Carlos Duboy, the administrator of the state-owned Tocumen SA, which runs the nation’s airports, admits that through a private company he owns, Strategic Management, he was the intermediary for $150,000 in “contributions” by the hoodlum Brazilian company Odebrecht to the Panameñista Party to which he and President Juan Carlos Varela belong.
Prosecutors are investigating, which given the track record of all the Odebrecht scandals here, should not reassure anyone except perhaps criminals. What is happening, however, is that the Public Ministry is doing hardly any real investigations of Odebrecht on its own, but just relying on what foreign governments provide and then complaining about these sources being too slow for the Panamanian courts to accept their data. Adding to it are recent revelations that the Panameñistas, and perhaps other political parties here, have not kept any registry of cash contributions they received, or to whom and what this money went. It’s all a dance of corruption and impunity, leaving Panama as an international laughing stock. Do you think that this show has nothing to do with the European Union imposing sanctions on Panama? Think again.
Tocumen Airport has ongoing contracts with Odebrecht, as do the Metro commuter train system, the Panama City municipal government and the Colon city renovation project. Most of these contracts were awarded on a no-bid or rigged-bid basis.
Now Duboy says he sees no reason to step down during the investigation, Varela says that Duboy stays where he is, and the Odebrecht contracts continue.
Any concession that Duboy has to leave or that the Odebrecht contracts ought to be suspended would be an admission that there are serious questions about the president’s behavior as well. And it might just be the case that in no branch of government is there any will to admit another failed presidency, and even if more than 60 percent of Panamanians disapprove of Varela’s conduct there isn’t the public appetite for any sort of regime change before the 2019 elections.
The right thing would be for Duboy to step down and for all public works contracts in Panama with Odebrecht to be rescinded. If that would be annoyingly inconvenient and a terrible blow the the chances of Varela’s party in 2019, all those problems are of Varela’s making. When a person or institution is brought to justice it’s always inconvenient for somebody. So what?
The ungodly pedophile loses in Alabama, just barely
Most of Alabama’s white voters, particularly the men, voted for a grown man who, a witness who says she was there claims, asked a 14-year-old girl to take her clothes off for him. This candidate believes that it was a terrible constitutional error when the United States ended slavery by way of the 13th Amendment. The man was thrown off of the Alabama bench for defying the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.
Those fanatics, and people like them all throughout American society, in the USA and abroad, comprise between one-quarter and one-third of the American electorate. They are not going away anytime soon, but demographic trends indicate that they are on the whole older so can be expected to die off sooner the people who are not like that.
That crowd and its allies now dominates all branches of the federal government and most state governments. But polls indicate that most Americans now find them alarmingly toxic, not just fellow citizens who disagree but truly dangerous.
In about 11 months’ time there is a referendum scheduled on that — the 2018 mid-term elections. There will probably be a lot of turmoil between now and then, especially considering that so many of the ultra-right Republicans believe in End Times religion, which holds that the world is ending soon so any damage that they do doesn’t matter.
The ballot box is the best way out of the predicament. However, the whole US electoral system is broken under the weight of unlimited campaign contributions by billionaires. These power brokers may be malicious and may be doing the bidding of foreign powers. The fanatics wave guns around and in many states have gerrymandered the congressional districts. They may not accept a democratic verdict. It’s a recipe for a constitutional crisis, one that was shoved only a little way back from unfolding by a close election in Alabama.
Bear in mind…
Some third person decides your fate: this is the whole essence of bureaucracy.
Even the smallest dog can lift its leg on the tallest building.
There are two kinds of artists left: those who endorse Pepsi and those who simply won’t.
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Protection arbitrarily removed from Honduran journalist
by Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the arbitrary withdrawal of the protection that Honduran freelance journalist Jairo López had been receiving from the National Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists since February.
His protection was withdrawn on 26 November although he continues to be the target of frequent death threats, especially on social networks. A former host of the Canal 21 TV news program “El Informador” he is currently at the center of a defamation trial that is marred by major irregularities.
López has been the victim of a major smear campaign ever since he reported acts of corruption allegedly involving elected officials and politicians including the speaker of the national congress in 2015.
“We condemn this baseless decision and call on the government to restore the security measures without delay,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau. “The threats to which Jairo López continues to be exposed are every worrying and, as well as hampering his journalistic work, are taking a constant psychological toll.”
López was summoned by the military police yesterday and accused of being an opposition leader in the street protests against President Juan Orlando Hernández, whose reelection is being widely disputed.
López told RSF that he was covering the demonstrations as a reporter and that, at the same time, he feared that he could be on a hit-list of persons to be murdered by the Honduran military and police.
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Crops are in across the US farm belt, with record harvests filling farmers’ silos with grain and their hearts with pride. Yet persistent and punishingly low prices for those crops leave them no better off for their efforts. Net farm income this year is about half what it was in 2013.
US farmers are not alone. The world is experiencing what Reuters called a “global grain glut,” with many staple food crops filling silos from Brazil to the Ukraine. Crop prices have fallen dramatically, with serious repercussions for farmers, particularly poor farmers in developing countries.
Unfortunately, two institutions with the power to address the the problem seem poised to make things worse rather than better. The US Congress has begun discussions of a new Farm Bill, and there is little indication it will include the kinds of provisions that might curb unchecked production.
Meanwhile, the World Trade Organization gathers December 10 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, ostensibly to address the kinds of trade policies that can allow governments to protect their farmers from cheap exports flowing from US and other dominant exporters. All indications are that WTO ministers, mis-led by the United States, are unlikely to even consider measures to address the global grain glut or its impacts.
