Panama's President Denies Son's Involvement in Italian Scandal

Presidente Ricardo Martinelli. Foto de Presidencia de la República de Ecuador en Twitter, bajo licencia Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

President Ricardo Martinelli. Photo from the Presidential Office of the Republic of Ecuador on Flickr, under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

[Links are to Spanish-language pages, except where otherwise noted.]

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli has once again provoked the ire of netizens following comments he made on national television ostensibly to clarify certain recordings published in La Prensa newspaper which linked his son to the Italian corruption scandal surrounding Valter Lavitolla and involving Panama's government [en].

The scandal arose over allegations that Martinelli and various members of his goverment accepted bribes for the construction of prisons in Panama. The prisons were never actually built, and Lavitolla was arrested in Italy and charged with corruption.  

On October 10, the President made it clear on his Twitter account that the ‘soap opera’ being written by La Prensa was about to end, as he had in his possession evidence to disprove any conspiracy. 

Thursday is the last chapter in the Italian soap opera of the adversarial La Prensa when our press release will lay bear the conspiracy

— Ricardo Martinelli (@rmartinelli) October 8, 2013

On the Telemetro network, President Martinelli, true to his controversial and aggressive style, did not offer up the anticipated proof, but he did clarify that it was all an ambush against him and his family:

“This is a fight between Italians stealing from one another; it is a fight at the highest echelons of Italian society,” declared the Panamanian head of state, adding that he was not surprised that they had implicated his son as a reprisal for not having been awarded a contract. 

RPC Radio tweeted a few of the President's choice words. In one of them, he can be heard asserting in a vulgar manner that he did not need so much as a plugged nickel from them, a real, referring to a 5-cent coin.    

I don't need so much as a f***ing plugged nickel from them; I say it with my head held high 

It was this way of speaking that seemed to outrage many Twitter users. Tito Herrera, for example, thinks this kind of interview is discouraging, but at the same time reveals people for who they are: 

These interviews depress me and at the same time I like them because they show people for their true colours… #Emputado #FuckingReal #Panama

 Aurelio Barria asks the president for more dignified language:

As citizens we deserve more respect from the language used by our president, please raise the level, what is this “I don't need a fu%&ing real“?

Others, as is the case for Thais Llean, are more pragmatic and recall that Ricardo Martinelli became president because of a democratic majority—that he was the leader chosen by Panamanians even though part of his campaign slogan involved boasting about being “crazy”. 

#Panamá now you complain? You're the one responsible! You voted for him! Even when he told you he was crazy, you enjoyed it! It was not a lie! Embarrassing

Ursula Kiener concludes that Panama has a president of unprecedented vulgarity, and she complains of the poor role model for the people of Panama:

It's official, we have the crassest president in history. Giving the worst examples with his behaviour and his vocabulary. 

Vivian Moreno asks whether the vulgarity is necessary:

…And why does he have to be so vulgar, seriously, my ears are ringing from listening to him and my stomach churns remembering that he is the PRESIDENT!

 But there were also those who saw the humour; Abraham Bernalcorrea suggests that Martinelli's interviews should have a live audience:

All Martinelli's interviews should have a live audience so we can hear the cackle in the background.

The satirical program Proyecto Criollo poked fun at the way the government responds to all scandals saying that they are lies and insulting, but without ever providing clarification: 

It's all lies, stupid. Lavitola, Finmecanica, Cemis, PECC, Chinese visas, HP1430, etc. Everything is a lie, always. Period

Edilberto Gonzalez, however, asks a valid question: despite the outrage provoked by the President's words, it is difficult to know what the rest of Panamanians think, those who don't participate in social media. 

And the bulk of voters, what do they think, those who don't have Twitter?

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