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Panamanians watchful of first presidential debates

Panama City, Mar 2 (Prensa Latina) Lacking answers to a complex social setting evidenced in the first of three debates among presidential candidates marked the week that concludes today in Panama.

The debates in search of votes, organized by the University of Panama and broadcasted on national channel by TVN Media in view of the general elections in May, were more loaded with attacks among seven out of eight candidates before voters eager for solutions to different issues including quality education, crisis of the Social Security Fund or unemployment, among others.

In the face-off, candidates also debated on citizen insecurity and sustainable development, on the basis of brief rounds of questions and answers that barely offered time to expand on individual and political party projects ahead of scourges that burden Panamanian society nowadays.

In the meeting, the only absentee was former president Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) who is in exile in the Nicaraguan embassy and has been sentenced for more than 10 years for money laundering and who would be disqualified from running for office this year.

The Electoral Tribunal, in accordance with rules, banned José Raúl Mulino, Martinelli´s running mate, from being present at the debates. In a two-and-a-half-hour meeting, commitments to be fulfilled with voters of current government and of previous administrations, many of whose members remain today in the electoral race, became clearer.

In this regard, Ricardo Lombana, of the Movimiento Otro Camino (MOCA); José Gabriel Carrizo, Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD); former president Martín Torrijos (2004-2009), Partido Popular (PP) and Rómulo Roux, Cambio Democrático (CD) and the Partido Panameñista, as well as independents Maribel Gordón, Zulay Rodríguez and Melitón Arrocha, admitted about the presence of organized crime in politics and the need to strengthen the institutional framework.

Economist and professor Gordón insisted in several moments of the debate that most of candidates already served to the Government -former presidents, deputies, ministers- and did not solve all these issues during their mandates.

Nuances aside, several candidates lashed out at other rivals as Lombana and Rodriguez or Roux and Torrijos did in several times, especially when grappling with financial and structural crisis that the Social Security Fund is going through, lack of medicines, delay of surgical interventions and possible bankruptcy of programs such as Disability, Old Age and Death.