US Farm Bill feeds global crop glut
The adage in farm country is that the cure for high prices is high prices, and that seems to be the case with the current global surpluses. They follow a series of price spikes, starting in 2008 and dubbed the new “global food crisis,” which drew investment into agriculture. US farmers pulled land out of conservation areas and planted every available inch in corn, soybeans, and other commodity crops. Brazil, Argentina, the Ukraine, and other exporters followed suit.
Crop prices came down quickly, falling back to pre-food-crisis levels in 2014. They have remained low since, and economists project little upward movement in coming years. There is nothing unusual about this. In fact, global agricultural markets tend toward overproduction and have for decades.
US policy-makers used to know this, and they used to address the problem with farm policies that managed production to keep prices from crashing. They paid a support price, rather than crop subsidies, and actively encouraged farmers to take some land out of production.
No more. Since the 1980s, US policies have encouraged maximum production. The 2014 Farm Bill was little different, despite some tweaks to the subsidy programs, which are far more a symptom of the overproduction problem rather than its cause. And the 2018 Farm Bill, now taking shape in Congress, promises to do more of the same.
Subsidized crop insurance will encourage farmers to extend planting onto marginal lands, knowing they can get a payout if the crop fails. Other subsidy payments will compensate them if prices or revenues fall below minimum thresholds, taking even more of the risk out of expanding acreage. Few measures will take land out of production, for conservation or just to ease the grain glut and price squeeze.
Some alternative proposals advocate for shifts in subsidy programs, to encourage healthier foods or more sustainable farming practices. Few address the overproduction problem.
WTO prevents developing countries from defending themselves
The surpluses of corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton don’t stay in the United States. Neither does the harm. The US is still the world’s largest agricultural exporter, and it is once again exporting those surplus crops at prices below what it cost to produce them — one definition of “dumping” at the WTO.
According to new research from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), in 2015 the United States exported corn at 12% below what it cost to produce it. “Dumping margins” were significant for other crops as well: 10% for soybeans, 2% for rice, 32% for wheat, and 23% for cotton.
US exports often set international prices, meaning that farmers in other countries get less for their crops. I estimated that such US dumping from 1997-2005 cost Mexican farmers some $13 billion in lost revenues as below-cost imports pushed down domestic prices.
The World Trade Organization is supposed to prevent unfair trade practices such as dumping. But on the eve of the Buenos Aires ministerial conference the WTO sits poised to take no action on long-standing developing country proposals that would allow them to defend themselves against dumping.
Since 2013, the United States has objected to India’s program of paying support prices to grain farmers and using the food stocks to feed the poor. It is far and away the most ambitious anti-hunger effort in the world, promising to reduce hunger for more than 600 million people in India while improving the lives of small-scale farmers by paying them a decent and stable price. With no sense of irony or shame, the US accused India of unfairly subsidizing its farmers, using arcane WTO rules that dramatically exaggerate the estimate of the subsidy portion of the support price.
The conflict has dragged on, but a resolution was mandated for the 2017 WTO agenda. Don’t count on it.
Also off the table are developing country proposals for a “Special Safeguard Mechanism” to allow developing countries to do what rich countries are already allowed to do — take protective measures to insulate domestic producers from sudden import surges that disrupt local markets.
Most egregious is continued inaction on the dumping of US cotton, which was found illegal under existing WTO rules. The WTO in 2005 promised “expedited action” to remedy the problem, and still, 12 years later, little has been done. US officials have ruled out further discussions or action on cotton in Buenos Aires despite continued dumping.
US and global farmers need action, or low prices and dumped crops will drive even more into hunger and poverty. As a stark reminder, the same week Reuters reported on the global grain glut the UN Food and Agriculture Organization announced that despite the grain surpluses there had been a five percent increase in the number of the world’s chronically hungry in 2016, to more than 800 million.
Many of those millions are poor farmers. They need fair prices.
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by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association
Panamanian youth will have an opportunity to play with their big league heroes at the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) Legends for Youth baseball clinic series. In conjunction with MVP Sports City and the Panama government, the MLBPAA’s first trip to Panama since the Legends for Youth baseball clinic series’ inception will feature* two-time Toronto Blue Jays World Series champion Roberto Alomar and MLB veterans Carlos Baerga, Roger Deago, Carlos Hernandez, Carlos Lee, Rafael Medina, Davis Romero and Olmedo Saenz as well as current players Enrique Burgos and Paolo Espino. The clinics and autograph sessions will occur from Thursday, December 14th through Sunday, December 17th, as listed below.
The clinics will take place in Panama City at various venues. Clinicians will train at different instructional stations for approximately 200 local youth ages 6 – 16. The clinics will conclude with an autograph session for children in attendance.
Full Clinic Schedule:
Thursday, December 14: Coaches Clinic in Panama City, Panama held at MVP Sports City, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Friday, December 15: Legends for Youth Clinic in Panama City, Panama held at MVP Sports City, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Saturday, December 16: Legends for Youth Clinic in Panama City, Panama held at Rod Carew Field, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Sunday, December 17: Legends for Youth Clinic in Panama City, Panama held at Rod Carew Field, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
For more information regarding the clinic, please contact Nikki Warner, Director of Communications, at (719) 477-1870, ext. 105 or visit www.baseballalumni.com.
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Thank you for inviting me to speak here in this historic setting at the Palais des Nations in Geneva a city that has been a place of refuge and philosophy since the time of Rousseau. The headquarters before the Second World War of the ill-fated League of Nations, which now houses the United Nations. It’s a particular privilege to be speaking here because the constitution of our party includes a commitment to support the United Nations. A promise “to secure peace, freedom, democracy, economic security and environmental protection for all.”
