The stalled plan of the brothers Luis Enrique and Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares – sons of ex-president Ricardo Martinelli to escape extradition to the US to face money laundering charges by becoming alternate deputies in the Central American Parliament (Parlacen) has re-ignited citizen demands for the withdrawal of Panama from the forum seen as a bolt hole for corrupt politicians
Two initiatives have been activated on the change.org platform to request signatures of support, to ask President Cortizo to withdraw the country from the anachronistic body. The two campaigns agree that Parlacen "does not contribute anything to Panama." They hope to obtain 5,000 signatures. , one of the movements had already obtained over 4,600 signatures by Monday evening. The other had more than 2,400.
Parlacen, a forum created in 1991, has had more sorrows than glories reports La Prensa Various sectors of Central America label it as a “refuge for corrupt politicians”. In fact, one of the initiatives that promote the exit of that forum, the one promoted by the citizen Raúl Morales, recalls that ‘Parlacen has only served so that Panamanian politicians indicted for alleged acts of corruption take refuge in the forum to shield themselves from justice .”
He questions that the country “squanders” at least $1.7 million a year in the fee to be paid to Parlacen, funds that, in his opinion, can serve to strengthen the health and education system of the population currently hit by the COVID pandemic
"We demand that Panama leave Parlacen. Let's start improving what does not work well for our country: it is time to eliminate one of the many privileges that politicians enjoy in Panama. Parliamentary immunity should not shield anyone from responding to possible acts of corruption ...,” the request states.
This is not the first time that citizens have called for the country to leave the body. Last year, in the heat of the debate on constitutional reforms, the Citizen Consciousness Movement, led by Cristian Ábrego, presented a proposal to the National Assembly, but it was not acted on.
One of the loudest brouhahas in the relationship between Panama and Parlacen was in 2009 when then-President Ricardo Martinelli called it a "den of thieves" and proposed removing the country from the forum.
In 2010, the then official Democratic Change bench in the National Assembly, and its ally at the time, the Panameñista Party, approved a law that removed Panama from the forum, but in 2012 - after the alliance dissolved a Supreme Court ruling declared the claim unconstitutional
Upon leaving the Presidency, Martinelli was sworn in as deputy of the Parlacen in 2014 and when he was fingered for alleged irregularities during his administration.
Now his sons, ask to be recognized as alternate deputies.
At least 12 of the 20 deputies of the Panamanian caucus opposed after Nadia De León, president of the forum, asked them to swear them in. Panamanian parliamentarians Gilberto Succari and Cirilo Salas, vice president, and secretary-general, respectively, sent a letter to the board, saying they would not do so.