Panamá vende Bocas del Toro a Magnate Mexicano

La siguiente noticia aparece en el sitio de internet: que ha sido un medio que le ha dado seguimiento a probables actos de corrupción del Gobierno Nacional, relacionado al nefasto proyecto de ley 132, que pretende abrir como caja de Pandora a propios y extraños, nuestro patrimonio insular y costero.
Panama sells out Bocas del Toro to mexican magnate Carlos Slim

26 10 – The proposed law 132 that has generated a storm of controversy in Panama is the result of a secret deal between the Torrijos government and Mexican multi-billionaire Carlos Slim Helú, Noriegaville can reveal. A number of former Noriega cronies and other government people stand to benefit financially from the deal, which will introduce Cancun-style tourism to the Bocas del Toro island province in the Caribbean.With this information, it is finally becoming clearer what economic interests are behind the ill-conceived law proposal that has created so much hostility in Bocas del Toro and the Colon province towards the Torrijos administration.

Who is Carlos Slim Helú?

Carlos Slim, no 17 on the Forbes world’s richest people list in 2004, is a Mexican tycoon of Lebanese descent. His family reportedly made its fortune when his father arrived at the beginning of the last century in Mexico by starting a small business on which Carlos further built his empire, but there are also reports about arming militias in Lebanon over the years through high ranking contacts his late wife had in the country. In Mexico, Slim is best known for winning the privatization bid of Telmex, the state’s telephone company, which was widely believed to be another one of then-president Carlos Salinas’ corrupt privatization deals. Slim is expanding his interests all over Latin America, but saw a an agreement to take over Colombia’s telephone company cancelled last September.

Researching the history and connections of Carlos Slim Helú leads inevitably to a myriad of corruption, bought elections, money laundering and drug trafficking, narcobankers and other such activities that the Forbes list generally does not mention as source of income. Slim is for example a friend of Roberto Hernández Ramírez, who acquired Banco Nacional de Mexico (Banamex) in another one of then-president Salinas corrupt privatization deals. Hernández was exposed later for money laundering and involvement in cocaine trafficking by the Narco News Bulletin and Mexican newspaper ¡Por Esto!, which both published pictures with evidence of narcotrafficking on Hernandez’ private Yucatan beach resort.

Another revealing tale comes from Miami Herald Pullitzer Prize winning journalist Andres Oppenheimer, who authored a book called Bordering on Chaos – Guerrillas, Stockbrokers, Politicians and Mexico’s Road to Prosperity (1996, Little, Brown and Company). (Read an excerpt here).

Writes Oppenheimer:



«Nothing made Zapatista leader Subcommander Marcos’s claims that Mexico’s political system was hopelessly corrupt more apparent than a private dinner party held at the home of former finance minister Don Antonio Oruz Mena to raise funds for the ruling party’s I994 campaign. It was one of those high-level, top-secret meetings that seem to exist only in the minds of conspiracy theorists–but that turned out to be real.»

The guests were Mexico’s wealthy billionaires who had become rich because of Salinas’ presidency. Among them were Roberto Hernández Ramírez, who had helped organize the meeting, and Carlos Slim Helú. The purpose of the secretive banquet was to get Salinas party, the PRI, «ready» for the next elections.

«»Well. how much are we supposed to collect?» Borrego was asked by one of the business leaders shortly after they had begun to eat.

«Mucho» («a lot»), Borrego responded, smiling.

«But how much?» the business tycoon insisted.

«Muchisimo» («a whole lot»), Borrego responded, drawing laughter from around the table.

Nearly an hour later, when everybody was having dessert–vanilla ice cream topped with melted chocolate–Ortiz Mena, the host, stood up. He hit his spoon several times against a wine glass and asked for silence. Ortiz Mena introduced the first speaker, Borrego, who quickly ran down the five-point party modernization program. The August I994 presidential election was getting close, and the PRI faced a serious challenge from the left, the PRI president concluded. It was crucial that all the business tycoons around the table make major contributions to save the PRI– and the country, he said. Salinas, his eyes on the ceiling, nodded. Ortiz Mena followed suit, recounting the PRI’s history and stressing the ruling party’s role as a social glue that had prevented Mexico from exploding into chaos and bloodshed throughout the country’s history. Salinas closed the presentation, saying he wholeheartedly supported the proposed reforms to re-energize the party.

Okay, the business leaders said, nodding to one another. There was general support for the idea of stopping the flow of money from the government to the PRI and getting the party to raise money from the private sector. But how much were the business leaders supposed to fork out? The conversation went back and forth. Officials at the head table at first avoided giving a figure, then suggested that the PRI needed a campaign chest of at least $500 million. Then, Salinas’s friend Roberto Hernandez, the banker, threw out the figure that had been previously agreed upon between the three banquet organizers during their breakfast at the University Club.

