Juan Carlos Varela was sworn in Tuesday as president of Panama for the 2014-2019 term at a ceremony in a soccer stadium before special guests and thousands of spectators.
“I swear to God and country to faithfully comply with the Constitution and the laws of the republic,” Varela said before having the presidential sash placed on him by congressional speaker Adolfo Valderrama.
Sworn into the office of vice president immediately afterwards was Isabel Saint Malo, who had been on the ballot with Varela in the May 4 elections.
“Today we begin a new era of our republic and our democracy. An era of peace, tolerance, consensus, unity and social justice, with a government that will put the people first in all its decisions,” Varela, 51, said in his inaugural address.
The distillery entrepreneur and erstwhile vice president said he is “aware of the great challenges” that await him in social, political and economic matters, among which he mentioned the enlargement of the Panama Canal.
Varela was the running mate of now-former-President Ricardo Martinelli in the general elections of 2009, but they distanced themselves from each other in August 2011 amid charges of corruption.
“Starting today, nobody in our country is above the law,” Varela said Tuesday.
The president noted that “this very afternoon” he would sign an executive order to reestablish price controls on the basket of basic needs, a move he promised during the campaign.
The official ceremony began at 12:51, almost two hours late, in Panama City’s Rommel Fernandez stadium, with the attendance of several Latin American presidents, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, high-level delegations and thousands of special guests and spectators.