- In-Country Power
- International Power
- Military Strength
- Special Skill:
- Official Title: President
- Government: Well-established democracy
- Years Left in Office: To 2019; No re-election possible
- Political Classification: Center-left
- Education: BA in Industrial Engineering
- Age: 55 (born December 12, 1963)
Juan Carlos Varela Facts and Information
- President of the Panamenista political party since 2006
- Vice President of Panama from 2009-2014
- Planned to run for presidency in 2009 elections; but allied with the CD (democratic change) party as a Vice president.
- Right conservative political views, has a history of actively fighting against military dictatorships to establish a democracy.
Juan Carlos Varela graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Industrial Engineering. He married Lorena Castillo and has 3 children. He attended a Jesuit school for his young and adolescent life which motto is “Men for the service of faith and Justice”. He is the executive VP of Varela Hermanos, the leading liquor production and distribution company in Panama. Very very good rum!
He started his political career at a young age, and has never looked back since. Mr. Varela has been actively involved in politics since 1989 when he formed part of the “Cruzada Civilista” an organized group of civilians that repelled the militarily dictatorship of general Noriega. A true believer in democracy, this guy took the streets and fought against Noriega’s troops to bring democracy back to Panama. He was close to loosing his life on a violent attack to the “Cruzada Civilista” headquarters. He was part of Panama’s first true democratic government after the US kicked Noriega out during the presidency of Guillermo Endara.
After this he kept his involvement in politics, he joined the Panamenista party in 1992. Also formed part of the political campaign teams for Panamenista presidential candidates in 1999 and 2004.
In 2009 it seemed that the PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party) candidate for presidency Balbina Herrera, was going to win the election. It was known that Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and other socialist leaders from the region funded Herrera’s campaign. If Herrera won Panama’s democracy was going to be in jeopardy. Mr. Varela decided to join forces with CD presidential candidate, Ricardo Martinelli to gain enough votes to beat the PRD party. Martinelli won the election and Mr. Varela became the VP. After a couple of months, Martinelli dismissed Varela from his chancellor position, causing the alliance between the two parties to break. From this moment on Varela has been against Martinelli in every step of the way.
Now that Mr. Varela will be President he is devoted to eliminate corruption in the government. He wants to regain the trust of the people for its government. He wants to make them feel that politicians are there to serve them, not to serve from them. Panamas biggest political problem is the massive levels of corruption, with politicians who drain state funds for their own personal use. Mr. Varela comes in as a type of “corruption cop” promising to bring all the corrupt politicians to justice and create new laws that will offer transparency. At least this is what he proposes.
Mr. Varela says that in his government, any public funding will be rigorously analyzed and later revealed to the public so the people can see where their money is going. He promises a government with dialogues, one who puts the people first, and uses the State resources to improve the quality of life in the country. Hmmm… I feel I’ve heard this story before. We will need to see what happens in the next 5 years but if he can walk the talk, he will be one hell of a President. His motto is “If anyone one to makes money, got to the private sector” A declaration that his government will not be working with people who want to make money off the government.
Mr. Varela is emphatic about the need for human development. His major plans will be:
1) Make clean water available for everyone in the country, along with a good system of trash recollection and correct sewage treatment.
2) Clean up the slums and create safer neighborhoods with more opportunities for young people to work and move away from poverty.
3) Reform the educational systems to guarantee bilingual education for everyone in the country.
4) Develop a heath care system of superior quality, also available for everyone in the country.
Something that cannot be forgotten about Mr. Varela is that at the time when Panama had a referendum and voted on the decision to expand the Panama Canal Mr. Varela was energetically against the expansion. He believed that Panama’s economy was not in a position to support such a massive construction project. He was wrong, really wrong. Panama has enjoyed constant economic growth rates over the past decades. In the past months the company in charge of the expansion of the canal went on strike in an attempt to gain more money. The Panama Canal Association, negotiated with them, and construction was stopped for only a couple of days. There is a chance that another strike might happen and it will be interesting to see how Varela reacts if this happens, with his promises of cutting government spending, and his previous position on the topic, might mean more trouble between the two parties.
Mr. Varela receives a country that is, economically, the envy of most Latin American countries. He has a chance to regain the people’s trust in the government by eliminating corruption and reducing the massive and unnecessary amounts of government spending in previous years. His passion for justice and democracy is his best asset. He also promises a timely reinstitution of the relationship with Venezuela, one of the main trading partners of Panama. For the next five years I expect Mr. Varela to clean up the corrupt institutions, provide better living conditions for the poor, and keep producing awesome rum from his liquor company.
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