Politics 11-06-2018

Former President Martinelli arrives extradited to Panama to face espionage charges

Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli arrived in Panama on Monday, after being extradited by the United States, to respond to the justice of his country on charges of espionage against opponents during his administration.

The Panamanian chancellery reported that at 08:44 local time (1344 GMT), the United States government "formally delivered Mr. Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal to Panamanian territory, complying with the extradition order authorized by Assistant Secretary of State John Sullivan."

Escorted by federal deputies Martinelli had left about three hours earlier on a Jet Logistics flight from the Opa Locka airport in Miami.

Before boarding the plane he greeted journalists who were at the US airport. Dressed in beige and handcuffed the former president (2009-2014) told reporters: "I'm ready to see the World Cup!" Gesturing with his thumb up. Panama qualified the tournament which will start on Thursday.

"Mr. Martinelli comes for the two crimes for which he is accused, which are inviolability of secrecy and the right to privacy and against public administration, which is what is known as embezzlement" said Panamanian Deputy Foreign Minister Luis Miguel Hincapié, to channel TVN-2.

Hincapié added that Panama has also asked the United States for the extradition of Martinelli's sons, Ricardo and Luis Enrique, accused of charging $ 56 million in commissions to the Brazilian company Odebrecht to facilitate bureaucratic procedures and other services.

Supporters of Martinelli are scheduled to concentrate in front of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Panamanian capital at 10 am local time (15:00 GMT) in support of the 66-year-old former president.

Martinelli was asked by Panama for embezzling funds to create an espionage network that reached 150 people during his term, including journalists and politicians.

The Panamanian justice also investigates it for a score of other cases of corruption. But under the extradition treaty with the United States, which came into force in 1905, the former president can only be prosecuted in his country for the crimes for which he was requested in extradition.

The former president arrives in his country in a politically agitated year, facing the general elections of May of next year.

His spokesman, Luis Eduardo Camacho, said Martinelli hopes to present his candidacy as mayor, deputy and even vice president, since they have not spent the ten years required to return to run for president.

- "Favors" to the USA -

After moving to Miami in 2015 to avoid the legal proceedings that he added in his country, Martinelli was arrested on June 12 of last year and has been imprisoned in this city since then.

Billionaire businessman of supermarkets he acceded to the power with 60% of the votes and a speech against the corruption.

However after its passage through the government complaints were accumulated for corruption scandals financial crimes and espionage.

The ex-governor affirms that his request for extradition is a political "vendetta" of Juan Carlos Varela his former vice-president and current president who allegedly betrayed him.

His legal team had tried to stop the extradition warning that the former president was at risk of being tortured if he was arrested in his country but the US State Department dismissed this argument.

Lawyers also supported his case by saying that Varela had shown "lack of commitment" to US interests for example when he broke relations with Taiwan and reestablished them with Venezuela.

They said that instead Martinelli had done "favors" to the United States for which they expected reciprocity.

"When the CIA asked me to intercept a North Korean ship that was leaving Cuba and was crossing the Panama Canal, I did not blink," wrote Martinelli himself in a public letter.

However these arguments were not enough.

"Some thought that because of the great favors that Martinelli did to the United States, (Washington) would have to act reciprocally and help him" Mitchel Doens former general secretary of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (center) and one of its plaintiffs told AFP.

"Butwe did not believe that the United States was going to carry with it a stigma of having given protection to a criminal like Ricardo (Martinelli)" Doens added.

Former Panamanian President Martin Torrijos (2004-2009) said last weekend that the future of Panama "is at stake" with the arrival of Martinelli because it will put "to the test" the institutions of the country.


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