I would like to use this opportunity in the run-up to International Human Rights Day to focus on the greatest threats to our common humanity, and why states need to throw their weight behind genuine international cooperation and human rights — individual and collective, social and economic, as well as legal and constitutional at home and abroad — if we are to meet and overcome those threats. My own country is at a crossroads. The decision by the British people to leave the European Union in last year’s referendum means we have to rethink our role in the world.
Some want to use Brexit to turn Britain in on itself, rejecting the outside world, viewing everyone as a feared competitor. Others want to use Brexit to put rocket boosters under our current economic system’s insecurities and inequalities, turning Britain into a deregulated corporate tax haven, with low wages, limited rights, and cut-price public services in a destructive race to the bottom. My party stands for a completely different future when we leave the EU, drawing on the best internationalist traditions of the labor movement and our country. We want to see close and cooperative relationships with our European neighbors, outside the EU, based on solidarity as well as mutual benefit and fair trade, along with a wider proactive internationalism across the globe.
We are proud that Britain was an original signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights and our 1998 Human Rights Act enshrined it in our law. So Labour will continue to work with other European states and progressive parties and movements, through the Council of Europe to ensure our country and others uphold our international obligations, just as the work of the UN Human Rights Council helps to ensure countries like ours live up to our commitments — such as disability rights, where this year’s report found us to be failing.
International cooperation, solidarity, collective action are the values we are determined to project in our foreign policy. Those values will inform everything the next Labour government does on the world stage, using diplomacy to expand a progressive, rules-based international system, which provides justice and security for all. They must be genuinely universal and apply to the strong as much as the weak if they are to command global support and confidence. They cannot be used to discipline the weak, while the strong do as they please, or they will be discredited as a tool of power, not justice.
That’s why we must ensure that the powerful uphold and respect international rules and international law. If we don’t, the ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 will remain an aspiration, rather than a reality and international rules will be seen as a pick and mix menu for the global powers that call the international shots. Most urgently we must work with other countries to advance the cause of human rights, to confront the four greatest and interconnected threats facing our common humanity.
First, the growing concentration of unaccountable wealth and power in the hands of a tiny corporate elite, a system many call neoliberalism, which has sharply increased inequality, marginalization, insecurity and anger across the world.
Second, climate change, which is creating instability, fueling conflict across the world and threatening all our futures.
Third, the unprecedented numbers of people fleeing conflict, persecution, human rights abuses, social breakdown and climate disasters.
And finally, the use of unilateral military action and intervention, rather than diplomacy and negotiation, to resolve disputes and change governments.
Building a social economy
The dominant global economic system is broken. It is producing a world where a wealthy few control 90 percent of global resources; a world of growing insecurity and grotesque levels of inequality within and between nations, where more than 100 billion dollars a year are estimated to be lost to developing countries from corporate tax avoidance; a world where $1 trillion dollars a year are sucked out of the Global South through illicit financial flows. This is a global scandal.
The most powerful international corporations must not be allowed to continue to dictate how and for whom our world is run. Thirty years after structural adjustment programs first ravaged so much of the world, and a decade after the financial crash of 2008, the neoliberal orthodoxy that delivered them is breaking down. This moment, a crisis of confidence in a bankrupt economic system and social order, presents us with a once in a generation opportunity to build a new economic and social consensus which puts the interests of the majority first.
But the crumbling of the global elite’s system and their prerogative to call the shots unchallenged has led some politicians to stoke fear and division. And deride international cooperation as national capitulation. President Trump’s disgraceful Muslim ban and his anti-Mexican rhetoric have fueled racist incitement and misogyny and shifted the focus away from what his Wall Street-dominated administration is actually doing.
In Britain, where wages have actually fallen for most people over the last decade as the corporations and the richest have been handed billions in tax cuts, our Prime Minister has followed a less extreme approach but one that also aims to divert attention from her Government’s failures and real agenda. She threatens to scrap the Human Rights Act, which guarantees all of our people’s civil and political rights and has actually benefited everyone in our country. And she has insisted “if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere.”
There is an alternative to this damaging and bankrupt order. The world’s largest corporations and banks cannot be left to write the rules and rig the system for themselves. The world’s economy can and must deliver for the common good and the majority of its people. But that is going to demand real and fundamental structural change on an international level.
The United Nations has a pivotal role to play, in advancing a new consensus and common ground based on solidarity, respect for human rights and international regulation and cooperation. That includes as a platform for democratic leaders to speak truth about unaccountable power.
One such moment took place on 4 December 1972, when President Salvador Allende of Chile, elected despite huge opposition and US interference, took the rostrum of the UN General Assembly in New York. He called for global action against the threat from transnational corporations, that do not answer to any state, any parliament or any organization representing the common interest. Nine months later, Allende was killed in General Augusto Pinochet’s coup, which ushered in a brutal 17-year dictatorship and turned Chile into a laboratory of free market fundamentalism.
But 44 years on, all over the world people are standing up and saying enough to the unchained power of multinational companies to dodge taxes, grab land and resources on the cheap and rip the heart out of work forces and communities. That’s why I make the commitment to you today that the next Labour government in Britain will actively support the efforts of the UN Human Rights Council to create a legally binding treaty to regulate transnational corporations under international human rights law. Genuine corporate accountability must apply to all of the activities of their subsidiaries and suppliers. Impunity for corporations that violate human rights or wreck our environment, as in the mineral-driven conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, must be brought to an end.
For too long, development has been driven by the unfounded dogma that unfettered markets and unaccountable multinational companies are the key to solving global problems. So under the next Labour Government the Department for International Development will have the twin mission of not only eradicating poverty but also reducing inequality across the world. To achieve this goal we must act against the global scandal of tax dodging and trade mis-invoicing — robbing developing countries and draining resources from our own public services.
