06 de Oct de 2022


A Gringo for the mayor’s office?

PANAMA. Panama City’s mayoral race has been tarnished again, now with allegations that one of the candidates enjoys US citizenship.

PANAMA. Panama City’s mayoral race has been tarnished again, now with allegations that one of the candidates enjoys US citizenship.

Article 13 of Panama’s constitution clearly states that the Panamanian nationality is never lost, but suspended with its explicit or tacit renunciation. A tacit renunciation involves acquiring another nationality.

The candidate for Panama City’s Mayor’s Office Bosco Vallarino (Panameñista Party), recently admitted to local media that he had indeed acquired US citizenship while in exile to that country, due to political persecution for confronting Manuel Antonio Noriega’s dictatorship.

So the question remains? is he or is he not Panamanian, and thus, is he or is he not allowed to run for office?

Although born in Panama, the mayoral candidate holds American citizenship, allowing him to vote in the US. Since June 1996, Vallarino has been a registered voter in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

Vallarino’s campaign chief, Mario Etchelecu, denied earlier this week that the candidate had exercised his right to vote in the US, after being told of the registry.

And the registry supports the fact that Vallarino did not vote in the last two presidential elections.

Yet La Estrella confirmed by phone earlier this week that the candidate did indeed make use of his voting rights. Darshanine Ranjit, administrative secretary at the Miami-Dade County Electoral Inscription office, confirmed that Bosco Ricardo Vallarino, born February 17, 1957, voted in the county during the November 1996 general elections.

A follow-up call to the assistant of the deputy director of the Electoral Inscription office, Carolina Lopez, confirmed that the official documents showed Vallarino had voted. To these allegations, Vallarino evaded a clear answer.

“To be able to vote the voter has to affirm that he is a US citizen. State authorities carefully check the submitted documents as a proof of citizenship,” Lopez said.

And the first half of the US oath of allegiance, which must be taken by all immigrants that wish to become US citizens (a requirement to execute the right to work) couldn’t be clearer in the matter:

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen ?”

Addressing the controversy now surrounding his postulation as mayoral candidate, Vallarino said: “These rumors are a product of the Bobby Velazquez and Balbina Herrera campaigns.

“I have two nationalities but I am still Panamanian. I am a Panamanian citizen. I was born in Panama, province of Panama, city of Panama. Only my father when he returns can clarify everything about my citizenship.”

Yet the constitution is clear when it comes to Panamanians naturalized elsewhere, stating that “Panamanian nationality of origin or acquired by birth” is “suspended” with the “tacit” renunciation, which it defines as “when another nationality is acquired.”

And according to articles 132 and 133, with a suspended nationality, Vallarino suspends his political rights as a Panamanian, which include voting and running for office.

Article 199 of the Electoral Code states that a mayoral candidate is required “to be a Panamanian citizen by birth or have acquired, in definite form, Panamanian nationality 10 years before the election.”

For the constitutional lawyer and mayoral candidate, Miguel Antonio Bernal, the law is clear when it states that anyone who solicits citizenship in a foreign country gets his Panamanian citizenship suspended.

“I am sure that Vallarino being a man of the law, will know he has violated it, and will know what needs to be done in this case,” he said.

The constitutional lawyer Silvio Guerra agrees, believing that if Vallarino renounced his Panamanian citizenship to accept the American one, the constitution bars him from running for office.

Political analyst Renato Pereira also holds this view, saying that “losing his citizen rights, he cannot choose or be chosen in the next election.”

Panama City’s current mayor and vice-presidential candidate of the PRD, Juan Carlos Navarro, confessed to be “worried” that a man with “an impressive record of lies, and who is not even Panamanian, aspires to be Panama’s Mayor.”

Meanwhile, Erasmo Pinilla, judge with the Electoral Tribunal, said that the entity would have to evaluate Vallarino’s candidacy.

“If he accepted another nationality, he cannot run for office for any political party,” he said.