Panama’s Supreme Court on December 21 has ordered the provisional detention of former President Ricardo Martinelli, who governed the country from 2009 to 2014.
Ricardo Martinelli, 63, is accused of using public funds to illegally spy on more than 150 prominent people.
The fugitive ex-president faces up to 21 years in prison on charges of running an illegal spy ring.
Among those he allegedly spied on are trade union activists, politicians, lawyers, doctors and business people.
Ricardo Martinelli denied the allegations, saying they were part of a vendetta by current President Juan Carlos Varela.
The Supreme Court ordered the arrest because Ricardo Martinelli failed to appear at a hearing earlier this month.
The former president left Panama in January days before the Supreme Court voted in favor of having him investigated over separate corruption allegations.
Ricardo Martinelli is believed to be living in Miami, Florida.
The court did not give any details about how Ricardo Martinelli’s detention would be sought.
On December 21, Ricardo Martinelli tweeted: “First round of the political trial: without having been properly documented, without charges, without proper notification and without sentence, my provisional arrest has been ordered.”
The Supreme Court launched an investigation into the alleged spying ordered by Ricardo Martinelli in June.
It came after dozens of people alleged they had their phones tapped and that the administration of Ricardo Martinelli prepared dossiers against them containing intimate information.
Among the alleged victims are high-ranking members of the opposition Revolutionary Democratic Party, as well as lawmaker Jose Luis Varela, who is the brother of current President Juan Carlos Varela.
Investigators said the wiretaps were carried out by members of Panama’s National Security Council.
Venezuela has broken diplomatic relations and frozen economic ties with Panama, President Nicolas Maduro announced during Hugo Chavez’s first commemoration.
Nicolas Maduro’ decision comes after Panama requested a meeting at the Organization of American States (OAS) to discuss Venezuela’s crisis.
The president was speaking to other Latin American heads of state at events to mark the first anniversary of the death of the Venezualan leader Hugo Chavez.
At least 18 people have died in anti-government protests in the last month.
“I’ve decided to break political and diplomatic ties with the current government of Panama and freeze all trade and economic relations from this moment on,” Nicolas Maduro told the presidents of Cuba, Raul Castro, Uruguay, Jose Mujica, and Bolivia, Evo Morales, among other leaders gathered around the tomb of Hugo Chavez.
Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli expressed surprise at Venezuela’s decision.
“Panama only hopes that this brother nation finds peace and strengthens its democracy,” Ricardo Martinelli wrote on Twitter.
Nicolas Maduro announced that Venezuela has broken diplomatic relations and frozen economic ties with Panama
Panama’s official statement said the country was “astonished” and called Nicolas Maduro’s words “unacceptable”.
“The measure announced by President Maduro should not become a smoke screen intended to hide reality,” it read.
Earlier, thousands of government supporters and troops took part in a huge parade through central Caracas, commemorating the first anniversary of former President Hugo Chavez’s death.
In other parts of Caracas, anti-government protesters kept up their barricades, despite an appeal made by opposition leaders to “respect” the anniversary.
Last week, the government of Panama requested an urgent meeting of OAS member-states to discuss the unrest in Venezuela.
On Wednesday, the OAS said a meeting would take place the next day behind closed doors to decide whether or not to convene the region’s foreign ministers over the issue.
Nicolas Maduro accused the Panamanian government of conspiring to bring down his government.
“There are moves by the United States government in accord with a lackey government of a right-wing president which has been creating the conditions for the OAS and other bodies to step towards an intervention in our country,” Nicolas Maduro said.
Nicolas Maduro also criticized OAS President Jose Miguel Insulza, who had suggested earlier that a group of observers could be sent to Venezuela – if its government and the opposition found it useful.
Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli says he cancels plans to sell off state-owned land in the duty-free zone of Colon, after violent protests.
Three people have been killed in the clashes between residents and security forces, local media report.
The protesters said the land sale, signed into law on Friday, would cost jobs and cut incomes.
The Colon region is the biggest duty-free zone in Latin America but is blighted by poverty and crime.
President Ricardo Martinelli had said the sale of the state-owned land would benefit the region.
But late on Tuesday, he said on Twitter: “If the people of Colon don’t want the sale of lands in the Free Trade Zone, the sale will be repealed.”
Ricardo Martinelli said instead, commercial rents would be increased and the money reinvested in the region, as protesters had been demanding.
The president, who is on an official visit to Japan, has come under criticism for not breaking off his trip in the face of the continuing protests.
A 27-year-old woman became the latest person to die on Tuesday, following the death of a man and a nine-year-old boy in clashes over the past five days.
Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli says he cancels plans to sell off state-owned land in the duty-free zone of Colon, after violent protests
Opponents of the law included trade unions, members of the Colon Chamber of Commerce and a variety of civil society groups.
A government delegation which had travelled to Colon to meet the protesters returned to the capital, Panama City, on Tuesday after the activists refused to talk to them unless the new legislation was repealed.
Colon Chamber of Commerce President Anacleto Ceballos had announced on Tuesday that a 48-hour strike would be extended for another day.
Panama’s economy has boomed in recent years, but sections of the population remain excluded from its commercial success.
The city of Colon – one of the largest free trade ports in the world and in operation since the 1950s – sits at the end of the Panama Canal just outside the former Panama Canal Zone.
The canal, linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, is Panama’s main source of revenue.
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