Panama Recalls Ambassador from Nicaragua over Martinelli

Former Panamanian president, Ricardo Martinelli, speaking to his supporters in Panama City in May 2023. | Photo: EFE

By EFE (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The government of Panama recalled its ambassador from Nicaragua due to the “flagrant and repeated” violation of international law by the Nicaraguan diplomatic representation for allowing former Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014), who is granted asylum there, to carry out “political-party activities” from the Embassy grounds.

“The Republic of Panama feels truly affected in its territorial integrity by the permissive attitude of the Republic of Nicaragua, which flagrantly and repeatedly violates fundamental norms of international law,” the Panamanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday in a statement.

Martinelli sought asylum at the Nicaraguan Embassy in Panama on February 7, shortly after he was sentenced to more than ten years in prison for money laundering in the New Business case. This conviction disqualified him from running for president with the Realizando Metas party in the upcoming elections on May 5.

The Electoral Tribunal designated Jose Raul Mulino, Martinelli’s running mate, as the RM’s presidential candidate in place of the former president and prohibited Martinelli from participating in the political campaign, which has not been followed.

Diplomatic tension

The 72-year-old former president has thanked the Nicaraguan regime for its “noble and selfless gesture” in granting him asylum, but the controversy surrounding his legal situation has impacted the general elections and strained diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The Panamanian Foreign Ministry has denied the safe conduct for Martinelli to travel to Nicaragua and cautioned the Ortega regime about how the former president is trying to influence Panamanian politics from the Nicaraguan diplomatic headquarters.

In March, Panama’s Foreign Ministry sent a “note of protest” to Nicaragua’s Foreign Ministry due to the “permissive attitude” of the Ortega regime in the Nicaraguan embassy in Panama City, where Martinelli is seeking asylum.

Days earlier, the Ortega regime moved its consulate in Panama to a house adjacent to its diplomatic headquarters in the La Alameda neighborhood, without the “consent” of Panamanian government authorities. However, according to La Prensa de Panamá, Panama’s Foreign Ministry informed the Nicaraguan Embassy that it “does not recognize” the relocation of its consulate in the country.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.