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Pride 2018 — June 30 in Panama City

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Pride Parade Past — the hope is to miss the afternoon rain shower this year. The parade starts at 4 p.m. at the little park where the Cinta Costera abuts the Casco Viejo, goes around that colonial part of the city, and comes back to the park for a concert and fireworks. Archive photo by Eric Jackson.

Pride Day in Panama: Saturday, June 30

by Eric Jackson

How much has changed – and how much has stayed the same – in a short few years.

When, nearly two decades ago, members of the local gay and lesbian communities decided to add to the worldwide movement, show their faces and identities and assert their demands for civil and human rights, in newsrooms across Panama the editorial edicts ranged from “we’re a serious publication – we don’t write about sex” to a stress on the colorful novelty of these strange characters coming to Panama. But in the ranks of journalism there were also the lesbians and gay men, some of them out and some carefully not, who knew better. Quite a few straight people in the media knew too.

Something foreign that came to Panama? For US-inspired Evangelical rightists and some of their conservative Catholic allies, and for the sort of hateful politician who will mine any abysmal prejudice for possible advantage, it was a good hook.

Except that from the start gay-tolerant populations and belief systems that have been here a lot longer than theirs added to Pride. It was the Spaniards who imported the idea of burning homosexuals to death on the same faggot piles with purported witches. Panama’s original nations may have had other cruelties embedded into their cultures, but extremist homophobia was never one of them. It took soldiers and missionaries to plant those seed and they never did thrive in Panama’s indigenous cultures. The Guna communities in particular were well represented early on at Pride.

The gay people in the gringo and other foreign communities here were often used to Pride in the countries from whence they came and were also early participants. In time the diplomats of several nations showed their flags, too. And then there were the dual citizens among the first organizers, many absolutely eager to show their homosexual or transgender identities yet hesitant to be known as any nationality other than or in addition to Panamanian. One issue at a time.

It was a Panamanian civil rights movement, an outpouring of grievances by lesbian mothers whose kids were taken away from them by judges just because of their sexual orientation, of men and women fired from public and private sector jobs based on who they were rather than how well they worked and left with no recourse. It was transvestites and transsexuals beaten up on the streets by police, or by civilians in acts of violence that would be condoned by cops and courts. It was a gathering of communities constantly stereotyped and defamed, usually a matter of ignorance and sometimes of calculated malice. It was a community taking terrible losses from the HIV epidemic and often treated on a spectrum from rude to criminal whenever efforts were made to impart life-and-death information about what’s safe and what isn’t to the younger people among them.

From its inception Pride was also a cultural expression, often intentionally outrageous. ‘This is who and what we are and we are pleased with ourselves – get used to us’ was a key message. And by and large people did get used to it, and lost their fears.

The reactions came from bigots at city hall and from fundamentalist pulpits, and with assistance from the US religious right the backlash has grown over the years. The screed is that to afford any rights or respect to sexual minorities is an attack on the family. If Pride diminished fears, “pro-family” bigotry coming in Spanish translation from the US religious right rekindled the fear and hatred.

But everyone in the Pride marches came from and most generally have families. It’s a matter of whether church and state – in many Panamanian instances dominated by men with both wives and mistresses – get to break up the families of those whom they do not approve.

At a certain point over the past few years there came a tipping point. One might point to some “straight” Carnival queens, a few media personalities, a mayor, a United Nations agency, several foreign embassies, a number of businesses, the country’s top corporate law firm or a first lady joining in to add veneers of respectability.

More than those things, it was a shifting public perception of proportion. Is there a serious social and economic problem with teenage pregnancies? Maybe not for adult men who go for teenagers, but in any case it’s not the fault of gay men or lesbians. Do some families break up when the economy goes sour and hard times hit? It’s not because some transgendered person has control of the national or world economy. Is there a risk of being mugged on the streets of Panama City? It’s infinitely lower than usual at the Pride parades. If corruption is endemic in the political caste, surely its incidence is neither lower nor higher among its generally closeted minority of gay members. Panama has problems, and although there are corrupt reverends and politicians who were on the take from the Martinelli regime pointing their fingers, the problems are not the gay, lesbian and transgendered communities. The Electoral Tribunal has banned public opinion polls, but it’s a safe bet that garden variety maleantes and crooked politicians are taken as far more serious threats than people who want to marry someone of the same sex.

