ALREADY a year ago, your Bananama newsroom started receiving the first reports about president Martinelli's somewhat strange behavior. Drinking binges with Papadimitriu. Martinelli and clique spotted, sloshed, at the Siete Mares restaurant. Same at Relic in Casco Viejo. Martinelli traveling with unidentified woman not being the first lady. That sort of thing.
The picture that emerged of Martinelli was something like what you'd get if you crossbred Berlusconi with Putin, with Uribe supervising that process, and something went terribly wrong with the DNA.
Even though our information came from entirely credible and respected sources, we chose to focus on the president's political actions. However, then came the WikiLeaks cables, with their scathing characterizations of Martinelli as a bullying blackmailer whose behavior is irrational and dangerous, and then Dr. Mauro Zuñiga Araúz, a celebrated opposition figure during the military dictatorship and fierce critic of Martinelli, recently published an opinion piece in La Prensa repeating as well as adding to similar and worse accusations.
Martinelli's supporters - Alma Cortés et al - were of course up in arms about it and Zuñiga's piece was even cited as an example of how backward anti-press laws were needed for in this country (Zuñiga responded by filing a law proposal that would impose hefty prison sentences on politicians for lying).
Here follows Zuñiga's piece, translated by us into English for your convenience from its Spanish original.
WITH THE ROPE AROUND HIS NECK
Mauro Zúñiga Araúz
When I started to write a weekly column in La Prensa, it was with the idea to contribute to the debate on the way to create absolute democracy in Panama, as a result of the failure of the ideologies of the 20st century. I've had the opportunity to make some of those contributions, but the constant screw-ups, beat-ups, blow-ups and..... of the Excelentísimo have distracted me from my main objective.
I recommend him that he puts up an executive order in every public office that states that, punishable by death, it is from now on prohibited to wikileak the activities of the current tenant of the Las Garzas palace, because I am tired of receiving all kinds of reports: That some weeks ago a private jet from Argentina arrived at Albrook and that customs found the Excelentísimo on board heavily inebriated and spouting his usual foul language; about the revelry aboard his yacht; about the nocturnal spectacles in discotheques, about commissions in no-bid contracting and the few public biddings that are still being held; that he doesn't attend state affairs any more (a task now being performed by the Minister of the Presidency); that when he sent that chat to the ambassador of the United States asking for help with wiretapping the phones of his political adversaries he would not have been able to pass a breathalyzer test and that, for that reason, he didn't remember anything about it as he stated in his speech on January 2nd.
Please! I am not a journalist, send these reports to La Prensa, El Siglo, TVN or Medcom - now that EPASA is back to being Ersa after a transaction that would have made Harmodio Arías Madrid, indefatigable fighter for the freedom of expression, cry. That the company he created would be sold to a dictatorship, amidst joys and cheers, throwing courageous journalists into the cages of power is something he would never ever have allowed to happen.
Those who unconditionally helped the Arías family to recoup the newspapers that the military had stolen from them now feel as if a thick, red fluid is running down their backs.
From the cables that ambassador Stephenson sent to her country I believe one deserves special attention as it is the most serious of all: The threat by the Excelentísimo to expel the DEA from Panama. Why would he want to do that? There is a wide range of possibilities. What is the real relationship of Martinelli Berrocal with his cousin, imprisoned in Mexico for drug trafficking? He says it's the black sheep of the family. Anyone who'd appoint a black sheep to be the treasurer of his political party? The publication of photos of the Excelentísimo, in newspapers with global circulation, with two satraps linked to drug trafficking throws Panama's reputation right up there on the newest layer of garbage on Cerro Patacón.
I'm quoting from Ebrahim Asvat the following: "The other issue I can't explain, and that appears as a graft on the subject of the request to tap the phones of political opponents, is the reference made to a cable that has not yet been published which asserts that a cousin of the president helped smuggling dozens of millions of drug money through Panama's international airport".
Would the Martinelli Foundation have anything to do with that? If not, I would advise the Excelentísimo to order an immediate audit of his foundations by certified and independent accountants that have not been in communication with him. I could recommend some. For its part, the accusation by members of the PRD that one of his ministers is involved in arms trafficking further complicates the serious situation the Excelentísimo is in.
The other cables confirm suspicions that many of us had. The way he originally enriched himself: exploiting his employees, treating his suppliers in a despotic manner, selling expensive food. He goes to trade fairs in the US, those where North American entrepreneurs send their merchandise that is about to expire and sell it at derisory prices. The owner of Super99 sends his people there to buy these food products and then sells them here as if they are fresh.
