Home Blog

Edmonston, Spanish thanksgiving and homily in English at the BUC

0

the Vegas shooter's lair

Homily and thanksgiving at the Balboa Union Church on October 8

by Phil Edmonston

Las Vegas Matanza: Irónico

Sí, la masacre de casi 550 personas en Las Vegas la semana pasada par un francotirador fue horrible, pero, también hay algo que es muy irónico:

El empleado de seguridad del Mandalay Bay de Las Vegas, hacía una ronda de rutina por el casino cuando le pidieron que subiera hasta el piso 32. Desarmado, el empleado de 25 años no tenía claro que iba a enfrentarse a un asesino sin escrúpulos, listo para descargarle más de 200 balas. El tirador le vio venir por las cámaras que tenía instaladas en el pasillo y en la mirilla de su habitación.

Cuando se aproximó a su cuarto, el tirador abrió fuego a través de la puerta de la habitación e hirió el empleado en la pierna derecha. El le quitó hierro al asunto asegurando que sólo “estaba haciendo mi trabajo,” aunque el sheriff en Las Vegas, describió su acción como un acto de valentía que posiblemente ayudó a evitar más víctimas mortals a un concierto de country desde la habitación de su hotel.

Lo que es ironico… El agente de la seguridad se llama Jesus Campos, uno de los latinos calificados por el Presidente Trump como violadores, ladrones, y maleantes.

Tengo no más que esto repuesto:

Gracias, Jesus.

End of Times?

The gunning down of over 500 people and the death of 58 last week in Las Vegas by a lone sniper was, indeed, an act of pure evil.

But, it was a predictable evil, fueled by an easy access to firearms and an angry, aging electorate that feels life is ‘rigged’ against most people.

We are seeing the democratization of violence. Innocents gunned down in their schools, homes, and churches. It’s not surprising this has led some Christians to believe that we are in the “End of Times,” just prior to the Second Coming of Christ as prophesied by the Apostle Paul:

“In the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good” (2nd Tim 3:1-3).

Everyday we see political and religious ideologies clash with one another all over the world as humankind declares war on itself and threatens a nuclear holocaust. Again, as prophesized by Paul,

“…Hearts will be filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. We shall see the rise of “envy, murder, strife, deceit, and maliciousness — gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, and others who are foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless.” (Rom 1:29-31).

Without a doubt, we are certainly seeing evildoers everywhere, but, we aren’t facing the end of the world. In fact, the ‘good old days’ were far worse, says author Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of our Nature.

Pinker points out that that time promotes progress; and man eventually evolves from violent competition to peaceful cooperation. But, progress isn’t linear and there is a price to pay.

Pinker notes that millions died when the Lord flooded the Earth and ‘rebooted’ mankind; more than 800,000 soldiers died in an American Civil War (for every three soldiers killed in battle, five more died of disease) that ended slavery; and 57,000 American combatants died in Viet Nam in a war that was undeclared, unneeded, and unwinnable . Yet, after America abandoned that fight, the loathsome communists morphed into respectable capitalists, and today, Viet Nam is one of the most prosperous countries and largest builder of Ford, GM, Chrysler, and Jeep cars and SUVs in South East Asia. It took a war to get there.

We see everyday miracles in medical care, through improved diagnostic procedures, innovative surgical techniques, and ‘wonder drugs’ that we ‘wonder’ if we can afford as politicians restrict access to those most in need. Diseases like Ebola, polio, smallpox, tuberculosis, and childhood leukemia are not the scourge they once were, although, more of us now die from self-afflicted maladies like obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and AIDS.

Remember, as 60s black activist H. Rap Brown said: “Violence is as American as Apple pie.” Rather than heralding the Last Judgment, it is a sign of poor judgment.

 

Gloria

Gun or Birth Control?

“I want any young men who buy a gun to be treated like young women who seek an abortion. Think about it: a mandatory 48-hours waiting period, written permission from a parent or a judge, a note from a doctor proving that he understands what he is about to do, time spent watching a video on individual and mass murders, traveling hundreds of miles at his own expense to the nearest gun shop, and walking through protestors holding photos of loved ones killed by guns, protestor who call him a murderer. After all, it makes more sense to do this for young men seeking guns than for young women seeking an abortion. No young woman needing reproductive freedom has ever murdered a roomful of strangers.”

Gloria Steinem, quoting a 2013 article by William Hamby on Examiner.com.

Two Bears, Bald Men, and a Prophet

This being St. Francis’s month when animals are blessed by priests in churches around the world, I couldn’t resist quoting one animal story found in the Bible about bald men, two bears, and the Prophet Elisha.

Although this sounds like the beginning of a bad joke we read of the prophet Elisha calling a curse down upon a group of “youths” who mocked his baldness (2 Kings 2:23–24).

Here, read the passage for yourself:

“And [Elisha] went up from there to Bethel. While he was on his way, young juveniles came out from the city and mocked him, saying, ‘Go up, bald-head! Go up, bald-head!’ When he turned back and saw them, he cursed them in the name of YHWH. Then two female bears came out from the forest and mauled forty two of those juveniles.”

So, watch what you say around Fido or Snowball. The Lord knows and the bears may be listening

 

~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.
Estos anuncios son interactivos. Toque en ellos para seguir a las páginas de web.

 

little donor button

FB_2

Tweet

Tweet

FB CCL

vote final

Spanish PayPal button

Beluche, 40 años de la firma de los tratados

0

treaty time

En los 40 años de la firma de los Tratados Torrijos – Carter

por Olmedo Beluche

La conmemoración de los 40 años de la firma de los Tratados Torrijos-Carter ha sido utilizada por los dirigentes del Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD) para exaltar la figura de su fundador, Omar Torrijos, y resaltar el supuesto “error” de los que, por razones patrióticas o antiimperialistas, no apoyamos en ese momento el acuerdo. El momento obliga a la evaluación objetiva de los hechos, donde la verdad histórica suele estar equidistante de cualquier unilateralismo.

