Foreign minister axed as Panama coalition founders

31st August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli fired his foreign minister Tuesday as he declared an end to the country's two-party governing coalition.

In a statement, Martinelli said that he could no longer work with his top diplomat Juan Carlos Varela, who also headed one of the two right-of-center governing parties, after he declared his presidential ambitions.

"Varela neglected his job as foreign minister, because he was wearing four hats: top envoy, vice president, party leader and candidate," Martinelli said in a statement, alluding to the fact that the axed minister has said he will run for president in 2014.

Martinelli, 59, said that not only would Varela no longer be his foreign minister, but that the coalition forged between the two governing parties was no more.

"The alliance is over," declared Martinelli, head of Panama's Democratic Change party, as he named his minister for commerce and industry Roberto Henriquez as Varela's replacement.

Varela, 47, who heads the right of center Panamenista Party, said in a statement that the rupture between the two parties was "lamentable."

A conservative multimillionaire businessman Martinelli was declared winner of Panama's presidential election in May 2009, in a landslide victory over his closest rival, social democrat Balbina Herrera, and took office in July of the same year.

A gregarious businessman with a broad smile and shock of white hair, Martinelli ran a business empire including supermarkets, banks and agricultural firms before winning his country's presidency.

© 2011 AFP

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