I'm not saying that the authorities should investigate the veracity of this information that came to me from inside this supermarket, because in Panama the Excelentísimo is the only authority. Maybe the FAO could do it, although I don't know how much influence they'd have.
"Bribe" is a word that is part of the physiology of the Excelentísimo. For him, business without bribes does not exist. We're not surprised by the soliciting of a bribe from the ambassador. If she wouldn't please him with his wiretaps, we'd imagine that he'd ask for something else. Returning to the revelations, Asvat adds, "I haven't seen such a harsh assessment of a Panamanian president in the US press since 1988 when the charges against Manuel Antonio Noriega were published". Is there a difference between the two? Yes, the uniform.
Once upon a time the Minister of Agricultural Development warned Martinelli Berrocal that his slaughterhouse was going to be closed because hygienics norms were being violated. What happened next? The Minister received a call from Noriega telling him to leave Martinelli Berrocal alone. And the slaughterhouse? Dispatching contaminated meat. This is the class of person we have as our president. I am not going to ask him to change course, because he himself is tying the rope around his neck.
Pingback: Tweets that mention Reports: Panama's Martinelli, a dangerous drunk | Bananama Republic -- Topsy.com
I always knew the Super99 was rotten and extortionate. Cheers for this, very amusing.
“traveling with unidentified woman” – come on, you’re Dutch, you should be above this type of snipe.
@Wocka Wocka: The Latin American alpha male will have many females in his entorage as benefits his status. It is neither here nor there but it is a fact. Being Dutch does not change this cultural fact.
The real Point here is who is really Running the Country of Panama?
An alcoholic Bio Polar or his drugs?
Is this another Fidel/Che type Game?
When you are a leader of any country there is a lot of Pressure period!
But, when you run a country this small and have spent all the moneys coming in to pay off your friends and Enemies what is left?
The Water is still not safe to drink or use for the Majority of Panamanians!
The Water system for Panama City is Contaminated period, it has to be flushed and cleansed before the water can be sound enough for real human consumption!
What about the problems with sewage system, because of the lack of water and pressure to flush this system also!
What about the prices of food?
Potatoes have almost triple in the last two weeks!
Yucca, peppers, and other food stuffs have all increased beyond what the average Panamanian family can afford!
The average wage here in Panama is lower per capita than Mainland China!
(Source: Al Jazeera, BBC)
Still, No real help or relief for the over 25,000 homeless form the floods of last December alone!
The use of Pepper spray and tear gas against Unarmed Citizens of Panama who are demonstrating and protesting peacefully against the mining of their ancestral lands sanctioned to them under the Panamanian Constitution!
Yet, a trade Union Blocks the streets and nothing is done to them!
Martinelli is now off in Davos to sell off the all the Natural Resources of Panama that do not belong to the Government of Panama!
Martinelli is trying to get investors to buy into his multi-level Ponzi scheme ecological Copper and gold Mine disaster!
Now he wants to sell oil leases so we can be just like Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru which have polluted and damaged their rain forests to the point of no return, where no one can afford to live there with out severe water and health problems!
The amount of new Jobs created last year in the Country of Panama amounted to a little over 1600(Non-Governmental) new jobs!(Source: La Prensa, National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC) Panama).
Yet, the unemployment numbers are the around Ten percent still!
Martinelli’s Government now Pays out $645 Million more for Government employees in 2010 than it did in 2009!
The Panamanian Government Gives out almost $900 Million in Business tax deferments and Tax free Personal income deductions to it friends and their businesses.
Yet, Panama has a National debt of over $11.5 Billion for 2010 the highest it has ever been(Sources: La Prensa, Panama America, TVN, & Telemetro).
So when is this lying drunkards drug latent money spending binge to end?
Panama is broke it can not even afford to pay the Government without financing another moronic mega project?
Panama is unable and does not have the money to fix, repair, or at least to Maintain basic human needs!
By the way where is the $32 Million Tunnel Boarding Machine(it was name Gloria after Martinelli’s Mother) that IDAAN is suppose to be digging the new sewage Tunnel form Costa del Este to Paitilla?
It is time to Face facts this Government under Martinelli is nothing more then a right wing wanna be Pineapple face Tony!
This Government cannot even respond to facts that it is seriously without funds to operate!
“Panama where the numbers never add up”
The main purpose of pro-Washington governments is to serve multinational corporations in their effort to maximize profits, eventually over dead bodies. Requirement: with a minimum of the kind of publicity that unveils such policy to the (then feeling hoodwinked and getting angry) voters.
