Panama elected-president pledges to normalize relations with Venezuela and Colombia
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Panamanian president-elect Juan Carlos Varela have pledged to waste no time in normalizing relations and re-launching diplomatic, economic and trade ties cut off two months ago, Venezuela's foreign ministry announced. Varela takes office next July first.
Maduro spoke with Varela just hours after the Panamanian presidential challenger was declared the winner of a close race. Both reiterated ”their firm commitment to continuing to promote Latin American and Caribbean integration within the framework of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
Varela in an interview with the Panamanian media said that among countries there are no conditions and underlined he was willing to re-establish full relations with Venezuela so that Panama could keep trading and hopefully collecting pending debts.
Likewise Varela said he was going to talk with Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos to address the power inter-connection project as well as the exchange of tax information agreement, an issue which is particularly sensitive for the Colombian government given neighboring Panama's financial system.
Colombia has threatened to catalogue Panama as a 'fiscal paradise' which would severely limit financial and trade activities.
Regarding Venezuela, ties between the two countries were suspended in March by Maduro's government after Panama's outgoing president Ricardo Martinelli, a close US ally, was perceived of aiding Venezuela's anti-government factions.
Varela was Martinelli's vice president, but the two had a falling out three years into their term, with Varela accusing the pro-business Martinelli of corruption.
Venezuela also recalled that both Varela and Maduro, as foreign relations ministers, worked together on the creation of CELAC”.
Varela, of the Panamenista Party (PP), won the elections with 39.14% of ballots. Ruling Democratic Change (CD) party candidate Jose Domingo Arias, whose running mate was Martinelli's wife, came in a distant second, with 31.69%, while opposition candidate Juan Carlos Navarro, from the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), garnered 27.83% of votes.