Panama: New President Takes Office, Immediate Restrictions Against Migrants

A memorandum of understanding has been signed with the USA to cover repatriation costs, with 500,000 people moving from the country to the USA last year

The inauguration ceremony of Jose Raul Mulino as the new President of Panama took place on July 1, 2024. Mulino, a member of the Accomplishing Goals (Realizando metas, RM) party, won the May 5, 2024 election with 34.23% of the vote compared to 24.59% for Ricardo Lambrana of the Other Way Movement and Martin Torrijos of the Popular Party with 16.03%. The Revolutionary Democratic Party, which represented the outgoing government, ranked only sixth with less than 6% of preferences.

The strong point of the speech by Jose Raul Mulino, who will rule the country until 2029, concerns migrants, the “humanitarian and environmental” problem. “Panama will no longer be a transit point for illegal immigrants, I will not allow local complicity.”

According to Reuters, more than half a million migrants in 2023 risked their lives through human traffickers to cross the Darien Gap, a dense jungle on the border of Panama and Colombia. According to Italian news agency ANSA, by 2024 the number of migrants will already be 200,000, mostly Venezuelan nationals, although there are fears that the number could reach 800,000 by the end of 2024 (UNICEF estimates).

“We cannot continue to finance the economic and social costs that massive illegal immigration imposes on the country, as well as the associated contacts with international criminal organizations,” explained Mulino, who signed a memorandum of understanding with the USA to close the passage with Washington that would cover the cost of repatriating immigrants who enter Panama illegally. “I ask our security forces to apply the law accordingly, strictly respecting human rights and adhering to the protection of our country’s interests,” Mulino concluded.