Former President of Panama Banned from Presidential Election Amid Money Laundering Conviction

Panama’s former President, Ricardo Martinelli, has been barred from running in the upcoming presidential election after being convicted of money laundering and sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. Despite leading in polls, Martinelli’s candidacy was annulled by the electoral tribunal, citing the constitution’s disqualification of candidates with sentences exceeding five years. Martinelli, a prominent supermarket tycoon, has been seeking asylum in the Nicaraguan embassy in Panama City since February. The decision to rule out his candidacy has sparked political controversy, with Martinelli denouncing the charges as politically motivated and claiming an imminent risk to his life. While Nicaragua has granted Martinelli asylum and requested his travel to the country, Panama has denied the request. As the electoral court names his vice-presidential candidate as his replacement on the ballot, the future of Panama’s leadership remains uncertain. The case exemplifies the intersection of politics, law, and asylum-seeking in a region known for its complex history of governance and corruption.