Panama’s ex-president Martinelli says he will run again in 2024

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Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli holds up a boxing belt while exiting a courthouse where he was acquitted of charges November 9, 2021 in Panama City, Panama. REUTERS/Erick Marciscano

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PANAMA CITY, July 28 (Reuters) – Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, who is facing open corruption probes, on Thursday declared his intention to run as an independent in the country’s 2024 election.

Martinelli, who led the Central American nation from 2009 to 2014, said on social media that he had officially registered his candidacy with the electoral commission.

The controversial former leader faces an investigation into his role, which involves bribes paid by Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

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Martinelli tweeted that he wanted to be “the candidate of all independent Panamanians.”

He ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004 as a Democratic Change Party candidate, but won in 2009 with more than 60% of the vote after forging an alliance with the Panamenista party.

Martinelli was acquitted in trials in 2019 and 2021 on espionage charges allegedly carried out during his tenure and has insisted he was a victim of political persecution.

On Thursday, he said he “broke the rear-view mirror of hatred.”

While Martinelli has also founded his own political party called Reaching Goals, he said he’s running as an independent part of a “political strategy.”

Established political parties have yet to officially announce their own presidential candidates as Panamanian independents begin the election process earlier.

Of the nearly a dozen independents who have registered to vote so far, the three collecting the most signatures from eligible voters next year will move on to the general election.

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Reporting by Eli Moreno; writing from Kylie Madry; Edited by Bradley Perrett

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