Candidate for president of Panama holed up in an embassy and barred from voting

Ex-President of Panama Ricardo Martinelli was disqualified from competing for office in the May election by a court, ending any chance of a reelection.

Despite being ahead in most surveys, Mr. Martinelli’s candidacy was revoked by the electoral tribunal on Monday due to his conviction for money laundering.

Last year, he received a sentence of more than ten years in prison.

However, after requesting asylum in Panama City in February, he has been residing at the Nicaraguan embassy.

The electoral tribunal in Panama made the announcement on Monday, citing the constitution’s exclusion of candidates with prison sentences longer than five years.In July 2023, Martinelli, a supermarket mogul and president from 2009 to 2014, was found guilty of money laundering and given a 10-year, eight-month sentence.

The 71-year-old has blasted the accusations as being driven by politics and denies any misconduct.

However, last month, his appeal against his conviction was dismissed, which he described as a “illegal last-minute move” meant to remove him from the presidential contest.Subsequently, he requested asylum at the Nicaraguan embassy, stating that his life was in danger.

The former leader has requested permission from Panama to visit his home country, Nicaragua, which has offered Mr. Martinelli refuge; however, the Panamanian government has thus far refused this request.

Videos of Mr. Martinelli exercising on a treadmill and having fun with his dog Bruno in front of a big map of Nicaragua have been uploaded from the embassy.The electoral court declared that Mr. Martinelli’s name would be removed from the ballot and his vice-presidential candidate, José Raúl Mulino, would take his place.

As to the constitution of Panama, Laurentino Cortizo, the current president, is ineligible to continue in office for another term.

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