Scandal)

CorruptionThe Comptroller estimates total damage to the State at approximately 10.1 million dollars caused by government contracts to rent small airplanes and helicopters between 2009 and 2014, which were paid through the National Assistance Program. (more)

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Panama gripped by millionaire ex-president's graft scandal

CorruptionBy JUAN JOSÉ RODRÍGUEZ Panama City (AFP) - When he ran for office, Panama's former president Ricardo Martinelli promised graft-weary voters he would never steal a cent: Why would he need to, since he was already a millionaire?, he asked.

Six years later, he is at the eye of a swirling scandal that has taken down several close allies, including two former ministers jailed for stealing public money.

The mounting accusations of massive corruption during his presidency (2009-2014) are now closing in on Martinelli, a white-haired supermarket magnate who is already under investigation for skimming money off the top of a school lunch contract.

"It's like a line of dominoes. They're knocking down the first ones to get to Martinelli," said political analyst Jaime Porcell.

Martinelli, 63, disappeared from the country in January.

His whereabouts are unknown, but he keeps up an active presence on Twitter, where he recently posted a picture of himself with a palm-tree-lined beach in the background, with the caption: "Watching a beautiful sunset with two of my sisters."

He also uses the platform to taunt his successor and former ally, President Juan Carlos Varela, whom he accuses of "politically persecuting" him.

Varela once served as Martinelli's vice president and foreign minister, but they had a nasty falling out in 2011, when Martinelli sacked Varela from his cabinet, saying he was more focused on preparing for the 2014 presidential election than on doing his job.

Varela hit back, accusing Martinelli of massive corruption.

He continued to hector his boss from the vice president's office, an elected post that Martinelli was powerless to force him from.

Today, Martinelli's tweets include smiling pictures of himself and Varela pre-rift that he has promised to post every week on "#ThrowbackThursday, when we remember the happy family we were."

It is all a far cry from 2009, when the pair teamed up to oust a center-left government and bring business-friendly policies back to Panama.

Varela, the scion of a rum dynasty, promised to back Martinelli for president if Martinelli would back him in 2014.

Martinelli won with vows to put an end to the corruption that has long dogged Panama, which has a reputation as a tax haven and ranks 94th out of 175 countries on watchdog group Transparency International's corruption perceptions index.

But now Martinelli is being investigated on suspicion of stealing money from a $45-million contract to buy food for schoolchildren as part of a National Action Plan (PAN) against poverty.

- Luxury cars, apartments, yacht -

Investigators also allege corruption on an airport parking lot program and a contract with a tax collection firm.

Varela says the total stolen during his predecessor's administration is nearly $100 million.

Prosecution documents seen by AFP say that money was used to buy luxury cars, apartments and a yacht.

As the graft charges have mounted, Martinelli's allies have been falling one by one.

His former economy minister, Frank De Lima, was arrested this week as part of a probe into allegations that up to $1.7 million was skimmed from PAN grain contracts.

Prosecutors say De Lima oversaw purchases of rice, lentils and beans at twice the actual price, carefully keeping the amounts below $300,000 to avoid congressional oversight.

Former social development minister Guillermo Ferrufino is serving jail time for stealing public funds, as are two former directors of PAN, Giacomo Tamburelli and Rafael Guardia.

Other top Martinelli allies are under investigation, including business executives, a former Supreme Court judge and his own brother.

"They are closing in on Martinelli. There will probably be more (scandals) because there was no oversight," political analyst Mario Rognoni told AFP, saying Martinelli's government pocketed "fist-fulls" of public money.

"Martinelli's future must be in prison, given all the known cases, the accusations and the evidence that is coming out," said Magaly Castillo, the director of the Citizens Alliance for Justice, a watchdog group.

But Martinelli, who is now a member of the Central American Parliament, maintains it is a smear campaign. He has filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, claiming rights violations. (AFP)

Editor's Comment: The fact of the matter is that Martinelli was responsible for stealing millions (if not billions) of dollars from the Panamanian people. He's now in hiding, and the people who were formally loyal to him will turn against him, from prison. Sooner or later Martinelli will be returned to Panama in handcuffs, a'la Noriega.

