19/12/2012 - Ana Belfon, designated Wednesday by the Cabinet Council as the new attorney general, declined to comment today about attacks on the nomination by the opposition.
"I want to respect the process that is going to be in the Assembly," said Belfon, until recently a legal advisor to the Presidency.
"After my ratification, I will talk," she said.
Panama Governor Mayin Correa defended the appointment of Belfon, who was a prosecutor under dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega.
"She has made a career in the judiciary," the governor stated. "She started from the bottom and has always applied the law."
She argued that Belfon is a brilliant lawyer and said that they worked together in the Panama City Mayor's Office.
She said that if critics want to change the judicial system, they should focus on the laws that have existed for 40 years and are now outdated.
"She is dedicated to the law," Correa said of Belfon.
NAVARRO CASTIGATES THE GOVERNMENT
Opposition leader Juan Carlos Navarro described the appointment of Belfon and José Ayú Prado as a new judge of the Supreme Court as serious errors.
"The government insists on making political appointments in the judiciary, which further weakens our already ailing justice and puts at risk the country's democratic stability," said the politician.
Navarro's party, the PRD, plans to oppose the appointments in the National Assembly.
Front for Democracy leader Mariano Mena said the nomination by President Ricardo Martinelli of Attorney General José Ayú Prado as a judge of the Supreme Court is a case of the president "watching his back."
Mena said that Ayú Prado will be the judge hearing any criminal complaints filed against government officials after the 2014 elections. Mena said that Ayú Prado is sure to continue his lack of prosecution of allegations of corruption by the current government, which he has done as attorney general.
Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD) leader Balbina Herrera today described the appointments of José Ayú Prado and Ana Belfon as Supreme Court justice and attorney general, respectively, as a "national shame,"
She said that the appointments will ensure that acts of corruption by the government will go unpunished. Herrera said Belfon has been characterized by her defense of President Ricardo Martinelli, and has now been rewarded with the appointment.
Herrera asked: "Where is the separation of power, independence?"
She said people can now either demonstrate publicly or remain silent, and vowed to keep fighting against the government.
DIRECT RELATIONSHIP WITH THE GOVERNMENT
PRD Legislator Juan Carlos Arosemena said that there is a general perception that these two people are completely tied to the government and receive orders from Martinelli. He said 2013 will be "very ugly."
"It will be a year full of insults, violence and political persecution," he added.
He said the appointments demonstrate a "lack of seriousness" by the government for the judicial system.
Aníbal Culiolis, vice president of the Partido Popular, said that he fears the "politicization" of the justice system which will be used to silence voices of the opposition, unions and civil society in general.
Former Attorney General Ana Matilde Gómez said the appointments are not a surprise.
She said that the appointments should have been made on an ability to act independently and fairly, and that the process should have been transparent.
Professor Miguel Antonio Bernal predicted bitter moments for Panamanians, and said the National Assembly has been reduced to a "rubber stamp" for the will of the president.
"The Assembly has ceased to be an independent body," he said. "These appointments are approved at light speed."
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