Stand-in for convicted candidate wins Panama presidency


Mr. Mulino entered the race for president later than others because his partner, Ricardo Martinelli, was disqualified due to a money laundering conviction. Despite this setback, Mr. Mulino campaigned on a promise to address the Darién Gap, a dense jungle where many migrants pass through each year.

After winning the election, Mr. Mulino promised that he wouldn’t be controlled by anyone else. Originally, he was running for vice president, but he stepped up to run for president when Mr. Martinelli couldn’t. Even though he didn’t participate in televised debates, Mr. Mulino, who is conservative, was ahead in the polls.

In the end, Mr. Mulino won with 34% of the votes, while Ricardo Lombana, who campaigned against corruption, came in second with almost 25%. Former President Martín Torrijos got 16% of the votes, and lawyer Rómulo Roux got 11%. None of the other candidates got more than 10%.

Many voters hoped that Mr. Mulino would bring back the economic growth Panama experienced when Mr. Martinelli was president from 2009 to 2014. After his victory, Mr. Mulino assured his supporters that he would work hard for Panama and that he wasn’t controlled by anyone else.

However, some eyebrows were raised when Mr. Mulino visited Mr. Martinelli in the Nicaraguan embassy, where Mr. Martinelli sought asylum to avoid going to jail for his money laundering conviction.

During his campaign, Mr. Mulino made a bold promise to “close” the Darién Gap, the thick jungle between Panama and Colombia that many migrants cross on their way to the United States. This promise will be challenging to fulfill, as will addressing a drought that has affected the Panama Canal’s operation.

As a pro-business leader, Mr. Mulino plans to attract investments while also addressing concerns about access to clean water and increasing crime rates. He will take office on July 1, replacing the outgoing president, Laurentino Cotizo.


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