Valores en la vida
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It doesn’t matter that two of the seven people who did it were women. The plenum of the Supreme Court chose the afternoon when much of the Panamanian population was headed toward the Interior to issue their ruling divesting the court of jurisdiction over Ricardo Martinelli. It was a cynical, abusive act — nothing new or creative but just another insult by an institution shorn of credibility.
They may protest that they didn’t throw out the charges, that they just transferred the trial to the lowest level of criminal court. Yeah, so Martinelli’s legal hoodlums can again file motion after motion and interlocutory appeal after interlocutory appeal until comes they day when the untried Martinelli will again be before the high court arguing that the statute of limitations has run.
There is no “legal” solution to this. There is a constitutional solution. That would be a new constitution that has among its provisions not a procedure or a law, just an outright ban against any of these seven specific individuals serving as judges, holding a government post or practicing law.
Does somebody protest that there is no law against this sort of timing? These seven magistrates time their pro-corruption ruling because they knew it was wrong and sought to conceal it from the Panamanian people. That’s offense enough, whether or not there is any statute on the books.
He ordered people to break the campaign finance laws. He ordered people to contact the Kremlin in search of special favors for his business, while he was running for president. People are going to jail because they lied for him. We still don’t know the extent of the offenses that the special prosecutor will cite, but what’s out now is damning.
Are Republican senators sneering that they have they have the votes, that nothing can be done about Donald J. Trump? Perhaps if the guy sinks to single-digit approval ratings and their own standings with the voters follow the trend, they will be alarmed. A problem that they created. A problem that they might go into panic mode to resolve.
For Democrats, it’s not a time for compromise solutions. It ought to be the start of two years of debate and incubation of a plan of action to take to the voters in 2020.
As money matters have to come from the House, it also should be two years of saying no to funding for Republican initiatives.
The sensation of sound occurs when the vibrations from sounds enter our ear and cause little hairlike structures — called hair cells — within our inner ear to move back and forth. The hair cells transform this movement into an electrical signal that the brain can use.
How well a person can hear largely depends on how intact these hair cells are. Once lost, they don’t grow back — and this is no different for blind people. So blind people can’t physically hear better than others.
Yet blind people often outperform sighted people in hearing tasks such as locating the source of sounds. The reason for this emerges when we look beyond the sensory organs, at what is happening with the brain, and how the sensory information is processed by it.
Perception occurs when the brain interprets signals that our sensory organs provide, and different parts of the brain respond to the information arriving from different sensory organs. There are areas that process visual information (the visual cortex) and areas that process sound information (the auditory cortex). But when a sense like vision is lost, the brain does something remarkable: it reorganizes the functions of these brain areas.
In blind people, the visual cortex gets a bit “bored” without visual input and starts to “rewire” itself, becoming more responsive to information from the other remaining senses. So blind people may have lost their vision, but this leaves a larger brain capacity for processing the information from other senses.
The extent of reorganization in the brain depends on when someone loses their sight. The brain can reorganize itself at any point in life, including adulthood, but during childhood the brain is more able to adapt to change. This is because during childhood the brain is still developing and the new organization of the brain does not have to compete with an existing one. As a result, people who have been blind from a very early age show a much greater level of reorganization in the brain.
The reorganization in the brain also means that blind people are sometimes able to learn how to use their remaining senses in interesting ways. For example, some blind people learn to sense the location and size of objects around them using echolocation.
By producing clicks with their mouths and listening for the echoes, blind people can locate objects in their surroundings. This ability is tightly linked with the brain activity in the visual cortex. In fact, the visual cortex in blind echolocators responds to sound information in almost the same way as it does to visual information in the sighted. In other words, in blind echolocators, hearing has replaced vision in the brain to a very large extent.
But not every blind person is automatically an expert echolocator. Whether a blind person is able to develop a skill like echolocation depends on the time spent learning this task — even sighted people can learn this skill with enough training, but blind people will probably benefit from their reorganized brain being more tuned towards the remaining senses.
Blind people will also rely more on their remaining senses to do everyday tasks, which means that they train their remaining senses on a daily basis. The reorganized brain together with the greater experience in using their remaining senses are believed to be important factors in blind people having an edge over sighted people in hearing and touch.
