Presidential Inaugural address

Ricardo Martinelli

July 1, 2009


(English translation courtesy of The Panama News)



Photo courtesy of Presidencia




Today, before God who protects us and my country, I stand here, honored by the confidence that the people have given us.

I am enthusiastic about the work that awaits us.

This transfer of command is something that we all value. What we celebrate today is proof that in Panama the voice of every citizen is heard, and that the democratic principles that unite us are more powerful than any difference.

Although they are not here, I want to thank President Torrijos and the former first lady Vivian de Torrijos for their service to our country. I also thank them for their so generous support in this transition. Together we have demonstrated that this people respects the political dignity of every human being.

I also want to take advantage of this opportunity to sent President Endara our wishes for a prompt recovery.

Here in Panama we have a democratic tradition, which is as solid as a rock. I am honored that the international community is here to celebrate with us this great moment. We have never had so many visitors, from so many parts of the world. All are welcome and we thank them for participating today, in our first steps toward a new Panama , which we see on the horizon.

Our country is unique in many things:

It is the biggest inhabited island on the Pacific littoral.

Panama is the only place in the Caribbean that has indigenous peoples.

This city was the first to be built by the Spaniards here on the Pacific.

Here Vasco Nez de Balboa discovered the South Sea .

But we have something more that distinguishes us. We have grown to become the pass key to the world's economy. If Marco Polo had lived in our epoch, he would have used Panama as his modern spice route.

We Panamanians have always played an important role for our neighbors and the world. And now were are tapped to do it again. In these five years, we are called to demonstrate how our economic and governance model can be an example for all who aspire to prosperity and progress.

Juan Carlos Varela and I are two businessmen who have become involved in politics, to change the way of doing things. We are going to take hold of our experiences in the private sector and put them to work where they have never been seen: in the government.

We are going to debureaucratize the state. "Debureaucratize" is a word that's a little difficult to say, but he who's going to work with me in this government had better learn it.

In the world of business I walked the aisles, asked questions, opened drawers. I learned to face problems. As my great friend and political mentor Samuel Lewis Galindo noted, the government of Ricardo Martinelli will act with firmness and education, but without favors. I believe that time is gold and very short.

Neither Juan Carlos nor I accept this job to remain seated behind a desk. I am a simple, plain and direct man. If I fail somewhat in protocol, I beg your pardon. But we were not elected to add more pages to the protocol book.

This people gave us a clear mandate to bring change to this government, from top to bottom, and that is what we are going to do. The custom that the politicians put their personal interests above those of the people is over. The game of having a fat government and a thin people has come to its end. The era of politicians entering broke and leaving as millionaires is finished.

In my government, you can put your foot in your mouth, but you can't put your hand in the till.

Thus today, we inaugurate a government that's going to put the people's interests first. We know that difficult times are coming. Now is when the government has to be more agile, more transparent and more efficient. It is no secret that we are at the beginning of a world economic crisis.

It is a crisis that we didn't cause, but all of us are going to suffer. It is the worst crisis since the Great Depression of the 30s.

In this storm we are all in the same boat, and in the same boat we are going to face it. The truth is that our government is not going to have the resources that the previous government had.

But this gives us more reason to act with urgency. The Panamanian worker sees the storm gathering above. The changes that we have proposed can not wait any longer. The promises that we made in the campaign are good ideas. They are the mandate that this people demands.

But more than this, they are an integral part of a stimulus plan that we need to get our economy afloat. Tomorrow we will have our first Cabinet Council. We are going to be where we were always walking towards. We are going to be where the change has to happen.

We are going to be the Las Garzas de Pacora, not in the Palacio de las Garzas.

That's where they need jobs.

That's where they need the subway.

That's where they lack public safety.

Las Garzas de Pacora is the point of departure for what we are going to accomplish in the next five years.

I ask you to prepare with me. We will roll up the sleeves and get to work.

We start with this: we are going to raise the salaries of all law enforcement, because they're very badly paid. We are going to give life to one of Juan Carlos's proposals: we will give $100 a month to the old people who have no retirement pension.

And for the students who see us on television or listen on the radio, you can count on scholarships and free books and school supplies. This we will do for all the poor families in Panama .

We will begin a massive land titling program, so what I can tell everyone who's listening who has possessory rights, prepare these rights because you're going to have your piece of land titled.

