The right-wing lawyer José Raúl Mulinowho won Sunday’s presidential elections in Panama, promised to take “fearless” measures to recover the economy and end the “political persecution” of which his mentor, former president Ricardo Martinelli, claims to be a victim.

>>> Soccer player of Colombian origin would have participated in the abuse of a young woman in Chile

Mulino, 64 years old, He won with 34% of the vote compared to 25% for the center-right Ricardo Lombana.driven by the popularity of Martinelli, whom he replaced after being disqualified as a candidate after a conviction against him for money laundering was confirmed.

Political persecution is over. The manipulation of the Public Ministry is over. The manipulation of judges and magistrates is over. That shit is over, damn it! Listen carefully,” Mulino said to his followers in his victory speech.

From his asylum in the Nicaraguan embassy, ​​where he has been since February to avoid going to prison, Martinelli was the protagonist of the elections and from his refuge he campaigned for his dolphin. “Mission accomplished,” Mulino told him after winning.

A majority of Panamanians, according to a recent survey, consider that the 74-year-old former president will govern behind the scenes starting July 1, But Mulino said in his speech not to be “anyone’s puppet.”

Analysts see it possible that, however, he will grant Martinelli, sanctioned by Washington for “large-scale” corruption, accused of wiretapping and bribery, a pardon or at least safe passage to travel to Nicaragua.

What he does with him “will have international implications, particularly with the United States,” Francisco Rojas, rector of the UN University for Peace, based in Costa Rica, told AFP.

“Without a hint of fear”

Mulino will receive from President Laurentino Cortizo, of the majority Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD, social democrat), a country with a fiscal deficit of 7.4%, a public debt of 50,000 million and a collapsed social security system.

“I send a message to our international creditors: this country will honor its debt,” said the elected leader, from the Realizing Goals (RM) party, founded by Martinelli.

Although the economy grew 7.3% in 2023, this year it will slow down to 2.5% according to the IMF, hit by the drought that affects the Panama Canal and the closure of a copper mine after massive protests in defense of the environment .

“We must face national problems without the slightest hint of fear,” he said, predicting measures to recover the era of economic prosperity that Martinelli’s followers long for.

Threatening its competitiveness, the canal reduced ship traffic due to low water levels; while the Canadian mining company, which generated 40,000 jobs, began litigation to claim $20 billion in compensation.

“The problems are enormous,” acknowledged the president-elect.

>>> Shocking images of floods that have caused dozens of deaths in Brazil

Political stability in doubt

Mulino’s victory was favored by the division of the anti-Martinelli, whose vote was distributed between Lombana, the former social democratic president Martín Torrijos (2004-2009), who obtained 16% of the votes, and the former chancellor Rómulo Roux (12%).

In these elections, Panamanians also elected 71 deputies and local governments. Analysts predict a fragmented Congress.

“The main challenge will be to move from polarization and political tension to national reconciliation. The political system is highly fragmented and polarized,” said Rojas.

For him sociologist Danilo Toro “stability is in question.” “He has taken care to convey that he is not a relaxed person,” he said, commenting that Mulino was confrontational with the press in his speech. and justice operators.

“I respect the autonomy of each State organ, but it is up to the Executive, and it will be, to direct the destinies of the Panamanian nation,” Mulino stated.

Neither circus manager nor TikTok dancer

Minister of Security in the Martinelli government (2009-2014), the future Panamanian president has a reputation for being authoritarian and the press reminds him of the repression of protests at that time.

Now, you must also face the migratory crisis in the dangerous Darién jungle, which, to the letter, promised to “close” to prevent migrants, mostly Venezuelans, from passing through there heading to the United States.

>>> More than 100,000 migrants have crossed the Darién this year, from Colombia to Panama

Mulino admits that he has a strong character that does not arouse sympathy. “I don’t laugh much, but I know how to do things the way they should be done,” he told his supporters on Sunday night.

“You are not hiring the manager of a circus, you chose me because I am going to be a real working president, not a show host or TikTok dancer,” he added.


Leave a Reply