Remarks from Varela’s visit to the White House
President Juan Carlos Varela and Panama's first lady, Lorena Castillo de Varela were greeted by President Trump and first lady Melania Trump, June 19th shortly before noon in the Oval Office.
Their meeting marked the start to Varela’s official tour of the US capital which will include meetings with Trump, International Monetary Fund (IMF) director Christine Lagarde; The president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno; And the main US security and migration authorities.
The Press Office of the White House released a report with the remarks of President Trump and President Varela shortly after their introductory meeting.
Trump said, “It’s our great honor to have President and Mrs. Varela from Panama. And we have many things to discuss. We’re going to spend quite a bit of time today -- the Panama Canal is doing quite well. I think we did a good job building it, right?”
Varela replied, “One hundred years ago.”
Before traveling to the White House Varela warned against agreeing to US bases in Panama.
According to a report from La Estrella, a group of “prominent Panamanian citizens” issued an open letter with a clear message: “no more US bases in Panama under any circumstances.
“Under no circumstances’ should the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking be allowed to ‘involve the establishment in our territory of military forces from the United States or any other country,’ states the letter, signed by the ex-magistrate Guillermo Márquez Amado, former President Juan Antonio Tejada, former Director of the National Police Ebrahim Asvat, ex-legislator Teresita Yanis de Arias, Olimpo Sáez, Ricardo Bermúdez, Pedro Vargas, Alejandro Garrido, Carlos González De la Lastra, Briseida de Lódy pez, Guillermo Ríos and Raúl Arias.
“After decades of struggle and sacrifice, Panama has overcome the presence of troops in its territory and prescribed at the constitutional level the existence of a national army, which is why we do not understand why sectors within the country are fanning such a proposal,” the letter says.
The letter concludes Varela’s meeting with Trump occurs “at a time of great internal political weakness, civil unrest and lack of credibility injustice.”