Ricardo Martinelli

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This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Martinelli and the second or maternal family name is Berrocal.
Ricardo Martinelli
Ricardo Martinelli.jpg
President of Panama
In office
July 1, 2009 – July 1, 2014
Vice President Juan Carlos Varela
Preceded by Martín Torrijos
Succeeded by Juan Carlos Varela
Personal details
Born (1952-03-11) March 11, 1952 (age 63)
Panama City, Panama
Political party Democratic Change
Spouse(s) Marta Linares (1978–present)
Alma mater University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Central American Institute of Business Administration
Religion Roman Catholicism

Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Berrocal (born March 11, 1952) is a Panamanian politician and businessman who was the 49th President of Panama from 2009 to 2014.

Early life[edit]

Born in Panama City, Ricardo Martinelli is the son of Ricardo Martinelli Pardini and Gloria Berrocal Fabrega.[1] His father is of Italian descent, and his mother is of Spanish descent.[2] He completed his secondary education at Staunton Military Academy in Staunton, Virginia, in the United States. In 1973 he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Arkansas.[3] He earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the INCAE Business School in 1977, graduating from its campus in Nicaragua.[4]

Business career[edit]

Martinelli began his career as a credit officer at Citibank in Panama. After several years of banking, he purchased the business of a client, in turn becoming an entrepreneur, buying or starting additional businesses.[5] His net worth was estimated at $400 million or more, according to press reports. The Economist stated on his winning the 2009 election, that voters “want him to run the country as well as he manages his businesses.” [6]

He is currently the president and director of the board of Panamanian supermarket chain Super 99[1] and of two other companies.

Politics[edit]

During the presidency of Ernesto Pérez Balladares, Martinelli served as Director of Social Security from 1994 to 1996.[3] From September 1999 to January 2003, during the presidency of Mireya Moscoso, he served as chairman of the board of directors of the Panama Canal and as the Minister for Canal Affairs.[3]

Martinelli is the president of the Democratic Change party, which was founded in May 1998.[1][3] He led the party and was the presidential candidate during the 2004 general election, when his party came in last; Martinelli received 5.3% of the vote and came in fourth place in the election.[7]

Martinelli was the leader of Democratic Change and presidential candidate in the 2009 general election.[1] He ran on a pro-business platform, promising to cut political corruption and reduce violent crime and spent an estimated $35 million on promoting his campaign. By Election Day, Martinelli was the favorite to win the election, with opinion polls giving him a double-digit lead over the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD)–People's Party coalition.[7] He had the support of the Alliance for Change, a group of political parties that includes his own Democratic Change party, the Panameñista Party, the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement, and the Patriotic Union Party.[1]

His main opponent was PRD candidate Balbina Herrera. Though initially the favorite,[3] she was damaged in the election by her links to former military ruler Manuel Noriega[8] and by the perception that she was a "Chavista", a supporter of leftist Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.[9] Martinelli was also helped by strong support from the business community.[3]

On May 3, 2009, Martinelli won the national election by a landslide, with over 60% of the votes, compared to Herrera, who received about 36%. Former president Guillermo Endara finished a distant third.[9] This was the second-largest majority in Panamanian history and the largest since 1989.[10] Martinelli's victory was an exception to a trend of victories for left-leaning Latin American candidates.[8] He was sworn in on July 1, 2009.[11]

Presidency[edit]

Martinelli served as president from 2009 through 2014, during which time the Panamanian economy grew robustly and steadily.

As lauded by The Economist,

“Though it lies in Central America, the poorest and most violent region in the West, the country’s 3.6m citizens are now richer than most Latin Americans.” [12]

And as reported in the New York Times: [13]

“Panama is booming, with an average economic growth of 9 percent in the past five years, the highest in Latin America.”

