Crypto Bill’s Fate Now in the Hands of Supreme Court
The National Assembly of Panama introduced a crypto bill some two years ago in 2021. Since then, the said bill has gone through amendments, review, debate, comments, etc. several times.
Thereafter, the bill was eventually approved by the National Assembly and was handed over to the country’s premier for final approval.
Shockingly, Panama’s President, Laurentino Cortizo, voted on the bill and sent it to the country’s top court i.e. Supreme Court for decision.
A simple matter passing a legislature is now a full-fledged dispute and the final authority to resolve the dispute is Supreme Court.
Background of the Dispute
The bill was forwarded to President Cortizo for its final approval on 18th January 2023.
Instead of signing the document, President Cortizo thought it fit to forward the bill to the apex court. Furthermore, the President also raised several objections regarding various provisions in the articles of the proposed bill.
In the first round of Supreme Court proceedings, the Court is convinced that the law is the need of the hour. The Supreme Court also observed that the law must immediately be passed in its present form.
However, President Cortizo then revoked the review jurisdiction of the Supreme Court praying for revisiting its decision.
The dispute hence entered the final stage of its resolution which would ultimately determine whether it should be passed or not.
According to the stance of President Cortizo, two articles of the proposed legislature are objectionable namely Articles 34 and 36.
President’s argument is that the objectionable articles do not conform to nor are in line with the country’s monetary system and the mandate.
He raised the further objection that the two articles were violative of regulatory guidelines and, hence, reconsidered for amendment purposes.
President Cortizo claimed that the proposed legislature, in its present form, is in complete disregard for the country’s interests and national economy.
Deadlock between the President and Members of the Congress
The law proposal has been in Congress since May. At that time, President Cortizo refused to approve the law on the ground that it required massive amendments through consultation.
He refused to put his signature on the document on the pretext that encouraging the digital economy would give rise to ‘unwanted activities’.
He particularly made mention of activities such as corruption, money laundering, financial crimes, and terrorism funding.
It may be noted that when the law proposal first came into Congress, President Cortizo had in fact appreciated it. He even said at the relevant time that ‘the law would be beneficial for the country’.
Subsequently, thereafter, the President was convinced the law proposal was required to be examined for ensuring necessary amendments.
Resultantly, in June, President Cortizo sent the law back to National Assembly accompanied by his objections.
National Assembly however responded that the concerns of the Executive had already been deliberated upon. National Assembly also apprised the President that in the light of his objections, amendments have been incorporated.
The National Assembly then impliedly tried to convince the President to sign the document. They also tried to convince him that the law would bring Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Panama.
However, the President was not convinced and drew an impression as if he was being pressurized for passing the law. Consequent, President Cortizo, vetoed the crypto bill.
Huge Opportunity Missed
A deadlock then developed between the President and members of the National Assembly because of which Supreme Court had to step in.
The veto power of the President seemed unwelcoming to National Assembly members who criticized President’s refusal to sign the document.
Members even claimed that Panama had missed a huge opportunity because of President Cortizo.
Panama is part of Latam countries of which countries such as El Salvador, Venezuela, and Brazil are also part.
While Panama is struggling in deciding the fate of its crypto bill, the three neighbors have already passed their respective crypto bills.