ONE OF Ricardo Martinelli's campaign slogans when he was running for president was: “They came in with empty pockets and left millionares” He was referring to his main political opponents, at that time the Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD.)
His words have come back to haunt him as he skulks out of the country while awaiting investigation into his alleged criminal involvement in multi-million dollar embezzlement schemes, and facing almost daily new criminal complaints arising from the wiretapping of political opponents, judges, journalists and even members of his own cabinet and one of his own lawyers; behavior with all the symptoms of paranoia.
A similar spy system was in place in Colombia under the rule of former president Alvaro Uribe. It was in the hands of Maria del PilarHurtado who fled to Panama seeking political asylum, which was granted by the Martinelli administration in 2010 when the National Security Committee was setting up its own copycat system. Was that a coincidence? We might find out as Hurtado seeks to mitigate a potential long term prison sentence by revealing the role Uribe might have played in gaining a hiding place.
Meanwhile Uribe and Martinelli are in lockstep describing the investigations into criminal activity as “political persecution”.
While Martinelli is in Italy, where his name has already been mired in allegations of bribery involving a Finnmecanica $250 million contracts with Panama, he will be reportedly spelling out his claims of persecution by President Juan Carlos Varela.
Meanwhile, La Prensa is conducting its own investigation into a new breed of millionaires that sprang up during the Martinelli years as they rushed to register new companies devoted solely to government contracts at prices that would have them laughed out of the room if they were proffered in a business deal with a non-government institution.