Monday 25 September 2023

Panama’s Martinelli running for president while he waits to see if he’ll be convicted of money laundering

The few polls that have been released in recent months for the May 2024 general elections give the former president the favor of the electorate, even though he has been indicted on money laundering charges.

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Q24N (EFE) Ricardo Martinelli, president of Panama between 2009 and 2014, made his presidential candidacy official this Sunday for the May 2024 elections, while he awaits sentencing on money laundering charges for the irregular purchase of a media publisher and the start of the trial for the Odebrecht case.

Ricardo Martinelli celebrates being elected as a presidential candidate, in Panama City on June 4. Photographer: Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images

Martinelli, 71, was proclaimed the presidential candidate of his new party Realizando Metas (RM) – Realizing Goals – founded in 2021, after winning a primary in which he obtained more than 96% of the votes, according to data from the Panamanian Electoral Tribunal.

“Now that I am officially a candidate, I will fight with all my might to achieve a prosperous future for my country, without selfishness or revenge. I am not going to waste my time persecuting those who hurt me,” said Martinelli after receiving the accreditation that made his candidacy for the 2024 presidential elections official.

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His speech, however, began by remembering all those political adversaries whose “kilometric goal is that he does not compete in 2024″ through different trials that seek to disqualify him.

“Don’t be blind, they want to kill democracy, they seek to silence the vote of the majority in Panama, they are terrified of the popular will. I am the one who leads all the popular opinion polls, however, from the refrigerated offices (…) a purely political trial is planned and executed,” he said.

Thus, the candidate assured that “for more than 10 years” he has been a victim of the use of the “Judicial Power to end” his political career, “the target of this practice” since he ceased “to be president of the Republic.”

“Once I win the 2024 election, Panamanians will return to the success of the past, of a large and prosperous Panama and not like now, with an economy in the dumps, just because a small political group is the one who wants to take advantage of the wealth of the nation,” he said.

234,700 RM members were called to Sunday’s primaries at 655 tables in 513 voting centers, and had a participation of less than 25% of those called, detailed the Electoral Tribunal, of a process that cost US$1.3 million Dollars.

Martinelli vote in the morning before a great media expectation in Panama City center. The candidate arrived without apparent physical problems, walking to the polling station without any support despite the fact that he avoided appearing in recent weeks for a trial alleging a recent operation. He even made a dance feint during the event.

Martinelli, who was president from 2009 to 2014, stands accused of having bought a majority share in the Editora Panama America publishing house in 2010 using illegally acquired state funds.

2024 Elections

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The few polls that have been released in recent months for the general elections of May 2024 give Martinelli the favor of the electorate, something that the politician and magnate with economic interests in almost all sectors of the country highlights in his interventions.

The former president founded his new party in 2021, after losing control of Cambio Democrático (CD), the organization he created in 1998 and with which he rose to power in 2009.

The CD got out of hand while he was imprisoned for a year in the United States, which detained him in 2017 for extradition purposes, something he finally did in 2018 so that he could face a trial in Panama for the alleged illegal interception of telecommunications to 150 people, including opponents, journalists and businessmen, when he was president.

Read more: Judge Denies Former President of Panama Bail; Continues In US Federal Holding

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This case, known as “pinchazos” and from which he emerged unscated in two trials, is part of the “political persecution” that Martinelli says is against him, as well as the Odebrecht and “New Business” cases in which he is accused. of money laundering.

Martinelli is one of the 13 people, including businessmen, politicians and individuals, for whom the Organized Crime Prosecutor’s Office requested the maximum sentence of between 16 and 18 years for the New Business case, the purchase in 2010 with alleged public funds from Editorial Panama America S.A. (Epasa).

The trial for this case ended on June 2 and Judge Baloísa Marquínez accepted the term of 30 days to issue the sentence.

Martinelli is also one of the 36 accused in Panama for alleged involvement in laundering millions of dollars in bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, whose trial is scheduled for next August.

Read more: Odebrecht case trial begins in Panama with 83 defendants

Two sons of the former president were jailed for the Odebrecht case in the US, where they pleaded guilty to laundering US$28 million dollars and having carried out bribes in favor of the Brazilian company “on the father’s orders”, as the defense alleged.

The United States has barred Martinelli from entering the country, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accusing him of accepting bribes.

Martinelli is also being investigated in Spain for alleged corruption due to bribes that the Spanish construction company FCC confessed to having paid in Panama and for another case of alleged spying on a woman in Mallorca.

 

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