ON SATURDAY, June 10, hundreds of citizens concerned about changes to home taxation and mandatory upward re-evaluation of property gathered on Avenida Balboa to protest the signing by President Juan Carlos Varela of executive decree 130, to set the changes in motion.
The president in his near three years in office has not earned a reputation for quick decisions and is lampooned as a tortoise by local political cartoonists.
But in this instance he seems to have signed off without a lot of thought to the political consequences among home owning citizens.
Varela’s public image has been damaged in recent weeks with some self inflicted wounds, starting with his series of large payments for private medical care to political insiders and government employees from his tax payer funded “discretionary” payment pot.
The roar of public disapproval was still ringing in his ears, when he took off with family and friends last weekend to see the Real Madrid-Juventus soccer game, hoping perhaps that the roar of the fans in Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium would drown out the disapproving cries in Panama.
Attempts to quell the latest uprising came not from the president but from The Minister of Economy and Finance, Dulcidio De La Guardia who at a hastily summoned press conference announced on Sunday, that It will suspend the entry into force of Executive Decree 130.
The reason given for the seeming U turn was what La Guardia called a “distortion on the part of a political sector” on the scope of the decree.
“It has been a complete political fabrication to instill fear among our citizens about negative false consequences, like losing their homes.
“These types of lies must be repudiated and denounced for the damage they cause to the country and the housing industry,” he said.
His remarks were likely aimed at PRD deputy Zulay Rodriguez who has been conducting a vigorous Twitter campaign and was a prominent participant in Saturday’s protest.
Varela can now focus his attention on his upcoming Washington trip to meet with President Trump who believes the Canal should not have been handed over to Panama.