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Opinión: ¡Que ‘el sector productivo’ no se interrumpa!

Algunos de nosotros no acabamos de bajar del avión, ni nacimos ayer, y recordamos. Foto por Eric Jackson.

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Lawson, Although Big Pharma controls one of the major US parties…

Big Pharma is terrified because they are no longer invulnerable. Pharma won some things – like poverty and death for some diabetics, as the $35 a month cap on insulin prices was stripped out of the bill. But once it’s enshrined into law, Medicare bargaining over drug prices opens the door to additional legislation and executive actions to lower drug prices. “His and Hers” pill photo by JM Taggart.

The IRA is Big Pharma’s first major defeat: let’s make sure it’s not the last one

by Alex Lawson – Common Dreams

This past Sunday, Senate Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The IRA will give Medicare the power to negotiate lower prices on prescription drugs, along with taxing corporations and making necessary investments in climate infrastructure.

The PhRMA lobby group, which represents Big Pharma, is furious. They slammed the IRA as a “price-setting scheme” — just because it stops pharmaceutical corporations from price-gouging seniors to the point of bankruptcy and death.

The IRA’s drug pricing reforms will:

• Give Medicare the power to negotiate lower prices on key prescription drugs.
• Cap out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries at $2,000, starting in 2025.
• Penalize pharma companies for raising Medicare drug prices faster than the rate of inflation.

In addition, Democrats tried to cap the price of insulin at $35 for people with insurance. But the unelected parliamentarian ruled that the provision needed 60 votes, and Republicans voted to strip it out of the bill. Big Pharma can rest assured that they still control one of the major political parties. But that is still a major defeat for an industry that’s used to controlling enough politicians across party lines to block any drug pricing reform.

Big Pharma is terrified because they are no longer invulnerable. By passing the IRA’s modest drug pricing reforms, the Senate has opened the door. The IRA establishes that the government has the right to determine a “fair price” for prescription drugs. Once that’s enshrined into law, it opens the door to additional legislation, and executive actions, to lower drug prices further.

That’s why PhRMA is desperate to stop the IRA from becoming law. They have one more chance in the House, where Democrats hold only a slim majority. Over the next week, PhRMA’s lobbyists will be twisting the arm of every Representative that they can find, hoping to find just four Democrats who will vote with their corporate paymasters instead of their constituents.

We need to make our voices louder than PhRMA’s. This is the week to call your Representative, and go to their district offices. Tell them that this law is needed so that seniors who’ve paid into Medicare their entire working lives aren’t forced to choose between food and medicine. Tell them they are either with us and supporting this law, or they are with pharma working to keep our drug prices high.

This is the final sprint to win a desperately needed victory against Big Pharma. We need to get the bill to President Biden’s desk. And once it is law, we will keep fighting for more — until everyone in America can get the medications they need.

Alex Lawson is the Executive Director of Social Security Works, the convening organization of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition — a coalition made up of over 340 national and state organizations representing over 50 million Americans.


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Castro-Rodríguez: Scott, Rubio and Florida kids

Republicans are in trouble with senior citizens in general because of things the head of their Senate campaign, Rick Scott, says about ending Social Security and Medicare, and taxing lower-income parents. GOP “family values” culture war measures would also increase the numbers of grandparents taking care of kids whom their daughters didn’t want to have and can’t support.

Marco Rubio, Rick Scott and Florida children

by Manuel Castro-Rodríguez

Florida has ranked 35th in the nation for three years in a row. Policy experts say the state needs to do more to assist families and support child mental health. But Republicans are not listening.

For example:

  1. Although the United States, which is the most powerful country known to mankind, ranks 28 in the world on social progress, Sen. Marco Rubio said Social Security and Medicare have “weakened us as a people.” You needed to see it in his own words for you to know the type of man Marco Rubio is — besides lying to his constituents because his parents came in 1956, they were not fleeing communism.
  2. In February, Sen. Rick Scott, a Florida Republican who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, proposed an 11-point plan if they retake control of the Senate, which includes these issues:

a- “All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount. Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax.” Sen. Scott’s plan would require households with children making less than $50,000 to shell out more than $4,500 in additional taxes.

b- “All federal legislation sunsets in five years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.” Sen. Scott’s plan wants Congress to reauthorize Social Security, Medicare every five years. Their survival would not be guaranteed.

As Scott himself said, “I’ll warn you, this plan is not for the faint of heart.”

Where are Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez? Policy experts say Florida needs to do more to assist families and support child mental health.

Manuel Castro-Rodríguez, who was born and raised in Havana, now lives in Miami. For a number of years between leaving Cuba and moving to the United States, he lived in Panama.


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Beluche, El Grito. ¿Y Rufina Alfaro?

Without a topless Rufina?
¿Sin Rufina Alfaro?

Los actores de la independencia del Istmo de España

por Olmedo Beluche

En el marco de la conmemoración del Bicentenario de la Independencia de España, la Vicerrectoría de Extensión junto con la Comisión del Bicentenario de la Universidad de Panamá, han reeditado la obra El Grito de la Villa (10 de Noviembre de 1821), del historiador panameño Ernesto J. Nicolau (Nicolau, 2021).

A decir de Bonifacio Pereira Jiménez, que prologa la primera edición que data de 1961 (Nicolau E. J., 1961), así como de Milcíades Pinzón Rodríguez, que prologa la actual reedición, al momento de conmemorarse el Centenario de la Independencia de España se había roto el hilo de la memoria sobre los acontecimientos del 10 de Noviembre de 1821 en La Villa de Los Santos: el acta permanecía desaparecida, se desconocían a los personajes que protagonizaron los acontecimientos e incluso se creía que los hechos habían sucedido el 13 de noviembre.

Como la historia es uno de los campos más fértiles en que se desarrollan las contradicciones sociales, podría decirse que los comerciantes de la ciudad de Panamá, aliados a los latifundistas de Veraguas, habían impuesto su versión de la Independencia y la centralidad del 28 de Noviembre, en detrimento de los pequeños y medianos campesinos del Interior (La Villa, Las Tablas, Pesé, Natá, Ocú, Macaracas, Pocrí, Las Minas y San Francisco de la Montaña) quienes en verdad habían decidido el curso de la Independencia en el Istmo.

En la década de 1920, Ernesto J. Nicolau viajó a Colombia y recuperó de los archivos no sólo el acta de La Villa, sino una serie de documentos que le permitieron hacer la reconstrucción minuciosa de los hechos y conocer a los actores principales. Ese es el gran mérito de Nicolau y su libro. Éste es uno de los mayores aportes a la historia de los habitantes del Istmo.

