|President Varela and King Abdullah|
Some Panama observers have opined that this new Middle East initiative, which appeared to come out of the blue, was Varela's attempt to distract from his current problems at home. Many Panamanians are concerned about their government's new love affair with the Peoples' Republic of China, with which it is engaged in multiple projects, worrying that their national sovereignty is threatened.
Others believe that the recent detention, in the United States, of a prominent Panamanian money launderer, Gabriel Btesh, may result in the disclosure of extremely damaging evidence of corruption, which their president engaged in, while serving as Vice President to Ricardo Martinelli, himself fighting extradition to Panama. Is Varela seeking to promote good works abroad for that reason ?
In his new efforts to engage in the Middle East, Varela may unwittingly allow terrorist operatives, and financiers, entry into the Zone Libre, Panama's huge free trade zone, thinking that he is facilitating Panamanian-Jordanian trade, and assisting in relieving the plight of Palestinian refugees. This could endanger the region, promote money laundering of criminal proceeds, and increase the influence of Hamas, and other groups, in Central America, not to mention raising risk levels in the Panamanian financial system, which affect its transactions with the United States & Canada.