Senior officials in the Government of Panama have, according to sources within the country's major newspapers, ordered the press to stop publishing negative articles about events in Panama. Though the distribution of this order was restricted, journalists in Panama have leaked the details to foreign press.
This means, in plain English, that news of Panama's ongoing efforts to charge dozens of its citizens, and former officials, with corruption, will no longer be available. The failure of the Varela administration to charge members of the Supreme Court of Justice with accepting bribes and kickbacks, to fix pending cases, will also no longer be reported. These two topics are of critical interest to the global financial community, and directly affect Country Risk, which has been increasing exponentially for Panama, since January. Financial crime reporting is critical to decision makers outside the country.
A news blackout poses a serious problem for anyone seeking to decide whether to invest in Panama, conduct business there, or engage in any transactions where there is a major risk component, either for financial gain or loss, or even for the placement of staff in the country. With no access to objective information, the only conclusion is to avoid Panama altogether.
Readers who are wondering why the government would censor news should be aware that are major negative news stories being reported in 2016, including:
(1) A major concern about the financial status of certain Panama City banks, some of which have had losses, directly related to corruption, and others, known facilitators of money launderers employed by Colombian narcotics traffickers, could be sanctioned by the United States, or even indicted.
(2) The cruise ship industry has vastly reduced visits of its luxury liners to Panama, and the country's hotel industry, faced with a major diminution in business, has laid off a large segment of its staff.
(3) Allegations, from the United Nations, of misconduct, human rights violations and even torture, in Panama's prisons, has not been responded to by the government. Attorneys for a prominent Canadian businessman, Arthur Porter, have asserted that he was murdered in prison, and his bank accounts, containing millions of dollars, were later looted by the very financial institutions that held his funds. One whistleblower has produced actual film, taken by a hidden camera, or mistreatment within Panama's notorious prisons.
(4) Former President Ricardo Martinelli, and the majority of his former cabinet, have not been arrested since they left office, notwithstanding clear and convincing evidence of corruption, insider trading, drug trafficking, and a host of other offenses. Some guilty members of the present administration have not been charged, and it appears that they will evade prosecution for their crimes.
All of the above stories will no longer be available, leaving foreign businesses, and banks, totally in the dark about the current situation. The only response will most likely be to avoid Panama altogether.