Las razones del Sí y las razones del No

Desde el momento en que se conoció el texto del tratado, y durante los pocos días de debate democrático que se abrió, entre el 7 de septiembre, fecha de la firma, y el 23 de octubre, fecha del plebiscito, quedó en evidencia su carácter contradictorio. Sin duda alguna, el tratado contenía grandes conquistas, pero también contenía importantes retrocesos que afectaban, y siguen afectando, la soberanía.

Quienes se inclinaban por el voto Sí, reivindicaban el desmantelamiento de la Zona del Canal, el comienzo de la reversión y una fecha fija para la salida de Estados Unidos y sus bases militares, el 31 de diciembre de 1999. Quienes se inclinaban por el voto No, señalaban la legalización de las bases militares, el Pacto de Neutralidad que no era neutral y no tenía fecha de finalización, así como ceder por 23 años la administración primaria del canal.

Por supuesto, también las subjetividades y convicciones políticas influyeron en el debate. Las razones para votar “Sí” o para votar “No” eran tan diversas como la sociedad panameña: desde los gringueros de derecha, para quienes Panamá sólo podía existir como colonia; hasta los oportunistas que aprobaban lo que dijeran los militares panameños sin importar más razones.

En la izquierda también había sus extremos, desde los pancistas que, desde 1972, recibían prebendas del régimen a cambio de apoyo incondicional; hasta la izquierda independiente, separada de Torrijos por las violaciones a los derechos humanos, los asesinados y desaparecidos de los años anteriores.

Entre esos extremos estaba la mayoría de la ciudadanía, motivada por verdaderos sentimientos antiimperialistas y patrióticos forjados por generaciones que lucharon valientemente contra la Zona del Canal y su status colonial. Aquí también la gente se dividió, la mayoría a favor del tratado, la minoría en contra, evaluando “los pros y los contras” según fuera su lectura del tratado.

El mérito es de los Mártires del 64

Algo que se suele pasar por alto es que las conquistas contenidas en el tratado se deben primero que, y por encima de todo, a la lucha generacional del pueblo panameño, pero especialmente a los Mártires del 9 de Enero de 1964. Ellos fueron los que obligaron al imperialismo yanqui a sentarse a negociar y a aceptar la derogación del oprobioso Tratado Hay-Bunau Varilla, impuesto durante la invasión de noviembre de 1903 y la manipulada separación de Colombia, para imponer una república intervenida y colonizada.

Algunos sectores del PRD, por evidentes motivos políticos, manipulan los hechos para concentrar exclusivamente en su líder fundador, lo positivo alcanzado en los Tratados de 1977, y suelen olvidarse de la Gesta Heroica que fue el verdadero acontecimiento que cambió la historia. También es cierto que entre la derecha y las élites oligárquicas panameñas se pretende menospreciar la figura histórica del general Torrijos.

Parafraseando a los religiosos, en este caso, “la gloria sea”, en primer lugar, a los Mártires del 64. En ese marco, hay que reconocer objetivamente los méritos a Omar Torrijos y su equipo negociador, a quienes tocó la responsabilidad de firmar lo bueno y lo malo del tratado. Al menos Torrijos fue sincero y reconoció al momento de firmarlo que el Tratado nos mantiene (hasta hoy) “bajo el paraguas del Pentágono”.

Lo positivo y lo negativo del Tratado de 1977

En el libro Diez años de luchas políticas y sociales en Panamá (1980-1990), hemos evaluado el contenido del Tratado de la siguiente manera:

“La conclusión rápida de los tratados en 1977 fue forzada por varias circunstancias coincidentes: en el plano nacional, la crisis económica interna de Panamá, y el comienzo del desgaste del apoyo popular al régimen militar panameño. En el plano exterior, se destaca la instauración de un nuevo gobierno demócrata en Estados Unidos, más abierto a la posibilidad de modernizar sus relaciones con Panamá, debido a la crisis política de Watergate y a la reciente victoria de Vietnam (1975), después de más de 10 años de intervención militar yanqui.

El Tratado Torrijos Carter tuvo un carácter contradictorio, puesto que a la vez que Panamá obtuvo importantes conquistas, sobre todo en materia jurisdiccional, tuvo que ceder en aspectos relativos a la defensa y neutralidad del canal.

Entre las conquistas del tratado podemos señalar: el fin de la perpetuidad con la firma de un acuerdo con fecha fija de terminación; eliminación de la situación colonial de la Zona del Canal, con el retorno a la jurisdicción panameña de ese territorio; entrega a Panamá de los puertos (Balboa y Cristóbal) adyacentes al Canal; participación creciente de Panamá en la administración del canal y aumento de los beneficios directos (10 millones de dólares anuales fijos y otros 10 millones en caso de haber superávit).

En cambio, el gobierno panameño tuvo que conceder que la responsabilidad primaria del manejo, mantenimiento, protección y defensa del canal era de los Estados Unidos, mediante una agencia de dicho gobierno, la Comisión del Canal, y bajo leyes norteamericanas (Ley 96-70), lo cual de hecho coarta la jurisdicción y la soberanía.

En materia de defensa, el tratado legalizó la presencia de las bases militares norteamericanas, que antes estaban de hecho y no de derecho, bajo la excusa de proteger el canal. Y en cuanto al Pacto de Neutralidad, el Senado norteamericano consignó una cláusula que permite la intervención militar norteamericana en Panamá, en cualquier momento después del año 2,000 (o sea, a perpetuidad) si a juicio de Washington estuviera en peligro el libre tránsito por el canal.

Como se puede apreciar, los ingresos económicos que Panamá obtuvo del tratado no fueron lo suficientemente significativos como para revertir la crisis económica, la cual a partir de comienzos de los años ochenta se volvió a profundizar.