This prosperity widely benefits Panama, with unemployment declining from 6.6% to 4.1%.[14] Income disparity also declined: according to The Economist, “the incomes of the poorest 10% are now 35 times lower than those of the richest 10%, rather than 60 times lower, according to the finance ministry.”[15] Gross Domestic product, grew by nearly half,[16] while GDP per capita, according to the World Bank, rose 11%, from $9,982 (2010) to $11,036 (2014).[17]

Martinelli introduced a number of measures designed to alleviate poverty, including a $100 monthly pension for the elderly, an increase in the minimum wage, and subsidies for students to meet the cost of uniforms and supplies.[18] He also increased the minimum wage, making it the highest of Latin America. [19]

He also implemented measures to help Colón, an impoverished city on the Gulf Coast. This included projects like a new highway connecting Panama and Colón, the Canal expansion, construction of a new hospital and other public works intended to help reduce unemployment and poverty. The government also announced a $9 million project to rehabilitate Colón’s seaside park.[20]

Pro-Business Policies, but also Raising their Taxes and those of their Proprietors[edit]

Twice during his first year in office, Martinelli proposed and signed into law tax reforms to simplify filings, reduce rates, and improve collection. The number of income brackets was reduced from five to two, the corporate tax rate was cut to 25%, and delinquent collection was outsourced.[citation needed] The tax reform imposed and collected taxes on a large swath of Panama’s elite, which had largely avoided significant taxation. The program was not without controversy. A spokesperson for Fitch Group stated that the tax reform "underpin[ned] the government's commitment to sustainable fiscal policies."[21]

Infrastructure Investment[edit]

As of 2010, Martinelli's administration announced plans, ultimately fulfilled during his term, to invest $20 billion over the next four years on infrastructure designed to enhance Panama's role as a global logistics hub and increase foreign direct investment.[22] The plan included greater investment in roads, hospitals, sewers, schools, and a Panama City metro.[23] Fitch Group called the "ambitious public investment program" part of "Panama's highly favorable investment cycle."[24]

The cornerstone of Martinelli’s expansion program was the $5.3 billion expansion of the Panama Canal. He oversaw investment in ports, the construction of a giant causeway around the old part of town, which also features a new Biomuseo (also known as The Biodiversity Museum: Panama Bridge of Life) designed by Frank Gehry.

Pro-Business Policies[edit]

Martinelli also oversaw the final approval of the Panama–United States Trade Promotion Agreement, which was signed more than two years before he took office but had not been finalized. Martinelli had designated the completion of this agreement as his top priority upon taking office.[25] The agreement was ratified by the US Congress on October 13, 2011.[26]

Other pro-trade efforts include a 2012 agreement with Europe, through SICA, the economic and political organization of Central America.

Through pro-business policies, Martinelli saw through the growth of Panama as an international transport and financial hub. According to the Economist, “Its canal is becoming the backbone of a transoceanic logistics network. Its airline, Copa, connects much of Latin America. Its offshore-banking sector sucks in Latin American money.” [27]

Rule of Law[edit]

Martinelli also undertook efforts to increase the “Rule of Law” in Panama and to create greater transparency in its institutions. [28] According to the New York Times, “American law enforcement officials give the country credit for improving its police forces and cooperation with international agencies.” Furthermore, they report that “In the past two years [Panama] has signed agreements with 12 countries, including the United States, to exchange tax and other information upon request, a tool to investigate financial criminals. [29]

Panama becomes “Investment Grade”[edit]

During Martinelli’s term, Panama's sovereign debt rating was upgraded to "investment grade" by Fitch, Moody's, and Standard & Poor's.[30] Fitch had upgraded Panama twice[24] since Martinelli took office, and Standard & Poor's followed its upgrade with a revised "positive" outlook.[31] The Fitch upgrade was described as "a victory for conservative President Ricardo Martinelli, who has pushed two tax reforms through Congress since taking office".[32]

Martinelli’s policies contributed to credit upgrades but also robust increases in Foreign Direct Investment. During his tenure, it rose from $1,259.3 billion (2009) to $4,651.3 billion (2013). [33]

According to the New York Times, direct investment in real estate was exemplified by “the tallest building in Latin America, a 70-story Trump hotel and condo tower,” further growth in financial services (“Banking is booming”) with “well-heeled foreign transplants” spending on local services and goods.[34]

Reputation While in Office[edit]

Martinelli experienced high popularity ratings during his term of office, at one time in excess of 90%.

