The streets of Panama are empty today as millions await the inauguration of Ricardo Martinelli, winner of the May 3 elections with approximately 60 percent of the popular vote. Martinelli, a millionaire who owns the largest supermarket chain in Panama, has vowed to reform the education system and to give $100 pensions to seniors over age 70. He also has promised to combat crime and improve infrastructure, including a pledge to construct a modern subway system in the capital.
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya—currently in exile after last Sunday’s military coup—will be among the world leaders at the inauguration. Other attendees include: Mexican President Felipe Calderón, Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernández, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, and Felipe de Borbon, the heir to the Spanish throne.
Martinelli takes office amid high expectations. But some economists are skeptical whether he will be able to fulfill his promises due to the current economic crisis. One item that will certainly be on the agenda is moving forward the U.S.-Panama free-trade agreement.