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Panama: cracks in presidential popularity

Friday, July 6, 2012

WHAT President Ricardo Martinelli's approval rating has crumbled to 13%, following an analysis of the concrete intended for the new Panama Canal, which showed that - far from lasting for 100 years, as has been the case with the original waterway - the new material would not last even one quarter as long. The opening of the new Canal has as a result been delayed until at least 2015.

WHY Although no one has tied Martinelli to the purchasing processes of the contractor hired by the Canal Authority, the issue comes on top of a series of scandals, in which he and his administration have been implicated, including a contract for the purchase of Italian military helicopters, and the construction of several prisons. The Canal issue is especially disconcerting for Panamanians, because issuing new tenders for the supply of concrete not only delays future profits, but also is a blow to the prestige of a nation, which planned to mark the centennial of the original canal, by inaugurating the new waterway in 2014.

WHAT NEXT The Canal debacle has almost certainly destroyed any hope of re-election for Martinelli, who as late as last year was close to getting the support necessary for a constitutional change, which would let him run again for Panama's top office. Now, both he and his Democratic Change movement seem destined to disappear from the political arena, leaving the way open for a clash in the 2014 national elections between the country's traditional parties, Revolutionary Democrat and Panameñista.

For more information, please contact Esteban Alvarez, at [email protected]