Panama’s “Government of Change” faced its third major cabinet crisis with the report of the resignation of Minister of the Presidency Jimmy Papadimitriu sending fellow ministers rushing to his apartment on Friday July 13 to dissuade him.
The resignation came on Thursday, July 12, the same day, the Official Gazette published an executive decree ordering expropriation without compensation of the 54 hectares of land in the Juan Hombrón, Cocle, scandal which has involved the Papadimitriu family and, according to the latest revelations, the minister himself.
Meanwhile a code of silence existed among cabinet ministers, most of whom, according to media reports, turned off their phones.
Government sokesman Luis Eduardo Camacho, who early in the day joined President Ricardo Martinelli in claiming to have no knowledge of the resignations, later said the government would not comment.
Among the first of Papadimitriu’s colleagues to visit a Coco del Mar apartment was Tourism Authority manager Salomon Shamah, and Eduardo Camacho.
Shamah had his own problems when he lost his visa to the United States after WikiLeaks revealed DEA reports of his alleged involvement in money laundering. A tearful Shamah denied the accusations, and as rumours circulated about his successor but Martinelli said it would be a woman.
But Shamah, believed to be the Svengali involved in dirty tricks involving convicted fraudster David Guzman during the election campaign, and now accused of masterminding smear campaigns against Vice President Juan Carlos Varea and journalists, remained at his post reportedly because of the intervention of Papadimitriu.
Photographers and journalists gathered arount the apartment site on Friday, where a group of about 10 people, including several ministers, arrived at the building in search of Papadimitriu once known as the Rasputin of the Government.
A source said that Finance Minister Frank De Lima headed the team of high profile visitors trying to convince Papadimitriu to remain and that negotiations to achieve that goal would continue on Saturday.
The last resignation crisis was In March when Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino, resigned "irrevocably" over differences with the then police chief, Gustavo Perez. Finally, Martinelli convinced him to stay.
But by Friday evening analysts were pontificating on who would replace Martinelli’s henchman. Among names bandied about were Jorge R. Fabrega, head of the Ministry of Government and Foreign Minister, Roberto Henriquez whose brother heads the opposition People's Party.
Analysts figure that the trigger to the resignation, was the expropriation of 54 hectares of Juan Hombrón land without compensation.
When the titling scandal first broke and reports indicated the involvement of his parents and lawyer Anabelle Vilamonte who was later given the post of Director of Anati, the land registration authority, an infuriated Papadimitriu called a press conference to deny any family connection.
Later, as the scandal widened and his own name began to be linked to the scandal he played a last gasp card acknowledging that his parents were those who bought the land from the fishermen.
But a week ago, a recording attributed to lawyer Raul Mata, said that Jimmy himself was the one who bought the land
Meanwhile after the Official Gazette published an Executive Decree expropriating , without compensation, 14 farms in Juan Hombrón, province of Cocle, attorney Carlos Carrillo, representing the parents of the Minister of the Presidency, Demetrio Papadimitriu, said he would meet with his clients to analyze the situation and talk to sellers and buyers.
Former comptroller, Alvin Weeden said the order was a new plundering of the state, because they have recognized the status of owner.
"This is just a dirty trick recognizing the right to property and saying they will not compensate. But if they go to court, they will get compensation immediately. That is it will give a bag of money to Minister Papadimitriu … That is a departure with compensation," said Weeden.