Mayer Mizrachi: Imprisoned in a Colombian jail to New Mayor of Panama

 
1,024Views 0Comments Posted 09/06/2024

Less than 10 years ago, the young Panamanian businessman Mayer Mizrachi was imprisoned in one of the most feared prisons in Colombia for a case of embezzlement.  He is now the elected mayor of Panama City after winning the elections on May 5 with an innovative campaign and a storm of technological ideas to create a modern “Silicon Valley.” 

 

On July 1, Mizrachi will enter the capital's mayoral office amid a new wave of young people elected to local and national positions that have displaced traditional political parties.  Mizrachi calls himself the “Chacalde” (a mixture of the words 'jackal', as criminals from the lowest strata are known in Panama, and 'mayor'), a political strategy that led him to generate one of the most popular campaigns of the electoral contest.  'Chacalde' carried out works to fix the damaged public roads in Panama City, relying on social networks through viral videos.  There were no banners, no advertising in the media, just a good audiovisual production and a peculiar slogan that caricatures him, accessible and free for individuals and businesses. 

 

Mizrachi was imprisoned in 'La Picota' prison, one of the most feared in Colombia, from December 2015 to June 2016.  He was arrested at the Cartagena airport, in the Colombian Caribbean, accused in Panama of corruption and embezzlement.  “Eight years ago I was in a cell fighting for my freedom and today I am elected mayor.  That fills me with humility and brings tears to my eyes,” he reflects.  Due to pending cases, Panamanian Justice prevented him from leaving the country until this week when the measure was lifted.  However, he must still report every month and report traveling abroad. 

 

In 2021, the judges closed the case by noting that there had been no embezzlement, but in 2023 Mizrachi was called back to trial for the crime of money laundering along with others, known as 'Criptex'.  “Suffering prison while being innocent are the things we see in movies or Netflix series.  When you experience it firsthand you think 'no, that's from the old era', but it happens today in many Latin American countries”. 

 

Mizrachi is the son of Aaron Roni Mizrachi, brother-in-law of former president Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014), granted asylum in the Nicaraguan embassy after being sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for money laundering.  After being disqualified, the former ruler extended his shadow over the elected president José Raúl Mulino, also imprisoned preventively in 2016, which was annulled a year later. 

 

Mizrachi says, “I ran my own path, I was elected with my own votes.  And not thanks to Ricardo (Martinelli), but in spite of Ricardo,” he answers when asked about his in-law.