Ricardo Martinelli Inaugurated as President of Panama
By Dialogo July 02, 2009Panama City, July 1 (EFE).- Fifty-seven-year-old businessman Ricardo Martinelli was inaugurated today as Panama's new president for the next five years, in a ceremony in which eight presidents and the Prince of Asturias, Felipe de Borbón, participated. Martinelli received the presidential sash from the new president of the National Assembly, José Luis Varela. Martinelli’s inauguration and that of businessman Juan Carlos Varela as first vice-president, began with the summons of the seventy-one members of the National Assembly and of the Assembly’s officers. Martinelli, a multimillionaire businessman, took office as president of Panama after having received nearly 60 percent of the votes in the elections held on May 3, with a message of change. Owner of one of Panama’s largest supermarket chains, Ricardo Martinelli, who has a Spanish grandmother and an Italian grandfather, was born in Panama City on 11 March, 1952. After being a public officer in the previous administrations of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PDR) and the Panamanianist Party (PP), Martinelli decided to create his own party, Democratic Change (CD), founded in May, 1998. At the head of this group in his campaign for the presidency, he demonstrated his negotiating skill by forming a coalition called Alliance for Change, under his leadership. Martinelli achieved this coalition by incorporating one of the parties with the longest tradition in Panama, the Panamanianist Party (PP), and also including the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement (Molirena) and the Patriotic Union (UP). Martinelli is considered a populist who is committed to neither the left nor the right, despite his ties to the business world. Martinelli’s inauguration ceremonies were attended by the presidents of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe; of Costa Rica, Óscar Arias; of Guatemala, Álvaro Colom; of Mexico, Felipe Calderón; and of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernández; as well as Prince Felipe de Borbón. The ceremonies were also attended by the president of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou; the president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Mohamed Abdelaziz; the vice-president of the Cuban Council of State, Esteban Lazo; and the U.S. Secretary of Interior, Ken Salazar, among other distinguished guests. The ousted president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, arrived at this handing over at the last minute, while Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega canceled his visit to Panama following the death of Managua mayor and former three-times world boxing champion Alexis Argüello.