Statement from Ambassador John D. Feeley on the Access of GESE Dailies to the Financial System of the United States

I and my Embassy colleagues in Panama congratulate all parties involved in the successful effort to reestablish unfettered access to markets and the financial system of the United States on behalf of the newspapers of the La Estrella de Panama and El Siglo Editorial Group (GESE).

This is a momentous achievement that reinforces the critical importance of the freedom of the press and the plurality of media outlets in a democratic society such as Panama’s.

We applaud Eduardo Quirós, President of GESE, for his unrelenting and valiant leadership in securing a viable path forward for these venerable newspapers.  As well, we salute the employees of GESE for their perseverance in upholding their journalistic commitment to Panama during trying times.

Finally, we commend and express our support for the members of the Fundación Publicando Historia, who interceded to preserve Panama’s national heritage and protect its open and democratic future.

As a result of the irrevocable transfer of 51 percent of the shares of Abdul Waked from Grupo Cedro Panama, S.A., and Warner Lake Corp. on October 18, 2017, the Fundacion is now the controlling beneficiary and owner of GESE newspapers.  The newspapers are no longer blocked under the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)’s 50 Percent Rule.*   All prior prohibitions on dealings by U.S. citizens and businesses with these newspapers no longer apply.

Effective immediately, the U.S. Embassy intends to renew its subscriptions to GESE newspapers.

I have no doubt that I and my American colleagues will read critical comments in future editions of GESE publications regarding U.S. policy related to Panama and more broadly.  That is both healthy and to be expected.  Panamanians deserve nothing less than a well-informed dialogue of issues and ideas.  As Thomas Jefferson, the first U.S. Secretary of State and the Third President of my country once famously said:

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

Congratulations again to the workers and journalists of GESE, the Fundacion Publicando Historia, and all Panamanians who will benefit from their journalistic mission to inform.

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*The 50 Percent Rule states that entities owned 50 percent or more by a blocked person are also considered blocked regardless of whether said entities appear on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List).  Neither of the newspapers La Estrella or El Siglo appeared on the SDN List; however, both were blocked due to the fact that they were 50 percent or more owned by a person on the SDN List.