Strong reaction expected against Panama’s president

A newspaper editor in Panamá is predicting public disorders there in response to a petition filed by President Ricardo Martinelli. The president has asked the supreme court to remove the members of the nation’s electoral tribunal.

The editor, Eric Jackson, said that this would allow Martinelli to appoint all the replacements and control the elections in such a way as his party, which has about 15 percent public support in the wake of repeated scandals — including one in which he has been identified by Italian prosecutors as having taken bribes — can steal the next elections.

Public response is likely to be impatient, angry and disruptive, said Jackson, editor of The Panamá News.

“There may be road blockages,” he said in a special email message over the weekend. “There may be violent demonstrations. There may be labor strikes. There may be shortages in stores. There may be utility cutoffs. There may be police roundups of opposition figures. There may be a coup d’etat. It is not certain that any of these things will happen, but you should be prepared for them.”

“The reactions to the president’s move against the electoral tribunal may be immediate, or may take days or weeks to percolate,” he said. “But a storm of public disturbances is gathering and may start at any moment.”

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