In late November, the Electoral Tribunal was by its own records caught publishing false totals about who had submitted the most petition signatures to get on the ballot as an independent presidential candidate. The magistrates who represent the political partigGes had listed legislator and former attorney general Ana Matilde Gómez in first place, the secretive Dimitri Flores in second and former legislator and Bonlac dairy scion Marco Ameglio in third. But actually third place was held by attorney and Christian anti-corruption activist Roberto Lombana. A week or so later, after a hue and cry, the tribunal corrected the figures and pleaded insufficient staff for the false press release.
The tribunal has decreed that only three independents make it to the ballot, no matter if more than that number get the required number of signatures. That leaves law professor, media personality and human rights activist Miguel Antonio Bernal off the ballot if things stay in the order stated. In a curious ruling based on an interpretation of a prior election law, the Supreme Court held that the constitutionality of the three independents only rule was “res judicata,” that is, already decided. No matter that the earlier ruling wasn’t even about the constitutionality of that provision. (Perhaps in a Common Law jurisdiction the earlier decision might be considered persuasive or controlling precedent, but Panama’s legal system is part of the Civil Code family that descends from Roman law via the Napoleonic Code, in which precedent is far less persuasive than by the history-oriented systems that derive from English law.)
Lombana? He’s an actual independent and, although he’s an Evangelical, lacks the ties to the pastors and churches behind the Alianza party or who were part of Ricardo Martinelli’s political operations past or present. Beware of applying US political standards and stereotypes to Evangelicals here. Sometimes it matches, including with US-inspired anti-gay activism by many born-agains here. But corruption has been a divisive issue among Evangelicals here, especially controversies revolving around the Templo Hosanna mega-church. Unlike that institution’s Reverend Álvarez and San Miguelito’s mayor Reverend Cumberbatch, Lombana is unencumbered by such baggage and is possessed of apparently valid anti-corruption credentials. But Lombana has never held public office, something that might be twisted into a pitch to the voters but would likely make him a highly dependent president if ever he gets to the Palacio de las Garzas.
Ameglio? He’s one of these wandering politicians who would make public office part of the family business, who wandered from the Solidaridad party and its aftermath, then in and out of the Panameñista Party long enough to be its leader and then to be ousted as such by Juan Carlos Varela. That party worships its late founder Arnulfo Arias but notoriously treats former leaders badly. The conventional wisdom is that Ameglio on the ballot would peel off votes from the Panameñista and Cambio Democratico parties. The man has to date issued no compelling reason beyond belief in himself for voters to trust him. If there is to be a general backlash against incumbent legislators, will that apply to former legislators as well?
The Electoral Tribunal is not allowing opinion polls this year — something perhaps justified by 2014’s inaccurate polls, but also something very convenient if there is fraudulent intent. Were there to be decent surveys made public, it is this writer’s estimate that they would terminally deflate any pretensions of one Dimitri Flores. He says that he’s a businessman, of which businesses he won’t say. He won’t even provide a brief biography to press and public. His campaign donors? He says that it’s all self-financed. His dodges about those things in a July interview with La Estrella’s Adelita Coriat are infamous:
Coriat: Why do you brag that you do not collect money from your sympathizers? What makes you so different from others who have money?
Flores: It’s not that one has money, it’s that one has to work.
Coriat: We all work, but we may not have the same income.
Flores: So why do they get into this?
Coriat: Do you think that the one with money becomes president?
Flores: … One who does not show that in his life he has been able to succeed, and that he has been able to save $ 100 thousand in its 40 or 50 years — hello? What message are you giving me about succeeding in what you did in your own life? What are you going to do with us?
Coriat: But how do you measure personal success? In money?
Flores: That’s how you have to prove it.
Coriat: Show it how? In money or in what?
Flores: Where are you? Did you get over it?
Coriat: I do not have money, I can’t run for president?
Flores: Has a 45-year-old person in this country not been able to save even $100,000?
Thus spake a man with no visible means of support, no record of any sort of activism in politics or other spheres of public life, no stand on any of the issues that affect this country, no discernible campaign team or base of support — just these nearly 80,000 signatures that he has submitted to the Electoral Tribunal. Flores is a placeholder, a creature of someone else, of another political force, fleetingly in public life to keep some other independent off of the ballot. It’s a corrupt position created by the political parties, via the Electoral Tribunal which represents them.
