Panama’s new president takes office, pledges end to corruption

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – Panama’s new President Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo vowed to curb corruption and close the wealth gap in the isthmus nation at his swearing-in ceremony on Monday.

U.S.-educated political veteran Cortizo, 66, of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), won the May election by just over two percentage points, the closest presidential race in decades. During his five-year term he will have to balance relations with China and the United States, on top of domestic issues.

Upon taking office at a convention centre in the capital, Cortizo repeated campaign vows to clean up politics after Panama’s image was tarnished by a corruption scandal involving Brazilian engineering firm Odebrecht, and the Panama Papers leak of millions of documents detailing tax evasion by the rich and powerful.

“We come from a lost decade of corruption and improvisation, of stealing money from Panamanians,” he said. “There will be

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