Just a couple of years ago, talk among the marchers was that marriage equality was not on the agenda in Panama and would not be anytime soon. Now there are cases pending before the courts which may legalize same-sex marriages. But in the National Assembly simple public health measures like sex education in the schools remain blocked by religious forces and the sticky-fingered deputies who pander to them.

It’s a long march, not an easy one. But this year it’s bigger than ever. Pride Day will be the culmination of a month of educational and cultural events. The parade, starting and ending at Plaza V Centenario where the Cinta Costera abuts the Casco Viejo – is only a part of a full day of activities.

The activities in Quincentennial Plaza start at 8 a.m. with a physical fitness component – yoga, exercises and martial arts exhibitions. All day long there will be varied entertainment, demonstrations of various skills, dog shows, artwork and handcrafts for sale and lots of food and beverages.

The parade itself sets out from the plaza at 4 p.m., goes around the Casco Viejo and ends up where it started. The grand marshal is entertainer Gabriela Gnazzo.

Then come the concerts, the performances by the National Ballet and the INAC folk dancing group, the drag queens show and the main musical act, Samy & Sandra Sandoval. The evening will conclude with fireworks.

Lots of fun. People celebrating their identities, their cultures, their senses of humor and tastes. But deadly serious. There are lives in the balance – gay kids who might be bullied into suicide, people whose lives might be made miserable by a constant need to hide who and what they are in the face of discrimination, a nation that stands to lose productivity from a work force with members whose talents get discarded, suppressed or limited.

Pride is not just a feeling but a movement, one that faces powerful opposition. It will be out in force on June 30 in Panama City.

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¿Wappin? Friday on the cusp / Viernes en la cúspide

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Romeo
Romeo Santos et al. Foto por Fernando Navarro Urrutia.

Friday on the cusp / Viernes en la cúspide

Shakira & Maluma – Clandestino
https://youtu.be/RgULjdsjiLQ

Bob Marley – Burning and Looting
https://youtu.be/2dvxhlPt32g

Kafu Banton – Despierta y Anda
https://youtu.be/b3tLwkooY-o

Lou Reed – Sweet Jane
https://youtu.be/7FdWPeHFAMk

The Robins – Riot in Cell Block #9
https://youtu.be/_0qN6EBrhPU

Rolling Stones – Citadel
https://youtu.be/-30SBFnMd1s

10,000 Maniacs – I’m Not the Man
https://youtu.be/DLDilatESSg

Luis Fonsi & Stefflon Don – Calypso
https://youtu.be/Hnj_EMDUfjY

Bruce Springsteen – Murder Incorporated
https://youtu.be/Jj7hvKQ6Uhc

Chrissie Hynde – Back on the Chain Gang
https://youtu.be/UQ8kbordCAg

Plasmatics – The Damned
https://youtu.be/8qbzvNoaVEs

Zoé – Labios Rotos
https://youtu.be/7h2ryr_uUEs

Thirty Seconds To Mars – Rescue Me
https://youtu.be/yEWb6bsd5lo

Romeo Santos & Ozuna – Sobredosis
https://youtu.be/JNkTNAknE4I

Of Monsters and Men – Lollapalooza São Paulo Brazil 2016
https://youtu.be/Hnt5sjJBVHU

 

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What Republicans are saying

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That's Latin for what?

What Republicans are saying

Trump


 

Corker


 

Stewart


 

Arpaio


 

Stringer


 

Graham


 

Pence

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What Democrats are saying

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Dems
Kamala Harris and other members of the Democratic Senate Caucus talk Medicare for all.

Democratic primary candidates say:

Running in the Michigan gubernatorial primary

Gratchen Whitmer

Abdul El-Sayed

Contesting a Florida congressional primary

Darren Soto

Alan Grayson

Facing off in a Connecticut congressional primary

Jahana Hayes

Mary Glassman

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Sports diving study for Coiba National Park

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surgeon fish
A school of surgeon fish. Photo by the Smithsonian’s Sean Mattson.

