Panama’s Opposition Holds Final Rallies Before May 4 Vote

Panama’s opposition candidates criticized the ruling party over rising prices and corruption as they wound down their presidential campaigns ahead of national elections on May 4.

Vice President Juan Carlos Varela, who split from the ruling party, said at a rally yesterday that there are “two Panamas,” with the country headed by the “few who have everything.” He vowed to fight inequality and put price controls on basic goods. Former Panama City Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro said he would be open to talks with union leaders who have paralyzed construction across the Central American country, demanding higher wages.

“Guard your vote,” Navarro told thousands of supporters April 26 at a park in Panama City. “For me, your food, your security and your health are more important than concrete.”

Seven candidates are vying to replace President Ricardo Martinelli, who is prohibited from running for a second consecutive term. Martinelli’s wife, Marta Linares, is the vice presidential running mate for ruling party candidate Jose Domingo Arias.

Arias has 31 percent support compared with 27 percent for Navarro and 23.4 percent for Varela, according to a poll published by newspaper La Prensa on April 24. The survey of 2,930 people was taken April 19-22 and has a margin of error of 1.8 percentage points.

Arias, 50, will hold his final campaign rally on May 1. Whoever gets the most votes in the race wins. There is no runoff.

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