Inaugural address July 1st, 2009
by President Ricardo Martinelli
Today, before God who protects us and my country, I stand here,
honored by the confidence that the people have given us.
I am enthusiastic about the work that awaits us.
This transfer of command is something that we all value. What we
celebrate today is proof that in Panama the voice of every citizen is
heard, and that the democratic principles that unite us are more
powerful than any difference.
Although they are not here, I want to thank President Torrijos and the
former first lady Vivian de Torrijos for their service to our country.
I also thank them for their so generous support in this transition.
Together we have demonstrated that this people respects the political
dignity of every human being.
I also want to take advantage of this opportunity to sent President
Endara our wishes for a prompt recovery.
Here in Panama we have a democratic tradition, which is as solid as a
rock. I am honored that the international community is here to
celebrate with us this great moment. We have never had so many
visitors, from so many parts of the world. All are welcome and we
thank them for participating today, in our first steps toward a new
Panama, which we see on the horizon.
Our country is unique in many things:
It is the biggest inhabited island on the Pacific littoral.
Panama is the only place in the Caribean that has indigenous peoples.
This city was the first to be built by the Spaniards here on the Pacific.
Here Vasco Núñez de Balboa discovered the South Sea.
But we have something more that distinguishes us. We have grown to
become the pass key to the world’s economy. If Marco Polo had lived in
our epoch, he would have used Panama as his modern spice route.
We Panamanians have always played an important role for our neighbors
and the world. And now were are tapped to do it again. In these five
years, we are called to demonstrate how our economic and governance
model can be an example for all who aspire to prosperity and progress.
Juan Carlos Varela and I are two businessmen who have become involved
in politics, to change the way of doing things. We are going to take
hold of our experiences in the private sector and put them to work
where they have never been seen: in the government.
We are going to debureaucratize the state. “Debureaucratize” is a word
that’s a little difficult to say, but he who’s going to work with me
in this government had better learn it.
In the world of business I walked the aisles, asked questions, opened
drawers. I learned to face problems. As my great friend and political
mentor Samuel Lewis Galindo noted, the government of Ricardo
Martinelli will act with firmness and education, but without favors. I
believe that time is gold and very short.
Neither Juan Carlos nor I accept this job to remain seated behind a
desk. I am a simple, plain and direct man. If I fail somewhat in
protocol, I beg your pardon. But we were not elected to add more pages
to the protocol book.
This people gave us a clear mandate to bring change to this
government, from top to bottom, and that is what we are are going to
do. The custom that the politicians put their personal interests above
those of the people is over. The game of having a fat government and a
thin people has come to its end. The era of politicians entering broke
and leaving as millionaires is finished.
In my government, you can put your foot in your mouth, but you can’t
put your hand in the till.
Thus today, we inaugurate a government that’s going to put the
people’s interests first. We know that difficult times are coming. Now
is when the government has to be more agile, more transparent and more
efficient. it is no secret that we are at the beginning of a world
it is a crisis that we didn’t cause, but all of us are going to
suffer. it is the worst crisis since the Great Depression of the 30s.
In this storm we are all in the same boat, and in the same boat we are
going to face it. The truth is that our government is not going to
have the resources that the previous government had.
But this gives us more reason to act with urgency. The Panamanian
worker sees the storm gathering above. The changes that we have
proposed can not wait any longer. The promises that we made in the
campaign are good ideas. They are the mandate that this people demands
But more than this, they are an integral part of a stimulus plan that
we need to get our economy afloat. Tomorrow we will have our first
Cabinet Council. We are going to be where we were always walking
towards. We are going to be where the change has to happen.
we are going to be the las Garzas de Pacora, not in the Palacio de las Garzas.
That’s where they need jobs.
That’s where they need the subway.
That’s where they lack public safety.
Las Garzas de Pacora is the point of departure for what we are going
to accomplish in the next five years.
I ask you to prepare with me. we will roll up the sleeves and get to work.
We start with this: we are going to raise the salaries of all law
enforcement, because they’re very badly paid. we are going to give
life to one of Juan Carlos’s proposals: we will give $100 a month to
the old people who have not retirement pension.
And for the students who see us on television or listen on the radio,
you can count on scholarships and free books and school supplies. This
we will do for all the poor families in Panama.
We will begin a massive land titling program, so what I can tell
everyone who’s listening who has possessory rights, prepare these
rights because you’re going to have your piece of land titled.