El tratado tuvo, además, otra consecuencia muy importante para el país, como lo fue el acuerdo para la democratización de las instituciones políticas que el gobierno de James Carter impuso al General Omar Torrijos como condición para aprobar el tratado. Retomaremos este aspecto más adelante, baste mencionar por el momento que la firma del Tratado Torrijos Carter significa el fin del período de confrontación relativa, entre el régimen bonapartista de Torrijos y Estados Unidos, respecto al canal, y el comienzo de la implementación de una estrategia política para Panamá ejecutada de común acuerdo entre ambos.

Es el fin del bonapartismo “sui generis” apoyado en las masas y confrontado con el imperialismo, para dar paso, nuevamente, a un régimen bonapartista que gobierna confrontando a las masas y en acuerdo con el imperialismo”.

La invasión y el uso “menos colectivo posible” del Canal

Pero “la vuelta a los cuarteles”, proclamada por Torrijos, fue solo aparente, porque los coroneles siguieron manejando los hilos de la política nacional y el Cuartel Central siguió siendo la sede del poder real. Durante la siguiente década los militares impusieron un criterio militarista del uso de las instalaciones que iban revirtiendo. Cada cuartel yanqui era sustituido con uno panameño.

Muerto Torrijos, el gran proyecto del general Noriega era que la Guardia Nacional panameña se convirtiera en un ejército profesional, denominado Fuerzas de Defensa, para suplantar al ejército norteamericano en el canal. En ello fue apoyado financieramente por Estados Unidos. Así se ejecutó, hasta que la crisis por las medidas neoliberales del gobierno fraudulento de Barletta, 1984-85, puso en jaque este proyecto.

Salvo la bandera en la cima del cerro Ancón, de gran valor simbólico, no hubo ningún criterio para dar a las áreas revertidas el “mayor uso colectivo posible”, como había prometido Omar Torrijos durante el debate del plebiscito. Todo el enfoque fue militarista.

Tampoco se utilizaron los millones adicionales del canal para tratar de revertir la brecha social entre ricos y pobres que se ensanchó abrumadoramente entre 1980 y 1990. Cuando más, algunas viviendas fueron repartidas con criterios políticos y amicales.

Cuando la crisis escaló en 1988, gracias a las sanciones norteamericanas, un sector destacado de la burguesía organizó un proyecto alternativo a los militares fundando no sólo la Cruzada Civilista, sino que los hermanos Lewis Galindo crearon el llamado grupo Modelo, que incidió no solo en el apoyo a la invasión de 1989, sino en la configuración de un proyecto de uso del canal al servicio de la burguesía y no de los militares.

De manera que, sobre la pila de muertos de la invasión del 20 de Diciembre de 1989, Estados Unidos impuso a Panamá no sólo el modelo político de estado oligárquico corrupto con careta “democrática” que tenemos, sino que apadrinó la imposición de un modelo de apropiación de las áreas revertidas y manejo del canal conveniente a la burguesía y tutelado por ellos.

El conjunto de los partidos políticos burgueses, incluyendo al PRD, desarrollaron el enfoque empresarial de la Ley de Uso de Suelos para las áreas revertidas, por la cual se las ha ido vendiendo, no siempre al mejor postor. Lo que no se vende, se ha dejado deteriorar, antes que traspasarlo a organizaciones cívicas y sociales. La idea es, no perder el valor comercial artificialmente definido.

Así también los Acuerdos de Coronado sentaron las bases para la redacción del título constitucional sobre la administración del canal, que convierte a la Junta Directiva de la ACP, y al cargo de Administrador, en un club exclusivo para la élite empresarial panameña, como si de una nueva “zonita sin gringos” se tratara. De manera que, el resto del país no puede opinar, menos influir, sobre las decisiones que ahí se toman, como se evidenció recientemente con el presupuesto. A lo cual se agrega una Junta Asesora compuesta por las transnacionales del comercio marítimo, cuya opinión cuenta más que la de los gremios panameños.

Hagamos memoria, ese título constitucional, que permite una Junta Directiva sin representación de la clase trabajadora, los gremios profesionales y las organizaciones sociales, fue aprobado por dos Asambleas de manera unánime, bajo los gobiernos de Guillermo Endara (Panameñista) y Ernesto Pérez Balladares (PRD).

Bajo la administración de Pérez Balladares (1994-1999) también se diseñó un plan para tratar de incumplir con el retiro de todas bases militares norteamericanas, permitiendo que la base aérea de Howard se disfrazara con la “guerra contra las drogas”, bajo la máscara de un Centro Multilateral Antidrogas (CMA), proponiendo que se quedara más allá del año 2000.

Pero la movilización popular y el descontento producido por sus privatizaciones y medidas neoliberales (abaratamiento del despido de trabajadores y desprotección a productores agrícolas bajando los aranceles), llevó al fracaso de este plan antinacional del primer gobierno del PRD en la postinvasión.

El Pacto de Neutralidad y los acuerdos de seguridad

Fracasado el CMA, y con la reversión total el 31 de Diciembre de 1999, el gobierno norteamericano y sus lacayos empresariales y políticos en Panamá, dieron paso a continuar el control militar del territorio nacional, no con las llamativas y repudiadas bases militares, sino con diversos acuerdos de seguridad, ninguno de los cuales ha pasado por la Asamblea Nacional ni el debate público.

Tan temprano como 1999-2000, el gobierno de Mireya Moscoso firmó el acuerdo Salas – Becker, por el cual se cede la soberanía para que Estados Unidos custodie o “vigile” el espacio aéreo y el mar territorial de Panamá, con el cuento de la “guerra contra las drogas”. De modo que lo “conquistado” en materia de soberanía en el Tratado de 1977 ha quedado en papel mojado.

Miles de habitantes de las regiones limítrofes con Colombia dan testimonio de la presencia de soldados norteamericanos en la región. También se sabe que la administración del Canal de Panamá ha firmado acuerdos de seguridad con agencias norteamericanas, pero su contenido se desconoce.

