Category Archives: Panama

Family affairs in Panama and Honduras

US authorities recently arrested the brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez. Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez was detained Friday on drug trafficking charges.

Last week, US authorities arrested two of former Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli's sons, Ricardo Martinelli Linares and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, on immigration charges.The arrests would appear as a precursor to their deportation as the two men are wanted in Panama on corruption charges.

In order to better mange the movement of people throughout the hemisphere, the US and its partners need to move forward on drug reform and anti-corruption initiatives. Too many of the region's elites are tied up in the multi-billion dollar industry. Reforms are necessary to attack the root causes of violence in the region that are causing thousands to give up and leave.

As we learned over the weekend, the US does not need any more walls or troops on the border. Our southern border is more secure than ever. We need policies that work the reduce the number of people forced to migrate out of their communities and out of the region.

Cubans – lost in Panama

Mario Penton has an interesting story on what has happened to those Cubans stuck in Panama after the US and Cuba agreed to end the "wet foot, dry foot" policy. Once that policy ended, Cubans were no longer guaranteed entry and a path to citizenship should they make it to US shores.

And while Trump has undone some of Obama's deal with Cuba, he has not sought to reinstate "wet foot, dry foot" because that would be too humane  encourage Cubans to make the dangerous trek across the Florida Straits.

The Panamanian government offered to relocate 300 Cubans in the Cáritas shelter in Panama City to "a better place," a temporary shelter in Gualaca in western Panama. However, there was no promise what would happen to the Cubans once they moved to the new location. It was going to be a temporary move until the Panamanian government deported them, normalized their status in the country, or found a third country to accept them. Less than half took the government up on the offer and are instead now living in hiding throughout the country. The government has said they they will deport those who did not take them up on their offer to relocate.

The Panamanian government restricted immigration from Colombia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua after citizens complained that these migrants were responsible for increasing levels of crime. The May restrictions do not bode well for Cuban migrants.

Costa Rica 2007. Panama 2017. Who’s next in Taiwan-Beijing battle?

Panama recently announced that it is ending its diplomatic recognition of Taiwan and instead recognizing China. As Boz and Greg note, Panama was one of the more important remaining allies of Taiwan.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen toured Central America earlier this year. She visited Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, four countries that still recognize the island.

The Guatemalan Foreign Minister had no comment on whether the country was considering making a change from Taiwan to Beijing - "We don't have an official position on this. It's a matter that concerns other countries." Honduras would not say anything publicly but, speaking on the condition of anonymity, a government source said that the country would maintain diplomatic and commercial ties with Taiwan.

It is somewhat surprising that the leftist governments in El Salvador and Nicaragua have yet to flip diplomatic recognition between Taiwan and Beijing. However, the region has been down this path before when Costa Rica switched its recognition in 2007.

For now, it looks as if Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador will continue to work with Taiwan through SICA (Taiwan is one of the largest financial contributors) and perhaps a new free trade agreement (not sure if there has been any movement since February).

Martinelli detained in FL on extradition warrant from Panama

It feels like old news already, but former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli was arrested in Coral Gables on Monday. The US acted on an extradition warrant from Panama, where Martinelli is wanted on political espionage and corruption charges. He should have appeared before a judge sometime today.
Panama's government had requested Martinelli's extradition last September to face accusations that he spied illegally on his political rivals and intercepted the telephone calls of more than 100 people, including politicians, business and labour leaders, and critical journalists, during his 2009-14 term as president.
Just more evidence that wealthy heads of state are not immune to corruption.

It will be interesting to follow whether the Trump administration gets involved in extradition proceedings against Martinelli and El Salvador's Inocente Montano (wanted in Spain). Donald Trump is somewhat of a blank slate when it comes to Latin America and there is some room here for advisors to whisper in his ear. On the other hand, the Trump and Martinelli families have done business together.
Now, the extradition request highlights the potential conflicts of interest that have swirled around Trump: A decision that is usually made on the merits by career diplomats could be complicated by the president’s personal and business ties to Panama. Officials at the State Department could be inclined to approve the extradition, mindful of not antagonizing the current government of Panama, which exerts plenty of influence over the fate of a development that makes millions for the president’s family—or to decline the request out of their awareness of Martinelli’s support for the Ocean Club and his admiration and kind words for Trump.
Martinelli presided over the opening of Donald Trump's hotel in Panama and he sat (sits?) on the board of a bank that manages funds going from that hotel to Trump. Just a slight conflict of interest.