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President of Panama Quits, Officials Say

Associated Press

President Nicolas Ardito Barletta, bowing to pressure from Panama’s military, labor and business leaders, tendered his resignation Friday, legislators said. The National Assembly convened to swear in a successor.

A presidential spokeswoman, Migdalia Fuentes, said she had been told by local television station that Vice President Eric Arturo Delvalle, 49, was to be sworn in as Ardito Barletta’s successor.

Television stations are government controlled. Fuentes said she had no other information.

Camilo Gozaine, president of the National Assembly, confirmed after meeting with advisers Friday evening that Ardito Barletta had offered his resignation and said the assembly would meet to vote on accepting it.

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The assemblymen were scheduled to open the session at 10:30 p.m., but only a dozen legislators were in the building at that time and others were straggling in.

Ardito Barletta was not present.

Rumors of Ouster

There had been rumors for two days that Ardito Barletta, 47, was under intense pressure to resign. The embattled president canceled several meetings he had scheduled in New York and returned to Panama City on Friday morning, several hours ahead of schedule, after attending the U.N. General Assembly session.

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The president said in a television interview on his arrival at the military airport that his early return had nothing to do with the political situation.

“The problem was the hurricane that was approaching New York,” he said.

He also said he returned because he was to meet today with Japan’s Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe. However, the Japanese Embassy in Panama City said Friday that Abe’s trip to Panama had been canceled because of Hurricane Gloria.

Ardito Barletta, formerly vice president of the World Bank for Latin America, was installed in office Oct. 11, 1984, after winning the first direct presidential elections in 16 years by a narrow margin. His economic proposals were controversial because they have would have introduced austerity measures and ended government subsidies to many businesses.

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