The Panamanian government relieved Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes on Monday, who had asked a few days earlier for international support to deal with a migratory wave which “exceeded” the capacity of her country, used as a transit territory.
She will be replaced by Janaina Tewaney Mencomo, current government minister. The administration of President Laurentino Cortizo, who thanked Mouynes for his services, did not detail the reasons for the change.
Last week, during his participation in the 52nd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), Mouynes assured that the continent is currently facing a “Venezuelan migratory wave” which crosses the inhospitable jungle of the Darien, at its border with Colombia, ranging from 2,000 Venezuelan citizens received in 2021 to 111,000 so far this year.
It is “an unprecedented increase”, he detailed. All seek to reach the United States overland and through the jungle “deceived by organized crime”, Mouynes said.
“We are in a situation of decontrol and crisis. We must work together to solve this problem. Panama is the only country that offers shelter, food, aid but we have exhausted all our resources and our capacity to manage this new epidemic has been exceeded, help us to help, ”said the former minister in Peru.
Darien, on the 266 km Panama-Colombia border, has become a corridor for irregular migrants from South America trying to cross from Central America to the United States.
In this virgin jungle of 575,000 hectares, travelers face multiple dangers, such as wild animals, raging rivers and criminal groups.
More than 160,000 migrants, mostly Venezuelans, have crossed the Panamanian jungle so far in 2022, a record that shatters the 2021 record, when 133,000 people made it, more than the decade’s accumulation former.
Until last year, Haitian citizens made up the majority of migrants.
According to press reports, Mouynes’ departure is due to an alleged refusal on his part to support a government candidate for the leadership of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
“He betrayed his own country to support another character,” wrote Carlos Perez Herrera, leader of the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), on Twitter.
Tewaney will be the third person to lead the Foreign Office in Cortizo’s government (2019-2024).