In a move that was widely expected by most political observers, the Electoral Tribunal formally revoked immunity for former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli on Tuesday. His immunity, which was granted to him from his membership of the Central American parliament, was revoked in response to a request from Panama’s Supreme Court. This allows for Martinelli to be investigated and potentially charged in corruption scandals that he has been accused of participating in.
While the lifting of immunity does not guarantee that charges will be filed against the former president, it does appear that will be the likely outcome of a process that has been slowly building for months. Current President Juan Carlos Varela ran on a platform of anti-corruption and a promise to hold former officials accountable. Grassroots efforts again corruption have also targeted the former president, including a march I covered previously on this blog.
The net has been tightening around former Martinelli associates, leading to charges for several of them, including a five year jail term for a former Supreme Court Justice who plead guilty to corruption charges.
Former President Martinelli and his supporters deny allegations of corruption and accuse President Varela of a political vendetta against him. Martinelli left the country several months ago and his current whereabouts are unknown. It is unlikely that if he is charged, he will voluntarily return to Panama.