«Mr. President, I commit myself to making my best effort to collect twenty-five million,» Hernandez said.

There was an awkward silence in the room.

«Mexican pesos or dollars?» one of the billionaire guests asked. «Dollars,» responded Hernandez and Borrego, almost in chorus. Twenty-five million dollars each? ! There were hmms and ahhs around the table. Don Garza Sada, of Monterrey’s Visa soft drinks empire, said he agreed — it was the business community’s responsibility to support the party Telecommunications magnate Slim, who had won the government bid to privatize the national telephone monopoly, supported the motion, adding only that he wished the funds had been collected privately, rather than at a dinner, because publicity over the banquet could «turn into a political scandal.» In a country where half the population was living under the poverty line, there would be mediate questions as to how these magnates –many of whom had been middle-class businesspeople until the recent privatization of state companies– could each come up with $25 million in cash for the ruling party. Charges of massive corruption under the Salinas administration were bound to surface.»


All this to give you, dear reader, an idea of the kind of environment we’re dealing with here, and how little Latin American oligarchs like Carlos Slim are inclined to practice transparency or stay away from corruption.

Big Business in Bocas, Carlos Slim Comes to Town

In 2000, BusinessWeek wrote about Carlos Slim,»For the past two decades, he has shown an uncanny ability to spot undervalued companies and turn them into lean, profitable machines.» And that may very well be what will happen to Bocas as well.

Carlos Slim Helú is, for starters, a friend of Panama’s president Martin Torrijos. When Torrijos couldn’t book a plane to attend the Pope’s funeral earlier this year, Slim lend him his private jet to fly to Rome. For free.

From the early days of this government, Slim and Torrijos have been looking at areas in Panama where tourism could be developed or, as Businessweek would put it, areas that could be turned into «profitable machines.» Slim has been seen visiting the San Blas area several times with his jet, and Torrijos and Slim were together on Slim’s yacht in the area as well. San Blas would be perfect to develop tourism, and indeed an agreement was signed between the government and the leaders of the Kuna Yala semi-autonomous comarca to that effect. But the emphasis is on sustainable tourism, and the Kunas won’t allow Cancun-style money machines.

Bocas del Toro looked like a better choice. Slim – and at least one of his three sons who are running businesses – has been visiting several times between 4 and 6 months ago, and his mega-yacht was anchored off the coast of Isla Colón. Reportedly, a son of Manuel Antonio Noriega served as a personal guide to the Slim entourage. The Mexican tycoon spent time as well at the property of entrepreneur Cesar Romero.

According to our sources, a deal was struck during these visits between Slim and the Panamanian government, which, as it was described to us, basically comes down to «You clean up this Bocas mess and I’ll develop the place.»

Shortly thereafter, a law proposal by Bocas legislator Benicio Robinson which introduced the possibility of titling land on islands and which had already been approved in two of the three required debates, was cancelled without further explanation.

Instead, a new proposal was introduced, the now infamous law 132, which if approved would allow the government to give concessions to developers on island rights of possession property already legally in use by others as well as on unclaimed land, for tourism development. There are also unconfirmed rumors that a large piece of titled land – partly owned by Guillermo Vega, Noriega’s former ambasador in London and closely associated with Allaudin Shaik of former BCCI fame – is to be included in the development, thus benefiting the current owner(s). Reportedly, the runway of the Bocas airport is to be extended so that direct flights would be possible. Carlos Slim is a major investor in a Mexican low-fare airline, Vuelo.

The whole issue of course provokes a new round of serious questions about the «zero corruption» and «total transparency» promises that got Martin Torrijos and his PRD elected. Already mired in accusations of corruption and mismanagement, Torrijos’ government has consistent low approval rates and the bungling with law 132 to accommodate a secret business deal has only further established Panama’s bad reputation as a country with no judicial security.

The US embassy, we were informed, is monitoring events closely.

2 respuestas

  1. Besides all the information I read on your note, Vuelo (low fare airlines) does not exist in Mexico as you state in this article, and did not exist before. As today Carlos Slim has interes in a new (soon to start operations) low fare airline but is something does not happen yet as today april 2006, so your data seem inadecuate and make any one to look further to the rest of the information.

    Sheers from Mexico

  2. Estimado Amigo:
    La fuente de la información sobre Slim presentada en este blog tiene su referencia original u origen.

    Refiérase al inicio de dicho artículo.

    Saludos cordiales


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