Mici grants a mining concession to a deputy of Parlacen

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By LatAm Reports Staff Writers

In 2021, the contract for the extraction of non-metallic minerals was promulgated. The concession granted the deputy of Parlacen, Omar Carrizo, the exclusive benefit, for 20 years that can be extended, for the extraction of limestone in Herrera.

The deputy of the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), Omar Carrizo Castillero, a militant of the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), obtained a mining concession in this government, to exploit an area of 225 hectares in Ocú y Menchaca, province of Herrera, until 2041.

The concession for extracting non-metallic minerals was granted by Contract No. January 2, 2021, signed by the then Minister of Trade and Industries, Ramón Martínez (current Ambassador of Panama to the United States), and Carrizo, who signed in his personal capacity. The contract was endorsed by Comptroller Gerardo Solís on May 6 of that same year.

Subsequently, on 9 September 2021, Carrizo requested the National Mineral Resources Directorate of the Ministry of Trade and Industries (Mici) to transfer the rights to Contract No. 2 in favor of the society Cantera Valle Rico, S.A.

The legal representative of Cantera Valle Rico is Omar Carrizo Castillero himself.

After the May 2019 elections, Carrizo arrived at Parlacen as an alternate of the PRD Julio Palacio. However, in August 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, Palacio assumed the position of governor of the province of Coclé and Carrizo was in charge of the curul.

The Treaty establishing the Parliament indicates that its members will enjoy the same – privilege – and “immunities” that Members of their countries of origin have. The other incompatibilities shall be the same as those established by the respective national legislation for the post of Member, the document states in Article 4.

In this regard, article 158 of the Political Constitution of the Republic of Panama states that deputies may not make persons, any contract with State bodies or with institutions or companies linked to it on their own, or admit anyone power to manage business before these bodies, institutions or companies.

So how did Carrizo get the mining concession?

Asked by La Prensa, the parliamentarian said he began the procedure in 2009, but due to a mistake allegedly made by an official, he had to restart the process. During the government of Juan Carlos Varela (2014-2019) no concessions were granted for the extraction of category two minerals.
Personal concession

On 13 July 2021, Contract No. 2 January 4, 2021 for the extraction of non-metallic minerals (calmstone).

The concession gave Carrizo the benefit of “exclusive,” for 20 years that can be extended, for the extraction of limestone in two areas that total 225 hectares located in Ocú header and Menchaca, in the province of Herrera.

He revealed that in 2019, he met with then minister Ramón Martínez to obtain the concession, which he finally obtained two years later, according to him, after public consultations. He confirmed that although he is familiar with the Vice President of the Republic, José Gabriel Carrizo, he did not help him in the management.

The press asked how he got Minister Martinez to agree to a meeting to talk about his business. Well, I requested that [the interview] through your secretary. Then they gave me the date, but it happened as a month and a half. He had also gotten an interview with [Juan Carlos] Varela. “That’s done normally,” he replied.
Mici grants a mining concession to a deputy of Parlacen
Parlacen’s deputy, Omar Carrizo, obtained a mining concession in this government, to exploit an area of 225 hectares in Ocú y Menchaca, province of Herrera, until 2041.

The contract allows you to import, duty-free, all machinery, equipment, accessories, spare parts and explosives necessary for the operations, according to the third point of the concession contract.

In return, Carrizo will pay the state $1.50 a year per hectare for the first five years of the contract; $3.50 a year in the next five years; and $4.50 a year from the eleventh year of concession, as a superficial fee.

In total, it will pay $15,750 for the right to exploit 255 hectares in Herrera, for 20 years.

In addition, the concessionaire will pay a 50 cents per month royalty to the State for each cubic meter of limestone extracted.

The concession comes even with buyers included: the State itself.

Its only client will be the State, according to clause 9 of the concession contract, which indicates that the concessionaire undertakes to sell to the State the minerals extracted within the concession area, at a preferential price fixed by common agreement.

However, Carrizo was surprised by this exclusivity agreement with the State. Hey, I didn’t read that… “It may be,” he said.

Emerge Erasmo Pinilla

On 9 September 2021, Carrizo requested the transfer of the rights of Contract No. 2 in favor of Cantera Valle Rico, S.A. The procedure was managed by lawyer Erasmo Pinilla Castillero, who presented himself to the Mici on behalf of Carrizo.

Pinilla, who was a judge of the Electoral Tribunal (TE), is currently a permanent adviser to the Ministry of the Presidency, where he receives a monthly salary of $5 thousand.

Cantera Valle Rico has a notice of operation of the Mici issued on June 10, 2021, three months before Pinilla managed the transfer of Contract No. 2 in his favor. The operating notice indicates that the society is engaged in stone, sand and clay extraction activities in Ocú.

The National Mineral Resources Authority authorized the assignment by Resolution No. 2021-258 of 12 November 2021.

The following year, in February 2022, during a session of Parlacen, the independent deputy Manuel Castillero, who is a member of the Committee on Agricultural Affairs, Fisheries, Environment and Natural Resources of the agency, expressed concern about metal mining in Panama and its repercussions. Carrizo did not remain silent and defended the activity, claiming to know the issue.
The pick-up exonerated

Carrizo is also on the list of Central American parliamentarians who imported a duty-free vehicle, a benefit provided for in Act No. 49 of 1984, which adopts the rules of procedure of the National Assembly (AN). On July 11, 2022, Carrizo brought from Brazil a double-cockpit pick-up valued at $21,941.

A Parlacen deputy, who preferred anonymity, said that the main deputies have a salary of $4,658 a month, but must cover their expenses of airfare, lodging and food when traveling to Guatemala, where the headquarters of the Parlacen is.

According to a note from Listín Diario, of the Dominican Republic, published on May 27, Central American parliamentarians will be paid $4,200 a month.

Alternates are not paid, unless they are eligible to meet instead of the principal.

This article has been translated after first appearing in Prensa