In Africa alone an estimated 35 billion dollars is lost each year to tax dodging, and 50 billion to illicit financial flows, vastly exceeding the 30 billion dollars that enters the continent as aid. As the Paradise and Panama Papers have shown the super-rich and the powerful can’t be trusted to regulate themselves. Multinational companies must be required to undertake country-by-country reporting, while countries in the Global South need support now to keep hold of the billions being stolen from their people. So the next Labour government will seek to work with tax authorities in developing countries, as Zambia has with NORAD — the Norwegian aid agency — to help them stop the looting.
Saturday marks International Anti-Corruption Day. Corruption isn’t something that happens “over there.” Our government has played a central role in enabling the corruption that undermines democracy and violates human rights. It is a global issue that requires a global response. When people are kept in poverty, while politicians funnel public funds into tax havens, that is corruption, and a Labour government will act decisively on tax havens: introducing strict standards of transparency for crown dependencies and overseas territories including a public register of owners, directors, major shareholders and beneficial owners for all companies and trusts.
Delivering climate justice
Climate change is the second great threat to our common humanity. Our planet is in jeopardy. Global warming is undeniable; the number of natural disasters has quadrupled since 1970.
Hurricanes like the ones that recently hit the Caribbean are bigger because they are absorbing moisture from warmer seas. It is climate change that is warming the seas, mainly caused by emissions from the world’s richer countries. And yet the least polluting countries, more often than not the developing nations, are at the sharp end of the havoc climate change unleashes — with environmental damage fueling food insecurity and social dislocation. We must stand with them in solidarity. Two months ago, I promised the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, that I would use this platform to make this message clear.
The international community must mobilize resources and the world’s biggest polluters shoulder the biggest burden. So I ask governments in the most polluting countries, including in the UK:
First, to expand their capacity to respond to disasters around the world. Our armed forces, some of the best trained and most highly skilled in the world, should be allowed to use their experience to respond to humanitarian emergencies. Italy is among those leading the way with its navy becoming a more versatile and multi-role force.
Second, to factor the costs of environmental degradation into financial forecasting as Labour has pledged to do with Britain’s Office of Budget Responsibility.
Third, to stand very firmly behind the historic Paris Climate Accords.
And finally, take serious and urgent steps on debt relief and cancellation.
We need to act as an international community against the injustice of countries trying to recover from climate crises they did not create while struggling to repay international debts. It’s worth remembering the words of Thomas Sankara, President of Burkina Faso, delivered to the Organization of African Unity in 1987 a few months before he too was assassinated in a coup. “The debt cannot be repaid,” he said, “first because if we don’t repay lenders will not die. But if we repay… we are going to die.”
The growing climate crisis exacerbates the already unparalleled numbers of people escaping conflict and desperation. There are now more refugees and displaced people around the world than at any time since the Second World War. Refugees are people like us. But unlike us they have been forced by violence, persecution and climate chaos to flee their homes. One of the biggest moral tests of our time is how we live up to the spirit and letter of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Its core principle was simple: to protect refugees. Yet ten countries, which account for just 2.5 percent of the global economy, are hosting more than half the world’s refugees.
It is time for the world’s richer countries to step up and show our common humanity. Failure means millions of Syrians internally displaced within their destroyed homeland or refugees outside it. Rohingya refugees returned to Myanmar without guarantees of citizenship or protection from state violence and refugees held in indefinite detention in camps unfit for human habitation as in Papua New Guinea or Nauru. And African refugees sold into slavery in war-ravaged Libya. This reality should offend our sense of humanity and human solidarity.
European countries can, and must, do more as the death rate of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean continues to rise. And we need to take more effective action against human traffickers. But let us be clear: the long-term answer is genuine international cooperation based on human rights, which confronts the root causes of conflict, persecution and inequality.
Working for peace
I’ve spent most of my life, with many others, making the case for diplomacy and dialogue over war and conflict, often in the face of hostility. But I remain convinced that is the only way to deliver genuine and lasting security for all. And even after the disastrous invasions and occupations of recent years there is again renewed pressure to opt for military force, America First or Empire 2.0 as the path to global security. I know the people of Britain are neither insensitive to the sufferings of others nor blind to the impact and blowback from our country’s reckless foreign wars. Regime change wars, invasions, interventions and occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and Somalia have failed on their own terms, devastated the countries and regions and made Britain and the world a more dangerous place.
And while the UK government champions some human rights issues on others it is silent, if not complicit, in their violation. Too many have turned a willfully blind eye to the flagrant and large-scale human rights abuses now taking place in Yemen, fueled by arms sales to Saudi Arabia worth billions of pounds. The see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil approach undermines our credibility and ability to act over other human rights abuses. Total British government aid to Yemen last year was under £150 million — less than the profits made by British arms companies selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. What does that say about our country’s priorities, or our government’s role in the humanitarian disaster now gripping Yemen? Our credibility to speak out against the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims is severely undermined when the British Government has been providing support to Myanmar’s military.
And our governments pay lip service to a comprehensive settlement and two state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict but do nothing to use the leverage they have to end the oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian people. 70 years after the UN General Assembly voted to create a Palestinian state alongside what would become Israel, and half a century since Israel occupied the whole of historic Palestine, they should take a lead from Israeli peace campaigners such as Gush Shalom and Peace Now and demand an end to the multiple human rights abuses Palestinians face on a daily basis. The continued occupation and illegal settlements are violations of international law and are a barrier to peace.
The US president’s announcement that his administration will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, including occupied Palestinian territory, is a threat to peace that has rightly been met with overwhelming international condemnation. The decision is not only reckless and provocative — it risks setting back any prospect of a political settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict. President Trump’s speech at the UN General Assembly in September signaled a wider threat to peace. His attack on multilateralism, human rights and international law should deeply trouble us all.