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Nine Former Officials Linked To Wiretapping Scandal

CorruptionAn audit by the Comptroller General of the Republic linked nine former officials of the government of President Ricardo Martinelli to alleged irregularities in the purchase of spy equipment from the company MLM Protection for $13.4 million. (more)

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The Investigation Into Former MEF Minister Frank De Lima

CorruptionThe investigation against the former Minister of Economy and Finance Frank De Lima is complicated by the fragility of the testimony of Gladys Cedeño Urrutia, a former deputy minister of the MEF, who identified De Lima as the person who ordered contracts to be split into smaller sums, in order to avoid various control processes. (more)

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Panama to tighten educational pre-requisites for professional migrants

Immigration IssuesPanama will tighten qualification requirements for immigrants seeking permanent residency in the foreign professional category.

A new law, standardizing and restricting recognition processes for educational qualifications, came into effect Wednesday.

Qualifications must now be recognized by the State University of Panama, the Technological University or by the corresponding national authority before aspiring immigrants apply to the Panama National Immigration Service, the SNM.

The new law states the SNM "will only accept professional qualifications not reserved for Panamanians."

According to local media, the professions not reserved for Panamanians include certain engineering, graphic design, communication, logistics, management, banking and financial roles.

Others professions, including nursing, dentistry, architecture, agricultural sciences, pharmacy, medicine, law and chemistry, are reserved for Panamanians, said media reports.

"Since these professionals will live and work in our country, their university degrees must meet the standards of Panamanian universities," adds the resolution.

Panama's economy has benefited from an influx of migrants from Central and South America in the last decade.

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Supreme Court Combines Complaints Against Martinelli

CorruptionPanama's Supreme Court combined the seven complaints filed against former President Ricardo Martinelli for alleged crimes against the inviolability of secrecy and the right to privacy (wiretapping), which were filed in the office of Judge Harry Diaz. (more)

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Martinelli's Lawyers Demand Hearing

CorruptionLawyers representing the former President Ricardo Martinelli presented a new appeal before the Supreme Court yesterday, the same day the Court initiated an investigation against him for the purchase of dehydrated foods with a government contract worth $44 million through the National Assistance Program, in which there were cost overruns. (more)

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Supreme Court Opens Criminal Proceedings Against Former President Martinelli

CorruptionAfter having been formally notified yesterday about the decision by the Electoral Tribunal to lift the protection from criminal prosecution afforded to the former president Ricardo Martinelli, the team headed by Supreme Court Justice Oyden Ortega - who has been designated to act as the prosecutor for this process - began the task of analyzing the information contained in the case file which points to the former president for alleged anomalies in the government's purchase of dehydrated food through the National Assistance Program. (more)

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Panama Supreme Court Judge, Under Fire For Corruption, Threatens To Expose Other Justices

CorruptionMagistrate Judge Victor Benavides, under criminal investigation after his former security chief stated, in a video and sworn statement, that his ex-boss took bribe money to fix Supreme Court cases, and also engaged in pedophilia, has responded by threatening exposure of Panama’s widespread corruption.

Benavides telephoned all the other members of the Supreme Court of Justice, as well as several prominent members of the National Assembly, Panama’s parliament. He threatened to expose:

(1) Rampant corruption among the Supreme Court justices.

(2) The identities of judges and Assembly members who kept mistresses, and their names.

(3) The names of government officials who engaged in acts of sexual depravity and deviance.

(4) Those who received bribes and kickbacks in Panamanian government agencies, and the courts.

Whether Benavides’ threats will have an effect upon his possible criminal prosecution is not known, but Panamanians are said to be sick of the corrupt system that operates government and the courts in Panama, and they may demand that this information be aired. (By Kenneth Rijock - Curacao Chronicle)

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Criminal Case Against Martinelli Heads To The Supreme Court

CorruptionAs of today, the legal future of former President Ricardo Martinelli is is the hands of the Supreme Court, after the Electoral Tribunal posted an edict in the office of the General Secretariat of that entity to formally notify the former ruler of their decision to lift his criminal electoral immunity. (more)

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Ex-Marine indicted in murder of Orange County woman in Panama

Expat TalesA former Marine was indicted Friday in the 2011 murder of an Orange County woman in Panama.

Brian Karl Brimager, 37, has been in custody since 2013.

The criminal case was slowed by extradition proceedings and a request from San Diego federal prosecutors to the Department of Justice to seek an indictment of Brimager on a little-used law involving a murder in a foreign land.

That permission granted, Brimager was indicted on a first-degree murder charge in the death of girlfriend Yvonne Baldelli, 42, who had lived in Dana Point. Her body was not found until 2013.

