AS PANAMA President, Juan Carlos Varela attempts to keep a low profile over the Odebrecht revelations with the possibility that other administrations other than that of Ricardo Martinelli, will be drawn into the bribery maelstrom, he has found time to turn his attention to a project that he hopes will shine a more favorable spotlight on the country before his term ends.
2016 was a year when Panama’s name was sullied by the ongoing exposure of malfeasance by the previous government; the ponderously slow actions of the justice system; the apparent teflon safety cloak around Martinelli; the Mossack Fonseca revelations, with the presence of the two company principals as government advisors; the resignation of two famed international members of the committee set up to study the fallout; the ease with which high profile suspects involved in the Financial Pacific and other scandals were able to flee the country; the Waked scandal and the possible disappearance of Panama’s oldest newspaper; the lack of progress on refurbishing the Teatro National while nearly $30 million was assigned to Catholic Church projects.
Brighter spots were the extravagant party for the opening of the Canal expansion locks, and Varela’s trip accompanied by the First Lady to the World Youth Conference in Poland, and their successful lobbying to have the next gathering in Panama, just weeks before he leaves office in 2019.
In the dying days of the year the president found time to sign papers assigning officials from seven ministries and 15 public institutions to participate in the planning of World Youth Day (WYD) 2019, attended by Pope Francis, and involving the arrival to Panama’s gridlocked streets of 300,000 Catholics from around the world.
The completion date of Metro 2, by the odiferous Odebrecht company, has already been brought forward with undetermined extra costs.
The so-called Executive Coordination of Support to the Local Organizing Committee of WYD 2019 will be coordinated by the Ministry of the Presidency.
“It will have the responsibility of liaising with the Local Organizing Committee and Coordinate the work of the corresponding Instances of the State,” says Executive Decree 570 dated December 28.
Meanwhile the Odebrecht clouds continue to darken and some, who have yet to be publicly fingered. are using what should be sleepless nights to plot their disappearance.