Juan Carlos Varela, President of Panama (since Jul 1, 2014)
Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez (born 12 December 1963) is a Panamanian politician who has been President of Panama since 2014. Previously he served Vice President of Panama from 2009 to 2014; he was also Minister of Foreign Relations from July 2009 to August 2011. He has been the President of the Panameñista Party, the third-largest in Panama, since 2006.
On 4 May 2014, Varela won the 2014 presidential election with over 39% of the votes, against the party of his former political partner Ricardo Martinelli, Cambio Democrático, and their candidate José Domingo Arias. He was sworn in on 1 July 2014.
Born in Panama City, Juan Carlos Varela is an entrepreneur, with family roots in the province of Herrera. After graduating from Colegio Javier, he attended the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States, where he received a Bachelor of Industrial Engineering in 1985.
In the private sector, Varela has been on the board of Varela Hermanos, a family company, since 1985 and was executive vice president of the company until 2008.
In the political arena, he worked in political campaigns beginning in the 1990s, was chief of the Panameñista Party campaign in 1994 and was the Panameñista Party’s presidential candidate during the 2009 election. He joined forces with his rival in the presidential race, Ricardo Martinelli, as the candidate for Vice President, and on May 3, 2009, was sworn in as Vice-President of Panama. Varela won the 2014 presidential election, winning against the ruling-party candidate José Domingo Arias, who was supported by Cambio Democrático, a party led by outgoing President Ricardo Martinelli. Varela won about 39% of the vote against 32% for Arias.
Varela is married to journalist Lorena Castillo and has three children.
Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Berrocal, Former President of Panama
Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Berrocal (born 11 March 1952, in Panama City) is the 46th and current President-Elect of the Republic of Panama after winning the 2009 Panamanian Presidential election. He is a Panamanian politician and businessman of Italian descent from his father’s side. Martinelli is the son of Ricardo Martinelli Pardini and Gloria Berrocal. He completed his secondary education at Staunton Military Academy in Staunton, Virginia in the United States. In 1973, he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Arkansas. He later earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the INCAE Business School. Martinelli is married to Marta Linares and has three children: Ricardo Martinelli Linares, Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares and Carolina Martinelli Linares.
Martinelli is currently the chairman of the board of Panama’s Super 99 supermarket chain. He is chairman of two other companies and sits on the boards of at least eight other companies.
During the presidency of Ernesto Perez Balladares, Martinelli served as Director of Social Security from 1994 to 1996. From September 1999 to January 2003, during the presidency of Mireya Moscoso he served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal and as the Minister for Canal Affairs Martinelli is the president of the Democratic Change party, which was founded in May 1998. He was the leader of the party and a presidential candidate during the 2004 general election, when his party came last with results of 5% of the vote.
Martinelli is the leader of Democratic Change and presidential candidate in the 2009 general election. He made promises to cut political corruption and reduce violent crime and spent an estimated $35 million on promoting his campaign. Martinelli was the favourite to win the election and opinion polls gave him a double-digit lead over the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party-People’s Party coalition. He has the support of the Alliance for Change, a group of political parties which includes his own Democratic Change party, the Panamerista Party, the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement and the Patriotic Union Party.
In 2004 Ricardo Martinelli founded “The Ricardo Martinelli Foundation”, for which he acts as fundraiser. The Foundation grants more than 8,000 scholarships a year to poor students with good scholastic averages.
On May 3, 2009, Ricardo Martinelli won the national elections by a landslide, with over 60% of the votes compared to his closest rival, Balbina Herrera, who received about 36%. This was the most ample margin ever recorded since 1989. He is expected to take office on July 1, 2009.
Martín Erasto Torrijos Espino, Former President of Panama
Martín Erasto Torrijos Espino (born 18 July 1963, in Panama City) is a Panamanian politician and the current President of Panama.
Torrijos was elected President on 2 May 2004. As the candidate of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) – running as the Patria Nueva alliance, with the support of the smaller People’s Party (PP) – Torrijos won the presidential election with about 47% of the vote, defeating three rivals. His closest challenger, former President Guillermo Endara of the Solidarity Party, conceded defeat after finishing 17 percentage points behind Torrijos.
The result had been widely expected: prior to the vote, Torrijos was well ahead of his three competitors in the opinion polls. He took office on 1 September 2004.
Martín Torrijos is the son of Omar Torrijos Herrera, who was Panama’s social reformer and military strongman from 1968 to 1981. The younger Torrijos studied political science and economics at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, United States. He is a graduate of St. John’s Military Academy located in Delafield, Wisconsin. During the presidency of Ernesto Pérez Balladares (1994–1999) he served as deputy minister for the interior and justice. His most significant achievement as deputy minister was to sign into law the complete privatization of Panama’s water utilities. When the new law proved unpopular the PRD effected a reversion to the previous system.
Torrijos ran as the PRD’s candidate in the 1999 Panamanian presidential election, finishing in second place after Mireya Moscoso of the Arnulfista Party, whose husband had been deposed by Omar Torrijos in a 1968 coup d’état. Mireya Moscoso’s government ended with an approval rate of about 15%, mostly because of corruption scandals and incompetence, on which Torrijos capitalized successfully with a marketing campaign that had three major slogans: less corruption, create more jobs and improve security.
His administration has taken aim at specific projects, including fiscal reforms and social security reforms (now completed) and, as announced on 27 April 2006, the Panama Canal expansion project that was approved in a national referendum on 22 October 2006, in accordance with Constitution.
In November, 2006, Torrijos took a public stance in favor of Puerto Rico’s independence.