The United States Department of State in its annual report on human rights in different countries of the world. has raised alarms over corruption and the lack of judicial independence in Panama and discrimination against LGBTQ people.
Among the examples highlighted are severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, including threats to apply criminal libel laws to limit expression; serious government corruption; and discrimination against LGBTQ people including the non-recognition of marriage between same-sex couples.
Corruption was a recurring theme, noting how despite numerous reports, there were few investigations. And that the few investigations that were carried out extended over long periods of time and rarely ended in successful prosecutions.
“ The law contemplates criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and there are mechanisms to punish officials who commit human rights abuses, but the government did not take effective steps to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed rights abuses humans or who participated in acts of corruption ”, highlights the report.
They called the judicial system " easy to manipulate " and allowed defendants to delay prosecutions close to their statute of limitations.
Another issue pointed out in the report is that corruption is present in all organs of the Panamanian state apparatus. Corruption continued to be a serious problem in the executive, judicial, and legislative bodies, as well as in the security forces.
“ Two former presidents were prosecuted for money laundering and corruption. Former President Ricardo Martinelli and 16 other people were prosecuted as part of a money laundering case related to the purchase of Editora Panamá América, SA with public funds. Despite the fact that the investigations began in 2017, the first hearing did not take place until July, after multiple delays, ”they say in the distributed document.
Former presidents Martinelli and Juan Carlos Varela, along with several former public officials, were also prosecuted in the bribery case against Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction company."
For the Joe Biden government, corruption and lack of transparency in the Panamanian security establishments are worrying,
On the issue of abuses by security forces, they pointed out the impunity of institutions that are only regulated by internal control mechanisms and where a culture of corruption prevails.
“ Corruption and the lack of accountability in the security forces continued. Public security groups did not have an impartial investigative body for internal investigations. The absence of clear standard operating procedures allowed discretion to the agents in each case. The lack of audits of operations resulted in gaps in terms of accountability and transparency, which contributed to the corruption problem, ”they say in the report, where they also recall that three directors of legal security affairs were dismissed accusations for a case of alleged arms trafficking.
When it comes to corruption, Panama never fares well. The Corruption Perception Index for the year 2022 left the country in a bad light. The Central American isthmus obtained a medium rating. Panama is located in position 101 of 180 with a rating of 36/100.