Martinelli, Ricardo

Martinelli, Ricardo (Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Berrocal) 1952–, Panamanian business executive and political leader. The son of Italian immigrants, he became the head of a successful supermarket chain and a multimillionaire; he also has investments in banking, real estate, and other businesses. Martinelli served in Panama's government as director of social security (1994–96) and minister of canal affairs and chairman of the Panama Canal Authority board (1998–2003), and in 1998 he founded the conservative Democratic Change party. He first ran for president in 2004, coming in fourth, but five years later he was won the office, having used his fortune to finance his campaign. Elected on an anticorruption and conservative reform platform, he enacted business-friendly measures and social programs, but his administration also was accused of autocratic tendencies, media intimidation, and corruption. After he left office, he was charged in Panama with misusing government resources for political espionage and with corruption, and was arrested in the United States and extradited (2018) to Panama; he was acquitted in 2019, but a new trial was ordered in 2020.

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