May 27, 2020

Transparency International puts Panama stuck in the great corruption

Panama, one of the smallest countries but with the highest sustained economic growth in Latin America, is stuck in the great corruption; it does not worsen but it does not improve, with an independence of its Judicial Power that the World Economic Forum places in position 120 among 137 countries.

This is reflected in an interview with EFE Carlos Barsallo, president of the Panamanian chapter of Transparency International (IT), of kind speech, but of strict adherence to the data.

The problem is not corruption but its combination with impunity, underlines this Panamanian lawyer, committed to the development of his country, with the highest academic qualifications in the United States, Spain and France, and professional experience in international organizations such as the Monetary Fund International and the World Bank, among others.

Barsallo declares himself highly dissatisfied with the evolution so far of the judicial case of the former president of his country Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014), and with the result of the agreements of the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht with the State of Panama.

IN PANAMA, WE ARE STANCED IN THE GREAT CORRUPTION. And we are like that for a long time.

Question: How would you rate the degree of corruption in Panama's public life from 1 to 10?

Answer: I would have to rate it as one of the highest grades, between 9 and 10; and I rely not only on corruption, but also on impunity, a very negative combination. As for the so-called great corruption, the perception index carried out by Transparency International places us in a position 97 of 180 countries. Those numbers, if we were to qualify a student on a grade test, we would have a 37 out of 100, which is not at all a good grade. And the next thing is that we are like this for a long time, we do not move, although it is true that we do not get worse, we do not improve. In the great corruption we are stuck. And about the so-called small corruption, that is, for example the payment of bribes to obtain public services, there we put ourselves in a position in which 9 out of 10 Panamanians believe that corruption is a very serious problem in Panama. Panamanians feel they have to pay for services that in principle they already paid through their taxes, but to get it quickly and efficiently you have to pay something. And in this we must bear in mind that there is the corrupter and corrupted one, the one who pays and the one who receives.

Q: What peculiarities does this combination of corruption and impunity present in Panama vis-à-vis other countries?

A: In Latin America we were located as the third country, tied with Venezuela, as the country that paid the most bribes, after Mexico and the Dominican Republic. The latest data for this year puts us in the middle of the 17 countries. There is a perception that there is a lot of corruption and that it is concentrated in the State. The first instance remains the Legislative Power, then the Executive and then the Judicial. Before we measured the private company in general, which marked low, and now bankers have been included, who mark less than 30 percent, and journalists, who approach 17 percent. (Always according to the Perception indexes performed by IT)


Q: What perception does TI have about the ruling favorable to former president Ricardo Martinelli after his extradition?

A: It is estimated that it is not over. There is a patent dissatisfaction, because the system has not been in its investigative stage and less in the judicial stage capable of achieving the results that leave the population satisfied that due process was carried out and results were reached, which is more than evident.

This in a process in which the Public Ministry has filed an appeal, which has not been resolved. But it seems to us that there is a combination of too many technical and procedural aspects that create enormous confusion, which creates too many opinions where there should be no opinions. It is still paradoxical, that this is a case that although it is important because it has to do with the violation of privacy and illegal wiretapping, it takes us away from a whole range of issues of monetary type corruption that will remain unjudged. The issue is now in the highest court. You have to be very cautious and skeptical, the system has not shown good signs of independence. Panama appears in the index of judicial independence of 137 countries in 120 according to the World Economic Forum.


Q: What do you think about the evolution of the Odebrecht case in Panama and the fact that they can continue to participate in public contracts?

A: Transparency International is very dissatisfied with the way in which the Odecbrecht case has been processed. It is not observed that all those who may be involved are being analyzed in a comprehensive manner, and this shows us a selective and non-impartial Justice.

There is also a truly annoying state with what happened, but rather pending, trying to live with the circumstances, pending what happens outside, the economic problems of Odebrecht, if it declares bankruptcy and may pay or not the fine, a reactive state.

But there is a topic that should be very basic and is the participation in public contracts with false premises, which disable any bidder. It is not necessary to customize it in Odebrecht, but any company in a public procurement that violates the law must be disabled for the future.

It is also a bad example that the case could not be concluded, that the case is not closed.

IT has an idea that it is developing, and it is the hiring of lawyers to study the new information that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists discovered to determine if the allegations that were given at the time were really complete, truthful and effective, and if they were why the Public Ministry did not take them into account.

Alejandro Varela

. (tagsToTranslate) Transparency (t) International (t) Panama (t) stagnant (t) corruption

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