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Venezuela is the third Latin American investor in Panama

Venezuela is the third Latin American investor in Panama

Posted by Dubraswka Aguilar on March 10, 2014

In recent years Panama has become one of the favorite destinations of Venezuelan businessmen. The rupture of diplomatic and political relations creates a natural uncertainty in a country that ranks third in Latin America in terms of direct investment in the Central American nation, despite the guarantee of continuity in economic relations offered by the Isthmian Government.

Latest figures from the National Institute of Statistics and Census of Panama, for the end of 2012, 558 million dollars was the amount of investment from Venezuela, being left behind only by Colombia, with 2,702 billion dollars, and Mexico, with 889 million dollars.

Since 2010, Panama has been experiencing a sustained increase in investment from Venezuelans, from 404 million dollars that year to 414 million dollars in 2011 and 558 million dollars in 2012. The figures for 2013 have not been disclosed by the Panamanian authorities.

Most Venezuelan investments have been concentrated in the construction and real estate sectors, but there is also a significant and growing involvement in banking, insurance, brokerage houses, tourism, logistics, hospitality, restaurants, franchises, software and even the agro.

Banesco and Banco Mercantil were the first Venezuelan financial institutions to settle in Panama. Then the Banco Occidental de Descuento (BOD) opened too. In addition, the Panamanian Balboa Bank has shareholders from Venezuela.

In insurance there is also a significant Venezuelan presence, through Seguros BBA, Seguros Constitution and Seguros Ancon, which is owned by Multinational de Seguros.

Among investment in property there are Ciro Martínez & Co. and Century 21, which has two franchises with realtors.

Participation in media has also grown. Not only the newspaper El Venezolano, but magazines Venezuela Grafica and Sala de Espera, the daily Construir and several publications and digital media as Noticias24 Panama.

According to figures from the National Immigration Service of Panama Venezuela is the second country in the continent to get as many immigration benefits during 2013, only behind Colombia.

From a total of 1,145 permits handled by Venezuelans, Panamanian authorities approved 748 and denied 397, while 1,130 were approved for Colombians off 1,929 requests.

Bad weather

Ricardo Martinelli, president of Panama, assured Thursday that “favorable immigration and investment policies for Venezuelans will not change" because of the rupture of diplomatic relations and the freezing of trade, decided unilaterally on Wednesday by the government of Nicolas Maduro.

Subsequently, on Friday Martinelli urged Venezuela to pay the debt with the Panamanian exporters in the Colon Free Zone, regarding the statements of the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua, who announced that the review of the debt was suspended "until Panama has a serious government that respects the relations that must be mutual respect.”

The trust to do business with Venezuelans is now in doubt. The debt is 2,000 million dollars, as calculated by Leopoldo Benedetti, manager of the Colon Free Zone, who said last week that from the 15,000 million dollars exported by Panama in 2012, 20 % went to Venezuela.

The Venezuelan- Panamanian Chamber of Integration (Civenpa) said Friday in a press release that “Business Mission scheduled for March, 24 to 29, in Panama City, under Expocomer, and all the activities planned by Civenpa for 2014 are still standing.”

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