Nos dice algo sobre las dificultades de la labor del historiador en Panamá el hecho de que, si bien Ernesto J. Nicolau retorna a Panamá con la documentación en 1928, y va publicando fragmentariamente en artículos de la Revista Cultural Lotería(Nicolau E. J., 1944), la edición completa de la obra solo se alcanza en 1961. Probablemente en ese momento tuvo cierta divulgación, porque se logró la legitimación de la conmemoración oficial del Grito de La Villa, pero la obra fue quedando en manos de eruditos y desconocida para el gran público, hasta esta reedición de 2021, que esperamos tenga mejor suerte.

El objetivo de la Independencia era la constitución de la República, ¿Cuál, Panamá o Colombia?

Las historias oficiales de los estados hispanoamericanos han deformado los acontecimientos de la Independencia de España para borrar las causas materiales concretas que motivaron las acciones de la gente de aquel entonces, para difuminar los intereses y demandas decada clase social, para presentar todos los hechos como si estuvieran motivados por el sueño “ideal” de construir la “nación” independiente. Evidentemente, la historia así tratada no es más que un instrumento de una ideología política nacionalista al servicio de la clase social que controla el estado nacional(Beluche, 2021).

Para el caso panameño se presenta el acontecimiento como si los personajes que protagonizaron la independencia lo hicieron en busca de la constitución dela República de Panamá como hoy la conocemos. Una consecuencia graciosa de esta manipulación histórica se expresó en el error de un monumento construido en 2021 por las autoridades de la provincia de Coclé en la conmemoración del “Bicentenario de la República de Panamá”(Reyes, 2021).

En 1821 no existía una “nación panameña” ni siquiera como identidad unificada de los habitantes del Istmo y, en todo caso, “panameños” lo eran los habitantes de la ciudad de Panamá. El “Istmo” olas “provincias del Istmo” es el concepto que se utilizaba para referirse a la región y sus habitantes, así está en las actas de independencia. Cuando se hace referencia a un estado nación en oposición al imperio español, tanto el Acta del 10 de Noviembreen La Villa, como la del 28 de Noviembre en Panamá, hablan de la República de Colombia con toda claridad.

Como brillantemente muestra el libro de Ernesto J. Nicolau, en el Istmo la unidad política básica, bajo cuya identidad actuaron los habitantes, eranlos cabildos de cada pueblo o ciudad. Cada cabildo tenía sus líderes y tomaba sus decisiones que influían sobre los habitantes de la región circundante, pero nadie, ni Fábrega (aun siendo Panamá la capital política y económica del Istmo) pretendió hablar en nombre del conjunto. Cada cabildo decidió en su momento y a su vez propuso consultar a los demás, incluso el 28 de Noviembre.

Nadie ostentaba la legitimidad política para hablar en nombre del conjunto. Lo más cercano a una entidad colectiva eran las Asambleas Provinciales, que establecía la Constitución de Cádiz recién reinstaurada por el gobierno liberal del general De Riego en España, y cuya primera elección se realizó en el Istmo pocas semanas antes de que se desataran los acontecimientos de noviembre de 1821.

Por un lado, se trató de dos Asambleas, pues eran dos provincias diferenciadas en el Istmo, Panamá y Veraguas. Por otro lado, esas Asambleas no jugaron ningún papel relevante en la independencia, el cual sí tuvieron los ayuntamientos o cabildos.

Las causas reales del Grito de La Villa

La motivación concreta de los pueblos del interior para sublevarse no fue la “libertad” o la “patria” en abstracto, como suele decir la historia oficial, sino el disgusto del campesinado por la leva y avituallamiento forzoso del ejército realista ordenado por el capitán general Juan de la Cruz Mourgeon en sus preparativos para zarpar hacia Sudamérica, para combatir a los independentistas en Quito, en los últimos meses de 1821.

Dice Nicolau: “… el Capitán General se dedicó a poner en juego toda la habilidad imaginable en los preparativos de su expedición; reclutó milicianos; exigió contribuciones de guerra onerosísimas entre aquellos que no podían tomar las armas, y gravó con grandes impuestos a los comerciantes; recurrió a los tesoros sagrados de las iglesias, y mandó expediciones a los pueblos del interior con el fin de acaparar todos los recursos que estuvieran al alcance de la mano o no.

En los pueblos se realizaron hazañas de verdadero saqueo, pues las tropas entraban a las casas, ponían presos a los dueños, y se llevaban lo que encontraran en ellas” (Pág. 6).

Ahí en ese párrafo está la causa real, material, concreta, que explica por qué en 1821 la sublevación popular en favor de la independencia de España empezó en las regiones campesinas y por qué La Villa de Los Santos se puso a la cabeza del movimiento. La gente se cansó de esos abusos.

Más adelante agrega Nicolau: “La contribución forzosa impuesta por Murgeon (errata en el texto, es Mourgeon) en la ciudad Capital, así como la irreverente disposición de apropiarse de los bienes de la Iglesia para el sostenimiento de su expedición, no sólo se hizo sentir, de manera abrumadora, en ese sitio, sino que tornó la vida difícil en el resto del Istmo, principalmente en ciertos lugares como La Villa de Los Santos, Natá, Penonomé, Santiago, Pesé, Ocú, Parita, Alanje y otros, en donde los soldados españoles atropellaban a hombres y mujeres, ancianos y niños, llenaron las cárceles de personas inocentes con el fin de amedrentarlos y extraer de sus haberes la contribución de guerra que arbitrariamente se les había impuesto. Tales desafueros impulsaron a los nativos a recurrir a la formalidad de la protesta airada y luego a la acción colectiva del levantamiento armado, lo cual verificaron en algunas partes, como ocurrió en Alanje, Las Tablas, La Villa, etc., pero con tan mala suerte que sus esfuerzos se estrellaban contra la superioridad de la fuerza militar que los subyugaba. Las autoridades bien pronto reducían a la impotencia a los exaltados, porque carecía de armas y de medios para proveérselas” (Págs. 25-26).

Los actores de la independencia en el Istmo

La independencia en el Istmo tuvo dos personajes decisivos: el natariego Francisco Gómez Miró y el santeño Segundo Villarreal. Gómez Miró es la mente lúcida e ilustrada que entiende a cabalidad el momento político, pues está informado del proceso independentista en toda la región, es el que con su verbo revolucionario inspira a sus coterráneos interioranos a actuar, y viaja de Natá a La Villa incendiando los ánimos. El historiador Ernesto J. Nicolau señala que Francisco Gómez Miró redactó una proclama que hizo circular antes del 10 de Noviembre por todo el interior promoviendo la causa de la independencia y la adhesión al proyecto encabezado por El Libertador. Lamentablemente no se conoce el contenido de dicho documento.

