Panama’s Martinelli lashes out at journalist following corruption accusations

May 20, 2013

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli on Monday sent a volatile tweet targeting a local reporter and a businessman linked to the daily La Prensa following the publication of accusations that the president has ties to several hydroelectric dam contracts in the country.

“For those who don’t know of Santiago Cumbrera’s hatred towards me, he was fired from [editorial group] Espasa for [charging illegal commissions] and sexually accosting women,” Martinelli tweeted, without elaborating on the accusations.

Cumbrera, a former reporter at the daily Panamá América – part of Grupo Espasa – on Monday published a story in La Prensa revealing that employees of Martinelli’s supermarket chain Súper 99 and other close associates are the principal members of companies bidding on hydroelectric projects in Panama.

The accusations come in the midst of a full-on energy crisis in the country. Martinelli’s administration is pushing for more hydroelectric dams to be built to avoid future energy shortages.

“There’s no link [to the hydroelectric concessions]; let’s hope all Panamanians invest more,” said Martinelli, who has maintained an openly confrontational relationship with local journalists since taking office in 2009.

The president also accused La Prensa founder Roberto Eisenmann of publishing negative stories about him in retaliation for Martinelli’s efforts to make Eisenmann “pay taxes.”

“What’s going on here is that the scoundrel and tax cheat, Mr. Eisenmann, the man who doesn’t pay taxes, is impeding the development of this country. … Mr. Eisenmann is a dishonest swindler who doesn’t want to pay taxes,” Martinelli said.

Threats, lawsuits and other legal actions against journalists have skyrocketed under the Martinelli administration, including one journalist being sent to prison.

“Every time corruption committed by Martinelli is revealed, he sends up a smokescreen,”  Filemón Medina, secretary general of Panama’s journalists union, told AFP.

“Martinelli has no idea what being president entails, particularly keeping one’s composure,” Medina said.

A report by watchdog group Reporteros Sin Fronteras (Reporters Without Borders) noted that Panama fell from 55th place to 111th on the group’s ranking of freedom of expression in 179 countries.

In Panama, the report said, an “execrable climate” exists between the government and members of the news media.

You may be interested

Adaptive surfing, part III: Riding the waves with Noah
sports
94 views
sports
94 views

Adaptive surfing, part III: Riding the waves with Noah

Ellen Zoe Golden - May 25, 2018

Part III in a series on adaptive surfing in Costa Rica. Read Part I, about the country's association for disabled…

It’s frog orgy season
Environment and Wildlife
1195 views
Environment and Wildlife
1195 views

It’s frog orgy season

Lindsay Fendt - May 25, 2018

The rainy season is upon us. For many of us that means hiding indoors for the next few months, but for Costa…

Costa Rica’s guilty voters
No Sugar Please
161 views
No Sugar Please
161 views

Costa Rica’s guilty voters

Álvaro Murillo - May 25, 2018

By what I have done, and by what I have left undone. A relative of mine is 70 years old…