Panama's former President Ricardo Martinelli speaks to supporters during a...

Panama's former President Ricardo Martinelli speaks to supporters during a campaign rally, in Panama City, Feb. 3, 2024. Panamanian authorities on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, ordered the arrest of Martinelli, who has been holed up in the Nicaraguan Embassy since receiving political asylum from that country earlier this month. Credit: AP/Agustin Herrera

PANAMA CITY — Panama on Monday accused Nicaragua of meddling in its internal affairs by allowing former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli to continue taking swipes at the justice system and promoting his political allies from within the walls of the Nicaraguan embassy.

Martinelli has been holed up in the embassy for more than a month since Panama moved to arrest him after his appeals ran out on his money laundering conviction. The 72-year-old former leader maintains that his prosecution was politically motivated as he sought to run for a second term in office.

Nicaragua granted Martinelli political asylum. Panama has refused to grant Nicaragua permission to move Martinelli to Nicaragua. So Martinelli has stayed in the political mix using social media to advance his agenda.

Panama’s Foreign Relations Ministry said Monday in a statement that it had sent Nicaragua a “vigorous” protest and called on Nicaragua to closely monitor Martinelli’s behavior.

Panama’s electoral authorities ruled Martinelli ineligible to participate in the May 5 presidential election following his conviction and sentencing. He previously governed Panama from 2009 to 2014.

Since being ruled out of the race, Martinelli has worked to promote his running mate José Raúl Mulino, who is now atop the ticket.

Last week, Martinelli wrote on the social platform X that “they disqualified me politically as a candidate, but the more they pursue me … the more it fires up the people and they will help J.R. Mulino win and level (the competition).”

Martinelli, a populist who oversaw a period of big infrastructure projects, including construction of the capital’s first subway line, is the first former president convicted of a crime in Panama.

Last year, the U.S. government barred Martinelli and his immediate family from entering that country, based on what it called his involvement in “significant” corruption. _

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