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  HOME | Central America

Construction Workers Block Panama Streets in Anti-Corruption Protest

PANAMA CITY – One of Panama’s most powerful unions blocked several main streets in the Panamanian capital and other cities on Friday in an anti-corruption protest.

Shouting slogans against corrupt business leaders, dozens of members of the Suntracs construction workers’ union barred traffic on busy Panama City roads such as Cinta Costera, Via España, Corredor Sur and Transistmica.

The protests, which are to last several days, also affected the Inter-American Highway and other Panamanian cities such as Penonome, Aguadulce, Chitre, Colon and Changuinola.

Alfredo Fonseca Mora, a partner at Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, on Thursday accused President Juan Carlos Varela of having received donations from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht to support his 2014 campaign.

Varela has categorically denied the allegations.

The attorney made the remarks before he and fellow partner Jürgen Mossack voluntarily turned themselves in to authorities to face charges in connection with a massive corruption scheme in Brazil.

They were arrested for allegedly helping launder funds from a scheme centered on Brazilian state-controlled oil company Petrobras.

Salvador, Brazil-based Odebrecht is one of numerous construction and engineering companies investigated in Brazil for systematically paying bribes to secure inflated contracts from Petrobras and funneling some of the extra money to politicians.

In late December, Odebrecht and Sao Paulo-based petrochemical unit Braskem reached a massive settlement with authorities in the United States, Brazil and Switzerland.

The two companies, which admitted to operating schemes for more than a decade that involved paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials around the world to win business, agreed to pay a combined total penalty of at least $3.5 billion to resolve the charges.

As part of the settlement, Odebrecht acknowledged paying $59 million in bribes to public officials in Panama.

Mossack Fonseca came to international attention last year in a scandal known as the Panama Papers.

Those papers – a leaked trove of documents from the law firm – showed how they helped their clients hide their wealth in tax havens around the world.

 

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