On May 25 it will be two years since the Public Ministry ordered the preventive detention of Luis Cucalón, the former head of the General Directorate of Revenue, for alleged irregularities in the collection of taxes through the company Cobranzas del Istmo.
After being questioned for 12 hours, the First Anti-Corruption Prosecutor sent the former official to the Judicial Investigation Directorate. Three months later, on August 11, 2015, he was transferred to El Renacer Penitentiary.
Almost a month later, on Sept. 9, he was admitted to Punta Pacifica Hospital, where he has remained.
Reports from the Institute of Forensic Medicine, which endorsed the transfer, state that the former official had shoulder surgery and suffered from high blood pressure, a situation that affected his eyesight. In addition, it said he had depression and insomnia.
Cucalón also has a history of obstructive pulmonary disease, so it recommended medical attention until doctors determined that he had recovered. To date, he has been in the hospital for 20 months.
Meanwhile, in Panamanian prisons there are at least 100 inmates living with HIV and a significant number of inmates suffer from chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes, as well as heart problems, according to Deputy Director of the Penitentiary System Sharon Díaz.
Who pays the bills? According to the Ministry of Government (Mingob), in charge of the Penitentiary System, and the Directorate of Penitentiary Affairs of the Judicial Branch, his family is responsible.
Carmen Boyd, a spokeswoman for Cucalón's relatives, said that some of the expenses have been paid "through collaborations from close friendships," and that the family has had to sell properties to cover "the hospital".
According to data collected by La Prensa, the daily cost of a "presidential" room in that hospital is $1,300, for which 20 months would represent an expense of $780,000.
A suite is worth $422 a day and 20 months would cost $253,200, while a "private" room costs $211, and would represent an expense of $126,600.