The two had moved to Isla Carenero, Panama, in 2011 but their relationship was marked by domestic violence, according to the federal indictment. Brimager killed Baldelli in November 2011, dismembered her body and disposed of the body parts in the jungle, according to the indictment.

Within hours of killing Baldelli, Brimager used her computer to do searches for information about "washing mattress" and "washing mattress blood stain."

While living with Baldelli, Brimager was emailing a woman in the United States with whom he had had a child, saying that he planned to return so the two could live together, according to prosecutors.

Brimager pleaded not guilty Friday to murder, obstruction of justice and making false statements to a federal officer. (NBC Los Angeles)

Editor's Comment: So, in the end they decided to prosecute Brimager in the US instead of trying to extradite him back to Panama to face murder charges. Part of me wishes Brimager would have spent the rest of his life rotting in a Panamanian hell-hole of a prison. But at the same time, there's a greater chance that he will be convicted and sentenced in the not-as-corrupt US justice system. In Panama, anyone can buy their way out of anything, including murder.

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Judge Rejects Molinar's Legal Defense Ploy

CorruptionThe Fifteenth Criminal Court denied a request submitted by the former Minister of Education Lucy Molinar, accused of embezzlement in the case of alleged irregularities in the purchase of dehydrated food - for $ 44.9 million - through the National Assistance Program. (more)

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Electoral Tribunal Opens The Path To Prosecute Former President Ricardo Martinelli

CorruptionJust as Panama is the focus of regional attention for hosting the VII Summit of the Americas, the Electoral Tribunal has stripped the former President Ricardo Martinelli of any protection. (more)

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A historic Summit of the Americas - Opinion

Panama NewsBy Isabel Saint Malo - This week, Panama will host the Summit of the Americas, an important gathering of heads of state from throughout the hemisphere, first launched by U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1992.

The first-ever presence of both Cuba and the United States, along with every other nation in the region, makes this Summit an historic occasion before it even begins.

But beyond the breathtaking diplomatic opportunity the thaw between Cuba and the U.S. presents, there is much else on our agenda that deserves attention.

The overarching theme of the Summit is "Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of Cooperation in the Americas." This could well be the rallying cry of all nations in our region. How do we develop fairly and justly? How do we close the income gap? How do we give everyone a voice in his or her destinies?

There is no doubt that Latin America is on the rise, economically. By 2020, Latin American GDP is expected to reach $10 trillion—double that of 2010—with 640 million active consumers. However, this prosperity has not been sufficiently and broadly shared by our people.

That is where the demand for equality begins. Equality is not just an ethical demand, but also a technical condition for the sustainable growth of our countries and for our future peace and stability.

While the Americas are enjoying a state of peace and--with perhaps one exception--political stability, we know this can be jeopardized if we, as a region, do not attend the most pressing challenges our people face today.

Democracy in our region, for example, is limited by inequality and inequities, and therefore to fight against these challenges is also to fight to strengthen democracy. It is the same for security, immigration, and energy resource scarcity. These in fact comprise the key subthemes of the agenda.

Indeed, the presence of all nations at the table means that we can put all the issues on the table, including sensitive questions like human rights, democracy, and civil liberties. We are a diverse hemisphere, with lots of ideas and many voices on these questions.

In fact, there will be a dedicated platform for civil society organizations at the Summit of the Americas in which citizens from all countries can freely discuss their cares and concerns. Because this forum is being run by a private NGO, not by the Government of Panama, we are all potential subjects of discussion or targets of criticism.

President Obama and President Varela, among other heads of state, are expected to be in the room for that discussion. That's healthy.

The U.S. has much at stake in the discussions in Panama City, which will range from climate change to commerce. Indeed, the U.S.' integration in the hemisphere is growing stronger by the day through our broad economic, security, and political cooperation. Panama, for example, is the fastest growing economy in the region.

Our largest trading partner is the United States -- accounting for approximately 23 percent of all two-way trade. U.S.- Panama trade grew by roughly 20 percent to more than $10 billion in 2012 and has only continued to increase since the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) went into effect in October 2012.

The expansion of the Panama Canal will only enhance the importance of U.S. trade with Panama and throughout Latin America and the jobs it will support in both North and South.

It is truly fitting that this historic Summit be hosted in Panama. The first meeting of Heads of State from the Americas was held in Panama back in 1956, in what is now the headquarters of the Panamanian Foreign Ministry.