Finally, there is the current leader among independents, by numbers of signatures submitted to the Electoral Tribunal and surely, were such things allowed, at or near the top in any public opinion poll, Ana Matilde Gómez, the legislator and former attorney general (“Procuradora General,” as it is styled here in the Spanish original). The Gómez team has been out in public places gathering signatures. The refuse to be photographed doing so. Her donors and backers are in general undisclosed, in some cases denied. The popular belief is that it’s the money of Stanley Motta and a few of his wealthy but less wealthy friends, and the Independent Movment (MOVIN) that he created ahead of the 2014 campaign. Along the way, during her career as an attorney she did work for the Mottas’ bank even if she tells people that this is of no political significance. (She also worked for the US government in the post-invasion period and surely some will mention and interpret that along the campaign trail.)
Gómez has a record in public life. It might be expected that some will focus on the cases as attorney general (David Murcia Guzmán, Odebrecht) and as member of the legislature’s Credentials Committee (most complaints against Supreme Court members) that she did not touch. The actions that she did take against the looting of the Ministry of Education during the Torrijos administration and against hoodlum magistrate Alejandro Moncada Luna as a legislator will probably get more attention. The question will be whether she would err on the side of attacking corruption, or on the side of maintaining an inevitably corrupt and long-running non-aggression pact among political parties and branches of government. That, and which privileges the Motta family might derive or maintain by virtue of her presidency.
So is everything carefully engineered, from the propping up of Ricardo Martinelli’s Cambio Democratico party (including by maintaining candidate immunity for its presidential nominee Rómulo Roux) to manipulation of independent candidacies blocked or allowed through arbitrary rules or their non-application? Remember that this was the norm in Noriega times and not only did its chief practitioner not go to prison after the invasion, she became a law school dean.
It LOOKS LIKE the 2019 presidential choice Panamanians are about to be given is between two leading candidates in an eight-way race, the PRD’s Nito Cortizo and Motta-backed independent Ana Matilde Gómez. Perhaps somebody can break out of the pack
Will such foreign powers that have intervened in Panamanian elections in the past, the United States and Brazil, do so again? Is somebody in some fashion angling for Chinese participation, and would China deviate from its usual correct diplomatic aloofness from other countries’ internal affairs and swallow that bait? Figure that the allegations that someone is someone else’s agent will generally fall short of reality.
There will be a window of opportunity for alliances. The Partido Popular, successor to the center-right Christian Democrats, supports the Panameñistas and José Blandón. MOLIRENA will probably support the PRD. Alianza might go somewhere or just stay as is — they are nothing if not opportunists and their natural ally, Cambio Democratico, is likely to be crushed into minor party status.
Parties may not form alliances that put independents who remain independents on their tickets, but they may offer an independent who drops such a bid a candidacy under the party banner in exchange. Independents might take on another independent as a running mate.
Getting down to the independents seeking lesser offices, the same three candidates only rule is being applied, the Electoral Tribunal is throwing people off the ballot over bogus residency allegations and all sorts of the usual suspects are running as independents because the parties are so discredited. Perhaps the most prominent among the new “independents” is Evangelical pastor and Cambio Democratico mayor of San Miguelito, Gerald Cumberbatch.
China is an ancient civilization and a great and rising power on the world stage. Of course Panama should have good relation with the Chinese. Our ties to China are the business of no other country.
The Chinese come here mainly to do business, not to save Panama. To the extent that this country needs saving it’s a job for Panamanians. We have no foreign saviors. Only Panamanians can play that role.
We don’t have to agree with everything that China does to maintain cordial, dignified and productive relations with that country.
Any treaty or deal made with the People’s Republic of China should be subjected to careful scrutiny and honest debate. There should be full transparency in our relations. What Panama asks for and accepts must be in the best interests of Panama, not some business or family. In a time of economic hardship it would be easy to take just anything that pumps up economic activity, but national development in the longer term should be the guiding light.
A principled relationship can be profitable for both countries. Let’s make the most of it.
Did a “pink tide” wash over much of Latin America in the last years of the 20th century and the first years of this one? That largely receded. Has the region taken a sharp turn to the right in the past few year? There has been a lot of that.
