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Gandásegui, Freedom of expression and the system that rules us

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way back
It began in English in 1849, and began publication in Spanish, as La Estrella de Panama, in 1853. It is one of Latin America’s oldest newspapers.

Freedom of expression and the system that rules us

by Marco A. Gandásegui, hijo

Again the US government has the Panamanian dailies La Estrella and El Siglo at the edge of a precipice. Acting unilaterally, above national laws and the international legal system, the American government advocates for its right to prohibit its citizens from conducting business transactions with certain Panamanian companies. The two periodicals mentioned are the property of a corporation whose principal shareholder is a Colon Free Zone merchant, Abdul Waked.

The case arose in the middle of 2016 when US justice proceeded to accuse a nephew of Waked of carrying out illegal transactions. This person was arrested and his case is pending. Meanwhile, Abdul Waked was declared suspicious and included in a list of persons who are non grata in the USA. The “Clinton List,” created in the decade of the 1990s, serves to identify all natural and juridical persons with whom the United States does not want its citizens to have business relations. Is it their right? Obviously, nobody has the right to oblige third persons to limit their relations with others. The United States is no exception. However, the United States has the power to impose a meaure totally outside the due process of law upon others.

In Panama public opinion has turned in favor of the businessman Waked and against the United States and its ambassador. It is an exceptional case in that the Panamanian people have never been inclined to lean in favor of businessmen as a class. The latter are not very well regarded, as they traditionally profit from the nation’s assets and are often placed above the law. In addition, they always dominate the government positions associated with the control and repression of popular protests.

There have been similar cases in Panamanian history in which businessmen have become folk heroes. Other businessmen have tried to promote themselves as national heroes. Even today, President Roberto Chiari, who served in that post from 1960 to 1964, the owner of the Ofelina sugar mill and the La Estrella Azul dairy, is venerated by some social sectors who remember him for breaking diplomatic relations with the United States over its aggression against the youth of January 9, 1964. Other anti-heroes include Pancho Arias and Tito Arias (who are unrelated), to mention only two.

Perhaps Waked does not fill these dimensions, which have political borders. He will probably not be remembered for his stand against the abuses of foreign powers. Waked was forced to sell all of his other properties, but has stood firm with the Panamanian-owned newspapers. He said that he would not sell La Estrella de Panama or El Siglo. They could succumb along with the two printing presses. His friends point out that he has made every effort to approach the US agencies to talk and seek a solution to the problem.

An unusual communique has appeared in Panama, signed by 50 representatives of different sectors of the country reflecting just a part of the support for the two newspapers that are attacked by the United States. The communique is short and sweeping: First is says that the American measure goes against freedom of the press and also freedom of expression. In this regard, it should be noted that both have always been curtailed by powerful interests.

The signatories of the communique conclude that “with the survival of these newspapers, the United States does not lose. However, Panama loses a lot with their disappearance.” US interests are clear. They have not changed much since they began to consider the riches of this region more than 150 years ago. For Panama, on the other hand, the struggle of La Estrella de Panama is not only about facing up to US interests, but also has to do with the possible loss of an independent voice.

If Waked leaves the scene as head of the publishing enterprise, who or what will replace him?

Freedom of expression is measured within the framework of the correlation of forces that characterizes a country. It’s also that way globally. Whoever speaks the loudest defines the parameters of freedom of expression within the system. Those outside of the system do not count and therefore their expression is given no value. In the case of Panama, the United States considers it partially outside the system. It can intervene in our political and economic life when it considers it necessary. Likewise, it defines freedom of expression in accordance with its interests.

 

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Esfuerzo conjunto para salvar las ranas de Panamá

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terrestrial frogmen
Seguimiento de ranas a través del bosque. STRI y MiAmbiente participan en ensayos de liberación de ranas en el este de Panamá como parte de la implementación del Plan de Acción para la Conservación de los Anfibios en Panamá. Foto por Roberto Ibáñez de STRI.