An example that concerns Panama a great deal is this: http://www.responsibletechnology.org/blog/664
In this respect, the present govt doesn’t fail because of insufficient servitude to multinational corporate profit maximizing but due to misbehavior, resulting in publication that could be followed by significant blowback for Washington when it no longer can deny to support dictators irrespective the human suffering, till a revolution removes the evildoers from power.
Whatever the so called “problems” like P.C. without potable water or the absence of affordable Internet, West of Volcan for Panamanians, a technical solution would have been implemented long ago if engineers had been in charge instead of Washington’s puppets.
For instance, to cover Panama in its entirety with a network, only one relay station in the tropopause is required. It could provide national coverage of radio, TV, Internet, telephony and emergency channels. Estimated cost, less than 1 million B: about 4 % of the budget allocated to a US corporation that fails to implement old fashioned WiFi (wireless Internet) swiftly.
Water purification is a piece of cake with the proper UV lamps: it kills all bacteria and viruses, needs no toxic chemicals.
Local dirt roads could be greatly improved by converting them into solid sandstone roads via bacteria and at little cost, etc. etc.
In a country where about 85% of all males are drunkards and 55% are womanizers (the remaining 45% being homosexuals), it is not surprising that the head of state is a womanizing drunkard as well… As the saying goes here in Panama: “mas vale ser borracho conocido que alcoholico anonimo” (Its is better to be a well-known drunkard than an anonymous alcoholic).
@XIO – 55% womanizer? that seems low.
Well the upside of all of this is that RM can be our new Friesner. And I am surprised Zuñiga is still breathing and a free man! I guess free speech still has a few breath left in it.
@Editor – by the way, and speaking of Friesner, what is the update on that little situation? It seems that after all the festivities were announced, the main show was canceled? We need a new episode of this telenovela, please.
If Martinelli were a leftist like Chavez it would be perfectly fine with a man like Mauro Zuniga Arauz that the President was acting like a dictator and grounding freedom of speech. That is what kills me about far-left and far-right opinion. They are all a bunch of tools for the movement that they are promoting without any regard for the common citizen. As a moderate, I think that Martinelli’s seeking to kill public opinion through criminalization is despicable. So are those who would meekly accept it if it were imposed by their “friends”.
I started reading your internet news a little while ago, and I have to say that I find your articles to be truthful and very entertaining. The things published about Martinelli are true. It is very well known in Panamanian social circles that Martinelli has a steady mistress, as do most Panamanian males, whether they are rich or not. It is also true that Martinelli and practically all his Ministers are alcoholics, except perhaps for one (ok, maybe two) notable exceptions. Martinelli is definitely being investigated for laundering drug money, and anyone who believes otherwise is either a fool, or works for him. The arrest of TWO (not one) of his cousins in Mexico, for laundering money, hit very close to home, as they say. There is no way that Martinelli did not know that his CD Treasurer (and cousin) was laundering money.
I am waiting to see what’s going to happen regarding the potable water situation in Panama. The lake where the water comes from is contaminated with dead animal carcasses, and human remains, NOT just trees and soil from the landslides; Unless the lake is dredged and all organic matter is removed, the water will remain contaminated for a very, very long time. I don’t know if you know this, but the ACP is the ultimate authority responsible for the Panama Canal Watershed. They are supposed to ensure the maintenance, conservation and protection of all the land that pertains to the Canal and its watershed, meaning the lakes and any dams in the area. The IDAAN is responsible for the Water Plant.
And one more thing: Regarding the wonderful Mauro Zuñiga Araúz: He is a highly respected, and esteemed Doctor (retired), who was extremely active in the Civilista Movement and was kidnapped and tortured by Noriega’s henchmen in 1985, and is a much admired writer. If Martinelli or anyone in his government touches one hair on that man’s body, he/she/they would be starting a real revolution. Mauro Zuñiga is FREE to speak his mind, because he has no skeletons in his closet, and that makes Martinelli and company very afraid.
Keep up the good work, and tell it like it is guys!
@Lana – Sorry, I have to ask, why are there dead animals and human remains in the lake?
Just saw your question…Lake Alajuela (formerly known as Lake Madden), was a valley, which has large portions of the trail known as “Camino Real”. Along the banks and very near the lake’s tributary rivers, are several Emberá villages and permanent settlements, and they have cemeteries. Lake Alajuela also borders one of the largest National Parks in the Republic of Panamá. So, whatever land was flooded got swept away by the water.
Favorite alcohol – Johnnie Walker Blue, $194.99/bottle through Nevis Island (La Fiesta) owned by former Secretary of Communication Alfredo Prieto.
Also popular from August to November 2009 (27 bottle ordered from Nevis Island) – the hard-to-come-by $387/bottle Vega Sicilia Unico.