Mulino wins Panama presidency with support from convicted former leader

Mulino wins Panama presidency with support from convicted former leader
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Presidential candidate Jose Raul Mulino speaks to his supporters after he was declared the winner of the presidential election based on preliminary results by the electoral authority, in Panama City, Panama, on May 5, 2024. (REUTERS)
Mulino wins Panama presidency with support from convicted former leader
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Unused ballots are burned by election officials after polling stations closed in Panama City on May 5, 2024, during Panama's presidential election. (AFP)
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Unused ballots are burned by election officials after polling stations closed in Panama City on May 5, 2024, during Panama's presidential election. (AFP)
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Updated 09 May 2024
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Mulino wins Panama presidency with support from convicted former leader

Mulino wins Panama presidency with support from convicted former leader
  • José Raúl Mulino joined the race late, replacing former President Ricardo Martinelli as the candidate for the Achieving Goals party
  • Martinelli, president of Panama from 2009 to 2014, was barred from the race in March after he was convicted by a court of money laundering

PANAMA CITY: Panama’s former security minister Jose Raul Mulino on Sunday stormed to victory in a presidential poll dominated by his old boss, the corruption tainted ex-leader Ricardo Martinelli, who buttressed his campaign while holed up in Nicaragua’s embassy.
Mulino was one of the favorites for the presidency after he stepped in to replace Martinelli on the ballot when the popular former president was barred from running due to a money laundering conviction.
“I promise to the country at this time to put together, to establish, a government of unity as soon as possible,” Mulino said after electoral officials video called him to confirm he had won the presidency.
Earlier, Mulino supporters waved flags, clapped and cheered inside the campaign headquarters as results trickled in. “Martinelli, friend, the people are with you,” supporters shouted.
In a strange election campaign, Martinelli played a key role drumming up support for Mulino from Nicaragua’s embassy in Panama’s capital, where he sought asylum. Many voters saw Mulino as a proxy for Martinelli, though opponents called him a puppet of the former president.
Nicaragua granted Martinelli asylum but Panamanian authorities have blocked him from leaving the country. Mulino visited Martinelli at the embassy after casting his vote on Sunday.
Mulino was declared winner having secured about 34 percent of the ballots tallied with 90 percent of the total vote counted. Ricardo Lombana, who trailed in second place with about 25 percent of the vote, congratulated Mulino on his victory.
Mulino, a pro-business right-wing politician, faces a daunting task of mending social divisions and regaining the faith of an electorate fed up with political graft.
Among his top priorities will be fixing Panama’s pressing economic problems, tackling corruption, and restoring the country’s reputation as an investment haven.
“We know that now as president he can fix the country,” said Hayde Gonzalez, 46, a medic who danced with her daughters in the center of the capital upon hearing Mulino was pulling ahead as votes were counted.
“There will be more security and the economy will recover,” she added.
Mulino has promised to usher in prosperity through ambitious infrastructure investment and a higher minimum wage, while suggesting he would keep Martinelli out of jail.
Magali Rosa, 60, a retiree, said she voted for Mulino because she felt he could bring more jobs and improve security, and that during the Martinelli there was “a lot of money” for everyone.
Mulino will take office on July 1 for a five-year term. (Reporting by Valentine Hilaire and Elida Moreno; writing by Drazen Jorgic; editing by Stephen Eisenhammer, Andrea Ricci, Lisa Shumaker, Deepa Babington and Lincoln Feast.)




