Temas Especiales

29 de Jun de 2022


3 men under a cloud get asylum

PANAMA. Panama continues to give asylum to political leaders wanted in their countries for corruption, human rights violations, and sim...

PANAMA. Panama continues to give asylum to political leaders wanted in their countries for corruption, human rights violations, and similar crimes.

Three former Latin American leaders and their families can now stay in Panama indefinitely after President Martin Torrijos confirmed the permanent asylum status for former Haitian dictator Raoul Cedras, former Guatemalan president Jorge Serrano Elias, and former Ecuadorian president Abdala Bucaram.

The decrees say that the former political leaders will never lose their status through a decision emanating from the Executive branch. The only way the permanent asylum will be lost is if one of them personally renounces to it.

This measure changes the current norm, which says that an asylum-seeker can lose his status by order of the presidential office.

From the three, the pioneer refugee was Jorge Serrano Elias, who governed Guatemala from 1991 to 1993.

On 1993, Serrano illegally suspended the constitution, dissolved Congress and the Supreme Court, imposed censorship and tried to restrict civil freedoms, allegedly to fight corruption.

The attempted self-coup was met with strong protests, and when he lost army backing Serrano resigned and was forced to seek refugee in Panama. Today Serrano is owner and investor in several construction companies in the country.

In 1994, then president Ernesto Perez Balladares granted asylum status to Raoul Cedras, a Lieutenant General in the Haitian army responsible for the coup d’etat which ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991.

Cedras was de facto ruler of Haiti from 1991 to 1994. He has been accused of allowing several human rights violations under his rule. In 1994, the Americans convinced him to depart for Panama, after the country granted him asylum by a request from the Organization of American States (OAS).

Abdala Bucaram was president of Ecuador for only 186 days in 1996-1997, after which The National Congress of Ecuador dismissed him from his role alleging “mental disability”. He escaped to Panama.

Known as “El Loco,” Bucaram returned to Ecuador in 1994 when the then president Lucio Guiterrez managed to eliminate the charges against Bucaram; but was forced to return to Panama as Gutierrez was removed from office by the Congress.

In Cedras, Serrano Elias and Bucaram’s case, the executive branch is choosing not to exert its right to revoke the immigration status less than two weeks before they leave office, raising questions on the decision’s timing.

Lawyer and constitutionalist Carlos Bolivar Pedreschi warned: the situation “is not common,” but reiterated it is a measure the president can take if he so pleases.

The political analyst Edwin Cabrera was surprised by President Torrijos and Vice-President Samuel Lewis Navarro’s decision.

“They could have done this at any moment, but it appears 12 days before the end of the current government’s term. I think citizens deserve an explanation, to avoid suspicions,” he said.