Panama. Former dictator Manuel Noriega's return to Panama
at the end of 2011, after 23 years in prison in the United
States and France, created some real political concern in
some circles. Within both his old party Revolutionary
Democratic Party (PRD) and the current President Ricardo
Martinelli's administration, several of Noriega's old
colleagues remain, among them the National Police Chief
Gustavo Pérez de la Ossa, and about which Noriega could
provide compromising information during the upcoming
judicial process in Panama. Noriega ruled Panama by iron in
1983-89 and was deposited by a US invasion in December 1989.
countryaah, the government's investments in mining and hydropower
projects created furious protests from Panama's Indians
during the year. It was mainly the exploitation of Cerro
Colorado, believed to be the country's largest copper
deposit and located in the Ngabe Bugié area with large
groups of indigenous people, which created dissatisfaction.
Forty people were killed and injured in demonstrations in
January. In the same area, the construction of a hydropower
plant is planned.
President Martinelli also presented a proposal for reform
of the electoral system which was quickly approved by
Congress, which is completely dominated by his coalition.
The reform included the elimination of proportional
representation through the parties' electoral lists. Not
unexpectedly, the opposition complained that the reform was
tailor-made for Martinelli personally and they also
complained that the reforms did not intend to increase
transparency in the funding of election campaigns.