Esfuerzo conjunto para salvar las ranas

por STRI

Científicos del Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales (STRI) y funcionarios del Ministerio de Ambiente de Panamá (MiAmbiente) visitaron la Reserva del Valle del Mamoní, donde se están realizando ensayos de liberación con ranas arlequín limosa (Atelopus limosus). Estas ranas fueron criadas en cautiverio y son los descendientes de ranas colectadas hace unos años en dicha zona. Por parte de MiAmbiente asistieron los biólogos Erick Núñez y Anthony Vega, técnicos del Departamento de Biodiversidad de la Dirección de Áreas Protegidas y Vida Silvestre. Les acompañaron el Dr. Roberto Ibáñez, investigador panameño y director del Proyecto de Rescate y Conservación de Anfibios de Panamá (PARC por sus siglas en inglés), y el Dr. Juan Maté, gerente para asuntos y operaciones científicas del Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales, enlace institucional con MiAmbiente, el estudiante de doctorado del Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation de George Mason University, Blake Klocke, quien actualmente realiza esta investigación, fue el anfitrión y guía y de esta visita, conjuntamente con su asistente de campo Mirjana Mataya.

Algunas de las ranas utilizadas en la investigación provienen del ensayo de liberación inicial realizado en la Reserva de El Valle del Mamoní por los estudiantes panameños de doctorado de Virginia Tech, Daniel Medina y Angie Estrada. Ellos mantuvieron las ranas dentro de encierros en esta reserva, con el propósito de protegerlas de algunos depredadores y, así poder, obtener muestras y determinar si eran infectadas por el hongo quítrido (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). En un segundo ensayo de liberación, el estudiante Blake Klocke, liberó éstas y otras ranas adicionales. En esta fase de la investigación, uno de los objetivos es determinar si es relevante mantenerlas inicialmente en encierros antes de soltarlas. En adición, algunas de las ranas fueron equipadas con radio-transmisores que permiten seguir sus movimientos y estimar el tamaño de sus territorios.

La visita con los funcionarios de MiAmbiente tenía como objetivo dar seguimiento en campo a los ensayos de liberación y ver los avances de la investigación, incluyendo el seguimiento que se le está dando a las ranas liberadas. Blake Klocke les mostró el funcionamiento del sistema de rastreo por radio-telemetría utilizando mini-transistores. Se pudo constatar la efectividad de cómo esta herramienta tecnológica, aplicada a la investigación científica, nos permite seguir los movimientos de estas pequeñas ranas. Las ranas sin radio-transmisores eran sin duda más difíciles de observar. Igualmente, se mostró como se obtienen las mediciones del tamaño y peso de las ranas y se colectan muestras de su piel con hisopos para la detección del hongo quítrido. Hasta el momento de la visita las ranas a las que se les está dando seguimiento se han mantenido cerca del punto de liberación. Sin embargo, con los datos que se están recabando, se espera estimar la futura dispersión y supervivencia de las mismas.

La iniciativa de adelantar los ensayos de liberación forma parte del Proyecto de Rescate y Conservación de Anfibios de Panamá, conocido coloquialmente como PARC y que administra el Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales (STRI) y bajo la supervisión de MiAmbiente. Este proyecto está conformado por varias organizaciones, que incluyen a Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Houston Zoo, Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park y Zoo New England; además, es y ha sido apoyado por una larga lista de patrocinadores, entre ellos Minera Panamá SA. PARC cuenta con dos instalaciones, una en el Zoológico El Níspero en El Valle de Antón, Coclé, actualmente conocidas como PARC El Valle y la otra en el poblado de Gamboa, en la Cuenca del Canal de Panamá, conocida como PARC Gamboa. La instalación PARC El Valle recibió las primeras ranas rescatadas, que temporalmente se habían mantenido en el Hotel Campestre, en el 2007 por iniciativa del Zoológico El Níspero y Houston Zoo, con financiamiento de este último, como una respuesta de emergencia a la reducción en el número de anfibios por la mortalidad causada cuando el hongo quítrido llegó a El Valle de Antón en el 2006. En 2009, esta instalación en El Valle se incorpora al proyecto marco del PARC, donde ha continuado su operación dentro del Zoológico El Níspero. Además, en el 2009, PARC Gamboa surge inicialmente con instalaciones en el Parque Municipal Summit, antes de reubicarse a su ubicación actual en Gamboa en el 2012, con la finalidad de mejorar y expandir la capacidad existente para la conservación ex-situ de anfibios y crear una salvaguarda adicional en un segundo sitio. El proyecto PARC se caracteriza por ser el resultado del esfuerzo mancomunado de múltiples organizaciones y gran número de personas que, a través de los años, han contribuido a la conservación de los anfibios de Panamá.

