Mayor faces probe over spending

Humberto Sánchez has been stripped of immunity.

He has been accused of using state resources for political campaigns.


"I only charged 5 percent commission."

This was the statement that caused an uproar during the May election campaign. It was made by Rio de Jesús Mayor Humberto Sánchez and referred to his handling of $7.5 million in funds that the Ministry of Economy and Finance transferred to four politicians from the area.

A number of civic groups immediately called for an investigation into the mayor, and he was the subject of a complaint accusing him of using public funds for political campaigns.

The owner of a 400-square-meter home in Virgin of Carmen, which stands out among the more modest residences in the area, the mayor handled funds that were granted to CD deputies Carlos Afú of Los Santos and Noriel Salerno of Aguadulce.

He was called to testify in the hearing that challenged Afu's election. There, the mayor explained how he distributed the money.

"They only see the bad and not the good," he said of his critics.

He said that the money he called "commissions" totalled $376,000 and was used for projects in the community.

He also received funds from deputy candidate Francisco Brea and mayoral candidate Samid Sandoval, both of Veraguas.

Sánchez has been stripped of immunity by the judges of the Tribunal Electoral (TE), and will face charges of using state funds to benefit political campaigns.

The investigation has included an audit to examine spending in the community, as well as in other municipalities in the region.

During the election period, the government of Ricardo Martinelli transferred $76 million to community boards and municipalities. There have been numerous allegations that this money was used to influence voters, a violation of electoral rules.


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