Panama bars ex-president Martinelli from election

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By Daniel Villatoro García

Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, convicted of corruption in his country, was disqualified by the local electoral court from participating in the May presidential elections in Panama, the president of the organization, Alfredo Juncá, said Monday in an announcement.

The former governor has been at the Nicaraguan Embassy in Panama City since early February, after granting him asylum by the authorities of that Central American nation, but the Panamanian government has denied him the safe conduct that would allow him to leave the country.

After 10 hours of analysis of the conviction they decided to disqualify the citizen Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Berrocal as a candidate for the post of president of the Republic, Juncá said in his reading of a statement.

This decision was taken after being convicted of a criminal offence of deprivation of liberty for more than five years, Juncá said, for the 128-month prison sentence for money laundering imposed on Martinelli in mid-2023.

In addition, the decision of the electoral court (TE) also disqualifies the former president as the main candidate for deputy of the National Assembly and orders the removal of any electoral propaganda in which Martinelli appears as a candidate for the presidency and candidate for deputy.

Martinelli’s asylum request came after the Panamanian Supreme Court dismissed an appeal filed by the former governor and upheld a sentence handed down against him in 2023 128 months in prison for his role in the use of public funds to buy a media conglomerate and receive a majority stake.

Martinelli, a multimillion-dollar supermarket tycoon who ruled from 2009 to 2014 has denied the allegations and denounced a political persecution, and despite the judicial scandals he faces leads almost all of the vote intention polls released in the country.

I repeat, I’m innocent. This case was made to disqualify me politically and get me out of the political contest which is illegal. “Everything is known at the end and the story is known to me ABSOLVERÁ,” he said on his social network X account hours before the TE announcement.

The former president, who spent about a year in prison in 2018 for a case of espionage from which he was finally acquitted, has previously said that he would be happy and happy to pass his votes to his formula partner José Raúl Mulino if he were excluded from the election, arguing that his party would also win in that scenario.

This article has been translated from the original which first appeared in El Mundo