The party he heads, the Democratic Change party, has continued to see strong legislative support: with Martinelli at its leader it continues to hold the biggest bloc of 30 seats, versus 12 seats for Panameñista Party in the 71-seat National Assembly. Mr. Martinelli remains the leader of Panama’s opposition party.

Mr. Martinelli has been subject to a whisper campaign in the local and international media.

In 2011, The Economist described the foreign investment as still hurt by "doubts about the rule of law", citing suspected corruption in the bidding for the metro contract and the flooding of a wealthy Panama City neighborhood with sewage due to a lack of enforcement of planning laws.[23] However, none of these allegations has been substantiated.

Martinelli was criticized during his presidency for authoritarian tactics. He sought to reduce the time period before the president could run for re-election though he withdrew when it proved unfeasible. He was accused of tampering with the Supreme Court, though this was not proven.[23][35] In August 2009, the US Ambassador to Panama, Barbara J. Stephenson, wrote to the US State Department that Martinelli had asked her for wiretaps on his political opponents, and she complained of his "bullying style" and "autocratic tendencies".[36] A copy of the cable was released in December 2010 by WikiLeaks. After the leak, Martinelli's administration said that "help in tapping the telephones of politicians was never requested" and that Stephenson was "mistaken" in her interpretation.[36][37]

In December 2011, former military ruler Manuel Noriega was extradited from France to Panama by Martinelli's government. Critics charged that Martinelli had requested the extradition to turn public attention away from administration scandals, an accusation denied by the French and Panamanian governments.[38]

His popularity had been harmed by corruption allegations, including a claim that he had taken bribes from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's aide Valter Lavitola, though none of these claims has been substantiated or proven.

With the end of his term, Martinelli has been subject to prosecution by his former Vice President, Juan Carlos Varela, who was part of a 26-month coalition that united the two leaders and their parties. Stated The Economist in 2012, Martinelli “is at war with his vice-president, Juan Carlos Varela, who comes from a different party and whom the constitution prevents the president from sacking.” On winning the presidency, Valera instigated an investigation of Martinelli.[39]

Honors[edit]

On February 20, 2010, the University of Arkansas established the Ricardo A. Martinelli Berrocal Scholarship to provide financial aid to prospective University of Arkansas students from Panama. He was also presented with the Citation of Distinguished Alumnus award and was made an official ambassador of the State of Arkansas by Governor Mike Beebe.[40]

On June 16, 2013, received and acknowledgement from the FAO in Rome, Italy, for helping to reduce the child malnutrition in the Panamenian territory. It took place during the 38th Session of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Conference. Martinelli was awarded besides other thirty seven countries.

Private life[edit]