Smithsonian to monitor sports diving in Coiba National Park

by Sonia Tejada – STRI, translated by Eric Jackson

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) will finance with its own funds the creation of an information baseline on sports diving sites identified in the management plan for Coiba National Park Protected Area (PNC) and the regulations for its Special Marine Protection Zone. Together these areas are a World Heritage Site, as declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This information, which will be compiled by researchers at the Institute, will establish the load capacities and limits of acceptable changes for an up-to-date management of those marine environments of the National Park that are subject to visitation.

Coiba National Park’s 1,700 hectares of reefs and coral ommunities of are considered to be the most extensive in the Eastern Pacific. The management plan identified the park’s visitation attractions based on coastal marine resources, particularly reef and coral communities, beaches and sport fishing areas.

This past January the Coiba National Park board of directors approved a Public Use Plan (PUP) and later the regulation of productive activities that take place in the park’s Special Marine Protection Zone. Both documents were sent to UNESCO, which expressed some concerns and recommended its revision and adaptation based on scientific information.

The scientific information that STRI will generate will contribute positively to correct the deficiencies of the PUP that were identified by UNESCO. This program also includes improving communication with tour operators for the responsible management of each site and the tourists who visit them. “We cannot allow the PNC to enter UNESCO’s list of endangered sites. This is not an option for us,” said Héctor M. Guzmán, the STRI researcher who will be in charge of the new monitoring program that begins in July 2018.

STRI divers
Smithsonian scientists dive on coral reefs in Coiba National Park during an expedition in October of 2017. Photo by Sean Mattson — Smithsonian.
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Martinelli malingers, so it seems

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Ricky
Martinelli in one of his more pretentious moments. Archive photo by the Presidencia.

Martinelli mocks Panama with contrived health crisis

by Eric Jackson

Yes, we heard from former first lady and Cambio Democratico vice presidential candidate Marta Linares de Martinelli. Yes, we heard from the doctors that she and her husband, former president Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal, had hired. The ex-president, having passed a year in US custody without hospitalization but with some chronic medical conditions noted, was deathly ill and would not survive incarceration in the nation’s easiest prison, El Renacer near Gamboa.

It has long been known that Martinelli has chronic bipolar depression. In US custody he was prescribed medication to control his blood pressure. Was he also treated for a heart arhythmia? We hear about that condition from the Martinelli camp and if he was treated for that at the Miami Federal Detention Center it is likely that the jail physicians there would have passed on word about it to their Panamanian counterparts.

So Martinelli is flown to Panama, sent to El Renacer, then brought to the Supreme Court to have his rights read to him and to be formally informed of the charges in the case at hand. He goes back to El Renacer, from whence tales leaked out of his refusal to take medication which had been prescribed for him. Shortly thereafter he was sent to the prison unit at Santo Tomas Hospital for a blood pressure spike and suspected heartbeat irregularities.

At the hospital’s lock ward, Martinelli refused to be examined by a team of physicians from the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences. He did answer some questions from them, and they did get to see the records of the El Renacer physician and the physicians at Santo Tomas.

Meanwhile, there was this political mob scene in and around the hospital, with lawyers, the former first lady and others insisting on full access to the former president as if the lock ward at Santo Tomas is an upscale private hospital rather than a prison. By some versions Martinelli’s refusal to be examined by the government doctors was due to a demand or expectation that his lawyers would be present to register their objections and disruptions of the examination.

On Wednesday night, June 13, the medical examiner team led by Dr. Olga Alvarado Ng, a member of the institute’s board, reported to high court magistrate Jerónimo Mejía, who is the presiding judge for Martinelli’s trial in the wiretapping and theft of eavesdropping equipment case. Alvarado said that despite the patient’s refusal to be examined, the government team did get to see the medical records, that Martinelli’s conditions are treatable as outpatient matters, that in Santo Tomas his blood pressure and heartbeat were under control and that there was apparently no medical reason for him to be hospitalized. She said that any decision to release him from the hospital –- and back to El Renacer –- would be up to the treating physicians at Santo Tomas.

Later that evening the Santo Tomas doctors approved Martinell’s release from the hospital, but the paperwork sending him from the lock ward back to the penitentiary would happen the following day.

