The Government of Panama affirmed today that it will maintain its "frontal fight against drug trafficking and its main leaders", in reaction to a complaint lodged by lawyers against President Juan Carlos Varela for a controversial island prison, which the plaintiffs claim is illegal.
"No action by the defenders of highly dangerous subjects will diminish our determination and commitment to continue fighting to eliminate this scourge that affects our society so much," said a statement on Thursday by the State Communication Secretariat.
In its pronouncement, the Government highlighted that drug trafficking continues to be a risk for the region, "especially when there is support from people with political influence and from lawyers working for these groups, without taking into account the interests of the nation or the society".
It also stressed that in the last four years the country's homicide rate dropped almost 50 percent, of which more than 70 percent "are related to drug trafficking and organized crime."
"As a government we respect human rights and we reiterate our position to continue fighting these criminals to give Panama the security that Panama's society deserves," it said.
The legal action against Varela was filed by lawyer Kevín Moncada and two of his colleagues, on behalf of eight inmates currently detained in La Mega Joya prison, after being transferred from the Punta Coco prison, located on an island in Panamanian Pacific.
The Panamanian Parliament, now dominated by the opposition, is the only one constitutionally authorized to investigate the President of the Republic.
Moncada told reporters that the criminal complaint is for the alleged commission of crimes exceeding functions, omission of the duties of public officials and abuse of authority.
The lawyer explained that he sued Varela for dismissing two decisions of the Panamanian Supreme Court that declared the Punta Coco prison illegal.
The lawyer specifically stressed that "the provisional separation from duties is being requested" and "the opening, by the Credentials Committee specifically, of a trial against the president for disobeying rulings of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ)".
"This has been reiterated, and as we have seen in statements by the president in which he insists on the stubbornness of intending to reopen that prison, despite what the Court has already said twice and the wake-up calls triggered by international organizations to Panama for the Punta Coco issue," said Moncada.
The plaintiffs are demanding a global repair of 20 million dollars, according to the local channel TVN.
Varela said on June 27 that he expects the country's Supreme Court to reconsider the ruling that declared the insular prison illegal, since the inclusion of prisoners in that prison enables, in his opinion, the fight against organized crime and drug trafficking.
On June 15, the plenary session of the CSJ declared the confinement of eleven prisoners in the prison of Punta Coco as illegal and ordered their immediate transfer to the penitentiary centers where they were before, to which the Government agreed.
Punta Coco, located in a military base of the National Aeronaval Service (Senan) on Isla del Rey, more than 100 kilometers south of the Panamanian Pacific coast, has been noted for its harsh conditions of seclusion and isolation by various international organizations, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH).
The jail had been empty since August 2017, but on June 5, the Panamanian Government reported that it had moved the eleven highly dangerous prisoners there after undertaking several renovations and adapting the facilities to international standards.