On May 13, Panamanian President-elect Laurentino Cortizo said he will recognize Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela, and confirmed that his country will continue to be part of the Lima Group. "Panama already has a direct relationship with the government of Guaidó. It's the Republic of Panama, not Cortizo. It's the Republic of Panama. This will be respected."
Panama is one of the more than 50 countries that recognized Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela on January 23, 2019, after the Venezuelan National Assembly declared Nicolás Maduro an usurper due to his fraudulent reelection in May 2018. Guaidó’s designated ambassador in Panama, Fabiola Zavarce, submitted her credentials to Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela on March 18.
Upon describing the Venezuelan humanitarian, economic, and political crisis as “sad,” Cortizo told Panamanian TV network TVN-2 that there should be a "negotiated and democratic solution” for the South American country.
"If we can sit around the table, and all parties feel that Venezuela and the region can benefit, without any exception, and have a transition period until elections are held as a guarantee for Venezuelans, in that great country, I feel that Panama can be of help," said Cortizo, who will take office on July 1.
The government of Varela, along with the United States and other countries of the region, condemned the arrest of Venezuelan National Assembly Vice-president Édgar Zambrano, carried out by the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service or SEBIN on May 8.
"We condemn the illegal and arbitrary detention of Édgar Zambrano by the illegitimate government of Nicolás Maduro. It is necessary to respect the constitutional order in this brotherlycountry," Varela said via Twitter.
On May 15, Mauricio Claver-Carone, advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump and senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council, met with Varela and Cortizo in Panama City, where they talked about a democratic and peaceful transition for Venezuela. During his visit, Claver-Carone announced the arrival of the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort to Panama in August.
"The arrival of the humanitarian aid ship USNS Comfort to Panama will enable us to provide medical assistance to Panamanians in need, as well as to the Venezuelan refugees who had to leave their homes escaping from the despotic government of Nicolás Maduro," Claver-Carone said.