UNDP Panama linked to Prodec scandal

La Prensa (23 and 24 August) published two articles about the problems with the Development Program Prodec (see below) and its link with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The UNDP, responsible for technical assistance and in charge of the appointment and payments of the Prodec personnel and the purchase of equipment and furniture, refused to provide information about the program, stating that the Law of Transparency does not apply to them. When asked about the project by La Prensa UNDP director Peter Grohmann stated that the United Nations Development Programme is not a government body. UNDP coordinator José Eguren added that the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, adopted by the General Assembly in 1946, confirms that the properties of the organization, including its archives, are inviolable. The United Nations Development Program receives 5 million dollars per year from the state for consultancy and technical assistance of the Prodec program.


United Nations ask to help Pakistan

El Siglo (20 August) and Panama America (21 August) report that according to the United Nations half of the 459 million dollars needed to fight the worst flooding in the history of Pakistan has been collected. However, so far only a fraction of the 6 million people in need of food and clean water have received help.

UNESCO worried about La Amistad International Park

La Prensa (20 August) states that, according to a report published by UNESCO, the construction of hydro-electric plants in the rivers that form part of La Amistad International Park might damage the protected area. La Amistad International Park, declared as a World Heritage site, runs the risk of being put on the list of endangered heritage. UNESCO recommended the Panamanian and Costa Rican government that they evaluate the environmental impacts of the hydro-electric plants.



UN starts investigation attack flotilla Gaza

La Prensa (24 August) reports that next Monday members of a special UN commission will start investigating Israel’s raid on a flotilla earlier this year. The British International Rights expert Desmond de Silva already met with the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoglu.


Israel uncooperative with UN Human Rights Council

La Prensa (25 August) states that Israel is not cooperating with the UN Human Rights Council´s probe of May´s deadly attack on a flotilla in Gaza. It was not clear whether the investigators would be able to speak with Israeli soldiers involved in the incident. Juan Carlos Monge, a UN Human Rights officer working for the mission, said that the panel was speaking with other witnesses and government officials in Turkey and Jordan. The UN mission said it would not comment on the investigation, even though the Israeli said from the beginning that they would not cooperate as they consider the UNHRC partial. Israel is cooperating with a separate UN panel under New Zealand´s former Prima Minister Geoffrey Palmer and Colombia´s former President Alvaro Uribe.


Pakistan – own legal entity in order to guarantee international help

Panama America (20 August) states that the Pakistani government announced the creation of an independent entity that will supervise the transparency and way in which help will be provided to the victims of the flooding. The so-called Pakistan’s National Disaster Relief Authority will be in charge of an “equal distribution of the funds, without discrimination”. The announcement coincided with a plenary session of the United Nations in New York, during which more international support was asked for Pakistan.



Venezuela – OAS and UN reject censorship

La Estrella (20 August) reports that the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations reject the censorship in Venezuela, where the court prohibited the press to publish any violent or aggressive images or contents the coming month. The UN and OAS Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression, Catalina Botero and Frank La Rue, stated that this ban “seriously compromises” the right to freedom of expression. In a joint statement the two Rapporteurs recalled that international treaties such as the American Convention on Human Rights prohibit prior censorship.



Funds Prodec program not spent properly

La Prensa (23 and 24 August) published several articles about the Community Development Program Prodec in Panama, stating that 60% of the projects funded by Prodec show serious construction defects. Other projects are seriously running behind on schedule or were overpaid. La Prensa carried out its own investigation and found that the 50 million dollars a year (200 million dollars for the period 2006-2009) that is given to the program is not spent properly. The Prodec program is financed by revenues from the Panama Canal and is aimed at funding projects that will reduce poverty in the country. Problems with the program existed under the administration of both Martín Torrijos and Ricardo Martinelli.




No dialogue if Law 30 does not get suspended

La Prensa (26 August) reports on the controversial Law 30. Labor unions officially asked for the total suspension of the controversial law. The government immediately declined the request, after which the representative of Suntracs, the trade union of construction workers, declared that the union will withdraw from the negotiating table if they cannot reach an agreement about the suspension of the law.





The case of Valentín Palacios

La Estrella (20 August) reports on the strange disappearance of Valentín Palacios, a 43-year-old indigenous person who vanished after the clash between the police force and workers in Bocas del Toro. After a month civil groups got worried and turned to the authorities, after which Valentín Palacios was quickly handed over to the police. At the moment the government offers a reward to those who can provide information that could help clarify this case.


Martín Torrijos called to testify in corruption case

Crítica (25 August) states that for the second time during the current administration of Ricardo Martinelli a former president of the Republic will be questioned by the judiciary in a corruption case. Two days ago Martín Torrijos has been officially called by the Supreme Court to testify in the CEMIS case. The author of the article, however, doubts whether everybody will be brought to justice, especially after the government made some questionable appointments in the Supreme Court of Justice.



Food security versus foods availability

La Prensa (23 August) published an article with the title “food security versus food availability”. The author starts with the definition that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) uses for food security, namely “a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. The author, however, states that nobody can guarantee food safety as long as there is protectionism. Some countries continue producing certain products themselves even though it would be cheaper to have them imported. For the author protectionism equals higher prices.


Freedom of Expression in Mexico

La Prensa (23 August) published an article about freedom of expression and the risk journalists take in Mexico. The author of the article states that often the murder of journalists remains unpunished. So far around 60 to 80 journalists have been killed in Mexico.


Panama – crisis in Bocas del Toro remains

El Siglo (25 August) published an article about the continuing crisis in Bocas del Toro. According to the author the Panamanian government does not seem to be able to turn the page. Instead of acting, the government seems to want to keep the controversy by spending 20,000 dollars on a campaign and offering 5,000 dollars for more information about the strange disappearance of Valentín Palacios. The author warns the government to be careful when it comes to changing or suspending laws and rights citizens have.

Women in Afghanistan

Panama America (19 August) published an article written by Guillermo A. Cochez, Permanent Representative of Panama to the OAS. The author starts his article by telling that women were considered inferior to men and were not allowed to go to school during the Taliban regime that lasted from 1996 to 2001. The author refers to TIME magazine that published a picture of Aisha, an 18-year-old Afghan woman who was sentenced by a Taliban judge to have her nose and ears cut off for fleeing her violent husband and in-laws. TIME added the title: “What happens if we leave Afghanistan”. Aisha posed for the picture because she wants the world to know what would happen if the Taliban would get back to power.