Photo Credit: Reuters J. Cabezas
Laurentino ‘Nito’ Cortizo declared victory in Panama’s election on Sunday, after an initial ballot count indicated that he won the race by an unexpectedly small margin – less than two points – against runner-up Romulo Roux of the Cambio Democrático Party. Leader of the centre left Partido Democrático de Panama, Cortizo ran on an anti-corruption and inequalities reduction platform. After the results of the election were announced, Cortizo said to local media that within 100 days of his mandate he would introduce a new draft constitution which would be subject to a referendum. He also announced measures to boost the economy, namely the servicing of public debt and the initiation of the “Manos de Obra” programme to boost employment through infrastructure projects. The President-elect has indicated that he would make public procurement processes more transparent by introducing amendments to the Public Contracting Law. As for foreign affairs, particularly the management of US and Chinese relations, Cortizo told Reuters that he was eager to improve relations with Washington. Juan Carlos Varela, the outgoing President had rankled the Trump Administration by formally establishing diplomatic ties with China, the second-largest client of the Panama Canal. Following the formalisation of diplomatic relations with China in 2017, more than 30 bilateral agreements were signed between the two countries, placing Panama at the centre of the ongoing tensions between the United States and China over the latter’s increasing influence in the Americas.
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