El Ministerio de Ambiente y el Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales (STRI) mantienen un acuerdo de colaboración interinstitucional con el cual trabajan estrechamente en la implementación del Plan de Acción para la Conservación de los Anfibios en Panamá aprobado en el 2011. El Plan tiene como objetivo el asegurar la conservación de las poblaciones de anfibios, a través de la implementación de acciones que promuevan la investigación y el manejo, tanto in-situ (en su hábitat) como ex-situ (fuera de su hábitat); además de, fomentar la educación de la sociedad en general. Este plan integra actividades específicas de investigación, conservación y educación, a corto y mediano plazo, con la determinación de salvaguardar nuestro patrimonio natural.

Esta visita ha permitido realizar una verificación conjunta entre STRI y MiAmbiente sobre los avances del proyecto. Se ha alcanzado un hito importante en la implementación de este Plan de Acción, ya que ésta es la primera vez en Panamá, que un proyecto de conservación de anfibios está ejecutando la fase donde se está investigando el comportamiento y la supervivencia de ranas criadas en cautiverio al exponerlas a su ambiente natural. Los resultados de estos ensayos de liberación serán de gran utilidad para guiar los esfuerzos futuros tendientes a reestablecer las poblaciones de ciertas especies de ranas en sitios donde éstas han disminuido en abundancia o desaparecido.

 

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Benjamin, The torture-friendly Trump administration

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ve have VAYS
Only stupid people say torture works — and one of them is sitting in the White House.

The torture-friendly Trump administration

by Medea Benjamin — OtherWords

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Donald Trump is pro-torture. He said on the campaign trail he’d approve waterboarding “in a heartbeat,” plus “a hell of a lot worse.

He added: “Only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work.”

There are certainly a lot of stupid people then, because everyone from interrogators to researchers have repeatedly concluded that torture doesn’t work. People will say whatever you want them to say to make the pain stop, making torture not only inhumane but also bad for intelligence.

A 2009 Senate Armed Services Committee review concluded that torture “damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.” That’s why the Senate voted in 2015 to turn the presidential ban on torture into official law.

To his credit, Trump did water down his original support for torture, allowing Defense Secretary James Mattis — who opposes torture — to override him.

But if the Trump administration is now opposed to torture, why are they nominating the architects of America’s torture fiasco to key posts?

Take Steven Bradbury, nominated to be general counsel for the Transportation Department. Bradbury is infamous for writing the legal memos authorizing CIA torture at the Bush Justice Department.

Bradbury’s confirmation was placed on hold by Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq veteran who lost her legs in the war. “The actions you helped justify put our troops in harm’s way, put our diplomats deployed overseas in harm’s way, and you compromised our nation’s very values,” she said angrily at his confirmation hearing.

Or what about Donald Trump’s nominee to head the FBI, Christopher Wray?

Wray was at the Justice Department when attorney John Yoo and others were drafting their torture memos. Wray knew about detainee abuse and did not, as head of the criminal division, bring charges against any of the Bush administration torturers — except for one low-level CIA contractor who beat a prisoner to death.

A third person connected to torture is Gina Haspel, who was appointed deputy director of the CIA. Haspel ran a “black site” prison in Thailand where suspects were waterboarded — and then helped destroy video of the interrogations.

The Senate Intelligence Committee meticulously documented the sordid US record of torture under the Bush administration in a 6,770-page report. But the public hasn’t been able to read it — only the executive summary has been released.

Yet this isn’t just an exercise in history. In June, Human Rights Watch and the Associated Press published explosive reports revealing a secret network of prisons in southern Yemen run by US-allied United Arab Emirates and Yemeni forces.

The reports reveal horrific practices in which prisoners, including children, have been arbitrarily detained, forcibly disappeared, sexually assaulted, and tortured. One torture method, known as the “grill,” had victims tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire.

Reports indicate that the US military knew about the torture, received transcripts of the interrogations conducted by Yemeni interrogators, and interrogated several detainees themselves. According to one Yemeni security officer, American forces were only yards away from a facility where torture took place.

Senators John McCain and Jack Reed immediately expressed outrage, calling on the Trump administration to investigate the allegations. But the reaction of the White House to these revolting reports is telling: radio silence.