Segundo Villarreal es el caudillo militar, que despertaba la confianza suficiente para que la gente acudiera en masa a organizarse en los batallones de voluntarios que debían enfrentar a los realistas españoles y de la ciudad de Panamá. Villarreal desencadena la acción armando un pequeño batallón que atacó exitosamente el cuartel de La Villa y luego la cárcel, de la que liberaron los presos. Sobre estos hechos consumados Segundo Villarreal exige al alcalde Julián Chávez la convocatoria de un cabildo abierto, al cual rodean y entra con las tropas del batallón y la masa del pueblo, pese a que formalmente él no pertenecía al ayuntamiento.

El cabildo del 10 de Noviembre de 1821 que proclamó la independencia nombró a Segundo Villarreal con el grado de coronel con los poderes para organizar los batallones que defendieran la decisión tomada. La obra de Nicolau lista los nombres de todos los voluntarios que acudieron al llamado de Villarreal para conformar los batallones de milicias: más de 100 en La Villa, Las Tablas 206, Pocrí 103, Pesé y Las Minas 101, Parita 106 y Ocú con 103. Un verdadero ejército, aunque con pocas armas. La primera reunión del ayuntamiento de La Villa, reunida el 11 de noviembre, decidió mediante otra acta nombrar a Segundo Villarreal “Gobernador Político y Militar del Partido”. Partido es la denominación equivalente a distrito.

En Natá llegaron pronto las noticias de los acontecimientos de La Villa y pueblos aledaños, y en seguida Gómez Miró se puso al frente, logrando el 15 de Noviembre la proclama de independencia en Natá y la conformación de un gobierno provisional local. Logrado esto, inmediatamente se dirigió a La Villa para coordinar, a donde llegó el 17 de noviembre.

A La Villa acudieron también los emisarios enviados desde Panamá por José de Fábrega, los tenientes coroneles José M. Chiari y José de la Cruz Pérez, con las instrucciones de revertir los acontecimientos no con un “espíritu violento”, sino con un “razonamiento benévolo para inducir a los rebeldes al abandono de sus deseos de independencia”. Se enviaron a dos militares para que “por su respetabilidad inspirasen obediencia” (Pág. 49).

El 20 de noviembre se realizó un cabildo abierto en La Villa para escuchar a los emisarios de Panamá. Estaban en la sala con derecho a voz y voto Segundo Villarreal y Francisco Gómez Miró. Afuera el pueblo llenaba la plaza y los alrededores. Hablaron los emisarios militares expresando “la confianza de que, apartándose como lo esperaban, de las malas influencias de algunos espíritus intransigentes y revoltosos, volviesen todos a la subordinación del régimen español que los reclamaba y que prestasen juramento de fidelidad al Rey y a la Constitución españoles, a cambio de un perdón general…. A las palabras de los Comisionados siguió un momento de expectativa y ansiedad. Era la autoridad real que hablaba… y ante este hecho de trascendental importancia, la concurrencia quedó sin orientación, atónita, anonadada” (Pág. 51).

En este trance decisivo, tomó la palabra Francisco Gómez Miró, con “una voz varonil, llena de entusiasmo, plena de energías y con la arrogancia del que nada teme en la vida, se hace oír fulminante; niega toda obediencia al Rey, y a nombre de sus colegas y en nombre de su pueblo, confirma la valiente y heroica resolución de los natariegos: “PERDER HASTA LA ÚLTIMA GOTA DE SANGRE DE SUS VENAS” antes de abandonar sus ideales independentistas” (Pág. 52).

Más aún, en nombre de Natá y Penonomé ofrece poner en armas 4,000 hombres “para atacar, sin pérdida de tiempo, al Gobierno de Panamá, si dentro de un tiempo prudencial no se sometía a la demanda de adhesión republicana que ya se le había hecho…”. Y lanzó la misma amenaza contra la provincia de Veraguas, bastión de los latifundistas como Fábrega y del conservadurismo monárquico y católico (Pág. 53).

Nicolau describe cómo, lo que era duda e indecisión momentos antes, ante las palabras de Gómez Miró se transforma en ardoroso entusiasmo de la multitud que grita vivas a los libertadores, a Bolívar, a Santander, a Villarreal, a Gómez Miró, a la Gran Colombia (errata, pues el nombre era Colombia a secas) (Pág. 53). Gómez Miró continúa el discurso argumentando sobre los males de la opresión monárquica y los beneficios de la libertad republicana. La suerte estaba echada y la multitud saca en hombros al orador gritando consignas. Los emisarios militares de Panamá toman nota y se retiran discretamente. La voluntad de marchar a una república independiente (Colombia) estaba ratificada por el pueblo santeño en masa el 20 de Noviembre de 1821. Si Panamá y Veraguas no se sumaban a este proceso lo que seguía era la guerra civil.

La labor revolucionaria de Francisco Gómez Miró prosiguió con su retorno a Natá a donde llega el 21 de noviembre e informa en un cabildo abierto lo sucedido en La Villa y la alianza defensiva entre ese municipio y los natariegos. Conforma un gobierno local y organiza las milicias, las cuales marchan por las calles de Natá el 25 de noviembre, cuando un nuevo cabildo ratifica la adhesión a la independencia y lo nombra comandante de batallón. Todo ese día, que era domingo, el pueblo celebró el acontecimiento.

Gómez Miró también tuvo una actitud decididaque volcó en consolidar la independencia en lo que hoy llamamos el “interior”, que fue el ultimátumcontra el cabildo conservador de Santiago de Veraguas. Recordemos que Santiago era el bastión del latifundismo, monárquico y católico del que José de Fábrega había sido su gobernador por varios años. La Villa había dado un plazo de mes y medio a los santiagueños para sumarse a la independencia o ser atacados, pero Gómez Miró, desde Natá redujo el plazo a 3 días, argumentando que demasiado tiempo les daría a los conservadores de Santiago oportunidad de unirse a los realistas de Panamá.

Los conservadores de Santiago habían dirigido una carta al gobierno de Fábrega en Panamá pidiéndole protección frente a los acontecimientos que se estaban suscitando. Esta misiva fue redactada por la señora Bartola García de Paredes que pertenecía a las familias prominentes de la provincia. Pero las fuerzas revolucionarias de Natá interceptaron la carta, lo que sirvió a Gómez Miró para usarla de advertencia a los enviados de Santiago a Natá (Agustín García Romero y Calixto López) y darles el ultimátumpara que se sumaran a la independencia (Pág. 84).