And we are also going to start the biggest jobs program in the history of Panama after the canal expansion. We are going to start the bidding for the construction of a new subway that will give the Panamanian people a better quality of life. But this is just a start.

We have many more things to do. Nothing is more important than to lower the cost of food. Thus we will augment the sales point for the Compita program, and with no more "married" products.

We are going to give more credit to the agricultural sector and support the self-sustaining farms. In this way we will augment national production and help our farmers produce more food and cheaper food.

Two years ago, we built a house for a forgotten Panamanian named Newton Rodney. Newton taught us a lesson: that like him, there exist more than 165,000 forgotten Panamanian families that suffer the tragedy of not having a safe roof over their heads. We are going to start on a massive plan to build houses for the people. This program will not only go to those families in need of dignified shelter, but it is going to create jobs for construction workers and reactivate the economy.

Everyone who lives in Panama , and those who visit us, deserve a safer country. We are going to turn our jails into rehabilitation centers and not universities of crime.

Minors who commit crimes like adults, we are going to try as adults. And we are going to give more resources and more intelligence support to our police.

To protect the right of citizens to walk along safe streets is one of the primary obligations of any government. we are going to meet this responsibility.

And for those who want to come and invest in Panama , I'm letting them know that our doors are open. I want to leave our mission very clear: we are going to make Panama the best place in Latin America to do business.

This is the best way to generate jobs and have a better quality of life for all Panamanians. And we are going to complement the free trade agreements, with the United States of America and all the other countries of the world, including Europe and our Latin American brothers.

we are proud of our history and our heritage, of our freedom of expression, of our freedom of thought, and our freedom to decide the course that the motherland takes. Panama has to maintain itself as a leader in freedom and justice, not only here in our house, but in our region and our continent.

As president, I will do everything within my reach to advance the ideals of a free economy, challenging the different ideological pendulum that Latin America has.

We are going to be an active partner with Mexico and Colombia in the battle against the narco-terrorists, who have invaded our country, bringing crime, mourning and desperation to our innocent population.

We start this government with an unprecedented mandate: a mandate for change. But this mandate does not go alone. It comes moored to a great responsibility, the responsibility to work together, shoulder to shoulder, leaving behind the political egotisms that have divided us.

We were elected for this: not only for our proposals, but also to change the way of governing. We are going to change the system in which one political party only looks for what it can take from the other, in which the people look for what they can take from the government, in which the government looks for what it can take from the people. It is a vicious circle in which we all believe that we will win like this --- and believe me that it is not so. The truth is that in this game, we are divided one against the others and we all end up losing.

The government does not have to be partisan. We are going to govern with the best, no matter from where the come or their political affiliation.

We are united for something more important than a political party. We are united for our country, and in this way, putting the people's interest first, we are going to govern.

Some say that the challenges that await us are a lot for just one person. But they are not much for a united people. This government is going to keep all the promises that I made. This is my commitment.

The only promise that I probably will not keep is to lose weight, but believe me that I am going to do everything possible.

Until now we have accepted that the destiny of our country is only in the hands of the government. But I believe that our hopes depend on something more powerful than any government. They depend on the sweat and determination of three million Panamanians.

This is the true formula for our success. In five years, another president will be standing here to celebrate a transfer of mandates, but what we begin here will not change, not in five nor in 100 years.

From now on, this government and those who follow it are going to walk in the shoes of the people.

From now on, our governments will not enrich themselves on the people, but will only serve the people.

This is a time of great challenges and opportunities. The world economy is put to the test, and that of Panama as well.

I can tell you: I am not perfect. Perfection is something God reserves for human beings in another life, and I know that we are going to encounter obstacles along the road.

But the difficulties are not going to stop us. On the contrary: they are going to demonstrate our determination. We are going to rise above this economic storm. We are going to come out of it prepared to compete, prepared to win.

This is the moment to be a citizen of this country, because the opportunities that await us are enormous.

I see a Panama with more men and women working.

I see a middle class that's growing and making more money.

I see new technologies producing an unprecedented economic growth.

I see a Panama with better health, better education and more families united and content.

We can do anything that we dream. Then, why not make our future the one we want?

We dream big. Our best days are to come. We are Panamanians, united for a change.

And united, nothing is impossible. United, nothing can defeat us!

I thank all of you, and God bless, and long live Panama .

(Source:  The Panama News, July 7, 2009 at