TBY talks to Hitler Cigarruista, Director of Capital Financiero, on the Panamanian media, press freedom, and FTAs.

Hitler Cigarruista
Hitler Cigarruista has completed studies in negotiation, treaties, and international commerce at the Universidad Latinoamericana de Comercio Exterior (ULACEX) and the Universidad de Santiago de Chile, among other courses in business journalism and sociology at the Universidad de Panama. His work experience has included positions as head of publications for the Center for Latinamerican Studies (CELA), and as reporter for Radio Cadena Exitosa, TVN Canal 2, Radio Ancón, Diario El Universal, and Diario El Siglo. He has been working with Capital Financiero since 2003 as reporter, senior journalist, editor, and currently, director. In addition, he is a member of the Panama Journalists Union and the Panamanian Association of Travel Journalism.

What has been the relevance of Capital Financiero, in terms of economic and political influence, in the development of the country?

We are a business journal in a country in which business plays a vital role. People who come to Panama like to talk about what happens in the economy and opportunities for investment. Capital Financiero gives the complete summary of the country in business and finance. We are the go-to source to find out what is happening in the country. We publish information regarding the most important issues in development, what the government is doing to help business grow, and how we can continue on the path of development that we have been on during the past decade.

How have you seen the readership evolve since you entered the company in 2003?

Readers are changing as we now have more young people interested in reading our paper. They want to know what they can do to improve their position in this new economy. Part of our readership use social media. This is a new game; these people want to know what is happening as soon as possible. We are the only paper in the country that gives more than just facts. We offer a combination of news and analysis. This is not easy to find in other papers, which is why we are the first choice for young people who are entering the business world.

How do you assess the freedom of press in Panama, especially compared to other countries in the region?

I think that Capital Financiero is not in the same position as other newspapers in the country. We work with data and facts, and this is different from newspapers that are more focused on opinions. I have worked with other newspapers and have never encountered any problems. We work with data from official institutions such as the Contraloría General de la República and the Ministry of Finance, or business organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, think tanks, and international organizations, so we do not have any problems as our sources are publicly available.

What is your evaluation of the free trade agreements (FTAs) that have been signed with Europe and the US?

Panama's economy is based around the sea, the original canal, and agriculture. We signed an FTA with the US because it is Panama's main trading partner. We export around 45% to 50% of our products to the US. The other 40% goes to Europe, and the rest goes to the other countries of Latin America and Asia. The truth is that we have a special relationship with the US, as the Canal is a route that accounts for 5% of global trade. With the expansion of the Canal, we will increase this traffic to 8% or 10%. This shows how a small country can make a difference if it invests its money in a global product like this. The most important thing for Panama is to open markets. We must not forget that of the 3.4 million people in this country, some 1.2 million are farmers, and they need to grow at the same time as the cities and free trade zones. They do not have the same opportunities, so we need to change this. There should be more investment in the research and development of new products to add more value to our products. We export with no value-added, and this is a significant problem because we export at the same price as other countries. In this country the focus is always on logistics, finance, and how to acquire more external investment. This is why FTAs are so important for us. They give us the opportunity for these other sectors of the country to access larger markets for their products. At the moment, the future of Panama is the Canal. However, tourism, mining, energy, international insurance, and real estate are also important.