Ayudó en estas circunstancias que el cabildo de San Francisco de La Montaña, cercano a Santiago proclamó la independencia. Santiago proclamó la suya recién el 1 de diciembre, no queda claro si ya estaban informados de la decisión tomada el 28 de Noviembre en Panamá o si fueron forzados por los acontecimientos del interior.

Las actas adhieren a la República de Colombia

Contrario al mito muy extendido en Panamá de que los istmeños en ese momento pudieron considerar la constitución de un estado-nación propio y que adhirieron a Colombia después de mucho reflexionar, de manera “voluntaria”; las actas de La Villa y de Panamá se suman a la República de Colombia de manera directa y sin titubeos, e invocan la protección de El Libertador. Lo cual era lógico, pues el Istmo pertenecía, desde el siglo XVIII, al otrora virreinato de La Nueva Granada, en ese momento transformado en República de Colombia por obra de los ejércitos libertadores.

El Acta de Independencia de La Villa dice que, después de haber considerado todos los abusos que se han descrito al inicio de este artículo: “Que por todo ello, deseosos de vivir bajo el sistema Republicano, que sigue todo Colombia, anhelaba el mismo pueblo que esta Villa jurase la Independencia del Gobierno español… vistas todas las reflexiones que se hicieron …, se procediese al Juramento de Independencia, como en efecto se hizo, …, cuyo acto se celebró con plausible gozo y una indecible conmoción del espíritu de cada uno del pueblo, quien aclamó se titulase esta VILLA LIBRE CIUDAD con consideración a ser la primera en todo el Istmo, que había tenido la felicidad de proclamarse libre e independiente bajo el auspicio y garantía de Colombia … ” (Pág. 29 y 30).

Contrario al supuesto protagonismo que la historia oficial da a José de Fábrega en la independencia de 1821, hay que destacar la desconfianza que él inspiraba a los habitantes de La Villa de esa época. ElActa del 10 de Noviembre muestra el temor de la esperada reacción contraria a la proclama, por parte de Fábrega, y así se expresa también en la carta que ellos envían al Libertador, informando de la proclama de independencia y “solicitan protección militar”.

Sobre esta misiva de los santeños al Libertador, que lastimosamente Nicolau no transcribe de modo literal y tampoco dice quien la llevó (Págs. 33 y 34), es curioso que la misma llegó a Bogotá, pero el vicepresidente Santander, no la entrega inmediatamente a Bolívar (que estaba combatiendo en el sur), sino que la guarda para analizar la situación y luego la remite junto con la de Fábrega posterior al 28 de Noviembre (esta sí la reproduce Nicolau completa en las páginas 81 a 83). Siendo esta última la que responde El Libertador en una muy conocida misiva.

No nos detendremos en los acontecimientos en la ciudad de Panamá, conocidos gracias a la obra de Mariano Arosemena(Arosemena, 1999), y también Ernesto J. Nicolau reconstruye minuciosamente. En esta reseña nos interesa un elemento del Acta del 28 de Noviembre que generalmente suele presentarse de manera adulterada. Se dice que los panameños, luego de considerar diversas opciones, ninguna de las cuales era viable en realidad, decidieron “espontáneamente” unirse a Colombia.Sin embargo, el acta es clara, lo “espontáneo” es la proclamación de la independencia, no la unión a Colombia a la que dice que las provincias del Istmo “pertenecen”.

“1º. Panamá espontáneamente y conforme al voto general de los pueblos de su comprensión, se declara libre e independiente del Español.

2º. El territorio de las Provincias del Istmo perteneceal estado Republicano de Colombia, a cuyo Congreso irá a representar oportunamente su Diputado” (Pág. 70).

El libro de Nicolau recoge el debate producido en el cabildo de Panamá el 28 de Noviembre respecto al futuro del Istmo. Hubo todo tipo de especulaciones: respecto a si debían unirse a Ecuador o Perú (regiones donde la independencia no estaba consolidada); o si convertirse en país “hanseático” bajo “protección” (coloniaje) de otra potencia (que sólo podía ser Inglaterra); incluso unirse al imperio mexicano de Iturbide; hasta llegar al reconocimiento de la incapacidad de ser una república independiente; para terminar aceptando la propuesta de José Vallarino Jiménez, “ferviente colombianista”, de ser parte de la República de Colombia (Págs. 68.69).

Nicolau cita una frase, cuya fuente no esclarece, según la cual Vallarino dijo literalmente que el Istmo se declara libre e independiente del dominio español, y “se anexa voluntariamente a la Gran Colombia” (sic, pág. 69). Al no estar claro la fuente de donde proviene la cita, sumado a la errata de hablar de “Gran Colombia”, siendo que este concepto solo nacería mucho después, diera la impresión de que es una frase construida con posterioridad a 1821, por lo cual debe ser puesta en duda. Lo cierto y verificable es que esa frase no está en el Acta del 28 de Noviembre de 1821. Por el contrario, el Acta dice literalmentelo que ya citamos: “El territorio de las Provincias del Istmo perteneceal estado Republicano de Colombia”.

¿Y Rufina Alfaro?

Es notable el hecho de que, en la profusión de documentos citados por Ernesto J. Nicolau, no existe ninguna alusión a la participación de Rufina Alfaro en los acontecimientos del 10 de Noviembre de 1821 en La Villa de Los Santos. También es evidente que, entre todos los nombres que se citan, en los batallones de Villarreal y en la composición de los cabildos, no se mencionan mujeres. Salvo el caso citado de la señora Bartola García de Paredes, de Santiago y su carta interceptada por Gómez Miró. Cabe reflexionar: ¿Rufina Alfaro no aparece porque, como era costumbre en la época, las mujeres estaban excluidas de la vida pública y política? ¿Los historiadores mantuvieron un criterio patriarcal y misógino anulando toda referencia a ella?

Investigadoras como Natividad Gutiérrez, sostienen la hipótesis de que la actuación de las mujeres en la Independencia, estuvo estrechamente relacionadacon las de sus familias, en especial de sus cónyuges, y del grupo social al que pertenecían(Gutiérrez, 2004). De manera que, si bien no se las nombra en la narración de los hechos, ellas estaban allí. Junto a los nombres masculinos que se citan hay que considerar que estaban madres, hermanas, esposas e hijas.Sin embargo, la historia de la independencia sí ha recogido la participación de muchas mujeres. Por citar a algunas: desde Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez y Leona Vicario, en México; Juana Azurduy de Padilla, en Bolivia; Concepción Mariño en Venezuela; Policarpa Salavatierra en Nueva Granada; Manuela Sáenz en el Ecuador; etc.

