Varela speaks with The Dialogue in Washington

On Wednesday, the third day of his official mission in the United States, the President of the Republic, Juan Carlos Varela spoke about democracy, security efforts, the Government's foreign policy agenda and the fight against drugs, in a forum presented by the non-profit The Dialogue.

The forum was moderated by Michael Shifter, president of the organization. 

The Washington NGO that operates as a center for analysis, exchange, and policy communication on various issues. Members from the United States, Canada and 21 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean took part in the conversation. The Dialogue encourages debates as they are the path to “solutions and improved cooperation within the Western Hemisphere.”

According to an article published by La Estrella, Varela began by saying he was in the same place five years ago, occupying the position of Vice President of the Republic and in a totally different situation.

He said that Panama has a strong democracy, supported by separation of powers, independent courts and that democracy is the reason why the country's economy is growing.

Speaking on the topics discussed with President Trump, he said that collaboration to solve some of the problems affecting the region was the central theme of the meeting, projecting Panama as a strong partner to work as a team, fostering peace social, stability and strengthening of democracy.

"I am very proud of my country and what we did last year, including the expansion of the Panama Canal that now allows the United States to export liquefied natural gas to Asia," Varela said. 

Topics President Varela spoke to during The Dialogue Forum: 

- The country’s growth, explaining that the country has strengthened in several sectors, with a growth of 6.4% in the national economy and a decrease in unemployment.  

- 100,000 Immigrants from Colombia, Venezuela, and Central America.

- Solving two major crises. The crisis of Cuban and Ecuadorian refugees in Panama attempting to reach the United States. 

- A security budget largely dedicated to competing drugs and organized crime and increased social awareness 

"We must work together on a campaign to convince people that every time money is given to a drug dealer or street vendor, they are funding people who murder children and families," he said.

-  When asked about Venezuela and the role of the military, he commented that the constant confrontation of the military with civil society is not a good sign for democracy. 

- When asked about Panama’s recent decision to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and begin relations with China: 

“Varela discussed a visit he made to China a decade ago where he was able to learn about the country’s reformatted economic system and the high value the Chinese government placed on supporting trade and foreign investment. The trip influenced Varela’s perspective on China and he stated publicly in 2007 that if he was elected president of Panama he would call for diplomatic relations with Beijing. He was proud to have delivered on his decade-long promise. Varela announced that Panama did not receive any special promises or deals from China that influenced his cutting ties with Taiwan, and he went on to say that the main reason for the diplomatic switch was to create business with an open door and to do what’s best for the Panamanian people. At the same time, the President expressed sadness in ending ties with Taiwan, citing that the people of Taiwan had been very good to him and his wife, and called for the two countries to reinstate a diplomatic truce.”

Read the full Conversation with Juan Carlos Varela President of Panama on The Dialogue here