Panama Breaks Trend: Rejects Leftist In Election
Lately, the news out of Latin America has not been overly encouraging. In addition to the regional adventurism and rhetorical antagonisms of the Hugo Chavez regime in Caracas, former Sandinista strongman Daniel Ortega returned to power in Nicaragua (via the ballot box, no less) and proceeded to harangue the United States at a recent international summit. Meanwhile, off the coast of Florida, the longevity of the Castro brothers is matched only by their enduring recalcitrance.
Earlier in the week, however, American interests in the region received a slight boost when Panama's election tribunal pronounced center-right and purportedly "pro-American" candidate Ricardo Martinelli the victor in Sunday's presidential election.
A 57 year-old, U.S. educated supermarket mogul and the "founder" of the center-right Democratic Change party, Martinelli emerged victorious over Balbina Herrera of the center-left Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). Herrera was reportedly close to former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and had been a member of his less than savory "Dignity Battalions" paramilitary outfit. The onetime housing minister had also been accused of supporting Hugo Chavez by Juan Carlos Navarro, the mayor of Panama City. Herrera defeated Navarro in spirited nominating contest.
Prior to his stunning electoral victory, Martinelli assured a writer from the Miami Herald that his would be a "much more pro-American government" than that of his campaign rival. If Martinelli governs accordingly, the United States will have another potential ally and bulwark against the Castro-Chavez axis in Latin America.