President Juan Carlos Varela, whose appointments to date have generally met with approval, seems to have stubbed his toe with the appointment of Alberto Cigarruista as a judge of the Court of Auditors.
On Friday, November 9, Varela felt the need to deny he lobbied the Supreme Court to designate Cigarruista for the appointment.
“The answer to whether I called any of the nine judges to ask them to support (Cigarruista) is no,” Varela said.
Varela did say that Cigarruista, a former Supreme Court justice and member of Varela’s Panameñista party, approached him after the election about being the head of the Ministry of Agriculture. However, Varela had already designated someone for that job.
The president said that he told the former judge that he should “serve the country in a manner that is close to his career” as a lawyer reports La Prensa.
Varela said that subsequently Cigarruista presented his credentials to be considered for the opening on the Court of Auditors, which had an estimated 50 applicants.
Varela, who will appoint a member of the court in two years, said he did nothing to sway the outcome of the vote by the Supreme Court.
Recently, Cigarruista said that Varela had offered him the seat since there was no ministerial position available reports La Critica.
“I spoke with the president. I told him that I aspired to be a minister, but he told me that they had been committed,” the appointee said, adding that Varela then said he could possibly serve on the Court of Auditors,
Last Monday, five of the nine judges chose Cigarruista. The designation has been strongly criticized due to Cigarruista’s political ties to the president and his performance as a Supreme Court Judge and an early cloud over his ascendency to the Supreme Court when allegations surfaced that money had changed hands in the National Assembly to ensure votes for his and Winston Spadafora’s appointments.
His appointment, has been questioned by the Citizens Alliance for Justice, which said that although the law provides that a judge of the Court of Auditors is incompatible with political activity, Cigarruista was appointed a deputy candidate by the Panameñista Party in the last elections and supported the Varela campaign, adding that the president ignored the resumes people who were eligible and who underwent scrutiny reports La Critica
“With this designation, the Supreme Court has shown that all they care about is pleasing the Executive and it is clear that they are not able to defend judicial independence , and that is harmful to the administration of justice and to the institutional the country, “said the Alliance.
Cigarruista in his interview did not recognize that his appointment was the result of a political agreement, but said that he visited in therespective offices to eight of the nine judges of the Supreme Court, including its president Jose Ayu Prado.