El gobierno del PRD del hijo del general Torrijos, Martín Torrijos (2004-2009), no sólo no anuló estos acuerdos de seguridad que menoscaban la soberanía panameña, sino que nos siguió manteniendo “bajo el paraguas del Pentágono” participando del llamado Plan Mérida de seguridad para toda la región centroamericana diseñado por los norteamericanos.

Durante el gobierno del segundo Torrijos también se impuso en un referéndum, cuestionable por la alta abstención, el criterio de destinar miles de millones para la ampliación del canal y un tercer juego de esclusas que no eran urgentes, pero que desviará miles de millones de dólares de sus ingresos a favor de bancos y empresas constructoras, y no al pago de la “deuda social” que exigíamos los sectores populares nucleados en el Frente por el NO de 2007.

Nuevamente tuvimos razón. El Grupo Unidos por el Canal, que ganó la licitación de la ampliación y tercer juego de esclusas, no solo cometió la deshonestidad de estar compuesto por una empresa de la familia del administrador del canal (CUSA), Alemán Zubieta, sino que ahora ha demandado sobreprecios que triplican el valor originalmente presupuestado.

El gobierno de Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) profundizó la intromisión militar yanqui con un acuerdo para la construcción de 12 bases aeronavales que podrían contar con “asesores” norteamericanos, cuya cuantía y tipo es imposible calibrara dada la ubicación remota de estas bases militares.

El gobierno de J. C. Varela (2014-2019) ha mantenido todas estas vejaciones a la soberanía nacional y las ha profundizado convirtiéndonos en títeres de la política exterior de Washington, al sumarnos a la Coalición Internacional contra ISIS y a las presiones contra el gobierno legítimo de Venezuela en la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA).

Por encima de todos estos acuerdos flota la sombra del nefasto Pacto de Neutralidad que, en realidad, no nos hace neutrales, sino que nos alía con el Pentágono como dijo Torrijos. El cual constituye una amenaza permanente de intervención militar cuando, a juicio unilateral de Estados Unidos, el “libre tránsito” por el canal se encuentre en peligro.

El Pacto de Neutralidad, con toda su letra intervencionista, que no se limita a la Enmienda De Concini, es como el Hay-Bunau Varilla, un tratado sin fecha de término y, por lo tanto, violatorio del derecho internacional. Ese Pacto de Neutralidad fue una de las principales razones por las que muchos sectores antiimperialistas y patrióticos votamos que NO en el plebiscito de 1977.

Si, pasados 40 años, nos pidieran ratificar el Pacto de Neutralidad con un nuevo plebiscito, los antiimperialistas y patriotas consecuentes, volveríamos a VOTAR NO. Por eso, seguimos luchando por su derogación total.

 

~ ~ ~
Estos anuncios son interactivos. Toque en ellos para seguir a las páginas de web

 

Spanish PayPal button

Tweet

Tweet

FB esp

FB CCL

Center for Public Integrity, Anti-corruption Maltese journalist assassinated

0
one of us
Daphne Caruana Galizia, from her web page.

Car bomb kills Panama Papers journalist in Malta

by the Center for Public Integrity

Center CEO, John Dunbar, condemns attack, demands thorough investigation

News sources today are reporting the tragic death of Daphne Caruana Galizia, a journalist who led the Panama Papers investigation into corruption in Malta.

Caruana Galizia, 53, was reportedly killed in a car bombing near her home. Local media reports indicated that in recent days she had filed a police report complaining of death threats.

Caruana Galizia was a fearless journalist and blogger who exposed numerous offshore dealings of prominent figures in Malta. She was also the mother of International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) developer and data journalist Matthew Caruana Galizia.

The Center for Public Integrity spun off ICIJ earlier this year. John Dunbar, CEO of the Center condemned the attack, saying it was “not only a tragic killing of a courageous journalist but an attack on the profession as a whole. This must not go unpunished.”

ICIJ released a statement condemning the attack:

“ICIJ condemns violence against journalists and is deeply concerned about freedom of the press in Malta,” wrote its director, Gerard Ryle. “ICIJ calls upon the Maltese authorities to investigate the murder and bring the perpetrators to justice. ICIJ’s thoughts are with the Caruana Galizia family at this time.”

No group or individual has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack according to news accounts at this writing.

 

~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.

 

original colors button

FB_2

Tweet

vote final

¿Wappin? Puerto Rico persiste

0
Yulín
La alcaldesa y su constituyente. Foto de la página de Facebook de Carmen Yulín Cruz.

Roto, en quiebra e insultado,
Puerto Rico persiste y reconstruye

La India – Dicen Que Soy
https://youtu.be/R5vVIm0GJ08

Don Omar – Soledad
https://youtu.be/pfTqBJwyHIw

Ricky Martin – Viña del Mar 2015
https://youtu.be/yQUCxNP10m4

Fiel a la Vega – Boricua en la Luna
https://youtu.be/UMR8loCiCuo

Olga Tañón – Santiago de Cuba 2015
https://youtu.be/l258Me2Sqfs

Ednita Nazario – Mas Mala Que Tu
https://youtu.be/mCZomULnpzA

Cultura Profética – Viña del Mar 2015
https://youtu.be/pmOETqV78qE

Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee – Despacito
https://youtu.be/kJQP7kiw5Fk

 

~ ~ ~
Estos anuncios son interactivos. Toque en ellos para seguir a las páginas de web

 

Spanish PayPal button

Tweet

Tweet

FB esp

FB CCL

Editorials: The end of paradigms; and Red Tide in Red Square

0
JC and Nicky
He can say what he wants. Two witnesses in positions to know, including his erstwhile right-hand man say that Juan Carlos Varela took millions from Odebrecht. Much like the Chavista former attorney general of Venezuela says that Nicolás Maduro did. The collapse of Latin America’s old political paradigms is not just a left or right phenomenon. Archive photo by the Venezuelan government.