And this is no time to reject the Iran Nuclear Deal, a significant achievement agreed between Iran and a group of world power to reduce tensions. That threatens not just the Middle East but also the Korean Peninsula. What incentives are there for Pyongyang to believe disarmament will bring benefits when the US dumps its nuclear agreement with Tehran? Trump and Kim Jong-un threaten a terrifying nuclear confrontation with their absurd and bellicose insults. In common with almost the whole of humanity, I say to the two leaders: this is not a game, step back from the brink now.
It is a commonplace that war and violence do not solve the world’s problems. Violence breeds violence. In 2016 nearly three quarters of all deaths from terrorism were in five states; Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria and Somalia. So let us stand up for the victims of war and terrorism and make international justice a reality.
Let us also demand that the biggest arms exporters ensure all arms exports are consistent, not just legally, but with their moral obligations too. That means no more arms export licenses when there is a clear risk that they will be used to commit human rights abuses or crimes against humanity. The UK is one of the world’s largest arms exporters so we must live up to our international obligations while we explore ways to convert arms production into other socially useful, high-skill, high-tech industry.
That is why I welcome the recent bipartisan US House of Representatives resolution which does two unprecedented things. First, it acknowledges the US role in the destruction of Yemen, including the mid-air refueling of the Saudi-led coalition planes essential to their bombing campaign and helping in selecting targets. Second, it makes plain that Congress has not authorized this military involvement.
Yemen is a desperate humanitarian catastrophe with the worst cholera outbreak in history. The weight of international community opinion needs to be brought to bear on those supporting Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, including Theresa May’s Government, to meet our legal and moral obligations on arms sales and to negotiate an urgent ceasefire and settlement of this devastating conflict.
If we’re serious about supporting peace we must strengthen international cooperation and peacekeeping. Britain has an important role to play after failing to contribute significant troop numbers in recent years. We are determined to seize the opportunity to be a force for good in peacekeeping, diplomacy and support for human rights.
Labour is committed to invest in our diplomatic capabilities and consular services and we will reintroduce human rights advisers in our embassies around the world. Human rights and justice will be at the heart of our foreign policy along with a commitment to support the United Nations. The UN provides a unique platform for international cooperation and action. And to be effective, we need member states to get behind the reform agenda set out by Secretary General Guterres. The world demands the UN Security Council responds, becomes more representative and plays the role it was set up to on peace and security.
We can live in a more peaceful world. The desire to help create a better life for all burns within us.
Governments, civil society, social movements and international organizations can all help realize that goal. We need to redouble our efforts to create a global rules based system that applies to all and works for the many, not the few.
No more bomb first and talk later.
No more double standards in foreign policy.
No more scapegoating of global institutions for the sake of scoring political points at home.
Instead: solidarity, calm leadership and cooperation. Together we can:
Build a new social and economic system with human rights and justice at its core.
Deliver climate justice and a better way to live together on this planet.
Recognize the humanity of refugees and offer them a place of safety.
Work for peace, security and understanding.
The survival of our common humanity requires nothing less.
We need to recognize and pay tribute to human rights defenders the world over, putting their lives on the line for others — our voice must be their voice.
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Corporate lawyer, former minister of canal affairs, party
secretary general and presidential hopeful
Rómulo Roux on the campaign trail.
Photo from his Twitter feed.
Roux challenges Martinelli for CD presidency
by Eric Jackson
For most of its existence, up to the point that the PRD made the disastrous blunder of nominating Balbina Herrera for president and the American Embassy made the blunder of cajoling Juan Carlos Varela into becoming junior partner in an ill-advised and ephemeral alliance to stop her, Ricardo Martinelli ran Cambio Democratico as a small party family business, the strategy being to win a few seats in the legislature that would give Ricardo Martinelli the bargaining power to get a cabinet post, maybe put some friends and relatives in politically appointed jobs, maybe win some contracts for businesses of the faithful. That’s the ordinary small party game here — parties that actually stand for something rarely win and when they do they are unable to survive for very long. Politics is a business here, not a holy cause. In business here it’s generally foolish to own a piece of an enterprise one does not control and the temptation is to treat political parties according to this family business model as well. However, the larger a party gets the harder it is to maintain such control.
The US-favored Martinelli swept into power in 2009 on a landslide in the presidential vote, but without any sort of legislative caucus to match. But Martinelli used the levers of political patronage to buy or blackmail many elected officials of the other parties to grow Cambio Democratico into one of three mass parties, a rival to the Democratic Revolutionary Party that General Torrijos founded and the Panameñista Party that Arnulfo Arias founded. What Torrijos and Arias stood for hardly matters anymore in those respective parties, but what has Cambio Democratico every stood for other than Ricardo Martinelli?
But CD was defeated in the 2014, notwithstanding a thuggish campaign in which money was stolen from the Panamanian people by way of graft — overpriced government contracts part of the difference skimmed off for a political slush fund that was used to buy votes with bags of groceries, household appliances, building materials or cash. Will this reporter be prosecuted for writing this, as it has been arranged that hardly anyone involved in this crime wave has been or will be convicted? Tough. Truth is a defense.
In the wake of the defeat Martinelli threatened members of his own party with exposure of material in extensive secret files if they didn’t continue to follow his orders. But now Martinelli’s man in charge of rigging justice, Alejandro Moncada Luna, has been demoted from Presiding Magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice to inmate with a number in El Renacer Penitentiary. The ex-president’s two sons are fugitives with INTERPOL red notice warrants for their arrest. A judge just declared that Martinelli’s brother-in-law has beaten a major rap by remaining in hiding until the statute of limitations ran out, but that will be appealed and there are other investigations. And Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal remains in a Miami jail cell, with a hearing on his appeal from an extradition order scheduled for January 9.
