Above: President-Elect Juan Carlos Varela
By the Caribbean Journal staff
Panama has picked its next president, Juan Carlos Varela, who defeated challenger
Varela, who is currently the country’s vice president, received just over 39 percent of the vote, topping Navarro, who received just under 28 percent of the vote, according to preliminary statistics from Panama’s Electoral Tribunal.
Varela received around 670,028 votes, according to the preliminary numbers. There were a total of seven candidates in the race.
Varela will succeed current President Ricardo Martinelli, who has been in office since 2009.
“Thank you very much, I live you much Panama!” Varela said in a statement posted on social media.
Organization of American States Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza congratulated Varela in a phone call, sending best wishes “in the tasks that await your administration.”
He also noted what he called the “exemplary manner in which the election was held.”
Martinelli has been pushing relations between Panama and the wider Caribbean region, and it’s not yet clear whether that will change under a Varela administration. Martinelli’s regional push included stronger ties with both Haiti and Trinidad, in particular.
Panama is the second Central American country to choose a new leader in less than a month, following Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera’s victory in April.