Secretary of State Antony Blinken during special chat.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the announcement to bar the entry of former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli. Photo: @SecBlinken.

The United States prohibits the entry of Ricardo Martinelli, former president of Panama

Martinelli's kids have also been sent back to Panama by the U.S.


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Through a statement on Twitter, the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said on Wednesday, Jan. 25 that due to former Panama President Ricardo Martinelli's ties to the Odebrecht scandal and two cases in Spain, both he and his family members will no longer be able to enter the U.S.

Washington's sanctions for corruption against Martinelli, president of Panama between 2009 and 2014, occur after the former president had received bribes to award contracts illegally as part of the international scandal.

Odebrecht's shadow

The scandal was one of the biggest episodes of corruption in history, not only in Panama, but several Latin American countries that their governments bribed by the Brazilian construction company.

Martinelli, specifically, was called to trial in November 2022, along with 35 other people, to answer charges of money laundering and for undermining the integrity of his country's democratic institutions.

The investigation into the Odebrecht case in Panama, which was opened in 2015, culminated in 2018 after the Brazilian company confessed in the U.S. to having paid millions in bribes in a dozen countries.

In July 2017, Odebrecht agreed with the Panama Prosecutor's Office to pay $220 million over a 12-year period, something they say is not being fulfilled.

The ex-president is also being investigated in Spain for a case of alleged corruption for bribes that the Spanish construction company FCC confessed to have paid in Panama, and another where involving a case of espionage in Mallorca against a woman.

Martinelli's children return to Panama

Ricardo Martinelli and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, the two sons of the former president, were sent back to their country on the same day as Blinken's announcement, after serving their sentence for money laundering in the United States.

According to CNN, the Martinelli brothers were escorted from New York to the Tocumen International Airport in Panama City by officials from the United States Office of Detention and Deportation, and handed over to officials from the National Immigration Service, according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Panama.

"These designations reaffirm the United States' commitment to combating corruption, which harms the public interest, hinders the economic prosperity of countries, and reduces the ability of governments to respond effectively to the needs of their people. The United States continues to support to all Panamanians in support of democracy and the rule of law, and will continue to promote accountability for those who abuse public power for personal gain, regardless of their position or political affiliation," Blinken's statement ended.


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