Monday, March 22, 2004

Pnma: Secret fund laid bare

Former President Ernesto “Toro” Pérez Balladares has released details of the expenditures from his secret presidential fund during his adminstration to the nation’s larger corporate news media, and El Panama America has published the information in a series of stories. The entire tale has yet to be told, however, as new questions were raised by the revelations.

Before the former president opened his books, there had been a lot of speculation about what the presidential discretionary funds were and are for, with many people presuming that the money must be for matters that must be kept secret for reasons of state security. However, it seems that the bulk of Toro’s discretionary fund went for travel, ceremonial expenses, opinion polls about contemplated policy decisions, subsidies to artists and athletes, relief in emergency situtations, special advisors and ordinary but unbudgeted government expenses. Rather than compensation for 00-type spies, the fund was used for things like subsidizing swimmer Eileen Coparropa’s travel to international competitions, putting on Carnival festivities in Panama City and helping poverty-stricken indigenous communities that had been wiped out by floods.

The biggest questions raised by the former president’s disclosures are about more than $130,000 in unspecified credit card expenses.

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