Scandal threatens Torrijos record

  • 29/05/2009 02:00
  • 29/05/2009 02:00
PANAMA. The hydro electric projects in Chiriqui Viejo are threatening to become the first PRD post-government scandal.

PANAMA. The hydro electric projects in Chiriqui Viejo are threatening to become the first PRD post-government scandal.

Cesar Lisac, a Panamanian businessman, has denounced the government for snatching the Bajo Mina and Gaitun projects from him to favor companies of the Mexican magnate Carlos Slim.

He is the second richest man in the world, and an intimate friend of President Martin Torrijos.

Torrijos met Slim through the former Spanish President Felipe Conzalez in 2004. Since then, the relationship has not stopped growing and in five years, Slim has invested $300 million in Panama.

He strengthened his position in the energy, telecommunications, and construction sectors, seeing an exponential growth in investments during Torrijos’ term. In the last five years, Slim’s companies were able to finalize enviable contracts with the State.

They won the bidding process to dig the first phase of the Panama Canal expansion project; they obtained a concession to open Claro, the fourth mobile telephone company in the country; and they grabbed the hydroelectric projects in Chiriqui, which once finished, will provide 10 percent of Panamanian energy supplies.

Yet this friendship won’t be coming cheap to the President, as Lisac presses charges against members of the Torrijos government.

The La Mina Hydro Power group, of which Lisac is part, had permits to study the feasibility of the hydroelectric since 1997, and in 2005 received the concession. The government took away the concessions after the group failed to start the project in October 2006, as stipulated by the law, according to Victor Urrutia, head of The National Authority of Public Services (ASEP).

Yet Lisac and his group are pressing corruption charges against him, alleging the government entity was purposely non-responsive in the procurement process for the construction site.

In 2006, Lisac’s group asked for an extension of five months, but it was denied.

Lisac couldn’t believe it, after Union Fenosa got a 10 year extension for the Algarrobos project, as well Hidroecologica Teribe S.A. with the Bonyic project.

The businessman believes the government entity was purposely keeping the company from moving forward with the project to allow the deadline for the start of construction to pass, thus giving Slim’s company a chance to bid.

Slim’s companies first wanted to partake in the company’s financing, then they wanted to buy it, and finally, through the government, they have kept it,” said Cesar Lisac.

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