The president of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, on Monday asked the deputies to "respect" their power to appoint the members of the Panama Canal board and urged them to put aside their political interests and ratify the officials has proposed for the interoceanic route.
"If they (the officials appointed by the Executive) have a criminal issue or a topic that prevents them from doing the job, it is perfect that they reject them (the deputies), but do not reject them for political reasons," the president said in statements to the media.
Varela appointed last February to integrate the board of directors of the channel to the vice president and chancellor, Isabel de Saint Malo; the Minister of the Presidency, Jorge González; and the ambassador in the United States, Emanuel González Revilla.
The appointments, which have to have the consent of Parliament to take office, have aroused criticism in part of the opposition, mainly in the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD, Social Democratic), for whom the Executive is trying to "politicize" the channel.
The PRD has also denounced that the appointments are untimely because the Government will leave power in the coming months. Panama will hold elections on May 5 and will renew all elected offices, including those of president, vice president and deputies.
The minister González was ratified last week by the Parliament, of opposition majority, but De Saint Malo and Revilla still have to undergo the scrutiny of the deputies.
"We must respect each other, I made my designations and if some did not like it, that is my right and responsibility," said Varela.
The interoceanic highway, through which 6% of world trade passes, is managed autonomously by an administrator and a board of eleven members, who are mostly appointed by the Executive and who must serve nine-year terms.
The three officials were nominated to replace two canal directors whose mandates culminate in the first quarter of the year (Nicolás Corcione and Henri Mizrachi) and another executive who resigned a few months ago to participate as a presidential candidate in the general election on May 5, Marco Ameglio.
Among the functions that the board of directors of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has is to appoint or remove the administrator and set the policies for the operation and modernization of the waterway, according to Panamanian laws.
The channel is one of the most solid and important companies in Panama. Last year had an income of more than 3,100 million dollars, mostly for the payment of tolls, and delivered to the Panamanian treasury the record figure of 1,703 million dollars.
The two largest customers of the water route, which connects more than 1,700 ports in 160 countries, are the United States and China and container transport is its main business.