RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014), who is on trial for illegal wiretapping, and former congressman José Luis Varela, brother of former President Juan Carlos Varela (2014-2019), an alleged victim of the illegal wiretapping, got into an argument and brawled on Monday (11) during the trial.
The heated exchange between the two politicians, which did not lack shoving, mutual insults, and violent abuse, occurred at the exit from the court where Martinelli was charged with alleged illegal wiretapping during his term.
Read also: Check out our coverage on Panama
“They are disrespectful; they are thieves? Drug dealers, drug dealers, drug dealers! And let him tell me otherwise because I’ll prove it to him… And that son of a bitch can sue me,” Martinelli told the former congressman.
The supermarket magnate, known in the political world as “the crazy one,” went further and showed his clenched fist in the air, saying that the former congressman “deserved his fist.”
He said, “Coward, ayy…. cueco (NdR: a homophobic insult) that you are, cueco,” Varela told Martinelli, opening and closing the fingers of his hands in a sign of what is called “culillo” (fear) in Panamanian slang.
Regarding the alleged exchange of blows with Martinelli that took place in the court’s premises, Varela stated, “He threw me, and we hit each other, we hit each other, he threw me, and I kicked him, I kicked him properly!”
Varela told reporters that the former president was “very upset” about the situation in which he found himself “persecuted by the judiciary” and with his children detained in Guatemala, stressing, “I have no hatred for him, I have sympathy and compassion for him.”
The former congressman Varela concluded this Monday a three-day cross-examination as an alleged victim of illegal wiretapping, during which he acknowledged about a dozen pieces of evidence and transcripts of his intercepted conversations, as he announced in a statement on his social networks.
Martinelli’s new trial on political espionage charges began last July after a month-long delay due to two suspensions and after the cancellation of the first trial in which he was found “not guilty.”
Martinelli, who calls the trial a “political sham,” faces up to eight years in prison for two felonies: Interception of telecommunications and prosecution and surveillance without judicial authorization.
The 69-year-old former president is accused of intercepting the telecommunications of nearly 150 people, including business people, rival politicians, and even his allies, as well as journalists.
In Panama, in addition to this case, Martinelli has been indicted and banned from leaving the country in the Odebrecht affair. He is accused of money laundering and in the “New Business” affair related to purchasing a media conglomerate.
Two sons of the former Panamanian president, Ricardo Alberto and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, have been held in Guatemala for more than a year because the United States is demanding their extradition for bribes Odebrecht case.