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An uncomfortable sign for Cristina Kirchner: the US sanctioned a former Panamanian president for corruption


This is Ricardo Martinelli, involved and convicted in the Odebrecht case. The vice received a 6-year sentence for corruption in public works together with Lázaro Báez.

The United States sanctioned the former president of Panama Ricardo Martinelli for

"significant corruption"

for having accepted bribes for contracts managed during his government and noted

the "firm commitment"

of the

Joe Biden

administration to

confront these corrupt practices,

at a time when in the In the region, several high-ranking officials are designated by the Justice, including Vice President Cristina Kirchner, sentenced to 6 years in prison and disqualified for life from holding public office in the Highway case. 

In a statement issued Wednesday night, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that they included Martinelli -- who governed Panama between 2009 and 2014 and aspires to run again in the 2024 presidential elections -- and his closest relatives in the " black list” of corrupt officials.

“I announce today the appointment of former Panamanian President Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Berrocal for his involvement in significant corruption.

Specifically, Martinelli accepted bribes in exchange for improperly awarding government contracts during his tenure as president.

This section 7031(c) makes Martinelli and his immediate family members ineligible to enter the United States,” Blinken said.

The Secretary of State went a little further in his message: “Accepting bribes for government contracts undermines the integrity of Panama's democratic institutions and feeds the perception of corruption and impunity.

Such acts of public corruption diminish trust in governance and reduce the resources available for schools, hospitals, roads, and other government services.

Finally, the US foreign minister gave a broader message about Washington's interest: "The sanctions reaffirm the commitment of the United States to combat corruption, which harms the public interest, hinders the economic prosperity of countries and reduces the ability of governments to respond effectively to the needs of their peoples.” It then states that the United States “will continue to promote accountability for those who abuse public power for personal gain, regardless of their position or political affiliation.”

The Biden government had already used this power of the State Department to punish officials from various countries such as Russia, North Korea, Syria and Iran for corruption, but had recently applied it against the former president of Ecuador, Abdalá Jaime Bucaram Ortiz, in March, and in August against the Vice President of Paraguay, Hugo Velázquez.

These officials and their families had their visas canceled to enter the United States.

When Vice President Cristina Kirchner was sentenced in December for fraudulent administration in the Highway case ,

some voices

in the United States were raised so that Argentina would also be sanctioned by this country. 

They tried her for benefiting Lázaro Báez, businessman K, a friend of Néstor Kirchner and the family of the vice president, with public works. 

Marshall Billingslea, Donald Trump's former special envoy and deputy treasury secretary to combat terrorist financing, tweeted:

“Kirchner has been convicted.

Perhaps now, Treasury Department, you can impose sanctions related to corruption?

He added that "punishing one of the most corrupt politicians in the world would prove that the (Biden) administration is serious about fighting corruption."

Ultra-conservative Republican Senator Ted Cruz sent a letter to Blinken expressing his "concern at the grave challenge to the national security of the United States from corruption in the Western Hemisphere."

The congressman claimed: "I urge you to impose anti-kleptocracy measures in Congress in the case of the Argentine vice president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner."


then consulted the State Department if it could sanction the vice president as well as the Paraguayan vice president.

A spokesman for the US Foreign Ministry replied that they were "aware" of the court's decision and that he would use

"all available tools to combat corruption globally."

However, they avoided answering if they would apply sanctions like other officials in the region.

Experts pointed out to Clarín that beyond the conditions to activate a punishment, there must be a political will from the United States to activate it.

The sanction against the Panamanian Martinelli was published hours after the arrival in Panama of the brothers Luis Enrique and Ricardo, the sons of the former president who have just served a sentence in the United States.

The father and sons are charged in Panama for alleged money laundering in the Odebrecht case

and for another scandal known as "Blue Apple", a plot for the collection of commissions to expedite contracts during the Martinelli government.

Martinelli's children served two and a half years of the three-year sentence imposed on them by US justice, and

paid a fine of $250,000, for receiving $28 million in bribes from the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht,

of which $19 million

Millions transited through US accounts.

At the trial in New York, the brothers' lawyers pleaded guilty to the charges brought against them by the US Attorney's office and accused their father of inducing them to commit the crimes.

For this case, the 70-year-old former president is also called to trial in Panama, who denies having received bribes and affirms that it is all about "a political circus" to prevent him from running for president again.

Source: clarin

All news articles on 2023-01-26

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