It appears that Mejía will hear motions by Martinelli’s lawyers on Friday, June 15. Most prominently, to release the former president who fled the country to avoid prosecution on bail, among other things because of his allegedly delicate state of health. Look for a small but rowdy crowd of Martinelistas to be at the Supreme Court in Ancon for that event. At a previous hearing, some of Martinelli’s wiretapping targets were in attendance and one of them, the ex-president’s 2009 PRD opponent, Balbina Herrera was assaulted when one of Martinelli’s supporters threw a bottle of water at her.

The show will go on. Because the Electoral Tribunal has banned the publication of opinion polls we will for the moment only get anecdotal evidence of how it is playing in the court of public perception.

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Incrementando la Seguridad Marítima y la Protección de Cetáceos en el Pacífico Costarricense

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STRI

Ciencia apoyando a Costa Rica

por Sonia Tejada – STRI

El Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes de Costa Rica, a través de la Dirección de Navegación y Seguridad, y con el asesoramiento del Dr. Héctor M. Guzmán, ecólogo marino del Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales en Panamá, ha logrado impulsar la formalización del Decreto No. 41003-MOPT-SP-MINAE del 9 de abril de 2018, donde se establecen dos nuevos sistemas de rutas marítimas que crean una Área a Evitar y un Dispositivo Separador de Tráfico para incrementar la seguridad marítima en el Pacífico Costarricense, en la entrada del Golfo Dulce y del Golfo de Nicoya, respectivamente. Esta normativa complementa la Área a Evitar ya aprobada y adoptada por la Organización Marítima Internacional (OMI) en marzo del 2017 e implementada en enero del año en curso.

La aprobación de esta importante propuesta logra proteger el medio ambiente marino, en especial a la población migratoria de ballenas jorobadas y otras especies de cetáceos que podrían ser impactadas por colisiones accidentales con un número creciente de embarcaciones de más de 900 toneladas. Estas colisiones afectan gravemente a los animales, resultando en importantes lesiones e incluso su muerte, y generan en las embarcaciones desde grietas hasta serios daños a los cascos y hélices, ejes, timones y otros.

“Logramos complementar y entender la distribución espacial de las ballenas en el sur de Costa Rica empleando transmisores satelitales, ayudándonos a definir las áreas potenciales de colisiones con grandes buques mercantes. Estos nuevos sistemas de rutas de transito marítimo ayudarán a reducir las colisiones entre barcos y grandes ballenas, pero de igual forma aumentan el área de protección para los pescadores artesanales al alejar los barcos de la costa”, expresó Héctor Guzmán.

Otro factor que obliga la definición de un ordenamiento de tráfico marítimo en el Pacifico central y sur de Costa, es el aumento de las dimensiones de los buques y la densidad de su circulación, resultado de la mejora en las instalaciones portuarias en la región del Pacifico Oriental. Este hecho se refleja en las declaraciones de la Organización Marítima Internacional (OMI) a través del Documento NCSR de diciembre de 2016, donde se señala que “la intensificación del transporte marítimo mercante amenaza con aumentar las colisiones con especies migratorias del gran tamaño, como las ballenas y las tortugas.”

Próximamente las directrices del Decreto, que incluyen el Dispositivo Separador de Trafico de Golfo de Nicoya, y las dos Zonas a Evitar de Península de Osa (adoptada por OMI) y de Bahía Pavón, serán incluidas en las cartas de navegación digitales e impresas generalmente utilizadas por la marina mercante, de manera que puedan ser acatadas por todos los navegantes y disminuir la probabilidad de colisiones entre buques mercantes y cetáceos en aguas costarricenses, tal como se ha logrado en el Pacífico panameño.

Este importante proyecto se logró en parte gracias al constante apoyo financiero de Christy Walton con el Fondo Candeo de la International Community Foundation.

 

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Members of Congress sound off about the summit

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them
The summit. Photo from the US Embassy in Japan website.

The summit: voices from the House

Tulsi Gabbard

Martha McSally

Mark Meadows

Adam Schiff

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Sign season for an administration’s long-shot hopes

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buses
At the bus terminal in Albrook, where one gets tickets to David and Bocas buses. Photo by Eric Jackson.