Trump’s refusal to publicly condemn these secret prisons, together with the appointments of people who played a role in George W. Bush’s torture program, should set off alarm bells.

Only stupid people say torture works, and one of them is sitting in the White House.

 

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Parties and presidential candidates lining up

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Nito
It’s early yet, his Democratic Revolutionary Party is out of power and in ignominious disarray, but right now former Agriculture Minister Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo is the PRD hopeful with the most support and least negative baggage. New time limits on campaigning put those who would catch up to him in the race for the party’s nomination at a disadvantage. Photo by the Cortizo campaign.

Parties and candidates jockey for 2019 position

by Eric Jackson

Perhaps the big political story of the week is that entertainer and former Tourism Minister Rubén Blades has announced that he will end the salsa concert tours to concentrate on running for president of Panama. However, that news came as something of a gaffe — the announcement was made in Spain, not Panama. It would make perfect sense that a working man who spends so much of his time on the road as a musician and actor would do this, to those who make their livings working in the performing arts. Panamanians who see Blades as an international celebrity and perhaps connect that more with talent than with labor may be less forgiving. In any case, polls before his announcement did not have Blades as the most popular potential independent candidate, let alone anything close to an overall front runner.

At this early stage, would there be a front runner? If the working assumption is that the alternating cycle of Panamanian politics in which the party that holds the presidency always gets thrown out in the next election will continue, that leaves President Juan Carlos Varela’s Panameñista Party with diminished chances. Then there is Ricardo Martinelli’s disintegrating Cambio Democratico party, one of whose dissident members who now presides over the National Assembly as the ex-president tries to run the party from his Miami jail cell. Most of the announced CD presidential wannabes appear to be more interested in the immunity from arrest that comes with being a candidate than actually winning the job.

That leaves the PRD, which is also badly split. The leading light there, however, once sat around the cabinet table with Blades. Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo, however, did not go the distance in the Torrijos administration like Blades. He quit over Panama’s adhesion to the free trade pact with the United States, which he warned would devastate Panamanian agriculture. It did, but perhaps more important to Cortizo’s chances than principles or prophecy is that he has maintained his distance from the acrimonious infighting that has beset a party that until 2014 had not lost two elections in a row since its foundation.

As it is, the PRD remains the country’s most populous political party, with 462,395 members as of June. The president’s Panameñistas have been recruiting of late and with a sluggish economy and unprincipled political culture they have done well. Since the 2014 elections Varela’s party has added 127,248 new members, about a 37 percent increase. That has vaulted them into second place among the parties with 343,586 members as of June. How many of the new Panameñisats have come from the ranks of the 119,660 people who quit Ricardo Martinelli’s Cambio Democratico in the past three years? Probably a lot. In any case, former number two CD is down to 338,842 registered members and its position is far worse than the figure suggests.

Minor parties are splintering away from the Martinelli camp, perhaps most notably a new right-wing Evangelical party in formation. There is also unusual interest in possible independents, and unusual rejection of the legislature and its members. Perhaps some of the existing small parties might grow a bit from the disenchantment.

 

RB
Rubén Blades gets a lot of criticism for not being in Panama. However, his touring and acting may have given him the resources to mount a viable independent campaign without the backing of a political party or a rabiblanco family. Wikimedia photo.

 

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Editorial, Widespread crisis of legitimacy

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them
In good times, politicians perceived as having done good things can get away with pompous displays. These aren’t those.

Crisis of legitimacy

In Brazil, an already convicted and unelected acting president was shown accepting bribes on national television. His public approval ratings in single digits, his hold on office was saved by a committee of politicians who are mostly also facing corruption charges.

In Venezuela the opposition held their “alternative referendum” and if Nicolás Maduro can make the legal argument that it counts for nothing, the political argument that enough people voted against the president’s constitutional nullification process to win any legitimate election ought to sink into his head. Yes, Venezuela has foreign enemies involved and thugs among the opposition, but Maduro owes the Venezuelan people a recall referendum, which would end his presidency. Not that this would solve his country’s main problem, which is a totally oil dependent economy in a time of low oil prices.

In Argentina a scandal-plagued President Macri is trying to put his predecessor in jail on dubious charges, but his ability to do anything good or bad is crippled by a weak economy.