Tocará a historiadores e historiadoras del siglo XXI procurar establecer los nombres y laparticipación de las mujeres istmeñas en los hechos de la Independencia, separando la historia mítica de Rufina Alfaro para rescatar la verdad de los hechos. El historiador coclesano, José Aparicio Bernal(Bernal, 2015), ha establecido que Rufina Alfaro es un mito creado por Ernesto de Jesús Castillero Reyes, en un artículo de la Revista Lotería N.º 80 de 1948. Antes de ese artículo, no hubo ninguna referencia a Rufina Alfaro. Tampoco la menciona Ernesto J. Nicolau, pese a sus grandes conocimientos y documentación que muestra su libro.

Como dice Aparicio Bernal: “Nosotros, consideramos que las fuentes orales son importantes para dilucidar un hecho histórico, pero se debe tener mucho cuidado con el tiempo. Si el Grito santeñose dio el 10 de Noviembre de 1821 y el artículo de Castillero nace en 1948, fueron 127 largos años. De plano, tuvo que sufrir modificaciones en tan largo periodo de tiempo, si es que la información fue correcta”.

La explicación lógica de que un historiador, como Castillero Reyes, haga un tratamiento mítico a un personaje de no probada existencia real, como Rufina Alfaro, es que a mitad del siglo XX la intelectualidad panameña se encontraba construyendo el concepto de “nación romántica”, al decir, de Luis Pulido Ritter, tratando de buscar en un pasado reescrito a conveniencia la justificación de un estado nacional nacido con el estigma de la intervención de Estados Unidos de América en 1903. Así pasó con Anayansi, un personaje literario que muchos pretenden darle una vida real (Pulido R., 2008).

En el único lugar del libro de Ernesto J. Nicolau que se cita a Rufina Alfaro es en el prólogo de 2021, del sociólogo Milciades Pinzón Rodríguez, quien cuela a la “mítica Rufina Alfaro” junto a nombres de personajes históricos de La Villa, sabiendo muy bien el prologuista que el libro que presenta no se refiere en absoluto a ese personaje.

Dos últimas reflexiones: tal vez éxito del mito de Rufina Alfaro se debe a que llena el vacío dejado por la falta de referencia a mujeres reales que jugaron un papel relevante en la Independencia en el Istmo; por otro lado, insistir en este mito ha sido utilizado por la historia oficial para opacar el grandioso papel jugado por personas como Segundo Villarreal y Francisco Gómez Miró.

En lo personal me parece más grandioso y revolucionario el discurso de Francisco Gómez Miró en La Villa el 20 de Noviembre, que los supuestos devaneos de una supuesta guapa chica que enamoró a un supuesto oficial español para ayudar a la Independencia, disquisiciones morbosas en las que la grandeza del hecho histórico es rebajado a bochinche.

Rufina Alfaro de la leyenda: ¿Los historiadores mantuvieron un criterio patriarcal y misógino anulando toda referencia a ella? Foto por la Cancillería.

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Castro-Rodríguez, DeSantis and Miami’s establishment vs. choice

A lot of Catholics in the USA are Hispanic, and like a lot of Anglos of the same faith, are also pro-choice. That annoys many Florida Republicans, and gets ignored by Miami’s Spanish-language media. Photo by Catholics for Choice.

Republican priorities, media collusion

by Manuel Castro-Rodríguez

I write again to and about Miami´’s GOP Members of Congress — María Elvira Salazar, Carlos Giménez, Mario Díaz-Balart, and Marco Rubio — on women’s reproductive rights, Catholics for Choice, and their party’s contradictions. For example, COVID-19 policy making has been at the center of attention in the United States since early 2020, but:

1- Republicans have been changing state laws to try to get out of federal vaccine mandates, in spite of that vaccines still prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death; for instance, in United Airlines employee deaths dropped to zero after vaccine mandate.

2- Governor DeSantis’s war on three Miami-Dade School Board members: “Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his team — principally Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez, because she is from here — recruited hardline Republicans to challenge three Miami-Dade School Board members that didn’t toe the GOP line against mandated COVID-19 facemasks.”

3- Miami-Dade Public School Board member Dr. Marta Pérez alleges Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez has insisted people not support her campaign to keep her seat or “bad things will happen.”

Besides, a Biden administration task force has reunited 400 migrant children separated by the Trump administration with their families, but advocates say more than 1,000 still remain apart. Republican leaders are very “humane” people — anyone doubt?

Republicans are prioritizing one of their main obsessions: interfering with people’s personal medical decisions about women’s reproductive rights just like communist dictators. Kansas’ strong vote in favor of abortion rights — coming in a state long dominated by Republicans — has abortion rights supporters ready to go on the offensive in the November election, encouraged by an unexpectedly commanding victory, but self-censorship at Miami’s Spanish-language stations on the Catholics for choice continues — anyone surprised?

Miami voters need to know that Jennifer Villavicencio is a Cuban-American who was born in Miami, Florida. She heads equity transformation for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, or ACOG, as it’s known. She is a member of the Catholics for Choice board of directors.

Photo by Catholics for Choice.


Giving a woman a legal right to have control and agency over her body translates to other aspects of her life, namely her freedom to claim political, economic, and social autonomy. The bishops reject the notion that women are equal to men. So how could they possibly support any right that would lead women into that kind of power and liberty?

Jamie L. Manson
President of Catholics for Choice


Catholics for Choice “was founded in 1973 to serve as a voice for Catholics who believe that the Catholic tradition supports a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience in matters of sexuality and reproductive health.”

The members of the Catholics for Choice Board of Directors represent leaders from politics, medicine, business and beyond. For example:

• Linda Pinto, the board chair, is a former Franciscan nun, retired from a career in subsidized senior housing and healthcare. She helped to establish Project Self-Sufficiency, a non profit dedicated to supporting single-parent families. She currently serves as the co-chair of CORPUS, the National Association for an Inclusive Priesthood.
• Sheila Briggs teaches at the University of Southern California. She is a feminist theologian and historian of Christianity who explores the relationship of religion, gender, and sexuality to ancient slavery, to popular culture, and to science and technology.
• Kate Ott is professor of Christian social ethics at Drew Theological School. Her scholarship focuses on sexuality and reproductive justice, youth and young adults, technology, and professional ethics. Her newest book is “Sex, Tech, and Faith: Christian Ethics in a Digital Age.” She lectures and leads workshops across North America on technology and sexuality issues related to faith formation for teens, young adults, parents, and religious educators and professionals.
• Meghan Holden is the communications director for the ACLU of Connecticut. She is a graduate of Wheaton College in Massachusetts and has worked in development, policy, and communications roles with organizations focused on girls’ empowerment, feminist literature, reproductive freedom and justice, abolition, and financial support for people living with HIV.