In 1978, Martinelli married Marta Linares, with whom he has three children: Ricardo Martinelli Linares, Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, and Carolina Martinelli Linares.[41]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Ricardo Martinelli, el magnate de supermercados que ofrece un cambio al país". EFE. April 28, 2009. Archived from the original on November 6, 2012. Retrieved May 23, 2010.  (English Translation)
  2. ^ Barcelona Center for International Affairs: "Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal" retrieved August 17, 2013 |Hijo de los señores Ricardo Martinelli, de ascendencia italiana, y Gloria Berrocal, de ascendencia española, nació en la capital del país pero se crió fundamentalmente en Soná, distrito de la provincia de Veraguas
  3. ^ a b c d e f Anthony G. Craine. "Ricardo Martinelli". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  4. ^ Fernando Lara S. (May 24, 2009). "Panama president-elect criticizes "populist" governments in Nobody Speaks Latin America". La Nacion.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  5. ^ "Ricardo Martinelli: How a Supermarket Magnate Came to Lead the Nation". Latin Trade. 
  6. ^ "A Supermarket King Defeats the Left". The Economist. May 7, 2009. 
  7. ^ a b "Tycoon elected Panama president". BBC. May 3, 2009. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  8. ^ a b "Super 09; Panama's presidential election". The Economist.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). May 9, 2009. Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Sara Miller Llana (May 3, 2009). "Conservative supermarket tycoon wins Panama vote". Christian Science Monitor.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  10. ^ Lina Vega Abad (May 4, 2009). "Cifras, techos y realidades". La Prensa (in Spanish). Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Supermarket tycoon sworn in as Panama president". CNN. July 2, 2009. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  12. ^ "The Earthbound Bite Back". The Economist. November 22, 2012. 
  13. ^ "A Once-Vibrant City Struggles as Panama Races Ahead on a Wave of Prosperity". the New York Times. March 23, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Doing Business in Panama". PanAmCham. 
  15. ^ "The Earthbound Bite Back". The Economist. November 22, 2012. 
  16. ^ "A Once-Vibrant City Struggles as Panama Races Ahead on a Wave of Prosperity". the New York Times. March 23, 2013. 
  17. ^ "GDP Per Capita". World Bank. 
  18. ^ "Split with the past: with Panama's Ricardo Martinelli and EL Salvador's Mauricio Funes both Looking to be paradigms for successful government in the Americas, will ideology take a backseat to ruling from the center?". Latin Trade. January 1, 2010. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2012. 
  19. ^ "About Panama: Labor Force & Salaries". Business Panama. 
  20. ^ "A Once-Vibrant City Struggles as Panama Races Ahead on a Wave of Prosperity". The New York Times. March 23, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Fitch Upgrades Panama's L-T Foreign & Local Currency IDRs to 'BBB-'; Positive Outlook". Fitch Group via Business Wire. March 23, 2010. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2012. 
  22. ^ Andres R. Martinez and Jens Erik Gould (April 30, 2010). "Panama's Infrastructure Spending to Help Economy Grow 6%, Martinelli Says". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  23. ^ a b c "A Singapore for Central America?". The Economist. July 14, 2011. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  24. ^ a b "Fitch Upgrades Panama's Ratings to BBB; Outlook Revised to Stable". Fitch Group. June 2, 2011. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  25. ^ Mica Rosenberg (May 4, 2009). "Panama's president-elect to push US trade deal". Reuters. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  26. ^ Jim Abrams (October 13, 2011). "Congress passes 3 free trade agreements". Associated Press  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  27. ^ "A surprise winner promises to sweep Panamanian politics clean". The Economist. May 8, 2014. 
  28. ^ "Bursts of Economic Growth in Panama Have Yet to Banish Old Ghosts". The New York Times. December 13, 2011. 
  29. ^ "Bursts of Economic Growth in Panama Have Yet to Banish Old Ghosts". The New York Times. December 13, 2011. 
  30. ^ Eric Sabo (June 9, 2010). "Panama Raised to Investment Grade by Moody's, Matching Moves by S&P, Fitch". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  31. ^ "The Republic of Panama's Sovereign Rating Outlook Revised to Positive from Stable on Stronger Growth" (PDF). Standard & Poor's. July 21, 2011. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  32. ^ "Fitch: Panama's debt now investment-grade". BusinessWeek. March 24, 2010. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2012. 
  33. ^ "Doing Business in Panama". PanAmCham. 
  34. ^ "A Once-Vibrant City Struggles as Panama Races Ahead on a Wave of Prosperity". the New York Times. March 23, 2013. 
  35. ^ Juan Forero (July 22, 2012). "Latin America's new authoritarians". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  36. ^ a b William Booth (December 27, 2010). "Mexican request for U.S. help in drug war detailed". The Washington Post.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  37. ^ Louisa Reynolds (June 14, 2012). "President Ricardo Martinelli is Panama's most unpopular president, says recent poll". NotiCen  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). Retrieved October 29, 2012. 
  38. ^ Randal C. Archibold (December 11, 2011). "Noriega Is Sent to Prison Back in Panama, Where the Terror Has Turned to Shrugs". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  39. ^ "Panama Supreme Court Oks Probe of Corruption Charges Against ex-President". Fox News. January 28, 2015. 
  40. ^ "President Ricardo Martinelli Visits Campus". University of Arkansas Newswire. February 20, 2010. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2012. 
  41. ^ "Ricardo Martinelli". Telemetro. Archived from the original on August 31, 2012. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Martín Torrijos
President of Panama
2009–2014
Succeeded by
Juan Carlos Varela