Chilean President Bachelet, a socialist, has a son with corrupt and acquisitive values that most socialists take as disgraceful. She was not a party to his corruption, but she also presides over a weak economy and has seen her party and its alliances shatter. The old Chilean paradigms seem to be irreparably broken.

How many ex-presidents does Peru have in jail? The count may vary. And is the United States still harboring Alejandro Toledo, or has he fled elsewhere? They say that Burkina Faso can be lovely this time of the year, but there are American troops there now so maybe Toledo should try Tadzhikistan or Laos instead.

Half of the presidential slate put together at the US Ambassador’s Residence for the 2009 Panamanian presidential election is in a Miami jail cell, mailing out instructions to political armies that are mostly not there anymore. The other half is an ever less popular president, not because he’s not a nice guy and not because he doesn’t mean well, but because he’s part of a constellation of political forces blocking any real accounting for the corruption that is and has been strangling Panama.

Do its US sponsors have a new anti-corruption plan for the death squad regime in Honduras? Mostly it’s soccer crooks who are affected. Those who hire hit men to kill opponents of their hydroelectric dams, are immune by virtue of their importance to some big picture somewhere.

Will the Mexican political aristocracy finally collapse in the face of another AMLO challenge? The United States might back another fraud against the former mayor of Mexico City, except that nothing backed by the United States is acceptable to Mexicans these days.

And the US government under Trump? ‘Nuff said.

Sure, there are a few places in the Americas that seem to be in some sort of normal state. Canada and Uruguay have their problems, but seem to be going about their business in reasonable and orderly fashion. If most of the Caribbean countries don’t jump aboard the gunboats that Trump would have the OAS send to Venezuela, it’s not those little countries that are acting unusually or against their own interests.

The main problem is the failure of neoliberalism, the world economy globalized on corporate terms. The secondary problem is that no truly viable alternative appears to be catching on. China seems set to step into the vacuum. Say what he might about the Monroe Doctrine, Donald Trump isn’t in a position to do anything about it. (Yes, he does owe a lot of money to a Chinese bank, but the worse impediment is that he has alienated most Latin Americans in a way that no previous US president has been able to do.)

So, what do to? Any solution must come from ourselves, as individuals, as communities, as nations, as sister republics working together.

 

Bear in mind…

To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth… is potentially to have everything.
Joan Didion

 

Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith.
St. Francis of Assisi

 

Democracy is not something that you believe in, or something that you hang your hat on. It’s something that you do, you participate. Without participation, democracy crumbles and fails. If you participate, you win, and the future is yours.
Abbie Hoffman

 

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The Panama News blog links, July 16, 2017

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The Panama News blog links

a Panama-centric selection of other people’s work
una selección Panamá-céntrica de las obras de otras personas

Canal, Maritime & Transportation / Canal, Marítima & Transporte

Seatrade, Chinese-Belgian consortium wins Panama cruise terminal contract

The Spokesman-Review, COSCO to buy Orient Overseas for $6.3 billion

Hellenic Shipping News, The New Silk Road — a boost for international trade?

Newsweek, China’s Arctic empire

Sports / Deportes

Video, Panama vs USA 1-1 Gold Cup highlights

Video, Panama vs Nicaragua 2-1 Gold Cup highlights

Video, Panama vs Martinique 3-0 Gold Cup highlights

Los Angeles Times, Corrales defeats Castellanos on close decision

Economy / Economía

Q Costa Rica, Trump Ocean Club hotel sold

TVN, Panamá compartirá información con EEUU a partir de septiembre

ALAI, Informalidad versus ilegalidad

Griffiths, The Hamburg Summit

E&N, Trump suspende visa de emprendedores extranjeros

Science & Technology / Ciencia & Tecnología

Video, Fossil records in Panama may model future climate change

STRI, Litter bugs may protect chocolate supply

Rincon Surfrider, The impact of seawalls on Rincon’s beaches

Sipse.com,  El viaje de la Nasa hasta Plutón

Guesgen, Animal emotions stare us in the face

News / Noticias

Prensa Latina, Large fire destroys Colon Free Zone warehouses

La Estrella, Pide condena máxima para Holbert y Reese

Facebook thread, Gringos warn about calling Holbert & Reese white supremacists

Video, La llamada marcha “por la familia”