What’s a former president in such legal trouble to do? Why, run for office, any office for which candidates get immunity from investigation and prosecution in Panama. The time it takes to strip away the new layer of immunity will also help run out the calendar for this country’s statutes of limitations, for which there are no tolling provisions. So Ricardo Martinelli announced his candidacy for re-election as party president, by way of a power of attorney given to his wife, Marta Linares de Martinelli, who will be his running mate who seeks the party vice presidency.
Although there are on paper some 340,000 party members, Ricardo Martinelli still considers Cambio Democratico his personal property. He’s the only president it has ever had and he has been a hand-on autocrat since he founded the organization. Internal democracy? Not for him. This past October they had the first internal party elections in more than a decade. Fewer than 70,000 people showed up, which was spun as a great show of support. But meanwhile most of the party’s legislative caucus defies Martinelli, some of them hiving off into new parties, and most of those who served in top Martinelli administration posts are now under investigation for this or that crime, mostly bribery, peculation or graft.
The Electoral Tribunal has more or less prohibited the publication of opinion polls between now and the May 2019 elections — the better to keep some independent from rising into the public’s field of view — but it’s hard to see how CD maintains its status as a major party in the next elections. Especially so, if it’s being run by Ricardo Martinelli from a jail cell.
Rómulo Roux, of the corporate law firm Morgan & Morgan, former canal affairs minister and not currently the focus of any criminal investigation, probably sees it differently. Perhaps he figures that a 2019 campaign is a lost cause for him and for CD, but a stepping stone toward a more successful run in the future beyond that year. In any case, he wants to run for president, he will have a crowded field of scandal-tainted opponents to face and the new election rules say he can’t be campaigning for president of Panama. He can, however, keep himself in the public eye by campaigning for president of Cambio Democratico.
The argument is simple enough. “Ricardo is the victim of a voracious persecution by President Varela and the current government. And as a product of that persecution, he can’t be with us, he can’t physically assume the leadership of the party in Panama,” Roux told assembled reporters on December 9 in Chiriqui. He was flanked by such party notables as legislators Carlos Afú, Rony Araúz and Edwin Zúñiga, along with CD women’s branch leader Ana Giselle Rosas.
Ricardo Martinelli had announced his candidacy four days earlier and from his camp there came immediate expressions of outrage. Roux is a “Trojan horse,” a “traitor” and so on, go some of the milder responses. It might be a fun campaign, except that there seems to be little sense of humor on either side.
Martinelli’s mouthpiece rants.
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Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offense has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense. (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offense on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offense, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offense was committed.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country. (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work. (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection. (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society. (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.
La Declaración Universal de Derechos Humanos
Considerando que la libertad, la justicia y la paz en el mundo tienen por base el reconocimiento de la dignidad intrínseca y de los derechos iguales e inalienables de todos los miembros de la familia humana;
Considerando que el desconocimiento y el menosprecio de los derechos humanos han originado actos de barbarie ultrajantes para la conciencia de la humanidad, y que se ha proclamado, como la aspiración más elevada del hombre, el advenimiento de un mundo en que los seres humanos, liberados del temor y de la miseria, disfruten de la libertad de palabra y de la libertad de creencias;
Considerando esencial que los derechos humanos sean protegidos por un régimen de Derecho, a fin de que el hombre no se vea compelido al supremo recurso de la rebelión contra la tiranía y la opresión;
Considerando también esencial promover el desarrollo de relaciones amistosas entre las naciones;
Considerando que los pueblos de las Naciones Unidas han reafirmado en la Carta su fe en los derechos fundamentales del hombre, en la dignidad y el valor de la persona humana y en la igualdad de derechos de hombres y mujeres, y se han declarado resueltos a promover el progreso social y a elevar el nivel de vida dentro de un concepto más amplio de la libertad;
Considerando que los Estados Miembros se han comprometido a asegurar, en cooperación con la Organización de las Naciones Unidas, el respeto universal y efectivo a los derechos y libertades fundamentales del hombre, y
Considerando que una concepción común de estos derechos y libertades es de la mayor importancia para el pleno cumplimiento de dicho compromiso;
LA ASAMBLEA GENERAL proclama la presente DECLARACIÓN UNIVERSAL DE DERECHOS HUMANOS como ideal común por el que todos los pueblos y naciones deben esforzarse, a fin de que tanto los individuos como las instituciones, inspirándose constantemente en ella, promuevan, mediante la enseñanza y la educación, el respeto a estos derechos y libertades, y aseguren, por medidas progresivas de carácter nacional e internacional, su reconocimiento y aplicación universales y efectivos, tanto entre los pueblos de los Estados Miembros como entre los de los territorios colocados bajo su jurisdicción.
Todos los seres humanos nacen libres e iguales en dignidad y derechos y, dotados como están de razón y conciencia, deben comportarse fraternalmente los unos con los otros.
Toda persona tiene todos los derechos y libertades proclamados en esta Declaración, sin distinción alguna de raza, color, sexo, idioma, religión, opinión política o de cualquier otra índole, origen nacional o social, posición económica, nacimiento o cualquier otra condición. Además, no se hará distinción alguna fundada en la condición política, jurídica o internacional del país o territorio de cuya jurisdicción dependa una persona, tanto si se trata de un país independiente, como de un territorio bajo administración fiduciaria, no autónomo o sometido a cualquier otra limitación de soberanía.
Todo individuo tiene derecho a la vida, a la libertad y a la seguridad de su persona.
Nadie estará sometido a esclavitud ni a servidumbre, la esclavitud y la trata de esclavos están prohibidas en todas sus formas.
