San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Main Opposition Parties Join Forces in Panama

PANAMA CITY – Panama’s two biggest opposition parties are joining forces in a bid to defeat the governing Revolutionary Democratic Party, or PRD, in the May 3 general elections.

Supermarket mogul Ricardo Martinelli, the presidential candidate of Democratic Change, or CD, last week selected as his vice presidential running mate Juan Carlos Varela, standard-bearer of the Panamanian Party, or PPA.

The two men appeared before reporters at Varela’s country estate in the central province of Herrera. The announcement sealed an alliance between the two movements backed by both politicians. The members of the alliance include the CD, PPA and two smaller parties.

Varela said that he had “made the decision to join forces with Ricardo to fight for better days for all Panamanians … (and) to ensure the change that this country needs.”

Martinelli turned the page on the political confrontations and differences that he had had to date with Varela, adding that “more important are the many things” that unite the two “for the good of the country.”

The two political leaders said that they will combine proposals both have pushed to deal with problems like crime, poverty, unemployment and transportation, among others, into one initiative.

“We will work to give progress, peace and prosperity to this country,” Martinelli said. Among other things, Varela said that 30 days after the opposition coalition would assume power on July 1, some 60,000 adults older than 70 will receive basic pensions of $100 a month, a new law will be approved providing better salaries and a housing benefit will be created for young couples.

Martinelli is ahead in the polls with the support of 46 percent of those people intending to vote. PRD candidate Balbina Herrera is in second place with 34 percent and Varela is in third place with 10 percent.

Incumbent Martin Torrijos is barred by law from seeking a second consecutive term.

Some 2.29 million Panamanians will be called to the polls on May 3 to elect a new president and vice president, 71 lawmakers to Congress, and 75 mayors and other local officials.



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