26 de Feb de 2020

Nacional

Pork barreling in PRD’s dying days

PANAMA. The PRD- majority National Assembly seems to be intent on milking the government cash-cow as much as possible before their term...

PANAMA. The PRD- majority National Assembly seems to be intent on milking the government cash-cow as much as possible before their term’s end, approving laws to shower themselves with more money and protection.

During the controversy surrounding the polemic article inserted by lawmakers into the Assembly’s internal rules which would have given them two months pay for work they would not be doing, another perk lawmakers were granting themselves went almost unnoticed: that of guaranteeing former heads of the National Assembly, security personnel for five years after the end of their term.

The article inserted into the legislative group’s internal rules establishes that former lawmakers’ presidents have to approve the personnel assigned to them. They would be considered Assembly personnel and thus paid for with taxpayers’ money.

A clever move by a PRD- led assembly whose previous president is wanted in the United States for murder.

Although the first measure was condemned by the Comptroller’s Office, which publicly announced it would not give checks for lawmakers past July 1, when the new government takes office, the fate of the second is still unknown.

The reforms are awaiting presidential vetting, but President Martin Torrijos refused to comment on his plan of action.

Pedro Miguel Gonzalez said he was considering whether to use the benefit or not. Yet locals agree that the measure proposed by lawmakers Omar Chavaria and Jorge Hernan Rubio has Gonzalez’s name written all over it.

The Panamanian lawmaker is accused of assassinating US Army Sergeant Zak Hernandez on June 10 1992.

He ran a third time for Panama’s National Assembly earlier this month, but did not muster enough votes to beat the opposition groups that banded together in a united effort to end the Gonzalez family’s political empire in Veraguas.

The US Government regards Gonzalez’s actions against the US soldier as an act of terror. US law authorizes the capture of alleged terrorists in any part of the world, but it was understood the Northern country would not act against an elected official of a friendly country such as Panama.

Now that he has lost his seat, Gonzalez is one step closer to facing US justice.

Since 2008, under Pedro Miguel Gonzalez’s presidency, the National Assembly invests $60,000 monthly to pay for 110 security officers for lawmakers.

Under his presidency the Assembly acquired a gamut of high-tech security equipment ranging from guns and bullet-proof vests to a marine GPS able to operate across the American continent, despite the fact that the Assembly owns no ships.

Gonzalez denies the reforms were created for his benefit, and has also said he doubts Barack Obama’s government would provoke a diplomatic feud by disrespecting Panamanian law, which previously judged and absolved him.

He has declared his intention to remain in the country, and his hope that president-elect Ricardo Martinelli will demand the respect of Panama’s sovereignty.

Martinelli has voiced his opposition to the new security measure for former Assembly presidents, saying he he would cancel the perks lawmakers’ have afforded themselves if Torrijos approves them.