Paradigms coming to an end?

The post-Cold War promise of globalization that would deliver prosperity for all was not kept in the Latin America of the 1990s. After that “lost decade” came the “Pink Tide””of leftist governments in many countries, which coincided with globalization that worked spectacularly for China and led to a demand for Latin American raw materials that boosted the economies of this region for a time. But then the failure of neoliberalism — globalization on corporate terms — to deliver prosperity to the working and middle classes of the developed world, and then the bursting of various financial and real estate bubbles that were presented as proof that the corporate model delivers for the West, slowed the Chinese growth model. That meant fewer orders for raw materials from Latin America, a stripping away of veneers that had covered our region’s chronic problems for a while, and now a series of revelations about just how sleazy the people pulling the strings have tended to be.

Yes, Washington has ugly double standards. Yes, in many Latin American countries entrenched oligarchies or party machines have ensured or tried to ensure impunity for themselves along with deserved or contrived legal problems for their opponents. But there is a generalized breakdown of Latin American political paradigms underway and anyone who thinks it can be controlled from outside the region is thinking wishfully.

This breakdown could lead us back into an era of violence and dictatorship, but perhaps might lead us to some new, better understandings. The threat and the opportunity exist alongside one another.

A better understanding? Left and right, in all of the region’s cultures and governmental systems, that better understanding would be a perfected democracy in which campaigns financed by private donations becomes a horror of the past.

 

Red Tide, soon to visit Red Square

Oye, muchachos de la Marea Roja: one shot of vodka — the real stuff, Stolichnaya, not a US imitation — and a little less than a shot of Kahlúa. Perhaps as a patriotic national project we might develop a suitable Panamanian coffee liqueur to substitute for the Mexican standard, but for now it has to be Kahlúa to be a proper Black Russian. Consume in moderation.

Controversial phantom goal and all that notwithstanding, congratulations to Panama’s men’s national soccer team, and good luck in Russia. The Red Tide is worthy, and let it be shown in Russia that Panama is no fluke.

 

Bear in mind…

 

I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.

John Cage

 

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.

Alice Walker

 

Information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, and wisdom is not foresight. Each grows out of the other, and we need them all.

Arthur C. Clarke

 

~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.

 

original colors button

FB_2

Tweet

vote final

After a strange strike, a new IDAAN director

0
water czar
Juan Felipe de La Iglesia Tobón, the new water and sewer utility director. Photo by the Presidencia.

New IDAAN director after an unusual strike

by Eric Jackson

Theoretically, the top spot at Panama’s national water and sewer utillity (which does not, however, encompass all of the rural aqueducts) is supposed to go to a competent civil engineer. That, however, is rarely the case. It’s a political patronage job. Usually a dead giveaway when a new IDAAN director is appointed is the structure of what is said about him or her. “He studied at” or “she comes to the post from a job at” are all de riguer. But when you look in vain for “he designed,” “she built,” “he managed” or such — then you have a pretty good idea. When the credentials do not include “previously served in IDAAN as” that’s more or less confirmation. The more usual credentials — most frequently “is related to” or “served on the campaign committee or in the party as” — are never stated.

So after a remarkable nine-day strike at an IDAAN whose previous director left nearly a month before, on October 12 the National Assembly approved Juan Carlos Varela’s appointee for a new IDAAN director. He’s Juan Felipe de La Iglesia Tobón. He studied construction management at Purdue, then got an MBA from an undisclosed institution in Barcelona. He worked in President Varela’s inter-institutional Public Infrastructure Coordinating Unit before coming to IDAAN.

So what was so remarkable about the IDAAN workers walking off the job again? While there were some complaints of seniority raises that did not happen on time, those were side issues, designated for later discussions in the agreement that ended the strike. The walkout was mainly about unpaid private sector suppliers for the utility. As in, arrears meant no timely delivery of a backhoe desperately needed for urgent repairs. As in, unpaid suppliers were not delivering the chemicals needed to treat water taken from surface sources at several plants in the Interior to make the stuff safe for human consumption.

So why would the utility workers care all that much about customer complaints? Because they would as usual be the ones blamed, and for an outbreak of water-borne disease that could be a serious accusation indeed.

The full litany about IDAAN could fill many books of horror stories, but there are some notable milestones along the way. Like in the run-up to the resignation of the prior IDAAN director, Julia Elena Guardia, at the beginning of September. In July, beset by complaints from many sides, she blamed “the bureaucracy” and said that if the organization went from being an institute to an authority — that is, from a government department to a semi-autonomous entity that could privatize its services — then the jobs undone might get done.

(Guardia came into office in September of 2014. She was certified in courses taken in the Netherlands in sanitary engineering and sewer systems and has an MBA from Nova Southeastern University. She worked as a consultant before coming to head IDAAN. Most importantly, she is President Varela’s first cousin.)

In the Moscoso administration the government was divided up into political patronage fiefdoms, with Ricardo Martinelli’s Cambio Democratico party as a junior partner. That made the now jailed ex-president minister of canal affairs, and put Guido Martinelli at the head of IDAAN. Guido deducted Cambio Democratico party dues from the paychecks of IDAAN workers whether they wanted to join or not, and although one might think that this illegal practice would have produced the ouster of both Martinellis that was not the case.

In the Torrijos administration IDAAN bought a water treatment plant in Chilibre for more than $1 billion. That there were serious flaws with it when delivered didn’t seem to bother either Torrijos or the IDAAN management — the ribbon was cut before the government changed hands and that was the main thing to them.

Martinelli brought in this more dictatorial than usual management style, such that nobody at IDAAN would take an emergency decision and the top folks couldn’t be bothered to drop everything and come into work in the event of an emergency. So record flooding on the upper Chagres River washed muddy water — trees and all — into the Chilibre plant and nobody who could have acted felt authorized to act to shut down the water intake valves at once. Months of water outages, tainted water and circular finger pointing ensued, with some truly horrific tangents spinning off of the metro area’s water system woes from that omission.