My mother was a Catholic for choice because my parents were poor. Although according to Cuba’s Social Defense Code of 1938 (Código de Defensa Social de Cuba de 1938) abortion was legal only if the pregnant woman’s life was in danger, if there was rape or to prevent hereditary illnesses transmission, the real practice was very different. For example, San Miguel del Padrón is a suburb in Havana, Cuba. I was born and raised in La Rosalía — which was a poor neighborhood situated very nearby to Virgen del Camino — where abortion was a fairly common practice, because the women who seek abortions tend to be low-income mothers.

I am an only child because my parents were poor; that was common in my neighborhood, regardless of religious beliefs — for example, my mother took me every Sunday to Convent of Santa Clara de Asís in Lawton, until dictator Fidel Castro closed it down in 1960. I remember gynecologist Bretón, who had his office in Calzada de Luyanó very nearby to Hijas de Galicia hospital, and several White American women came to his office with the purpose of get an in-clinic abortion.

According to University of Colorado Boulder research published on October 25 in the Journal Demography, banning abortion nationwide would lead to a 21% increase in the number of pregnancy-related deaths overall and a 33% increase among Black women.

Compared with 10 other high-income countries, the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate. What have Miami’s GOP Members of Congress done to prevent this serious national problem? My late father’s favorite expression was “by their fruits ye shall know them.”

Poor, Black and Hispanic people bear the brunt of Texas abortion law. The same will happen in Florida, which ranks 19th among the states in its poverty rate. In Florida, the poorest women are African Americans, followed by Native Americans and Latinas. Cuban American women can go to Cuba with the purpose of abortion, economically benefiting the communist dictatorship. But, what will happen to others, to  poor Floridian women?

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday suspended Tampa’s elected prosecutor, Andrew Warren, for pledging not to use his office to go after people who seek and provide abortions or on doctors that provide gender affirming care to transgender people. Warren responded hours later, accusing DeSantis of “trying to overthrow democracy here in Hillsborough County.”

At a previously planned news conference, during which he unveiled two suspects in a pair of 40-year-old cold case murders, Warren defiantly declared: “I’m still the duly elected state attorney of Hillsborough County.” Minority Leader Senator Lauren Book said DeSantis was “behaving more like a dictator than ‘America’s governor.'” Senator Book is OK.

Why have South Florida journalists not yet talked about Catholics for Choice? You should follow the example of the independent journalism in Cuba. Can liberal democracy survive if journalists don’t do their job well?

The right to abortion is an affirmation that women and girls have the right to control their own destiny. Although the Supreme Court’s move to overturn Roe v Wade had been expected since a draft majority opinion was leaked in early May, when the ruling in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization came on June 24, it was a shattering blow to those, like I, who believe in the scientific realities of human reproduction.

Manuel Castro-Rodríguez, a Miami resident, was born and raised in Cuba and lived in Panama for several years.


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¿Wappin? Rainy season music / Música de la temporada lluviosa

off the back porch

That time of the year that so many of us like
Esa época del año que a muchos nos gusta

Celeste – Hear My Voice

Ben E. King – Stand By Me

Cienfue – Medio Alcoholico Melancolico

Diana Ross – Upside Down

Alicia Keys – So Done

Bruno Mars – It Will Rain

Sigrid – Watermelon Sugar

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me

Erika Ender & Roberto Carlos – Despacito

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

Inti Illimani, Camila Moreno & Calle 13 – Latinoamerica

Radiohead – Creep

Black Pumas – Colors

Of Monsters & Men – Empire

Regina Spektor and Norah Jones – Angel Dream

Contact us by email at / Contáctanos por correo electrónico a fund4thepanamanews@gmail.com


To fend off hackers, organized trolls and other online vandalism, our website comments feature is switched off. Instead, come to our Facebook page to join in the discussion.

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Gallagher, Russian antiwar protesters and their US counterparts

Aleksei Gorinov, a municipal councilor from one of Moscow’s districts charged with “knowingly” spreading false information, holds up a note in a Russian court stating: “Do you still need this war?” While the two antiwar movements have encountered quite different treatment, there seems little disparity when it comes to the question that’s really the crux of the matter: Did the demonstrations count for anything? Photo by Aleksandra Astakhova — Mediazona via Amnesty International.

Reflections on Russia’s antiwar protests and ours

by Tom Gallagher

Simultaneously, we find ourselves witnessing the playing out of the repression of dissent against the illegal and hugely unpopular 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, along with the repression of dissent against the illegal and hugely unpopular 2003 American invasion of Iraq. The arena for the latter has been the ongoing extradition campaign against Julian Assange for the 2010 Wikileaks release of “Collateral murder” a video of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack killing several Iraqi civilians, including two journalists. The most noteworthy recent Russian event—in real time—came with a court sentencing Moscow district councilor Aleksei Gorinov to seven years in prison for breaking a recently adopted law against spreading “false information.” Gorinov’s crime was calling the Ukraine invasion a “war” and not a “special military operation.” A good moment, perhaps, to consider the respective fates of the two antiwar efforts—dramatically different in one aspect and depressingly similar in another.

While the particulars of the two wars greatly differ—as is always the case—what they do hold in common is being one of the two most-hated wars of our young third millennium. Hated because both were launched on the basis of fraudulent propaganda and jingoist nationalistic sentiment. (The Russian story is the matter of today’s news, The United States went to war against Iraq in retaliation for the September 11, 2001 attacks that country had nothing to do with, as well as for the possession of weapons it didn’t possess. And shortly thereafter, they were serving “Freedom fries” instead of French fries in the cafeterias on Capitol Hill.)

In the case of the Iraq War, government-level opposition was decidedly more modest; France, Germany, and Russia opposed the American invasion, but none went so far as to arm Iraqi opposition or impose sanctions on the United States. Popular opposition, on the other hand, was far broader. Demonstrations started well before the war itself, in the hope of staying the hand of President George W. Bush before he actually ordered the invasion. The October 2002 crowds, estimated at 100,000 in Washington, DC and 50,000 in San Francisco, were considered the largest such actions in those locations since the Vietnam War. The weekend of February 15 and 16 in 2003 saw an estimated six-to-ten million participating in upwards of 800 separate protests in sixty countries, with the events outside the USA generally larger than those within. The 2004 Guinness Book of World Records called the Rome crowd—perhaps three million—the largest anti-war rally in history. A Berlin demonstration of nearly half a million was called the city’s largest in decades; Madrid’s demonstration—variously estimated from 600,000 to 2 million—was perhaps the largest since the 1975 death of Francisco Franco; Oslo’s protest was larger than any in Norway since World War I. On March 20, 2003, the day after the invasion, 350,000 Americans took to the streets.

