Jos Raul Mulino was elected as the new president of the Central American country Panama in the national polls held on Sunday May 5 , He got 34.35 per cent of the votes as against 24.83 per cent received by his closest rival Ricardo Lombana. There were five more candidates. Mulino will take over the presidency on July1 this year for a period of five years. Mulino, whose last position in politics was as minister of security in then president Ricardo Martinelli’s 2009-2014 administration, was initially set to be the former leader’s running mate. But Martinelli was disqualified from running for the presidential elections after he was sentenced to prison for ten years for a money laundering case. Mulino then replaced him and got the full backing of his former president. Mulino became known as a successful businessman who took part in a civil movement against the dictatorship of General Manuel Antonio Noriega, who was ousted by the U.S. on December 20, 1989.. He has been active in politics all through. As president, he has promised to stop rising levels of migration through the Darien forests- the only land route connecting the American continents. More than half a million Panamians crossed last year to other countries.

The main tasks for the new leader include dealing with the Central American country’s woes with government corruption, a severe drought that has affected maritime traffic in the economically important Panama Canal, as well as US-bound migrants passing through Panama’s jungles in droves. Mulino has to create substantial job opportunities in the country with three million eligible voters to stop migration of the educated youth to the other countries of the continent.

Voters were highly concerned about corruption and the economy. The term of outgoing President Laurentino Cortizo of the majority Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) was marred by allegations of widespread official corruption, declining foreign investment and high public debt. The outgoing president Laurentino Cortizo of the majority Democratic Revolutionary Party faced huge protests during his tenure against the government decision to offer concessions to Canadian companies for copper mining. The country also faces high income inequality, with unemployment close to 10 percent, and gross domestic product (GDP) growth is forecast to slow from 7.3 percent in 2023 to 2.5 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. Lying at the crossroads of the North and South American continents and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Panama is of immense strategic importance. This has made it the frequent object of US attention. The United States supported its secession from Colombia in 1903, and secured a sovereign zone in which to build the Panama Canal – which remained under US control from 1914 until 1999. The US invaded in 1989 to depose a former ally, military ruler Manuel Noriega, over his repressive rule and use of the country as a centre for drug trafficking. Panama has the largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere outside the Amazon Basin.

However, it is for a feat of engineering, the canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, that Panama is famous. Every year more than 15,000 vessels make the eight-hour journey through the waterway, which makes a substantial contribution to the economy. In the recent years, in many Latin American countries, the left wing parties achieved victory in presidential elections and running the governments. There has been a resurgence of the left in many countries but right wing parties are unitedly taking on the Left. Last year in Argentina, the left wing president was ousted by the right wing candidate. In Panama, the conservatives and the parties allied to the US are ruling for decades. The same will continue with Mulino taking over as the next president this year.

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