So should be be assured by an agreement to end the strike by which the Varela administration said it would get that backhoe at once and also restock the water treatment plants from which much of the Azuero Peninsula’s population drinks with the necessary chemicals? Should Panamanians be confident in the new leader? At least he gave us a small reassurance. He said that his first task will be to collect arrears in water and sewer bills. That has generally meant poor neighborhoods and more affluent households having their water cut off, with the latter paying up and water riots in the former. There need be no shutoffs to coerce payments to have water riots, though — people who go long enough without will often block the road until the police show up with their helmets, shields and full regalia. But Mr. de La Iglesia assures us that IDAAN will not be privatized, which probably means that there will be no nationwide water uprising.

Fixing systems that have been neglected for decades? That’s another matter. Maybe the new IDAAN director will surprise us.

 

~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.

 

original colors button

FB_2

Tweet

vote final

Jackson, Troll bots

0

attacked by nazi bots

Troll bots

by Eric Jackson

This is about somebody else’s story, and my take on it, that was posted on The Panama News Facebook page.

And the overall importance of the story I posted?

I think it’s a tiny puzzle piece of circumstantial evidence, probably not so damning in itself, perhaps useful to show a pattern of conduct. Nothing to go to war about, but if there were a US Congress that cared about defending the United States against foreign intervention in US elections, it would be one item that ought to be considered when drafting new legislation.

Although I am an active Democrat, I think that proper legislation would be neither a matter of pointing fingers at Republicans and Russians nor an exercise in comforting assurances. One of the reasons why Donald Trump is president of the United States is that the Clinton Foundation, for all of the good works they did, was a political operation by which foreign governments, leaders and business interests domestic and foreign bought access to powerful and influential people, with the bet being that one of those, Hillary Clinton, would end up as president. It was also an inter-campaign political structure in which operatives out of political patronage jobs at the moment could be parked in well-paid foundation sinecures until the next campaign. And do some of the more brazen  and indiscrete Israelis brag about how they control the US Congress? And has the United Arab Emirates’ Ambassador Otaiba secured US backing for the Sunni jihad against the Shiites with his parties in Washington? Although it would seem that it today’s US climate there is no such thing as national interest, there is and what happened in the 2016 election campaign flatters no side of the partisan divide and ought to be a concern for all Americans.

The reaction to it? Terrified Trump folks lashed out. More than 100 characters, almost all with no ties to The Panama News or its editor — not Facebook friends, not friends of friends, no ties to Panama, Latin America or the Caribbean — let loose a barrage of denial, dismissal and abuse.

But most probably, mostly not Trump folks. Mostly bots, fake characters made out of computer code and armed with a storehouse of memes and talking points, deployed to shout down conversations that an alt-right which learned its basic Internet stuff from a neo-nazi group called Stormfront and updated it with Russian computer technology thanks in large part to the largesse of the billionaire Mercer family. This stuff is being pulled in the politics of many countries now, in many cases by the same people. They used it for the “Yes” side in the UK’s Brexit campaign. They used it in failed attempts to bring neofascists to power in The Netherlands and France. They used it to get the alt-right represented in Germany’s Bundestag. They drive something from obscurity to the top of search engines and to the attention of fanatics who are real people, and the latter pile on. They used it, for example, to drive Holocaust denial to the top of Google search engines.

If you go to the Facebook post cited above and scroll down through all the stuff, you may notice that a lot of the protagonists, real or fake, have been blocked. It’s not out of fear that these personnae may become regular visitors to The Panama News Facebook wall, but to send a message to Mark Zuckerberg et al about bots and mass trolling tactics that need to be curbed. The use of bots to shout down discussion on a Facebook thread is not much different from the use of bots to send huge bundles of email to shut down or take over somebody’s email box or to force a way through an email address linked to a website into the controls of that website. Were US law enforcement interested in protecting anyone smaller than SONY they’d have long since applied existing computer crime laws to that sort of stuff against those without wealth or political connections. But now, of course, the United States has a president who deploys bots by the tens of thousands to distort online discourse. He probably had no personal knowledge of the bot/troll attack on The Panama News, but surely he approves. We are, after all, dealing with a guy who has been in bed with mobsters all of his adult life.

So what’s my policy with bots and trolls on The Panama News Facebook page? Any friend request from someone who does not appear to be a real person is rejected. People who are not Facebook friends who appear on my wall and tell me to shut up, or tell anyone else to shut up, get blocked. Those who appear not to be real people who jump into heated discussions on threads — whichever side of an argument they take — get blocked. Those who are neither friends, nor friends of friends and have no ties to Panama who come into a discussion to inject invective get blocked. This thread had me block more personnae that I have in all the years since 2009 when The Panama News Facebook page went up.

This sort of behavior has not gone unnoticed and finally the likes of Facebook and Google managements are being forced out of their “we’re just a neutral platform that’s run impartially by algorithms” willful ignorance — they call it “constructive knowledge” in Common Law legal systems — and into admissions about what goes on via the services they run. But the answers are not so simple. Many are the governments that would like to impose censorship over the Internet as their supposed response. Many are the governments that would seek national regulation over online services that cross borders at the speed of light, a tendency that could leave us with each advanced technological power with its own version of China’s firewall and the rest of the world subject to other countries’ online warfare. There are serious people, with various different approaches, thinking and writing about the problem. There are also some serious predators thinking about how they can take maximum advantage.

Against the backdrop of far-right cheering, we Democrats are divided. There are those who say that “the tyranny of data” obliges us to copy what the alt-right does. So we see a Democratic Facebook page with several times as many likes for a video than there are views showing on YouTube. The inept “experts” who pocketed a lot of money for running the woefully stupid Hillary Clinton general election campaign have had to leave jobs at the DNC or other sinecures, but most of them are still around in this or that political position and a cadre of wannabes and volunteers who learned what they know from these people are still around. And the facile response of too many of these people is that we should copy what the nazis do.