TVN, Magistrado pide que se discuta matrimonio igualitario en la CSJ

AFP, United States to destroy old chemical weapons left in Panama

La Estrella, ‘Efecto Yanibel’ atiza crisis entre cúpulas de partidos y diputados

Video, Embarcación de Sea Shepherd embestida por pescadores cerca de Coiba

Telemetro, Cancelan permiso de navegación a barco de Sea Shepherd

El Heraldo, Blades dice adios a la salsa para volver a la política

TVN, Violó a una niña de 10 años y lo favorecen con trabajo comunitario

The Guardian, Leopoldo López moved to house arrest

BBC, Santos grants amnesty to FARC members

The Guardian, Lula launches fiery defense after corruption conviction

El Debate, Trump impide la entrada de artistas latinos a EEUU

Mother Jones, Three lawyers are quietly purging voter rolls across the USA

McClatchy, Progressives gain in US local governments

APKA, Demystifying international extradition

The Washington Post, Killers go free in 9 of 10 journalist slayings

NDTV, Font used by Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif’s daughter nails her

Seib, Why some Arab countries want to shutter Al Jazeera

The Guardian, Victory declared over Isis in Mosul – in pictures

Opinion / Opiniones

Uras, The South China Sea conflict is heating up

La Civiltà Cattolica, Evangelical fundamentalism and Catholic integralism

Brin, It’s all about fragile personality and dangerous psychology

Rosenson, The Trumps’ conflict of interest issues

Alternet / 10 experts, OMG — the Democratic Party is such a mess!

Bowen, Impeaching Trump? Lessons from Latin America

Birkett & Fontecilla, Odebrecht Pandora’s box opened

Sagel, La desfachatez del anonimato

Stanziola, La marcha pro familia: Cambio de piel

Culture / Cultura

La Estrella, Los nietos del jazz

The Nation, The Arabs of Latin America

Cultura Inquieta, Hábitos de higiene de los aztecas

 

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Odebrecht / Mimito: might the stall now work against Martinelli?

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public enemies 1-3
There never was any real question of what it was about. Ricardo Martinelli wanted to stay in power and he used massive resources stolen from the government to do that via a 2014 proxy campaign with the cardboard cut-out character José Domingo “Mimito” Arias at the top of the ticket and first lady Marta Linares de Martinelli for VP. Photo by the Martinelistas.

“Organized crime” — the prosecutors’ own stall card?

by Eric Jackson

La Prensa reports that the Superior Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office has asked a judge to declare an investigation that began against Constructora Internacional del Sur SA and now, among others, involves 2014 Cambio Democratico presidential candidate José Domingo “Mimito” Arias to be a “complex” case of “organized crime.” Acceptance of that designation could create a sea change in the legal status of high profile cases, perhaps including some not yet formally incorporated into this investigation.

It is said that Constructora Internacional del Sur was a shell created by the criminal Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht as a part of an international money laundering chain to conceal illegal payments made to political figures. Already named in the case are Odebrecht, the Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras, executives of both Odebrecht and Petrobras, dignitaries of record of Constructora Internaacional del Sur, and lawyers with the Panamanian law firm Rosas & Rosas who are accused of setting up the scheme.

The probe has developed to involve Brazilian political consultants João Santana and Mônica Moura, husband and wife, who were hired to run the 2014 Ricardo Martinelli proxy re-election campaign, formally the ticket of José Domingo “Mimito” Arias and Marta Linares de Martinelli. Arias is under criminal investigation for receiving illegal foreign campaign contributions by way of Odebrecht paying for the services of Santana and Moura, and for participating in a money laundering scheme by which the provenance of the money used in this transaction was concealed. Arias, a barely known and undistinguished man with an aristocratic surname, denies the charges. After questioning, however, prosecutors are unconvinced of his explanations of how the money for the campaign managers came from a legitimate source.

If the investigation is certified by the courts as a complex organized crime case, then the time limits on the investigation come off. Sop long as the call to bring the case to trial has not yet been made, the ongoing investigation could lead to other defendants being added.

Now incarcerated former president Ricardo Martinelli and his accomplices have been trying to run out the calendar on the many corruption investigations against themselves by interposing many motions for delays. At the moment the Public Ministry has no jurisdiction over Martinelli because he is a member of the Central American Parliament, which gives the Supreme Court exclusive jurisdiction over him. But if he is extradited from the United States and convicted on warrantless wiretapping charges, the high court would surely remove him from PARLACEN as part of the sentence. Then he would be subject to a Public Ministry probe.

