Congratulations, President Cortizo!
Sunday, May 5, in an unexpectedly close election, Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo eked out a win against second-place finisher Rómulo Roux (in a race that included seven candidates) by two percentage points to become Panama’s sixth elected president since the 1989 U.S. invasion that ousted Manuel Noriega.
“So what is your opinion about the new Panama president?,” Dave M. wrote in to ask, along with several other of your fellow readers, in the week that followed.
What do we think of Nito?
We put the question to our Live and Invest Overseas staff in Panama City.
Here’s what some of them had to say…
Office Assistant Arash Bernal
Of the seven candidates who ran, I found three suitable for the job—Laurentino, Ana Matilde Gómez, and Jose Isabel Blandón. I thought these three had the best chance of being able to deal with the corruption that plagues this country.
So I’d say I’m glad that Nito won. He comes from a traditional family, meaning strong values and a sense of loyalty. He’s a rigid, old-school type and experienced. Given the U.S.-China trade war, which Panama could find itself in the middle of, this is a good thing. Other candidates would be much less prepared to navigate these circumstances.
Nito is a farmer, so the expectation now is that this country’s agro sector will finally receive the attention that it deserves. This is an area of great opportunity for us.
One important promise during the campaign was to improve the standards of education in Panama, which are among the worst in the world (I speak from my own experience). This is critical for the country’s continued growth and development. To my fellow Panamanians, I say, our country is going to continue to grow, meaning more and better opportunities for employment. If you did not get the education you need to get the job you want, pick up a book and start studying.
In general, I foresee (looking into my crystal ball) five years of booming economy and lots of growth. The challenge is going to be for the old money to adapt to the new rules…
Web Programmer Leroy Bruster
Laurentino won with 30% of the votes. That means 70% of voters didn’t want him for president.
So now people are complaining and protesting about the country’s election process…
One of his biggest campaign promises, repeated often during the presidential debates, was to do with agriculture. We should see changes for the better in that industry.
Nito’s PRD party is very organized and one of the oldest in Panama, so he and his team should be able to hit the ground running.
Office Manager Gabriela Colimodio
As a foreigner living in Panama, it may not be my place to say, but I think it’s time for the Asamblea Nacional and the politicians in general to think about changing the Constitution to call for a second round of voting when there is no clear winner by majority, as was the case in this election.
I think this would strengthen the democratic processes and the people’s involvement in the country’s future.
Marketing Designer Candice González
Although I like Nito (the guy has serious charisma), he didn’t impress me during the debates. It was a little disappointing.
And the people behind Nito’s PRD party belong are old-school political sharks. People don’t trust them.
InvestGPS Administrative Manager Paulina Ferrin
People have mixed feelings about Nito’s political party.
However, of all the candidates who ran, he seems to be the best prepared for the role, and he has the team to back him up. This means he should be able to start implementing projects right away rather than improvising his way through the presidency, as has happened in the past.
Nito also seems to have strong opinions about the need to clean up Panama’s name internationally and recognizes the importance of the country’s relationships with both the United States and China. Agriculture is a key focus, and I believe will become a critical part of the direction the country will take from here.
It looks like he has the experience and the Gabinete to get things back on track if he really wants to.
Customer Service Representative Abraham Vargas
In my humble opinion, Nito will do a good job. The country’s expectations are high, but, based on what I’ve seen in the debates, interviews, and government plan, he’s got good ideas for the economy and also for the education system.
The gentleman is very charismatic and seems open to conversations and interviews, unlike Varela, who he’s replacing, who sometimes avoided or even attacked the press.
One thing everyone seems to agree on is that the country’s agriculture industry will grow and get more support in the coming years.
Assistant Editor Edith Cantilo-Paz
President-Elect Laurentino Cortizo and runner-up Rómulo Roux received 33% and 31% of the vote, respectively. Rómulo didn’t concede defeat until two days after the election results came out.
Ricardo Lombana (19%) and Ana Matilde Gómez (5%) together got almost a quarter of the vote… unprecedented for independent candidates.
So, definitely, not everyone is happy with the election result.
However, of 71 seats in the Assembly, the PRD (Nito’s party) has 35 and coalition partners have 5. Seems like a good position for getting things done…
Access Panama Director Evie Brooks
All of my contacts on the ground are very pleased Nito was elected. The belief is that he will complete major infrastructure projects and really invest in growing the country’s tourism industry…
InvestGPS Sales Consultant Neil Mahoney
We should be seeing plenty of big infrastructure projects coming to fruition and a focus on tourism and growing the economy. Definitely a pro-business administration…
InvestGPS Sales Consultant Darren Mahoney
As he was the former minister for agricultural development, Nito’s win is positive news for agricultural investors in this country.
Live and Invest Overseas Staff