Nadie será sometido a torturas ni a penas o tratos crueles, inhumanos o degradantes.
Todo ser humano tiene derecho, en todas partes, al reconocimiento de su personalidad jurídica.
Todos son iguales ante la ley y tienen, sin distinción, derecho a igual protección de la ley. Todos tienen derecho a igual protección contra toda discriminación que infrinja esta Declaración y contra toda provocación a tal discriminación.
Toda persona tiene derecho a un recurso efectivo ante los tribunales nacionales competentes, que la ampare contra actos que violen sus derechos fundamentales reconocidos por la constitución o por la ley.
Nadie podrá ser arbitrariamente detenido, preso ni desterrado.
Toda persona tiene derecho, en condiciones de plena igualdad, a ser oída públicamente y con justicia por un tribunal independiente e imparcial, para la determinación de sus derechos y obligaciones o para el examen de cualquier acusación contra ella en materia penal.
1. Toda persona acusada de delito tiene derecho a que se presuma su inocencia mientras no se pruebe su culpabilidad, conforme a la ley y en juicio público en el que se le hayan asegurado todas las garantías necesarias para su defensa. 2. Nadie será condenado por actos u omisiones que en el momento de cometerse no fueron delictivos según el Derecho nacional o internacional. Tampoco se impondrá pena más grave que la aplicable en el momento de la comisión del delito.
Nadie será objeto de injerencias arbitrarias en su vida privada, su familia, su domicilio o su correspondencia, ni de ataques a su honra o a su reputación. Toda persona tiene derecho a la protección de la ley contra tales injerencias o ataques.
1. Toda persona tiene derecho a circular libremente y a elegir su residencia en el territorio de un Estado. 2. Toda persona tiene derecho a salir de cualquier país, incluso del propio, y a regresar a su país.
1. En caso de persecución, toda persona tiene derecho a buscar asilo, y a disfrutar de él, en cualquier país. 2. Este derecho no podrá ser invocado contra una acción judicial realmente originada por delitos comunes o por actos opuestos a los propósitos y principios de las Naciones Unidas.
1. Toda persona tiene derecho a una nacionalidad. 2. A nadie se privará arbitrariamente de su nacionalidad ni del derecho a cambiar de nacionalidad.
1. Los hombres y las mujeres, a partir de la edad núbil, tienen derecho, sin restricción alguna por motivos de raza, nacionalidad o religión, a casarse y fundar una familia, y disfrutarán de iguales derechos en cuanto al matrimonio, durante el matrimonio y en caso de disolución del matrimonio. 2. Sólo mediante libre y pleno consentimiento de los futuros esposos podrá contraerse el matrimonio. 3. La familia es el elemento natural y fundamental de la sociedad y tiene derecho a la protección de la sociedad y del Estado.
1. Toda persona tiene derecho a la propiedad, individual y colectivamente. 2. Nadie será privado arbitrariamente de su propiedad.
Toda persona tiene derecho a la libertad de pensamiento, de conciencia y de religión; este derecho incluye la libertad de cambiar de religión o de creencia, así como la libertad de manifestar su religión o su creencia, individual y colectivamente, tanto en público como en privado, por la enseñanza, la práctica, el culto y la observancia.
Todo individuo tiene derecho a la libertad de opinión y de expresión; este derecho incluye el de no ser molestado a causa de sus opiniones, el de investigar y recibir informaciones y opiniones, y el de difundirlas, sin limitación de fronteras, por cualquier medio de expresión.
1. Toda persona tiene derecho a la libertad de reunión y de asociación pacíficas. 2. Nadie podrá ser obligado a pertenecer a una asociación.
1. Toda persona tiene derecho a participar en el gobierno de su país, directamente o por medio de representantes libremente escogidos. 2. Toda persona tiene el derecho de acceso, en condiciones de igualdad, a las funciones públicas de su país. 3. La voluntad del pueblo es la base de la autoridad del poder público; esta voluntad se expresará mediante elecciones auténticas que habrán de celebrarse periódicamente, por sufragio universal e igual y por voto secreto u otro procedimiento equivalente que garantice la libertad del voto.
Toda persona, como miembro de la sociedad, tiene derecho a la seguridad social, y a obtener, mediante el esfuerzo nacional y la cooperación internacional, habida cuenta de la organización y los recursos de cada Estado, la satisfacción de los derechos económicos, sociales y culturales, indispensables a su dignidad y al libre desarrollo de su personalidad.
1. Toda persona tiene derecho al trabajo, a la libre elección de su trabajo, a condiciones equitativas y satisfactorias de trabajo y a la protección contra el desempleo. 2. Toda persona tiene derecho, sin discriminación alguna, a igual salario por trabajo igual. 3. Toda persona que trabaja tiene derecho a una remuneración equitativa y satisfactoria, que le asegure, así como a su familia, una existencia conforme a la dignidad humana y que será completada, en caso necesario, por cualesquiera otros medios de protección social. 4. Toda persona tiene derecho a fundar sindicatos y a sindicarse para la defensa de sus intereses.
Toda persona tiene derecho al descanso, al disfrute del tiempo libre, a una limitación razonable de la duración del trabajo y a vacaciones periódicas pagadas.
1. Toda persona tiene derecho a un nivel de vida adecuado que le asegure, así como a su familia, la salud y el bienestar, y en especial la alimentación, el vestido, la vivienda, la asistencia médica y los servicios sociales necesarios; tiene asimismo derecho a los seguros en caso de desempleo, enfermedad, invalidez, viudez, vejez u otros casos de pérdida de sus medios de subsistencia por circunstancias independientes de su voluntad. 2. La maternidad y la infancia tienen derecho a cuidados y asistencia especiales. Todos los niños, nacidos de matrimonio o fuera de matrimonio, tienen derecho a igual protección social.
