WHILE President, Juan Carlos Varela and his inflated entourage of ministers are celebrating the signing of 19 agreements in China, civil society in Panama is making sure that he has urgent matters to deal with when he returns to his desk.
The Odebrecht scandal is front and center with expanding allegations of bribery money being funneled to the coffers of the Panemenista Party, headed by his brother, Deputy “Popi” Varela. accused of lobbying for the Brazilian construction company which continued to receive billions of dollars in contracts from the current administration while Brazilian authorities were uncovering a network of illegal payments across Latin America.
On Friday, the China signing was eclipsed by an expose by NBC and Reuters, of the key players in the construction and selling of the Trump Ocean Towers While the report might attract more wheeler-dealers to the country, its portrayal of Panama as a haven for money laundering through real estate is a red flag for genuine investors.
Adding to the problem folders in the presidential in-basket is an open letter from at least 10 civil society organizations expressing their concern about the “serious deterioration” in the management of the Ministry of Environment (Miambiente).
Questioning the administration of the Minister of Environment, Emilio Sempris, over possible concessions to developments in protected areas such as the Wildlife Refuge of Islas de Cañas, in Los Santos, Donoso, in Colón and Mata Oscura, in Veraguas, where there are complaints about concessions for tourist developments without technical studies, the NGO’s have asked Varela, to intervene before it is too late ‘… and They refer to the “silence” of the entity on the subject of protected areas.
The letter says: “We ask that you urgently request the Minister to take strong, effective and consistent actions in order to avoid further breakdown of the environmental institutional framework of the country and the lack of protection of protected areas and ecosystems.”
Sempris, says that he has scheduled a meeting with civil society groups for next week. It may be too late to save his head. His hope for survival is that the president is not renowned for making quick decisions and while he was away the inbox filled with problems that may be considered more urgent, and the environment folder can be moved to “pending”