In the case of the Ukraine War, Russian antiwar demonstrators have come in for considerably harsher treatment than Americans did back then, with over 13,000 arrested in 147 cities by early March, and in demonstrations much more likely to be assaulted by police. While the total of American protest arrests in the Iraq war period is unclear, a significant number of them were actually sought out in acts of civil disobedience—including 2,200 attempting to shut downtown San Francisco streets on the morning after, while another 2,000-3,000 antiwar participants were not actually arrested.

The Iraq War officially ended eight years on, with most Americans having long since concluded that it actually had been a bad idea. And yet now eleven years after that, the US government still grinds it out in court. As anyone who’s followed the House January 6 hearings well knows, spreading false information is not treated as criminal activity by the US government. Spreading true information may be, however—should it be deemed the wrong kind of true information, as in the case of Assange. His attempted extradition from the United Kingdom is based upon alleged violation of the US Espionage Act, a law passed in 1917 during the First World War—another foreign intervention that engendered substantial domestic backlash. Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene Debs famously conducted his 1920 campaign from the Atlanta federal penitentiary as a result of this law. Subsequent alleged violators have included whistleblowers Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden.

Assange faces 17 charges of violating the government ban on spreading the wrong true information, including the 2007 video whose soundtrack included US pilots commenting, “Look at those dead bastards” and after later wounding two children inside a van arriving to pick up the previously wounded, “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.” While Assange’s fate remains to be seen, the former US Army Private Chelsea Manning spent nearly seven years in jail for giving Wikileaks that material, and additional jail time for refusing to testify against Assange—a sentence essentially matching that given the Moscow lawmaker. In the meantime, it has been ten years since Assange, who is Australian, has walked as a free man, having spent the past three years in a British jail and the prior seven in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, under asylum protections.

Although the United States was clearly the senior partner in the effort, the Iraq War was a joint venture with the United Kingdom, whose government operates under much the same policy against the release of information that would make it look bad as the USA does. In the UK’s case, the inconvenient truth surfaced even before the war had begun, when British intelligence employee Katherine Gun found herself copied onto a US National Security Agency memo soliciting British assistance in monitoring UN delegates’ private communications for the purpose of uncovering blackmail-worthy information useful for persuading their support for the upcoming vote on the US/UK-led invasion.

Following her arrest for leaking the memo to The Observer, Gun succinctly stated her motive in a jailhouse interview with British Special Branch officers. When they reminded her that “You work for the British government,” she replied “I work for the British people. I do not gather intelligence so the government can lie to the British people.” The government subsequently dropped its prosecution of Gun under the UK’s Official Secrets Act, in order to forestall her lawyer’s plan to put the legal basis of the war itself on trial by the disclosure of official secrets in the course of the defense.

Gun would later express mixed feelings about the decision to drop her prosecution, on the one hand relieved at not having to go through the ordeal, but also thinking, “‘Damn—we could have put the war on trial.’ And the potential chink in the Official Secrets Act we had found, which could have become a defense for others, the ‘defense of necessity,’ it wasn’t tested in court.”

A relatively new wrinkle to appear with the Ukraine invasion has been the shunning of those who fail to protest, or who protest too little. The best known example of the censure that many Russian musicians have faced on that score is singer Anna Netrebko. Arguably opera’s biggest star worldwide, Netrebko has seen her performances canceled at the Metroplitan Opera and other major venues because, while she has said she opposes the war, she had declined to specifically denounce President Vladimir Putin.

In the case of Iraq, in contrast, not only were denunciations of George W. Bush or Tony Blair not required or expected of American or British performers, but no instance comes to mind of any artist of either country suffering for their failure to oppose their nation’s war of aggression. In fact, the most notable protest-related cultural incident related to that war came in the pre-war period when Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks told a London audience “We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” For this comment the group found itself banned from the airwaves by numerous US country stations in a matter of days, despite their position at the top of the Billboard country charts. The group has re-emerged, as the Chicks, but has never regained their pre-war popularity. Meanwhile, Bush and Blair have largely been treated as honored elder statesmen. Bush has learned to paint, while Blair’s somewhat born-again turn proved notably successful, both politically and financially. And failing to oppose that war has been anything but crippling: An Iraq War supporter currently occupies the White House—one of three pro-Iraq War candidates the Democratic Party has nominated for that office since 2003—while numerous other war-backers have gone on to enjoy successful careers as respected commentators, scholars, and politicians.

Which is not to say that all things are equal. The Assange case in particular should remind us that there is real repression of certain kinds of antiwar activity in the US—perhaps of the kind deemed most effective. Which does not change the fact that Russia appears to have additional public figures in line for prosecution, while others have abandoned the country in anticipation of such, and the treatment of the rank-and-file protestor has in general been far harsher.

But while the two antiwar movements have encountered quite different treatment, there seems little disparity when it comes to the question that’s really the crux of the matter: Did the antiwar protests count for anything? Did they have any impact? So far as public opinion goes, no current polling of Russian public opinion on the Ukraine War is considered definitive, but results have ranged from 58 to 77 percent support. A Gallup poll taken the day after the US invasion of Iraq found 76% of Americans backing it. So far as government reaction goes, there would be very few, if any, who expect Russian protest to have any impact on Putin’s actions; most will be very pleasantly surprised if they ever do. And so far as the United States goes, the sad sobering fact is that the largest effort ever mounted to prevent a war from actually starting produced no discernable impact. Unfortunately, it’s even quite possible to interpret all of the antiwar activity of the day as having had a negative, depressive effect, in that it left behind a demoralized movement questioning whether there was really any point to protesting their government’s foreign policy—”repressive tolerance,” as Herbert Marcuse put it.

Now, if you’re actually going to be one of the people who sticks their neck out in protest activity, you’re probably going to prefer repressive tolerance to repressive intolerance. But clearly we have to come up with something that can overcome both. And if there is actually any hope of our finding our way to doing so, it lies in just how dire the necessity of doing so has become—and the concurrent mounting global awareness of the mounting planetary emergency. It has always been difficult to get too many people to really care about who’s killing whom in a land faraway, when it didn’t really affect them all that much back home.

Does the palpable Ukraine war food-energy–hunger-migration-environment global chain of impact represent a breakthrough in understanding? When do we convince the nation and the world that, in its consequences, all war is local?

Tom Gallagher is a former Massachusetts State Representative and the author of ‘The Primary Route: How the 99% Take On the Military Industrial Complex.’ He lives in San Francisco.