Me? I am a weird old hippie who fondly remembers what someone with very different politics than mine did way back when. Was American and world culture all locked up by Madison Avenue, with “expert criteria” — bendable by payola — about what will sell and what won’t? Frank Zappa derided “plastic people” and it caught on with the hippies, then seeped out into the general culture. The icon even got into Spanish a few years later, with Rubén Blades doing his rendition of the insult. Certain old norms were laughed into insignificance, even into bankruptcy, for a time. Of course, the purveyors of that stuff from the payola paradigm tended to be replaced by a new generation of morally similar hustlers. But still, we have a successful example of widespread cultural ridicule.

The troll bot technique is generally easy to spot, even in societies where the study of civics has been suppressed. It should be called out and mocked.

 

~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.

 

original colors button

FB_2

Tweet

vote final

Gandásegui, Los partidos políticos

0
ellos
La terna de la Embajada Americana y sus amigos. Foto por la Presidencia.

Los escándalos debilitan a los partidos tradicionales

por Marco A. Gandásegui, hijo

La campaña política con miras a las elecciones presidenciales de mayo de 2019 aún no arranca. En el pasado, para estas fechas, los partidos tradicionales ya habían lanzado sus candidatos y pre-candidatos quienes buscaban las mejores posiciones para consolidar sus aspiraciones. Usualmente, gana la candidatura el político con mayor ‘carisma’, con las finanzas más ‘boyantes’ y con el respaldo de la Embajada de EEUU.

El orden de importancia de los factores es el inverso al expuesto más arriba. La Embajada de EEUU siempre apoya el candidato que se inclina con más entusiasmo hacia la política de Washington. (Esta realidad no es exclusiva de Panamá). Los informes políticos de los agentes norteamericanos son tomados muy en cuenta por EEUU. En 2009, la candidata del Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD) fue vetada por la Embajada que no consideró a Balbina Herrera de su confianza.

Por el lado financiero, los tres partidos de la elite panameña – el Partido Panameñista (en el gobierno actual), el Partido Cambio Democrático (2009-2014) y el PRD (2004-2009) – han logrado establecer una base financiera que aparenta solidez. El poder económico en Panamá está distribuido en el sector bancario, logístico e inmobiliario. Siguen según su importancia los empresarios comerciales, agroindustriales e industriales. Los partidos tradicionales necesitan el sector financiero, pero éste – en cambio – no depende de esas organizaciones políticas. En las últimas elecciones (2014) se especula que un magnate de las finanzas, quien también está vinculado al gran capital logístico y comercial, contribuyó al triunfo del actual Presidente de la República.

La falta de figuras políticas que puedan convencer a los sectores que conforman el poder económico del país explica la falta de entusiasmo por parte de los medios de comunicación para agitar candidaturas. Recientemente el Tribunal Electoral logró aprobar una ley que reduce la campaña formal a unos pocos meses. Eso no quiere decir, sin embargo, que no se pueda iniciar una campaña que levante el perfil de los candidatos que se consideran más ‘carismáticos’. Nadie nace con carisma. El carisma se construye. Los ejemplos más emblemáticos durante el siglo XX fueron el presidente Belisario Porras, quien hace cien años llegó a la Presidencia sobre la base de su liderazgo durante la Guerra civil de los Mil Días. También Arnulfo Arias triunfó en 1940 por su arrojo durante el golpe civil de 1931 que lo catapultó en los ojos del pueblo panameño. Igualmente, Omar Torrijos logró encabezar un movimiento nacionalista gracias a las negociaciones exitosas frente a EEUU (1977) que culminó con la desaparición del enclave colonial y la transferencia del Canal de Panamá.

La elite panameña actualmente no tiene figuras carismáticas. Han tratado – con resultados negativos – de levantar perfiles asociados a la invasión militar de EEUU de 1989. Ya han salido a la palestra algunos candidatos a la Presidencia que se declaran independientes (no vinculados a los partidos políticos tradicionales). Los independientes con más posibilidades basan sus propuestas en la corrupción que identifica a los partidos de la elite panameña. Creen que el pueblo está cansado de los abusos de los partidos políticos y se volcará a favor de un candidato ‘sin tachas y honesto’. Pero incluso los candidatos independientes tienen que tener el aval de la Embajada, un respaldo económico y carisma. Quizás hay algunos con uno de los atributos mencionados pero le faltan otros.

En 2014 se lanzó Juan Jované como candidato independiente sobre la base de su carisma y honestidad, con un programa popular. Pero le faltaron los otros factores. Jované habría instaurado un gobierno con un plan de desarrollo nacional y erradicando la corrupción. La propuesta que sin duda era la mejor no encontró eco entre la elite del poder y mucho menos en la Embajada. En 2019 volverá a la palestra el Partido Frente Amplio por la Democracia (FAD), que levanta como bandera las luchas sindicales y campesinas (sin excluir a las estudiantiles) de los últimos 70 años. El discurso del FAD no logra penetrar la coraza que la oligarquía panameña ha construido en torno a los sectores populares.

Los partidos tradicionales, sacudidos por los escándalos de corrupción, carecen de un plan de gobierno desde hace 25 años. La elite ahora tiene la esperanza de que los chinos traigan dinero fresco. El pueblo panameño, sin embargo, no quiere promesas de dinero. Quiere un gobierno con un plan que garantice desarrollo y empleo decente (formal) para todos los trabajadores.

 

~ ~ ~
Estos anuncios son interactivos. Toque en ellos para seguir a las páginas de web

 

Spanish PayPal button

Tweet

Tweet

FB esp

FB CCL

Will the yuan circulate next to the dollar in Panama?

0
RMB, The People's Currency
China has made a lot of money from its rise as an industrial power. Its elevated status in the world may come to be reflected in its currency being used more often and for more purposes in the rest of the world. Photo by the State Bank of China.