If it’s a complex organized crime case against the full panoply of Odebrecht corruption here, a convicted Martinelli might well be haled into court as a defendant in such a case. But if the courts decline to certify the case against Mimito et al as a complex organized crime matter, then the chances become good that statutes of limitations or time limits on investigations may be run and even the most egregious cases of corruption could be barred from ever coming to trial.

In a sense, Martinelli’s stall tactics are now being called by prosecutors playing a stall card of their own. It’s likely to become the subject of feverish litigation all up and down the Panamanian court system.

 

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Avnery, Israelis get incensed when UNESCO doesn’t certify their dibs

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holy to three faiths
The Cave of the Patriarchs, a building with a contested name in a town with a contested name in a country with a contested name. But it’s a holy place in Palestine.

Abe, Izzy & Bibi

by Uri Avnery

The whole thing could have been a huge practical joke, if it had not been real.

All of Israel was taken in. Left, right and center. All the newspapers and TV networks, without exception.

There it was: UNESCO has declared that the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron is a Palestinian heritage site.

I admit that I was taken in, too. The news was so clear and so simple, its acceptance so uniform, that I too accepted it unthinkingly. True, it was a bit strange, but stranger things happen.

The “Cave of Machpelah” is no cave at all. It is a large building, which the Arabs call al-Haram al-Ibrahim, the Mosque of Ibrahim, in the center of Hebron, the town the Arabs call al-Khalil, the Friend of God (meaning Abraham).

According to the Bible, Abraham, the forefather of the Jews, bought the place from its local owner as a burial plot for his wife, Sarah. When his time came, he was also buried there, as were his son Isaac with his wife Rivka and his grandson, Jacob, with his wife Leah. (His other wife, Rachel, is supposed to be buried on the way to Bethlehem.)

And here comes UNESCO, the anti-Semitic cultural branch of the anti-Semitic UN, and declares that this is a Palestinian holy site!

Is there no limit to Jew-baiting?

A tsunami of emotions surged over Israel. Jews were united in protest. Everybody vented their anger as loudly as possible. Rarely was such unanimity seen here.

If I had stopped to think for a moment, I would have realized that the whole thing was nonsense. UNESCO does not assign places to nations. World Heritage sites are — well — the heritage of the entire world. As a detail, these declarations mention in which country each World Heritage site is located.

The holy church in Nazareth is located in Israel, but it does not “belong” to Israel. The graves of holy Jewish rabbis in Russia or Egypt do not belong to Israel. UNESCO did not say that the Machpelah-al-Haram al-Ibrahim site belongs to the Palestinians. It said that it is located in Palestine.

Why Palestine? Because, according to international law, the town of Hebron is part of Palestine, which was recognized by the UN as a state under occupation. Under Israeli law, too, Hebron is not a part of Israel proper but under military occupation.

I am grateful to an ex-Israeli called Idan Landau who lives in the United States. He took the trouble to read the original text and sent us emails to correct our impression. The moment I read it, I hit myself on the brow. How could I have been so stupid!

The UNESCO resolution is fair and correct. It remarks that the site is holy to the three monotheistic religions, as indeed it is. Because of this, a Jewish fanatic — a settler from America — once murdered dozens of praying Muslims there. Jewish fanatics have settled nearby.

Is the place really holy? That is a silly question. A place is as holy as people believe it to be.

Are Abraham and his progeny really buried there?

Even that is irrelevant. Many people – myself included – believe that the entire first part of the Bible, up to the Assyrian era, is fictitious. That does not make the Bible less wonderful. It is the most beautiful work of literature on earth. At least the (original) Hebrew version.

If one believes that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were real persons, it would still be doubtful that they are buried there. An entire school of archaeologists believes that the burial place is somewhere else in Hebron, not the building now known as the Cave of Machpelah. The graves there are those of Muslim sheikhs.

Be that as it may, millions believe that the Biblical forefathers are buried in the Cave. For them, the place is holy, and it is located in occupied Palestine.

But if you take the Bible so literally, you should also read verse 9 of chapter 25 of Genesis: “And Abraham gave up the ghost and died in a good old age… And his sons, Isaac and Ishmael, buried him in the cave of Machpelah.”