1. Toda persona tiene derecho a la educación. La educación debe ser gratuita, al menos en lo concerniente a la instrucción elemental y fundamental. La instrucción elemental será obligatoria. La instrucción técnica y profesional habrá de ser generalizada; el acceso a los estudios superiores será igual para todos, en función de los méritos respectivos. 2. La educación tendrá por objeto el pleno desarrollo de la personalidad humana y el fortalecimiento del respeto a los derechos humanos y a las libertades fundamentales; favorecerá la comprensión, la tolerancia y la amistad entre todas las naciones y todos los grupos étnicos o religiosos, y promoverá el desarrollo de las actividades de las Naciones Unidas para el mantenimiento de la paz. 3. Los padres tendrán derecho preferente a escoger el tipo de educación que habrá de darse a sus hijos.
1. Toda persona tiene derecho a tomar parte libremente en la vida cultural de la comunidad, a gozar de las artes y a participar en el progreso científico y en los beneficios que de él resulten. 2. Toda persona tiene derecho a la protección de los intereses morales y materiales que le correspondan por razón de las producciones científicas, literarias o artísticas de que sea autora.
Toda persona tiene derecho a que se establezca un orden social e internacional en el que los derechos y libertades proclamados en esta Declaración se hagan plenamente efectivos.
1. Toda persona tiene deberes respecto a la comunidad, puesto que sólo en ella puede desarrollar libre y plenamente su personalidad. 2. En el ejercicio de sus derechos y en el disfrute de sus libertades, toda persona estará solamente sujeta a las limitaciones establecidas por la ley con el único fin de asegurar el reconocimiento y el respeto de los derechos y libertades de los demás, y de satisfacer las justas exigencias de la moral, del orden público y del bienestar general en una sociedad democrática. 3. Estos derechos y libertades no podrán, en ningún caso, ser ejercidos en oposición a los propósitos y principios de las Naciones Unidas.
Nada en esta Declaración podrá interpretarse en el sentido de que confiere derecho alguno al Estado, a un grupo o a una persona, para emprender y desarrollar actividades o realizar actos tendientes a la supresión de cualquiera de los derechos y libertades proclamados en esta Declaración.
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PRD claims to have proof — the votes,
however, may be a different matter
by Eric Jackson
Late on the afternoon of December 6, perhaps on the last reasonable news day before a long holiday weekend, the Democratic Revolutionary Party gathered the faithful with reporters for a press conference about the general situation in Panama. The legislature has been out of session since the end of October and December 8 was Mothers Day here, which is surely a big part of the explanation of who was not there. Not in the picture were many members of the PRD legislative caucus, nor contenders for the party’s 2019 presidential nomination, nor leading figures in the factions that González defeated to win his current party post.
The big takeaway from the discussion was that González maintained that the PRD has all of the necessary legal proofs to start a criminal investigation of President Juan Carlos Varela for accepting illegal campaign contributions from the notorious Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht. About that González is surely right. However, when it’s the president it’s not a court case. Such a matter would have to be investigated, prosecuted and tried by the National Assembly. Under Panama’s current constitution, the relevant question is whether the votes would be there to move against the president.
If all other parties in the legislature ganged up on Varela, his Panameñistas would not have the votes to stop or much delay an investigation that could lead to an impeachment and criminal trial. However, with his party teaming up with dissidents from both the PRD and Ricardo Martinelli’s Cambio Democratico, there is a functional majority in the legislature that gives Varela more or less what he wants. Plus, as to both the Odebrecht and now the Blue Apple cases, all indications are that the present administration and the previous two were profoundly involved in bribery and graft to favor players in the construction and finance industries. PRD members were on the take as well.
González may have fired the first propaganda shot of the 2019 election cycle, but how serious was he as a legislator?
Two days earlier, Varela announced that “sometime after December 15” there would be a special legislative session. There almost has to be, as two Supreme Court magistrates, Oydén Ortega and Jerónimo Mejía, end their 10-year terms on the high court as of December 31. That is, unless replacements have not been ratified. But when that happens there tends to be a brief period when no business of consequence is done at the court until the scheduled replacements are made, even if the old magistrates remain in office and draw salaries until the new ones take office.
On Mothers Day — when hardly anyone was paying attention — Varela announced that the special session to ratify Supreme Court nominees would begin on December 18. He did not say who those nominees would be. The president also declared that as he is president and not a candidate he will not answer any of González’s assertions, nor the published reports and sworn testimony about Odebrecht money flowing into his 2014 campaign via the party insider and erstwhile diplomat Jaime Lasso. Lasso says that the Panameñistas got $700,000 from Odebrecht, but the PRD is claiming that the figure was more like $12 million.
If the PRD has the votes to start a criminal investigation in the legislature, one would expect that they have the votes needed to block Varela’s nominees, whoever they might be. But some anti-corruption activists suggest that the game that González is playing is not about running Varela out of the presidency but about getting someone from the PRD appointed as a magistrate or alternate. With the exit of Ortega and Mejía and their suplentes the PRD will be fresh out of people on the high court if no such deal is struck.
The more innocent explanation is that González is positioning his party as “the real opposition” — as against a Cambio Democratico slate. The latter will likely be dismissed as mostly a bunch of thugs running for office just to get candidates’ immunity from investigation and prosecution but no longer a serious alternative to win control of the government. Ricardo Martinelli’s appeal of a federal magistrate’s extradition order will be heard on January 9 and if he loses he might be expected to appeal to higher courts. Meanwhile the former president and first lady have declared themselves to be candidates for party president and vice president respectively, which gives them fresh layers of immunity. Ricardo Martinelli has made noises about running for mayor of Panama City in 2019.
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