And we are also going to start the biggest jobs program in the history
of Panama after the canal expansion. we are going to start the bidding
for the construction of a new subway that will give the Panamanian
people a better quality of life. But this is just a start.
We have many more things to do. Nothing is more important than to
lower the cost of food. Thus we will augment the sales point for the
Compita program, and with no more “married” products.
we are going to give more credit to the agricultural sector and
support the self-sustaining farms. In this way we will augment
national production and help our farmers produce more food and cheaper
Two years ago, we built a house for a forgotten Panamanian named
Newton Rodney. Newton taught us a lesson: that like him, there exist
more than 165,000 forgotten Panamanian families that suffer the
tragedy of not having a safe roof over their heads. we are going to
start on a massive plan to build houses for the people. This program
will not only go to those families in need of dignified shelter, but
it is going to create jobs for construction workers and reactivate the
Everyone who lives in Panama, and those who visit us, deserve a safer
country. we are going to turn our jails into rehabilitation centers
and not universities of crime.
Minors who commit crimes like adults, we are going to try as adults.
And we are going to give more resources and more intelligence support
to our police.
To protect the right of citizens to walk along safe streets is one of
the primary obligations of any government. we are going to meet this
And for those who want to come and invest in Panama, I’m letting them
know that our doors are open. I want to leave our mission very clear:
we are going to make Panama the best place in Latin America to do
This is the best way to generate jobs and have a better quality of
life for all Panamanians. And we are going to complement the free
trade agreements, with the United States of America and all the other
countries of the world, including Europe and our Latin American
we are proud of our history and our heritage, of our freedom of
expression, of our freedom of thought, and our freedom to decide the
course that the motherland takes. Panama has to maintain itself as a
leader in freedom and justice, not only here in our house, but in our
region and our continent.
As president, I will do everything within my reach to advance the
ideals of a free economy, challenging the different ideological
pendulum that Latin America has.
We are going to be an active partner with Mexico and Colombia in the
battle against the narco-terrorists, who have invaded our country,
bringing crime, mourning and desperation to our innocent population.
We start this government with an unprecedented mandate: a mandate for
change. But this mandate does not go alone. It comes moored to a great
responsibility, the responsibility to work together, shoulder to
shoulder, leaving behind the political egotisms that have divided us.
We were elected for this: not only for our proposals, but also to
change the way of governing. we are going to change the system in
which one political party only to looks for what it can take from the
other, in which the people look for what they can take from the
government, in which the government looks for what it can take from
the people. it is a vicious circle in which we all believe that we
will win like this — and believe me that it is not so. The truth is
that in this game, we are divided one against the others and we all
end up losing.
The government does not have to be partisan. we are going to govern
with the best, no matter from where the come or their political
We are united for something more important than a political party. We
are united for our country, and in this way, putting the people’s
interest first, we are going to govern.
Some say that the challenges that await us are a lot for just one
person. But they are not much for a united people. This government is
going to keep all the promises that I made. This is my commitment.
The only promise that I probably will not keep is to lose weight, but
believe me that I am going to do everything possible.
Until now we have accepted that the destiny of our country is only in
the hand of the government. But I believe that our hopes depend on
something more powerful than any government. They depend on the sweat
and determination of three million Panamanians.
This is the true formula for our success. In five years, another
president will be standing here to celebrate a transfer of mandates,
put what we begin here will not change, not in five nor in 100 years.
From now on, this government and those who follow it are going to walk
in the shoes of the people.
From now on, our governments will not enrich themselves on the people,
but will only serve the people.
This is a time of great challenges and opportunities. The world
economy is put to the test, and that of Panama as well.
I can tell you: I am not perfect. Perfection is something God reserves
for human beings in another life, and I know that we are going to
encounter obstacles along the road.
But the difficulties are not going to stop us. On the contrary: they
are going to demonstrate our determination. We are going to rise above
this economic storm. We are going to come out of it prepared to
compete, prepared to win.
This is the moment to be a citizen of this country, because the
opportunities the await us are enormous.
I see a Panama with more men and women working.
I see a middle class that’s growing and making more money.
I see new technologies producing an unprecedented economic growth.
I see a Panama with better health, better education and more families
united and content.
We can do anything that we dream. Then, why not make our future the one we want?
We dream big. Our best days are to come. We are Panamanians, united
for a change.
And united, nothing is impossible. United, nothing can defeat us!
I thank all of you, and God bless, and long live Panama.