Panamainfo’s Blog

Ricardo Martinelli: Panama’s Exciting New President

Just a week before the May 3rd.  elections, presidential candidate Ricardo Martinelli predicted he would win the Panama presidency by a “tsunami “. No one believed him. The polls showed him ahead but after all, the last time he ran for president in 2004 he got only 5% of the vote. But that is exactly what happened- he won by landslide- 60% in a 3 way race- the highest margin of any race in Panama’s recent history

Martinelli won because he convinced the Panamanian people he would  do all the right things for both the populace and the business community- that  he was the person  who could  solve the countries mounting problems including rampant corruption, increasing crime, a public school system that is the most expensive and one of the worst in Latin America and a Panama City transportation chaos that means city dwellers spend 10 years of their life on a bus or car getting to work.

Mr. Martinelli ran a campaign  with a slogan about “Change ” just like President Obama.  In fact according to an interview in The Panama Post, his models are Barack Obama “because he showed change is possible, Winston Churchhill “for his tenacity”, Otto Von Bismark for unifying Germany and next door neighbor Alvaro Uribe, the very successful of President of Columbia.

Change is what Panama needs as it stands at a crossroads- a country with one of the most promising futures in Latin America, but only if Mr. Martinelli can solve its current very pressing and serious problems.

Mr.  Martinelli, age 57  is one of Panama’s most successful businessman having built the country’s largest supermarket chain.  He did his undergraduate studies at the University of Arkansas and an MBA at the prestigious Costa Rica INCAE school of business afilliated with Harvard University. He is a brillant, no-nonsense, take charge type of guy.  His election is hailed  as a turn the right after a string of Latin American governments have turned to the left in recent years.  He is pro-American, will work hard to get the Free Trade Agreement with the US signed this year and he is going to bring modern management and business know-how to solving Panama’s problems.

Panama watchers are heartened by his actions since his  elections including a choice of ministers- some of whom are brilliant like economist and banker Alberto Vallerino as the head of the all important Ministry of the Economy and some of whole are   “out of the box” appointments like Lucy Molinar as Minister of Education- a popular and formidable TV journalist of enormous integrity.

Mr. Martinelli’s election made news in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Time. Indeed, many investors looking for a good place to invest money these, are taking second look  at Panama now because of his election.  Among other things, he plans to  will start building right away a metro to solve the devilish Panama City transportation problems, 5 new airports for the burgeoning tourism industry and a highway network including  coastal route to connect Panama’s attractive Caribbean.

Mr.  Martinelli takes office July 1st. From there on, there’s going to be plenty of interesting news out of Panama.

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