And just a year ago, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal. This was of course an important historical event that transformed global commerce, but it also symbolically inaugurated what has become our traditional role in promoting dialogue and consensus between nations.

This is precisely the role we wish to play at the Summit by bringing together a group of nations with far more in common than we are separated by. The participation of Cuba and the U.S. is the most powerful symbol of our need and ability to transcend differences and work towards a positive outcome.

It is undeniable that the time for the Americas has come. Prosperity is on the rise. Dreams are awakened. By breaking down barriers and the old dividing lines, we can at last unlock the potential of our people. We can help lift them up. We can give them a stake in the stability of their countries and their neighbors.

The precondition is equity. Our progress towards equity in the upcoming Summit will be the ultimate measure of its success. (CNN)

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Gustavo Perez Transferred To The El Renacer Prison

CorruptionThe former Executive Secretary of the National Security Council Gustavo Perez was transferred to the El Renacer prison in Gamboa yesterday. (more)

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Panama to Investigate Entire Congress for Corruption

CorruptionPanamanian prosecutor has asked the Supreme Court to launch a massive corruption probe against the 71 congressmen who served in the National Assembly between 2010 and 2014 for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from a welfare program, local daily La Estrella reported on Monday, March 30.

The congressmen reportedly purchased bags of food via the National Help Program (PAN) worth US$62.3 million. According to former PAN Director Rafael Guardia Jaén, they always made purchases from the same suppliers without a transparent decision-making process.

Prosecutors suspect the elected officials may have received bribes to prefer certain suppliers and award them contracts at inflated prices.

Between January to April, amid the campaign for the 2014 presidential election, congressmen reportedly bought 2,231,810 bags of food worth $25 each — a total of almost $56 million.

Guardia Jaén — who is now serving a prison sentence for corruption — said former President Ricardo Martinelli’s secretary, Adolfo de Obarrio, would instruct him when to make purchases and from whom to buy. “The congressmen suggested the suppliers,” said Jaén, “I was just following orders.”

So far, authorities have indicted 32 people involved in managing the welfare program, including Martinelli’s private secretary; the former president’s brother, Mario Martinelli; and former Education Minister Lucy Molinar.

Last week, in a separate investigation, anti-corruption Prosecutor Vika Broce asked judicial authorities to file a PAN-related case against two cabinet members during Martinelli’s administration.

Martinelli is currently on the run, and is set to lose his immunity from prosecution, over the PAN scandal. He was last seen in Italy, where he also faces extortion charges for a separate case. (Panampost.com)

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Anti Corruption Prosecutor Will Interrogate Former Comptroller Today

CorruptionThe First Anti Corruption prosecutor will interrogate the former Comptroller Gioconda Torres de Bianchini today, for possible embezzlement in the purchase of grains and legumes for the Ministry of Education through the National Aid Program, a contract endorsed by the entity which she directed. (more)

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Panama Canal Authority to appeal US$233m award to contractors

Canal ExpansionThe Panama Canal Authority said on Tuesday it had asked for an international arbitration panel to review a decision to award US$233 million to the consortium expanding the canal in a dispute over cement quality.

The consortium, led by Spain's Sacyr and Italy's Salini Impregilo, and including Belgium's Jan de Nul and Panama's CUSA, said in January it had won US$233 million of the US$463 million it claimed in the dispute.

Any international arbitration would take place in Miami, the canal authority said.

The consortium has filed a series of claims totaling some US$2.3 billion over the dispute that halted work early last year on the expansion to allow bigger vessels to pass through the canal. (Reuters)

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Robbers break into Tamburrelli bakery

CorruptionPolice said that three men broke into il Nono bakery in Bella Vista Saturday. (more)

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Cuba, U.S. renew talks on restoring diplomatic ties

Panama NewsBy Daniel Trotta HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba and the United States meet for talks on restoring diplomatic relations on Monday, seeking more progress toward an agreement while not allowing differences over Venezuela to impede their historic rapprochement.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson is due to meet in Havana with Josefina Vidal, the Cuban foreign ministry’s chief of U.S. affairs, with talks possibly continuing into Wednesday.

Jacobson and Vidal led their respective delegations with great fanfare in Havana in January and in Washington in February, but this session will take place with smaller teams and, so far at least, a media blackout.

The United States severed diplomatic ties with Cuba in 1961, and relations remained hostile even after the end of the Cold War.