Mexico has a new leftist president, and Brazil will soon have a right-wing extremist in charge. Each of those places has its own history and political dynamics.
But look what is happening to the move to the right.
In Peru the right-wing former president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, had a presidency engulfed in scandal, one that lasted less than two years. The main opposition leader, the farther right Keiko Fujimori, is in jail awaiting trial on corruption charges.
Argentina moved to the right, with voters just tired of the Kirchners and some sordid practices of a complacent government giving them reasons to which they could point. The rightist Macri administration has arranged things to put Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and some of the people in her administration on trial, while squealching investigations of the current in crowd. However, Argentina’s economy is catastrophic. High inflation is taking many Argentines right out of the money economy.
Look around the region and you find governments of both left and right in trouble. It’s the problem of failed paradigms. Corruption and special privileges take their toll in any country, regardless of the ideology of its leaders. The old “Washington Consensus” policies of “free trade,” privatization of public assets and services, dispossession of the poor by the rich and government austerity measures have failed all but a few Latin Americans when they have been tried. The better governments are improvising and muddling through, the worse ones trying to distract attention by mobilizing hatreds.
So does Panama look around with a sharp eye to see what works and what doesn’t and move cautiously in the direction of what looks pragmatic? Or, given generalized corruption, is the most cautious approach here a leap into the unknown?
a Panama-centric selection of other people’s work
una selección Panamá-céntrica de las obras de otras personas
Prensa Latina, Venezuela’s Conviasa reopens air service to Panama
Bunkerspot, Bunker volumes continue slide at Panama Canal
La Estrella, Panamá en el puesto 71 de FIFA
La Estrella, COI congela el boxeo para los Juegos 2020
La Estrella, Permisos de construcción siguen retrocediendo
La Estrella, Global Bank adquiere Banvivienda por $245 millones
Stiglitz, Beyond GDP
The Guardian, Panama new flashpoint in US-China relations
Prensa Latina, GHW Bush y Panamá
Vatican News, Panamá entrega catedral restaurada
Politico.mx, AMLO: 1er presidente con Bastón de Mando indígena
The Guardian: Honduras, a dam and the murder of Berta Cáceres
Brennan Center, Fixing democracy tops congressional agenda
The Intercept, The vast network of US military bases in Africa
Varoufakis & Adler, Why the Progressive International was launched in Vermont
Thornton, El Chapo and the narco-spectacle
Xi, China and Panama
Lewis Galindo, Los diputados controlarán el torneo electoral
Díaz Herrera, Trump y su guerra privada al planeta
Remezcla, Jorge Drexler: reggaeton is from Africa
La Prensa, Los ganadores del Roque Cordero
La Estrella, Cultura Congo reconocido por UNESCO
Women in the World, Dominatrix says she turns right-wing men into socialists
Sagel, ¿Culmina la saga?
Con todo respeto, el que sí es camarada, Rubén D. Souza, y otros compañeros iluosos, se EQUIVOCAN: Xi Jinping NO ES CAMARADA, ni China es “socialista”.
China en todo caso es, cuando menos, lo que Lenin llamó un “capitalismo de estado”, donde la masa de la clase obrera es explotada en condiciones de semi esclavitud para beneficio del capital imperialista globalizado.
Xi es dirigente de un partido que se dice “comunista”, pero que hace tiempo defiende y administra lo contrario, el llamado “socialismo de mercado” que es más mercado capitalista que socialismo. A cuyos congresos asisten delegadas con carteras de Luis Vuitton (o como se escriba) que nadan en la riqueza de la superexplotación de la clase trabajadora que carece de elementales derechos sindicales y democráticos.
En China el concepto “comunismo” sirve para tratar de tapar un régimen totalitario, antidemocrático y antiobrero.
Una cosa es defender el derecho de Panamá a mantener relaciones diplomáticas y comerciales con China, y zafar del tutelaje que mantenía a Centroamérica en relaciones con el régimen ilegítimo de Taipei, mal que le pese al imperialismo norteamericano, otra cosa es disfrazar el gobierno chino con cracterísticas que no tiene.
Para defender nuestra soberanía diplomática no tenemos que falsificar la realidad.