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(Dec 03, 2010) On November 24, 2010, Act 78 of 2009, repealing the legal basis for Panama's membership in the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), entered into force. The law was adopted on November 30, 2009. (Ley 78 de 2009 que deroga las leyes que aprueban los instrumentos internacionales relativos al Parlamento Centroamericano, 26425 GACETA OFICIAL (Dec. 11, 2009),

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli had announced before he took office, having made it a campaign issue, that "he would make it a point to withdraw Panama from the regional body" because he considered it to be ineffective. (Panama Officially Withdraws from Central American Parliament, PRENSA.COM (Nov. 24, 2010), World News Connection online subscription database, Doc. No. 201011241477.1_8bea0048f85b4a83; Panama: Disagreement over Decision to Quit Central American Parliament, PRENSA.COM (Nov. 23, 2010), World News Connection online subscription database, Doc. No. 201011231477.1_d41f002787b6e125.) The government reportedly had to resort to the adoption of Act 78 after it refused the option, put forward by Guatemala and Nicaragua, that would have required unanimous agreement by the other PARLACEN Member States in order for Panama to withdraw. (The Parlacen Lost a Member for the Withdrawal of Panama [Google-translation into English], TODANOTICIA.COM (Nov. 24, 2010),

Panama's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) pointed out in a statement issued on November 23, 2010, that "a note presenting the Panamanian government's official resignation, in accordance with the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties," had been submitted to the Foreign Ministry of Guatemala 12 months previous. The Panamanian government also reaffirmed in the statement that the country's "withdrawal from PARLACEN is a sovereign and irrevocable decision of the Panamanian State." (Panama Officially Withdraws from Central American Parliament, supra; Press Release, MOFA, Comunicado Oficial: Salida de Panamá del PARLACEN (Nov. 23, 2010),

Panama joined PARLACEN 16 years ago under the presidency of Guillermo Endara (1990-1994). Act 78 repeals the law passed on May 16, 1994, that approved Panama's accession to the Treaty Establishing PARLACEN and Other Political Bodies (Tratado Constitutivo del Parlamento Centroamericano y Otras Instancias Políticas, signed in Guatemala on October 2, 1987). (Secretaría General del Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana, Instrumentos Jurídicos del Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana (Jan. 2010), at 281-288,
.) Act 78 also nullifies a January 27, 2005, law sanctioning the Fourth Protocol to the Treaty (signed in Guatemala on February 26, 2004), which supported the accession of the Dominican Republic to PARLACEN. (Id. at 296; The Parlacen Lost a Member for the Withdrawal of Panama, supra.)

On November 22, 2010, four members of Panama's opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), who are also members of PARLACEN, submitted a letter to the MOFA stating their decision to remain members despite the government's decision. One of the letter's signatories, Dorindo Cortez, who since October has been has been serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors of PARLACEN for the period 2010-2011, "explained that the current members were elected for five-year terms, and Panama must comply with that commitment." Cortez also stated "that the Central American Court of Justice [Corte Centroamericana de Justicia, CCJ] ruled that Panama may not unilaterally decide to leave Parlacen." (Panama: Disagreement over Decision to Quit Central American Parliament, supra; Resolución de la consulta de la CCJ sobre denuncia Panamá, PARLACEN website, (last visited Nov. 25, 2010) [scroll down right-hand side of webpage].)

Cortez announced that PARLACEN will ask the Court, which issued its ruling in October 2010, to execute it. The CCJ held that Panama cannot "denounce or withdraw unilaterally from the Treaty Establishing the Central American Parliament" and ordered Panama "to refrain from unilateral actions that violate the principles and purposes of the Central American Integration System (SICA) [Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana]." (The Parlacen Lost a Member for the Withdrawal of Panama, supra; Panama-Guide, Central American Court of Justice Orders Panama to Remain in PARLACEN, PLAYACOMMUNITY.COM (Oct. 22, 2010),
; see also SICA in Brief, SICA Portal,
(last visited Nov. 25, 2010).)

PARLACEN was established in 1991; the five Member States have been Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador; and Panama. The Dominican Republic has "Special Observer" status and Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and the Republic of China (on Taiwan) are "Permanent Observers." (The Central American Parliament: PARLACEN, PARLACEN website, (last visited Nov. 25, 2010).

Author: Wendy Zeldin More by this author
Topic: International affairs More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Panama More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 12/03/2010