Will Chinese money circulate in Panama?

by Eric Jackson

The government of Panama, having ditched its old friend Taiwan in favor of full ties with the Peoples Republic of China this past June, is not wasting much time on changes that flow from that. Fresh from a series of meetings with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Panamanian Foreign Minister and Vice President Isabel Saint Malo unveiled the two-countries’ 12-point agenda for talks on the new relationship and amplified on that in a presentation to the National Private Enterprise Council (CoNEP) forum. CoNEP’s role in the constellation of Panama’s business organizations is that it represents the larger Panamanian companies that tend to do the most business with the national government and thus rarely has any sort of critical word about any administration, so it was not an openly skeptical audience.

Most of the 12 points are economic, although there are cultural, educational and law enforcement points as well. Some of the economic matters, like designating the Panama Canal as part of the Chinese New Silk Road project, are mainly symbolic. Several points appear to be of great importance, like China’s entry into Panamanian infrastructure construction in a big way that specifically mentions extending the country’s Metro commuter rail system from its now projected end point in La Chorrera all the way to David, and a much expanded Chinese role in Panama City’s banking district.

And then there is the subject of The People’s Currency (renminbi, or RMB), the units of which are the yuan (¥, worth about 15¢ on the US dollar but fluctuating despite government controls). CoNEP president Severo Sousa was upbeat about the possibility of yuan-denominated accounts in Panamanian banks when asked by the Metro Libre, but more guarded about other possible uses. Héctor Cotes, the president of the Panamanian Business Executives Association (APEDE) — people who run but may not necessarily own businesses here, typically less hesitant to criticize government policies and historic champions of improved education to give them a more skilled work force to manage — was more generally upbeat in the same story. He approved the use of any major currency with strong backing, the yuan as well as the euro, in general circulation and use in Panama.

Theoretically, Panama has the balboa and we do have our own coins. However, we have no central bank to issue money and since 1904 the balboa has always meant the US dollar. It is sometimes said that this is the constitutional order, but while some non-binding opinion might hold that this is so, the Panamanian constitution does not say that. The dollar would only be constitutional to the extent that it’s customary and because previous suggestions of a national currency have always been condemned as a species of dangerous lunacy.

Precisely what is meant by using the yuan in Panama surely means a great deal.

Renminbi as a currency to pay the Chinese — and perhaps the Panamanian — employees of Chinese companies doing business in Panama, but not generally accepted by Panamanian businesses? That would suggest something akin to banana plantation scrip, in which once upon a time workers here were paid, but which could only be spent in the company stores. That would eliminate a lot of the multiplier effect of Chinese business activity in Panama and surely set off labor protests.

The yuan in general circulation and use, alongside the US dollar and perhaps other currencies? One might imagine the arcane contract disputes, and the tawdry sorts of upscale people who would consult the daily exchange rate listings before deciding in which currency to pay their gardeners and maids. The rise of money changers — perhaps not at churches where the Gospels are taken seriously, but almost everywhere else — would be an expected retail consequence.

American economist Dean Baker opines that the multiple currency issue would not be a problem in itself: “Many countries effectively use more than one currency. My wife is Danish, so I know a bit about Denmark. While it maintains its own currency, it is common for stores and restaurants to take euros. … In a situation where you have serious problems with corruption, like Panama, having the use of other currencies might increase opportunities, but the underlying problem is the corruption, not the currency.”

There may be questions, well founded or otherwise, about the currency. Washington has complained many a time over the years that the yuan is undervalued against the dollar, driving and distorting the value of bilateral trade imbalances in China’s favor. Two years ago China devalued the yuan, making its exports to the rest of the world cheaper to buy while raising the Chinese prices of anything that anyone anywhere else would export to China. Now on Beijing’s end there are complaints of the renminbi’s exaggerated fluctuations against other currencies, and controversial calls from People’s Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan for a market-set rather than politically determined value for the yuan.

“Capitalist roaders” whom Chairman Mao denigrated or not, however, today’s rulers of China aren’t leaving their country’s economy or currency up to some theoretical invisible hand. China is now the world’s second-largest economy and will soon overtake that of the United States, albeit remaining well behind a number of other countries in per capita income and standards of living. The New Silk Road project is intended to more closely tie China’s economy to those of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, while skirting around sometimes rivals Russia and India. And as oil economies around the world collapse, China is offering trade and investment in renminbi, and for those who accept the yuan instead of the dollar as payment for oil, a special ability to convert Chinese currency into gold. The Saudis and Venezuelans are among those who have expressed an interest, with economic motives for both and a long-running Chavista political position feeding Venezuela’s willingness to replace the petrodollar.

The geopolitical economy against which the questions arise is that “globalization” may have made the very wealthy richer in North America, Western Europe and Japan, but the economies of those regions — particularly of their working and middle classes — have suffered while the process has lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty. China’s internal market can’t usefully absorb all the money that was made by its export economy over the past few decades, they are looking to invest overseas, and they attach many fewer political strings to their credit than do the financial institutions of the powers that they are supplanting across much of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Good relations with China are a hedge against taking distasteful orders from the likes of the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund — or so it seems now.

As the 12 points and Saint Malo’s explanation of them have it, though, the role of renminbi in the Panamanian economy is a matter up for discussion, not something that has been decided. It is expected, however, that in mid-November Presidents Juan Carlos Varela of Panama and Xi Jinping will meet and sign more than a dozen bilateral agreement, perhaps among them one of more dealing with the use of the Chinese currency in this country.

 

~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.

 

original colors button

FB_2

Tweet

vote final

The Gingerbread Lady’s down the street. The Tulivieja lives here.

0
Come on in. I'll make arroz con mondongo.
Electronic art by Dr. Saúl Alvarado Garrido.

 

~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.

 

original colors button

FB_2

Tweet

vote final