Presidential candidate Jose Raul Mulino poses with ex-president Ricardo Martinelli during the general election, in Panama City, Panama, in this handout picture released on May 5, 2024. (REUTERS)

Mulino, running under the Achieving Goals and Alliance parties, faced off against anti-corruption candidate Ricardo Lombana, who trailed in second, former President Martín Torrijos and former candidate Rómulo Roux.
All three conceded to Mulino on Sunday evening, with Roux saying Panama chose “a different proposal than the one we put forward.”
But his ties with Martinelli seemed to pull him across the finish line. Mulino ran on the promise to usher in another wave of economic prosperity, and stop migration through the Darien Gap, the perilous jungle region overlapping Colombia and Panama that was traversed by half a million migrants last year.
The lawyer also vowed to help his ally in his legal woes. After voting Sunday, Mulino strolled into the Nicaraguan Embassy trailed by photographers and wrapped Martinelli in a big hug, saying, “Brother, we’re going to win!
Before even half of the votes had been counted, supporters in Mulino’s campaign headquarters erupted in celebration, singing and waving flags. Panama doesn’t have a runoff system, so the candidate with the biggest share of votes wins.
Martinelli posted a blurry photo of his own face on the X social media platform, writing: “This is the face of a happy and content man.”
Despite the fatigue of endemic corruption in Panama, many voters like Juan José Tinoco were willing to overlook the other corruption scandals plaguing their former leader in favor of the humming economy seen during his presidency. The 63-year-old bus driver voted for Mulino from his working-class area of small, concrete houses surrounded by extravagant skyscrapers.
“We have problems with health services, education, we have garbage in the streets ... and corruption that never goes away,” Tinoco said. “We have money here. This is a country that has lots of wealth, but we need a leader who dedicates himself to the needs of Panama.”
The presidential race had been in uncertain waters until Friday morning, when Panama’s Supreme Court ruled that Mulino was permitted to run. It said he was eligible despite allegations that his candidacy wasn’t legitimate because he wasn’t elected in a primary.
Mulino faces an uphill battle moving forward, on the economy especially. Last year, the Central American nation was roiled for weeks by mass anti-government protests, which came to encapsulate deeper discontent among citizens.
The protests targeted a government contract with a copper mine, which critics said endangered the environment and water at a time when drought has gotten so bad that it has effectively handicapped trade transit through the Panama Canal.
While many celebrated in November when the country’s Supreme Court declared the contract unconstitutional, the mine closure and slashed canal transit will put Panama’s new leader in a tight spot.
Meanwhile, the country’s debt is skyrocketing and much of the economy has slowed, said Shifter, of Inter-American Dialogue, making it even harder for Mulino to regularize canal transit and staunch soaring levels of migration through the Darien Gap.
“Panama is at a very different moment than it’s been over the last 30 years,” Shifter said. Mulino “is going to face formidable obstacles. I mean, it’s going to be a daunting task for him.”


German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria

German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria
Updated 6 sec ago
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German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria

German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria
  • Germany has been a major destination for Syrians fleeing the country’s 13-year civil war. Attitudes toward migrants have hardened in recent years

BERLIN: A German court has ruled that there is no longer a general danger to all civilians from the long-running conflict in Syria, rejecting a claim to protected status by a Syrian man who had been convicted in Austria for involvement in smuggling people into Europe.
The ruling by the top administrative court of North Rhine-Westphalia state, Germany’s most populous, was announced Monday. Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said Tuesday it was “a decision that one can understand, if one assumes that there are now regions in this country that are very dangerous but also other areas where there isn’t necessary a danger to life.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what consequences if any the ruling would have for German authorities’ practice in handling claims for protection from Syrians, who so far largely have been deemed to face such a threat. It could still be appealed.
The court in the western city of Muenster ruled in the case of a man from Hasaka province in northeastern Syria who arrived in Germany in 2014.
German authorities denied him protected status because he had previously been involved in smuggling people from Turkiye to Europe, an offense for which he was given a several-year sentence in Austria. But a court obliged them to recognize him as a refugee.
The Muenster court reversed that ruling on appeal. The presiding judge said the man didn’t face political persecution in Syria and his previous offenses barred him from being given refugee or other protected status, the court said in a statement.
It also found that he didn’t qualify for a lesser degree of protection in part because there is no longer a “serious individual threat to the life or physical integrity of civilians as a result of arbitrary violence in the context of a domestic conflict in Hasaka province, but also generally in Syria.” The court contended that fighting and attacks in the region no longer reach a level at which civilians face a high probability of being killed and wounded.
A German group that supports asylum-seekers criticized the ruling. Wiebke Judith, a spokesperson for Pro Asyl, argued that it ignores the reality in Syria, German news agency dpa reported.
Germany has been a major destination for Syrians fleeing the country’s 13-year civil war. Attitudes toward migrants have hardened in recent years.
Last month, Chancellor Olaf Scholz vowed to resume deporting criminals from Afghanistan and Syria, though it remains unclear how that would happen.

