Martinelli returned home this morning from his vacation in Greece and South Africa to face protests from virtually every group in society. The passing of the "sausage law" has united everything from hardcore environmentalists to SUNTRACS to the Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Business Executives in rejection of the legal mutant that Martinelli's Frankensteins slammed together while he was away.
As a result, there will be protest marches every day now, with an expected mega-march next Thursday that the unions have called for. The march of today was mostly attended by environmentalists.
We've learned that the government is in turmoil and internal war has broken out. The Panameñistas fear - and with reason - that they'll pay the electoral bill for the string of political blunders Martinelli and his clique are pulling off at breakneck speed. The Cambio Democratico faction, on the other hand, needs these repressive laws to execute their agenda of turning the country into a corporation that they can continue to run after Martinelli's term has ended. Minister Mulino said this afternoon that Martinelli "may veto" the controversial law - an indication that fights and negotiations are ongoing.
Then there are Martinelli's other toxic issues that may affect everyone around him. Persistent rumor has it that the president is under investigation by the DEA for his dealings with his cousin and treasurer of his political party, Ramón Martinelli, who currently sits in a Mexican prison on accusations of money laundering for a Mexican cartel. It is indeed noteworthy that nothing official has been scheduled between the US government and Martinelli for months now, but that vice-president Varela has been meeting with one US government official after the other.
On top of that, the unions, environmental organizations and others have called for a consumer boycott of Martinelli's Super99 supermarkets and products such as Seco Herrerano and Ron Abuelo from Hermanos Varela - the business of the vice-president and the president of the Assembly.
However, none of this has stopped the government from presenting yet another law that combines all kinds of changes to various other laws in one. This time it is supposedly the tax code that is being altered, however, there are various other changes.
One important change is that non-profit groups will have to publish a list of donators every month on the web - a rather arrogant demand from a government that has so far refused to make the campaign finances of its coalition partners public.
The law also appears to pave the way for buying toll roads - notably the corredor sur - which some allege are empty shells. An earlier bid to buy these roads with pension fund money seems to have collapsed under protests.
There seem to be more of these laws in preparation: One thing Martinelli wants to change is the ban on foreigners to own retail businesses in Panama. The current law prohibits the sale of Super99 to Walmart, a deal that is widely assumed to be in the works but that would require that law to be modified.