PANAMA CITY – Opposition candidate Laurentino Cortizo of the Democratic Revolutionary Party promised to wage a frontal fight against corruption once he takes office after he was declared president-elect of Panama on Friday.
Cortizo, and his running mate Jose Gabriel Carrizo, will take office on July 1.
Cortizo, 66, forged the alliance “Uniting Forces” with his own party PRD and the minority Molirena to secure 33.35 percent of the vote in general elections held on May 5.
He defeated his rival Romulo Roux – who secured 609,003 votes (31 percent) with the coalition formed by Democratic Change (CD) and Alliance Party – by only two points.
Cortizo, a former agriculture minister and an international trade expert, said that he would work tirelessly for the next five years “with responsibility, with the spirit of serving and being useful to Panamanians, especially the most in need.”
“This is the greatest challenge of my life, I am ready, prepared, better days are coming for Panama, I give them my commitment, to govern is a serious matter,” he said.
The politician, who considered it a “very elegant” gesture that outgoing President Juan Carlos Varela had attended his proclamation, said he would work hard to develop a competitive economy that generates jobs, transform the education system and consolidate the rule of law “to fight poverty and inequality.”
Cortizo had earlier told reporters that the transition with the Varela government would begin Monday.
He said that “public resources are sacred and belong to the people and we will administer them with strict transparency” to highlight that he will not tolerate corruption.
“That corruption, wherever it is (...) (people must) know that we have a commitment and a code of conduct, to defend Panama’s interests, and consequently fight against corruption,” he said.
In the same context he also said that justice must be reliable with no space for impunity, and that prosecutors and judges must “owe to the country and its conscience,” “not to political pressures or economic sectors.”
Cortizo also promised to restructure institutions to reflect new social, political and economic realities, adding that “a new constitutional order” would be needed.
He said there must be reforms to the country’s constitution, which dates from 1972 when Panama was ruled by a military regime (1968-1989).
He stressed that this reform was necessary and that it must involve the “adaptation of the worn-out and inefficient institutions to its public service mission.”
The presiding magistrate of the Electoral Tribunal, Heriberto Arauz, said during his speech that the issue of constitutional reform must be a priority for the new government.
“We have a huge national task, there’s a lot to build and we’re going to move forward on the right path. There is no time to lose, this is a great country and I have no doubt that better days come for Panama,” said Cortizo.