Ardito Barletta’s Cabinet Resigns
PANAMA CITY, Panama (AP) _ President Nicolas Ardito Barletta’s 13-member Cabinet resigned Friday, presidential spokeswoman Migdalia Fuentes said.
She read a brief statement that offered no explanation for the sudden resignations of the ministers picked by Ardito Barletta soon after he took office for a five-year term in October 1984.
The statement said a new Cabinet would be announced soon.
It was not known if Ardito Barletta had asked for the resignations, which came at an early morning meeting on Friday.
The president and his Cabinet have come under increasing criticism in recent weeks from some members of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, the country’s largest and most powerful political organization.
The party, forged by the late strongman Gen. Omar Torrijos, joined in a coalition with six smaller parties in backing Ardito Barletta’s candidacy in the 1984 balloting, the country’s first direct elections for president in 16 years.
However, prominent members of the Democratic Revolutionary Party have found fault with the way the president has been coping with the economic problems and have been calling for changes in the government.
Some party spokesmen, quoted in statements given prominent space in the local press, said recently that if Ardito Barletta refused to change his Cabinet he would be forced to step down.
The statement read by Mrs. Fuentes said the resignations would allow Ardito Barletta’s government ″to confront with greater energy the preservation of democratic institutions and the challenges of the country’s economic, social and political development.″
It said the ministers had ″done a satisfactory job in the midst of difficult and complex conditions derived from the grave economic situation the country is undergoing.″
On Wednesday, in a May Day speech, Ardito Barletta made an apparent reference to tatements about his stepping down and to persistent rumors of a coup attempt against his government.
He said, ″We have a mandate that we will defend firmly and which will culminate in 1989. Hear me well - in 1989 and not before - and in that, nobody should have any illusions or fool themselves.″
A source close to the president, who spoke on condition he not be identified, said the new Cabinet was expected to give a stronger voice to the Democratic Revolutionary Party and the recently formed Labor Party, which also is closely tied to the military establishment.
The military ruled from a coup in 1968 until last year’s elections and continues to play an important role in politics.
Panama has a $3.8 billion foreign debt, one of the highest per capita in the world. It suspended payments on its debt principal in January and is seeking to stretch out an estimated $580 million in payments due this year.