The former president of Panama Juan Carlos Varela (2014-2019) affirmed this Thursday that he was an “honest” president and managed with “transparency more than 20,000 million dollars” in works, thus rejecting the decision of the United States to prohibit him from entering the country for corruption.
“As president of the Republic of Panama, I transparently managed more than 20,000 million dollars in works that today serve the Panamanian people. I was an honest president of a dignified and sovereign country,” Varela said in a message on Twitter.
“I will do everything I have to do to defend my honor and that of my family,” added the former president, who addressed his message to the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who announced today the designation of Varela as “ineligible” to enter the USA
Blinken justified the measure because, as he explained, during his term as president and vice president, Varela “accepted bribes in exchange for improperly awarding government contracts.”
Thus, said the Secretary of State, the decision on the former president “reaffirms the US commitment to combat endemic corruption in Panama,” and hopes that the measure “prompt Panamanian officials and authorities to address entrenched corruption and empower all those who uphold the rule of law.”
Varela thus joined former President Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014), and two of his sons, Ricardo Alberto and Luis Enrique, who have been prohibited from entering the United States since last January for the same reason.
The four are implicated in the Odebrecht bribery case in Panama and will have to face, together with around thirty people, a money laundering trial that is expected to begin next August after a long and troubled process that began in 2015.
Martinelli’s two sons served jail time for the Odebrecht case in the United States, where they pleaded guilty to laundering 28 million dollars and having carried out bribes in favor of the Brazilian company “on the father’s orders”, as his defense alleged.
The US Embassy in Panama stressed that the “designations” of Varela and Martinelli reaffirm the commitment of the United States “to combat corruption worldwide, since corruption anywhere in the world threatens the national and economic security” of the North American country and its allies.
“Corruption decreases the well-being and prosperity of the population by reducing the resources available to cover needs such as schools, hospitals and roads,” he said.