Panama. According to COUNTRYAAH, Panama has a population of 4.177 million (2018). The political opposition to President Ricardo Martinelli intensified during the year. Among other things, the country’s trade union central organization Frenadeso protested in March against the government’s planned restructuring of tax policy and mobilized tens of thousands of protesters. After clashes with police, 200 people were arrested. At the same time, Martinelli was accused of increasingly autocratic practices, for example, by passing on the statutory rights of Indians in the country’s five autonomous regions, comarcas, with the aim of facilitating the exploration of copper deposits.
In June, for the first time, the Panama government acknowledged that the Colombian guerrilla group FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) operates in Panama. President Martinelli’s approach to the US was seen in the light of this, for example through a bilateral security agreement concluded in June and the military exercise PANAMAX in August that simulated an attack by a left-wing guerrilla group against the Panama Canal.
In April 2006, the Panama Canal presented a project to expand the canal at a cost of $ 5.25 billion. US $. Of these, 2.3 billion taken out as a loan abroad. In order to be launched, the project had to be adopted by a referendum. That happened in October, with 78% voting for the expansion.
Panama and France quarreled in August 2007 about the future of former President Noriega. Both countries wanted him extradited from the United States once he had suffered his drug trafficking sentence. Panama wanted to prosecute him for a series of murders while France accused him of money laundering. Noriega could be released from prison in Florida from Sept. 9, but he remained behind bars while attorneys gushed about his future.
The May 2009 presidential election was won by Ricardo Martinelli as the leader of a right-wing coalition. Martinelli initiated a series of measures to reduce poverty in the country, including US $ 100 in monthly pension for the elderly, increase in minimum wage and student subsidies. Despite efforts, 24% of the population lived below the national poverty line in 2013, and 6.6% lived in extreme poverty.
US Ambassador to Panama, Barbara J. Stephenson, in August 2009 complained to the North American Department of Foreign Affairs about Martinelli’s aggressive methods. Among other things. he had approached her with a request to intercept his political opponents. We don’t know if the US did, but Stephenson’s memorandum to the State Department was published in December 2010 as part of WikiLeak’s leak of embassy telegrams.
Martinelli was involved in a scandal in January 2010 when he tried to nominate his own candidate for the post of Secretary of the Interior. Acc. the constitution is the incumbent minister to appoint his successor.
In December 2011, Martinelli had former President Manuel Noriega extradited from France. Apparently a diversionary maneuver from several scandals in the government. In May 2012, 55% of Panamans estimated that their president was doing a bad or very bad job. He was apparently also involved in bribery aggression. have received a bribe from Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi.
Juan Carlos Varela of the conservative populist Partido Panameñista (PP) won the parliamentary elections in May 2014 with 39.1% of the vote. The second most votes got José Domingo Arias from Cambio Democrático (CD) – also conservatively populist. However, in the simultaneous election to the National Assembly, PP got only 12 out of 71 seats (a decline of 10), while CD got 30 (an increase of 16).