When I pointed this out to people who had attended Israeli schools, they were deeply shocked. Because this verse is never mentioned in any Israeli school. It does not exist.

Why? Because Ishmael is the forefather of the Arabs, as Isaac is the forefather of the Jews. We learned that Sarah, our foremother, who is described in the Bible as a real bitch, induced her obedient spouse, Abraham, to send his concubine Hagar and their son, Ishmael, into the desert, there to die of thirst. But an angel saved them, and they disappeared, though the Bible gives a long list of his progeny.

The revelation that the Bible in fact says the opposite is shocking. So Ishmael did not disappear, but somewhere along the line made his peace with Isaac. The two sons buried their father together.

This changes the story completely. It means that the Bible makes the Arabs, too, rightful heirs of the Cave of Machpelah, side by side with the Jews and the Christians.

I do not believe that Binyamin Netanyahu ever read this verse. He knows only what every Israeli pupil knows. The strict Orthodox line.

This week, at the height of the UNESCO hysteria, Netanyahu did something bizarre: in the middle of a formal cabinet meeting he pulled a kippah from his pocket, put it on and started to read from the Bible (not the aforementioned verse, of course). He looked positively happy. He was showing the bloody Goyim up for what they are: anti-Semites all.

Does Netanyahu really believe (as I think he does) that this part of Biblical legend is history? If so, he has the mind of a 10 year old. If he does not, he is a cheat. In any case, he is a very able demagogue.

But he is not alone. Far from it. The President of Israel, a very nice gentleman, reiterated Netanyahu’s accusations against UNESCO. So did the speaker of the Knesset, an immigrant from the Soviet Union.

It took about four days for some Israeli commentators to cite the true text of the UNESCO resolution. They did not apologize, of course, but at least they started to quote the actual text. Shyly and quietly some other commentators joined them. Most of their colleagues did not.

Special mention is due to Carmel Shama Hacohen, Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO. He is not known as a pillar of wisdom. Indeed, he was only sent to UNESCO in order to allow a protégé of the foreign minister to take over his place in the Knesset.

During the UNESCO meeting, Shama-Hacohen — (his real name was just Shama, but that sounds too Arab, so he added the very Jewish Hacohen) — got very excited. He started a shouting match with the Palestinian ambassador, rushed to the dais and shouted at the chairman, too.

William Shakespeare might have called all this “much ado about nothing,” except for two points.

One is that it shows how easy it is to send all of (Jewish) Israel — all without exception! — into a holy rage. Politicians and commentators from left and right, east and west, religious and secular, unite into one raging mass, even when the pretext is false.

Such an eruption can have very serious consequences. It disables all inner brakes.

The other aspect is even more dangerous.

At the height of the tsunami, it suddenly hit me that everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves hugely. And then I realized why.

For hundreds of years, Jews in Europe were persecuted, deported, tortured and killed. It was a part of reality. They were used to it. Anti-Semitism of all kinds, including the murderous one, was a part of reality. The sadism of the goyim was met with the masochism of the Jews.

(As I have suggested in the past, this is a part of Western Christian culture, emanating from the crucifixion story in the New Testament.

It does not exist as such in Islam, since the prophet admonished his believers to protect the two other “peoples of the book” — Jews and Christians.)

Since World War II and the Holocaust, the old vicious European anti-Semitism has disappeared, or gone underground. But Jews have not got used to that. They are sure that it is lurking somewhere, that it can return any minute. When it does, or when it seems to, Jews are apt to feel “I told you so!”

In Israel, this is even more complex. Zionism hoped to rid Jews of their “exilic” complexes. To turn us into a normal people, “a people like other peoples.”

It seems that this has not been quite successful. Or that the success is receding under the stewardship of Netanyahu and his ilk.

This episode has made many Jews happy. They say to themselves: “We were right! All the Goyim are anti-Semites!”

 

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In 2014 Senator Tammy Duckworth, who came back from service as a helicopter pilot in Iraq missing parts of her legs and partly disabled in one arm, set a a precedent. Then serving in the US House of Representatives, she was the first member of that body to give birth to a child while in office. Photo by the US Department of Agriculture.

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President Donald Trump and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud agree on US support for the Saudi royal family’s Sunni jihad. White House photo by Shealah Craighead.

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