 


US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law

US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law
Updated 24 July 2024
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US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law

US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law
  • If a bank discovers any new Russian assets on their books after the deadline, those assets need to be reported within 10 days, the Treasury Department said

NEW YORK: The Treasury Department ordered the nation’s banking industry to start disclosing its holdings of Russian assets on Tuesday, with the goal of eventually seizing those billions of dollars in assets and selling them to aid the devastated Ukrainian economy.
The disclosure is required under a new law passed by Congress earlier this year known as the REPO Act, which gives the US government the authority to seize Russian state assets held by US banks, with the goal of eventually selling them and giving those funds to Ukraine. While the vast bulk of Russian assets are held in Europe, it is estimated that the US banking system holds as much as $6 billion in Russian assets in trust.
Banks will need to report Russian assets on their books no later than Aug. 2 to the Office of Foreign Assets Control. If a bank discovers any new Russian assets on their books after the deadline, those assets need to be reported within 10 days, the Treasury Department said.
Russia’s war in Ukraine, which began in February 2022, has killed tens of thousands but has also caused significant devastation to Ukraine’s economy and infrastructure. The World Bank estimated in February that Ukraine will need $486 billion for recovery and reconstruction, a figure that has only risen as the war has continued.
The US, Canada, France, Germany Italy, the UK and Japan — commonly known as the G7 — froze roughly $300 billion worth of Russian assets at the start of the war. These assets included hard currency, as well as gold and investments in publicly and privately-held companies. But there has been little conversation until this year about what to do with those frozen assets, until the idea of forfeiture and liquidation was included in the REPO Act.


Demonstrators stage mass protest against Netanyahu visit and US military aid to Israel

Demonstrators stage mass protest against Netanyahu visit and US military aid to Israel
Updated 24 July 2024
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Demonstrators stage mass protest against Netanyahu visit and US military aid to Israel

Demonstrators stage mass protest against Netanyahu visit and US military aid to Israel
  • Netanyahu arrived in Washington Monday for a several-day visit that includes meetings with President Joe Biden and a Wednesday speech before a joint session of Congress

WASHINGTON: Protesters against the Gaza war staged a sit-in at a congressional office building Tuesday ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress, with Capitol Police making multiple arrests.
Netanyahu arrived in Washington Monday for a several-day visit that includes meetings with President Joe Biden and a Wednesday speech before a joint session of Congress. Dozens of protesters rallied outside his hotel Monday evening, and on Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of demonstrators took over the rotunda of the Cannon Building, which houses offices of House of Representatives members.
Organized by Jewish Voice for Peace, protesters wearing identical red T-shirts that read “Not In Our Name” took over the Rotunda of the Cannon Building, chanting “Let Gaza Live!”
After about a half-hour of clapping and chanting, officers from the US Capitol Police issued several warnings, then began arresting protesters — binding their hands with zip ties and leading them away one by one.
“I am the daughter of Holocaust survivors and I know what a Holocaust looks like,” said Jane Hirschmann, a native of Saugerties, New York, who drove down for the protest along with her two daughters — both of whom were arrested. “When we say ‘Never Again,’ we mean never for anybody.”
The demonstrators focused much of their ire on the Biden administration, demanding that the president immediately cease all arms shipments to Israel.
“We’re not focusing on Netanyahu. He’s just a symptom,” Hirschmann said. “But how can (Biden) be calling for a ceasefire when he’s sending them bombs and planes?”
It wasn’t immediately clear how many protesters had been arrested.
Mitchell Rivard, chief of staff for Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Michigan, said in a statement that his office called for Capitol Police intervention after the demonstrators “became disruptive, violently beating on the office doors, shouting loudly, and attempting to force entry into the office.”
Netanyahu’s American visit has touched off a wave of protest activity, with some demonstrations condemning Israel and others expressing support but pressuring Netanyahu to strike a ceasefire deal and bring home the hostages still being held by Hamas.
Families of some of the remaining hostages were planning a protest vigil Tuesday night on the National Mall. And multiple overlapping protests are planned for Wednesday, when Netanyahu is slated to address Congress. In anticipation, police have significantly boosted security around the Capitol building and closed multiple roads for the entire week.
Biden and Netanyahu are expected to meet Thursday, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the White House announcement. Vice President Kamala Harris will also meet with Netanyahu separately that day.
Harris, as Senate president, would normally sit behind foreign leaders addressing Congress, but she’ll be away Wednesday, on an Indianapolis trip scheduled before Biden withdrew his reelection bid and she became the likely Democratic presidential candidate over the weekend.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced on Truth Social that he would meet with Netanyahu on Friday.


