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juan carlos varela


The first voyage through the newly-enlarged Panama Canal has been made by a giant Chinese container ship.

The vessel was greeted with fireworks and cheers from a crowd that had gathered at the Cocoli locks to celebrate.

Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela described the waterway as a route that would unite the world.

Juan Carlos Varela thanked the nearly 30,000 people who had worked on the canal’s expansion.

Construction on the new lane for Panama Canal, which runs for 48 miles, began in 2007 and was due to finish in 2014.

However, strikes and disputes over costs delayed the $5.2 billion project.

Photo euronews

Photo euronews

The original Panama Canal was first used in August 1914. It was built by the US and handed over to local control in 1999.

The expansion allows a new, much-larger generation of container ships to pass through the isthmus.

Some 35 to 40 vessels transit the waterway everyday.

Panama hopes the expansion will increase the revenues it gets from the canal, reported to have been $2.6 billion in 2015.

However, the canal could face competition from a new passage in Nicaragua.

The controversial 172 mile scheme, being built by a Chinese company, will be longer, deeper and wider than the Panama Canal.

Panama Canal’s construction started in 2014 and it is estimated to cost $50 billion.

Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela has announced his country is creating an international panel to help improve transparency in its offshore financial industry.

The announcement follows the leak of millions of documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, showing it helped some clients evade tax and avoid sanctions.

Several countries are probing possible financial crimes by the rich and powerful in the aftermath of the leak.

In a TV address, President Juan Carlos Varela said Panama would work with other countries over the revelations.

“The Panamanian government, via our foreign ministry, will create an independent commission of domestic and international experts,” he said.

Photo PA News

Photo PA News

The panel would examine working practices and propose measures that could be shared to strengthen the transparency of the financial and legal systems.

Correspondents say President Varela is eager to defend his country against a “media attack” by wealthy countries that he says are unfairly stigmatizing him following the leak.

Mossack Fonseca, for its part, says that it has been the victim of a hack.

The company’s partner, Ramon Fonseca, insisted the leak was not an “inside job”.

Mossack Fonseca had been hacked by servers based abroad.

It has now filed a complaint with the Panamanian attorney general’s office.

Mossack Fonseca has accused media organizations reporting the leak of having “unauthorized access to proprietary documents and information taken from our company” and of presenting this information out of context.

The revelations have already sparked political reaction in several countries where high-profile figures have been implicated.

On April 5, Iceland’s PM Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson resigned after the documents showed he owned an offshore company with his wife but had not declared it when he entered parliament.

Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson says he sold his shares to his wife and denies any wrongdoing.

Panama’s opposition leader Juan Carlos Varela has won the presidential election with almost 40% of the votes.

Juan Carlos Varela, who is currently the vice-president, had distanced himself from outgoing President Ricardo Martinelli.

Correspondents say Juan Carlos Varela has taken credit for Ricardo Martinelli’s economic success, but has promised a cleaner, more transparent government.

The president’s preferred candidate, the governing party contender Jose Domingo Arias, came second.

President Ricardo Martinelli had actively supported the campaign of Jose Domingo Arias, 50, and the leader’s wife Marta Linares was the candidate’s running mate.

Critics said his support for the Arias-Linares team was an attempt by Ricardo Martinelli to hold on to the reins of power.

Panama’s opposition leader Juan Carlos Varela has won the presidential election with almost 40 percent of the votes

Panama’s opposition leader Juan Carlos Varela has won the presidential election with almost 40 percent of the votes

Under the Panamanian constitution, presidents are obliged to step down after one term and are banned from running for the two following terms.

Juan Carlos Varela, a former centre-right ally of Ricardo Martinelli, fell out with the president after he was dismissed from his post as foreign minister in 2011.

After he had achieved an unassailable lead in the poll, Juan Carlos Varela, 50, told Reuters news agency that “better times are on their way”.

Alluding to allegations of corruption against Ricardo Martinelli’s government, he said his would be “an honest, humane government of national unity”.

Hearing of Juan Carlos Varela’s win, Ricardo Martinelli said: “I know the candidate, and really, may God help us!”

He said in light of Juan Carlos Varela’s success he would change his plans of “enjoying life” and go into opposition instead.

Juan Carlos Varela struck a conciliatory note, saying it was time “to put the party banners away and to govern under one flag, that of Panama”.

Despite his unexpected win in the presidential poll, Juan Carlos Varela’s party only got 11 of the 71 seats in Congress which were also up for election.

After his swearing-in on July 1st, Juan Carlos Varela will therefore have to form alliances with the opposition to push his planned reforms through the legislature.

He faces the challenge of maintaining buoyant growth while dealing with economic inequality, with a quarter of the population living in poverty.

Juan Carlos Varela will also have oversight of a major expansion of the Panama Canal, which accounts for 8% of gross domestic product in the country.

Recent discontent led to a nationwide construction strike over pay, which halted work on the canal and thousands of other projects.

Among the first leaders to congratulate Juan Carlos Varela was Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuela earlier this year broke ties with Panama accusing the Central American nation of fomenting a coup against Nicolas Maduro by offering support to a Venezuelan opposition leader.

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