But President Barack Obama reversed the U.S. policy of isolating Cuba, entering 18 months of secret talks that led to a joint announcement with Cuban President Raul Castro on Dec. 17 that the two adversaries would seek to restore diplomatic ties, as well as a release of prisoners by both sides.

Obama told Reuters on March 2 he hoped the United States would open an embassy in Cuba before a Western Hemisphere summit in Panama set for April 10-11, when Obama and Castro could have their first face-to-face meeting since shaking hands at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December 2013.

Before agreeing to restore ties, Cuba wants to be removed from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism and also to find a bank willing to handle transactions for its diplomatic posts in the United States.

For its part, the United States wants to increase staff at its mission in Havana and have unrestricted travel for its diplomats on the island.

Both sides reported progress on these issues after the first two round of talks.

Then on March 9 the United States declared Cuba’s closest ally, Venezuela, a security threat and ordered sanctions against seven officials from the oil-rich country.

U.S. officials have said the Venezuela issue should not affect the Cuba talks, but Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said any attack on Venezuela was also an attack on Cuba, saying Washington “has provoked serious damage to the environment in the hemisphere on the eve of the Summit of the Americas.”

“I hope that the U.S. government understands that it can’t handle Cuba with a carrot and Venezuela with a garrote,” Rodriguez said on Saturday while visiting Venezuela.

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Ferrufino Stole At Least 2.2 Million Dollars

CorruptionIt has been calculated the former Minister of Social Development (Mides) Guillermo Ferrufino received at least 2.2 million dollars in unjustified enrichment during the administration of Ricardo Martinelli. (more)

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Ex-Panama supreme court head jailed for 5 years on graft charges

Corruption(Reuters) - A former head of the Panamanian supreme court was sentenced to five years in prison on corruption charges on Thursday, the first time an active judge in the country has been sent to jail.

Alejandro Moncada was sentenced by a three-person committee made up by members of Congress after pleading guilty last month to charges of illicit enrichment as well as falsifying documents.

Under Panamanian law, supreme court judges can only be investigated by members of the national Congress.

Moncada, who had been due to sit in the court until 2020, was appointed by ex-President Ricardo Martinelli, a bitter rival of current President Juan Carlos Varela.

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Punta Pacifica Chief Elected Head of Trump Owners Group

Real EstateBy Jeff Barton - Apartment owners of the Trump Ocean Club have elected Punta Pacifica Realty founder Duncan McGowan president of the building’s homeowner’s association, the group charged with protecting the interests of owners in the iconic tower.

The association represents the owners of the 635 apartments in the Trump, the sail-like tower on the Punta Pacifica waterfront. The Trump is the first Trump-branded resort in Central America and the largest mixed-use project in South America.

“I’m honored to serve the owners,” Mr. McGowan said. “Our responsibility is make sure all the owners see the level of maintenance, amenities and service they should expect from this five-star building.”

Top priorities will include creating greater transparency for the owners, reducing maintenance fees and ensuring the best possible service.

Mr. McGowan is a natural choice to head the association. Punta Pacifica Realty has handled more sales and rentals in the Trump than any other real estate or property management agency. The firm also manages more property in the tower than any other agency, offering tenants a complete menu of services, from in-house maintenance crews to state of the art security systems.

A Scottish Nicaraguan who earned a biology degree from the University of Toronto, Mr. McGowan has been living and working in Panama since 1998. He helped develop customer relations programs with Trump’s high-end clientele, before founding PPR in 2010, Panama City’s first full-service real estate agency.

Since its inception, Punta Pacific Realty has handled more than $460 million of real estate sales in Punta Pacifica and manages the majority of the luxury apartment rentals in the exclusive neighborhood of waterfront towers.

“The Trump is the premier building in Central America and I look forward to helping the owners live the Panama City lifestyle and get the most out of their investment,” Mr. McGowan said.