Chad repatriates 157 nationals detained in Libya

Chad repatriates 157 nationals detained in Libya
Updated 24 July 2024
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Chad repatriates 157 nationals detained in Libya

Chad repatriates 157 nationals detained in Libya
  • Chad’s foreign ministry did not say why they had been arrested
  • It added that more repatriation flights would follow in the coming weeks

N’DJAMENA: Chad repatriated 157 of its citizens who had been detained in neighboring Libya on Tuesday, working in partnership with the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Libyan state, its foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Chadian nationals were flown back to the Sahel country on a special flight, the statement said.

It did not say why the Chadians had been arrested but added that more repatriation flights would follow in the coming weeks in order to “release and repatriate” all Chadians still detained in the North African country, and said that a “diaspora conference” would be organized in the coming days.

The repatriation flight comes a week after President Mahamat Idriss Deby attended an international forum on trans-Mediterranean migration in Libya.

Deby, who seized power after rebels killed his father in 2021, was sworn in as president in May following a controversial election. 


Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics

Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics
Updated 24 July 2024
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Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics

Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that Israeli athletes were “welcome” for the Paris Olympics, rejecting calls from some left-wing French MPs and the Palestinian Olympic Committee for a boycott.

“Israeli athletes are welcome in our country. They must be able to compete under their colors because the Olympic movement has decided it,” he told France 2 television in an interview, adding that it was “France’s responsibility to provide them with security.”

“I condemn in the strongest possible way all those who create risks for these athletes and implicitly threaten them,” he said.

He added that Israel had “the right to defend itself” but called the continuing bombardment of Gaza — where 39,090 people have died, according to the latest estimate from the Hamas-run health ministry — “unacceptable.”

“France was one of the first countries in Europe to call for a ceasefire,” he added.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog has confirmed he will attend the Olympics opening ceremony on Friday, and Macron said Prime Minister Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu would also be “welcome” but was not expected because he is in the United States.

Discussing the opening ceremony for the Paris Games as helicopters could be heard in the background hovering over the capital, Macron said that “we will all see on Friday night why it was worth the hassle.”

Much of central Paris is off-limits ahead of the ceremony along the river Seine, with 45,000 members of the security forces set to be on duty as well as 10,000 soldiers to prevent any incident that would ruin the show.

“There is a security challenge and it’s true for all capitals which organize the Games,” Macron said. “It’s true for the opening ceremony. It will be true for the whole of the Games.”

“We need to come together as France that is welcoming the world,” added the centrist, who called snap elections in June that have led to political deadlock in parliament.

Asked about the artists set to perform on Friday evening, he said it would be “fantastic news” if Quebec-born singer Celine Dion could take part, but he declined to confirm her presence.

Dion has been spotted in Paris, while video of Lady Gaga in the City of Light has also fueled rumors that she might be one of the top international performers.