By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Panama said Thursday night it is sanctioning 55 present and former Venezuelan officials, including embattled head of state Nicolas Maduro and, for the first time, First Lady Cilia Flores.
Panama thus becomes the first Latin American country to sanction Maduro-regime present or former officials and the fifth international actor to do so after the US (starting in 2015 and continuing with 57 Venezuelans sanctioned), Canada (56 sanctioned in 2017), the European Union (7, 2018) and Switzerland, who also sanctioned seven Maduro officials Tuesday.
According to think tank Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), some 78 Venezuelans tied to Maduro have been sanctioned by some or all of the above mentioned countries and actors, including Rafael Ramirez, the formerly all-powerful oil man who is now a fugitive from Maduro’s justice and has broken with and denounced the regime from hiding.BIG WEEK
It was a big week for sanctions on Venezuela.
The last week of March was particularly bad for Maduro: the U.S. barred all trading in his nascent cryptocurrency, the Petro, and sanctioned four more officials March 19th. Then Siwtzerland joined the party Wednesday. And now Panama brings that the third known largest list of sanctions -- and becomes the first to name 16 companies tied to First Lady (or First Combatant in “chavista” parlance) Cilia Flores.FIRST LADY’S FIRST
While Cilia Flores is not directly named in the sanctions, 16 Panama-based companies she is tied to through relatives have been deemed “high risk” for "money laundering", “financing of terrorism” and “financing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”
However, the First Lady’s nephew, Carlos Erik Malpica Flores, is named and directly sanctioned by Panama and he has been for some time now by other countries, as well.
All of the 16 firms sanctioned by Panama have at least one member of the Malpica-Flores family sitting on the board, and some have three, according to an investigation by Venezuelan news site RunRunes.
The reasons Panama is sanctioning Venezuelan officials and firms tied to them are, to say the least, novel, particularly the “terrorism” and “weapons of mass destruction” bits, as sanctions previously have been placed arguing human-rights abuses.
The decision was taken by Panama’s “National Commission Against Money Laundering (literally "Whitening of Capitals”). Sanctioned firms and individuals will not be able to carry out any financial or commercial transaction in Panama without undergoing “re-enforced” or “enhanced” “due diligence” procedures, something extremely rare in a country considered a financial and banking paradise.THE HATEFUL SIX RIDE AGAIN
Panama’s 55 person list includes six names that have been sanctioned by all countries: Former National Guard commander Antonio Benavides, SEBIN intelligence service head Gustavo Gonzalez, CNE electoral board head Tibisay Lucena, Supreme Court chief justice Maikel Moreno and Interior Minister Nestor Reverol. Reverol has also been indicted in at least one open U.S. drug-trafficking case.
Panama Sanctions Venezuelans -27 March 2018 by Latin American Herald Tribune on Scribd
Swiss Sanctioned Venezuelans - 28 March 2018 by Latin American Herald Tribune on Scribd
USA v Reverol - USDC EDNY - Sealed Indictment - 21 January 2015 by Latin American Herald Tribune on Scribd