Punta Pacifica Realty's offices are located in Aqualina Tower in the commercial space. As well as they have a boutique office located in Trump Ocean Club in front of Mailboxes Etc. (+507) 836-5991 sales@puntapacificarealty.com www.puntapacificarealty.com

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Inmate Claims Vernon Ramos was Murdered and Buried (Financial Pacific Case)

CorruptionThe prison inmate who allegedly has information about the disappearance of Vernon Ramos, the Deputy Director of the Financial Analysis Unit of the Superintendency of Securities Market in Panama, was taken before the Public Ministry to file a sworn statement in the case. (more)

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The Invisible Hand and the New Panama Locks

Canal ExpansionBy Sal Haidar - The Panama Canal has served as the global transshipment shortcut for over one 100 years. By connecting the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic, it allows ships to pass through without traversing around the southern tip of South America. By saving significant time and energy, this is why it is the preferred route for roughly 14,000 ships annually, and the prime accomodator for 10% of all U.S. shipping, because companies are able to obtain cost savings which eventually get passed on to the consumer. After some minor delays due to labor union strikes and cost overruns, the monolithic Third Set of Locks Project will push America’s international trade strategy in the right direction.

The expansion is 85% complete, with the final cost totaling over $7 billion, and a projected date of completion between this coming December, or the early months of 2016 if there are no other setbacks. A new third lane will double the canal's capacity to assist the passage of Post-Panamax ships, which are 1,200 feet in length and carry three times the cargo of 965-feet-long Panamax ships. Further research has shown many benefits the project will bring to U.S. trade, especially with Asia.

According to the reports by the Panama Canal Authority, the route from Sabine Pass in Louisiana to Japan would be cut by 11.4 days. Furthermore, with the “oil glut” resulting in a gloomy layoff frenzy affecting natural gas workers, the Panama Canal may offer new opportunities for the industry due to the newly expanded canal being able to facilitate close to 90% of LNG tankers, compared to less than 10 percent currently. Also included in the prize are substantial increases in coal and propane exports. But benefits aren’t limited only to North American. According to energy analyst Alexis Arthur of the Institute of Americas, the canal has the potential to alter LNG trade routes globally. For Peru’s Camisea Gas Project, the shipment of its natural gas to Spain via the canal would save eight days transit. Additionally, the route from Trinidad and Tobago to Chile would be cut by 6.3 days.

As reported in a study by The Maritime Administration, the expansion will result in a substantial increase in the exports of grain, including soybean, wheat, and corn products, as this new generation of energy-efficient ships will have 25% more capacity than the earlier models, which according to Rabobank analysts, will reduce the cost of shipping grain from the American Midwest corn belt to Asia by roughly 12%. Again, beneficiaries also include Brazil and Argentina with increased cost effectiveness of their grain exports to Eastern Europe.

Of course, not mentioning the trickle-down effects on the Republic of Panama itself would be shortsighted. After all, 6% of world commerce passes through here annually. In 2012, Panama’s GDP grew by 10.5 percent and unemployment is at the lowest levels ever experienced, at 3.5 percent. Jobs are in abundance, as the canals expansion has been accompanied by a huge hiring spree, especially with financial institutions in dire need of professionals to fill vacancies in over 100 banks holding more than $100 billion in assets. Furthermore, the expansion is bringing an influx of commercial developers along the banks of the Caribbean who are seeking proposals of projects that could have substantial impacts on water resources and the tropical landscape. The plans include a $US 6.4 billion open-pit copper mine powered by a 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant, a $US 8.7 billion container terminal east of Colon, and a $US 4 billion residential resort.

As author Jeffrey Tucker writes, “Commerce keeps the world orderly and rational and free. It gives us drive and ratifies our efforts. It sparks imagination and defines its boundaries. It feeds the world, sustains and builds civilization, and unleashes the best in the human spirit.”

The Panama Canal has served as the global transshipment shortcut for over one 100 years. By connecting the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic, it allows ships to pass through without traversing around the southern tip of South America. By saving significant time and energy, this is why it is the preferred route for roughly 14,000 ships annually, and the prime accomodator for 10% of all U.S. shipping, because companies are able to obtain cost savings which eventually get passed on to the consumer. After some minor delays due to labor union strikes and cost overruns, the monolithic Third Set of Locks Project will push America’s international trade strategy in the right direction. (American Thinker)

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Perez's Defense Threatens To Sue

CorruptionThe team of lawyers defending the former director of the Security Council warned yesterday that Gustavo Pérez will take legal action against the government officials who authorized the dissemination of images and videos showing him inside of the Gran Joya Penitentiary, where he is serving a preventive measure as part of the wiretapping case. (more)

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Government Provider and CD Party Member, With Luxurious House

CorruptionThe former Minister of Health Franklin Vergara has things in common with the businessman Carlos Bryan Torres, who during his tenure he was granted lucrative government contracts to deliver water by truck and garbage collection. (more)

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