Ricardo Martinelli, a multimillionaire owner of a supermarket chain, was inaugurated Wednesday as president of Panama.
National Assembly President Jose Luis Varela performed the swearing-in and placed the presidential sash on Martinelli, a pro-business conservative who in May defeated a candidate from the ruling center-left party. The citizens of Panama “want things to be done differently,” Varela said at the inauguration. “An attitude of change starts today.” In his first speech as president, Martinelli promised a smaller government budget but raises for public workers. Public safety, an issue that the outgoing administration of Martin Torrijos struggled to maintain, will be a priority, Martinelli said. “Our prisons will be rehabilitation centers, not schools for criminals,” he said. Panama also will work with Mexico and Colombia to combat drug trafficking in the region, Martinelli said.