An eternal game

In the last year or two of the Martinelli administration there was unprecedented theft of government resources to finance the purchase of votes for Cambio Democratico’s attempt to perpetuate itself and, functionally if via front people, Ricardo Martinelli in power. The scale was something not seen before, but in the waning months of every administration the government advertising budget goes up as the party about to end its term in office tries to let the people know how much it has done for them. There are always new rules to limit the practice but it happens just the same anyway. Now, at the National Bus Terminal in Albrook, people buying tickets for David or Bocas del Toro are reminded of new baseball stadiums that the Varela administration has delivered for the home teams there.

Since the end of the dictatorship in 1989, this has never worked. The party that as held the presidency has always lost it. But there is the hope that THIS TIME it will be different.

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Editorials: Martinelli should not walk away; and Little to show in Singapore

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RM
Ricardo Martinelli when they read him his rights after his extradition. Later that day, on account of a claimed heart condition, he was sent to the prison ward at Santo Tomas Hospital. From the court’s video feed.

Another sick inmate

Late in 2010, Ricardo Martinelli promulgated a law that any act of violence committed by an on-duty law enforcement officer is legal. That following January, inmates at the Tocumen juvenile detention center were deprived of water for eight straight days. A prison rebellion broke out, and after those who participated in the riot surrendered, they were beaten and shot with birdshot. But in one cell the boys did not take part in the revolt, for one thing because most of them were due to be released in a short time. They shut themselves in their cell. So the police — before the video cameras of two different television networks — set the cell on fire, blocked the firefighters from entering the premises to put out the fire, taunted the screaming boy as they were burning to death, then beat those who survived — mostly not for long — on their charred skin on their way to the ambulances.

German and Japanese commanders whose subordinates committed lesser crimes against humanity were hanged for this after World War II. There is a concept of command responsibility in international law and under the laws of most nations. Here, however, there is de facto impunity for rabiblancos and for members of the political caste. Ricardo Martinelli gave his horrific demonstration to the nation of how tough he is, and has never been investigated or charged. But Ricardo Martinelli did that televised extrajudicial torture execution. He authorized it in advance with his signature on a law granting impunity, the promise of which was later broken as to the cops who set the fire.

It is in that light which we must see Martinelli’s pleas for due process of law, and for a hospital bed rather than a prison cell for his claimed high blood pressure and heart arhythmia. We are dealing with a vicious criminal, a man who fled the country to avoid prosecution. He is not entitled to any sort of bail or house arrest. But like any other inmate he is entitled to medical care, in the usual place where prisoners receive it.

Let Panama not fall into the sickness of the United States and other countries, where more imprisonment under more brutal conditions is a popular political issue. Ricardo Martinelli and Donald Trump are explicitly in favor of police brutality and prison torture, but it would demean the Panamanian people to apply this standard to anyone, no matter how deserving. The rule of law and the inviolability of humnan rights must begin with this vile creature.

 

South Korea may be worried, the world should feel no relief

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un agreed on precisely nothing specific at their summit. Afterward Trump suggested that the United States would stop its joint military maneuvers with South Korean forces.

That the meeting happened at all may have broken down some of the tension, but surely North Korea is not going to give up its nuclear weapons so long as its traditional enemies have them. The promise that “the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” is not any sort of enforceable demilitarization agreement.

Does Kim want to get himself and his country annihilated in mushroom clouds? Surely not, and surely he never did intend to press the button on anyone and set that off. But as long as he is in power in North Korea, that country will be part of the nuclear-armed club. The summit did not change that.

How might South Korea react to that? They have their own policy aims and national political divisions. They seem committed to a peace process, short of reunifying Korea under the northern government. It’s not entirely up to them whether the US forces leave — the Americans have every right to do that on their own initiative. Figure that in Seoul they may not find Trump’s unpredictable policy so reassuring. Perhaps the South Koreans are looking around for more reliable guarantors.

 

Bear in mind…
 

Do not bite at the bait of pleasure till you know there is no hook beneath it.
Thomas Jefferson

 

My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.
Diane Arbus

 

If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.
Dorothy Parker
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