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Taiwan’s computer chip industry is a big deal for the USA

The little memory chips for your cameras and laptops? Lots of people make these, and Taiwan makes a lot of them. But the important products for world industry are the semiconductors used in automobiles and a great many other products. Wikimedia photo.

Taiwan dominates the world’s computer chip supply – no wonder the USA is worried

by Maria Ryan, University of Nottingham

One aspect of Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan that has been largely overlooked is her meeting with Mark Lui, chairman of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC). Pelosi’s trip coincided with US efforts to convince TSMC – the world’s largest chip manufacturer, on which the United States is heavily dependent – to establish a manufacturing base in the USA and to stop making advanced chips for Chinese companies.

US support for Taiwan has historically been based on Washington’s opposition to communist rule in Beijing, and Taiwan’s resistance to absorption by China. But in recent years, Taiwan’s autonomy has become a vital geopolitical interest for the United States because of the island’s dominance of the semiconductor manufacturing market.

Semiconductors – also known as computer chips or just chips – are integral to all the networked devices that have become embedded into our lives. They also have advanced military applications.

Transformational, super-fast 5G internet emerged is enabling a world of connected devices of every kind (the “Internet of Things”) and a new generation of networked weapons. With this in mind, US officials began to realize during the Trump administration that US semiconductor design companies, such as Intel, were heavily dependent on Asian-based supply chains for the manufacturing of their products.

In particular, Taiwan’s position in the world of semiconductor manufacturing is a bit like Saudi Arabia’s status in OPEC. TSMC has a 53% market share of the global foundry market (factories contracted to make chips designed in other countries). Other Taiwan-based manufacturers claim a further 10% of the market.

As a result, the Biden administration’s 100-Day Supply Chain Review Report says, “The United States is heavily dependent on a single company – TSMC – for producing its leading-edge chips.” The fact that only TSMC and Samsung (South Korea) can make the most advanced semiconductors (known as five nanometres) “puts at risk the ability to supply current and future [US] national security and critical infrastructure needs” .

This means that China’s long-term goal of reunifying with Taiwan is now more threatening to US interests. In the 1971 Shanghai Communique and the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the US recognised that people in both mainland China and Taiwan believed that there was “One China” and that they both belonged to it. But for the US it is unthinkable that TSMC could one day be in territory controlled by Beijing.

‘Tech war’

For this reason, the United States has been trying to attract TSMC to the USA to increase domestic chip production capacity. In 2021, with the support of the Biden administration, the company bought a site in Arizona on which to build a US foundry. This is scheduled to be completed in 2024.

The US Congress has just passed the Chips and Science Act, which provides US$52 billion (£43 billion) in subsidies to support semiconductor manufacturing in the United States. But companies will only receive Chips Act funding if they agree not to manufacture advanced semiconductors for Chinese companies.

This means that TSMC and others may well have to choose between doing business in China and in the USA because the cost of manufacturing in the US is deemed to be too high without government subsidies.

This is all part of a broader “tech war” between the United States and China, in which the Americans are aiming to constrain China’s technological development and prevent it from exercising a global tech leadership role.

In 2020, the Trump administration imposed crushing sanctions on the Chinese tech giant Huawei that were designed to cut the company off from TSMC, on which it was reliant for the production of high-end semiconductors needed for its 5G infrastructure business.

Huawei was the world’s leading supplier of 5G network equipment but the United States feared its Chinese origins posed a security risk (though this claim has been questioned). The sanctions are still in place because both Republicans and Democrats want to stop other countries from using Huawei’s 5G equipment.

The British government had initially decided to use Huawei equipment in certain parts of the UK’s 5G network. The Trump administration’s sanctions forced London to reverse that decision.

A key US goal appears to be ending its dependency on supply chains in China or Taiwan for critical technologies, which includes advanced semiconductors needed for 5G systems, but may include other advanced tech in future.

Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan was about more than just Taiwan’s critical place in the “tech war”. But the dominance of its most important company has given the island a new and critical geopolitical importance that is likely to heighten existing tensions between the United States and China over the status of the island. It has also intensified US efforts to “reshore” its semiconductor supply chain.The Conversation

Maria Ryan, Associate Professor in US History, University of Nottingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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Editorial, Panama Ports and Chinese plots again?

General Richardson
Commander of the US Southern Command General Laura J. Richardson. US Army official portrait. At her confirmation hearing before the US Senate, Richardson summed up the aim of her mission to Latin America and the Caribbean as “ensuring the United States remains the partner of choice in the region.”

That stuff about Panama Ports and
“The Chinese” in Panama — again

What’s with General Richardson going on Fox News and sounding the alarm about Chinese capabilities with respect to the Panama Canal in particular and Latin America in general? Best to discard conspiracy theories and look at it in broad terms of military doctrine, geopolitics and the international challenges of the moment.

You never know what might happen next, but Richardson is an administrator’s administrator who has done her time in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, one who has been fast-forwarded through military commands suggesting that her superiors are directing her toward the top of the Pentagon. Not some sort of reckless character, she’s cut closer to the mold of Dwight D. Eisenhower than that of George Armstrong Custer. She’s seasoned in US politics, having been Vice President Al Gore’s military aide and Pentagon liaison to the US Senate.

There are strains in popular culture and antiwar politics that imagine mad generals jumping off into insane adventures of their own volition, but they don’t fit THIS Screaming Eagle’s description. In what appears to be a calculated by politicians chess game with China, Richardson went where American conspiracy theorists would hear her and eat up her message, but the orders were from the Biden administration, not Donald Trump.

Might we surmise from published accounts of General Richardson’s life – born in Kansas City, raised in Colorado, married to a fellow general officer whom she now ranks, mother of one daughter – things about her personality and beliefs? Perhaps, but she’s too disciplined a soldier to have told us about her opinions on recent Supreme Court decisions, for whom she has voted or so on. Going on Fox News to talk about the Panama Canal and Latin America was a political move, but very unlikely to have been a decision made by herself alone

Yes, a Hong Kong private corporation with various and close ties to the Beijing government has since the late 90s run Panama Ports as its subsidiary, operating the ports of Balboa and Cristobal at either end of the Panama Canal. From Fort Clayton in the 1990s, we got a warning from Brigadier General Richard W. Anson that a potential enemy should be judged by capabilities rather than present intentions, and thus he thought it unwise to allow a Chinese company to hold ports at each end of the Panama Canal, where, perhaps by sneaking in special operations people, China could turn them into “choke points” to close the waterway.

In US right-wing politics all sorts of factions took this warning and ran with it, some of them more soberly and honestly than others. We saw early signs of the conspiratorial thinking and outright lies that now dominate the Republican Party – tales of Beijing dictating Panama Canal pilot assignments and so on.

Having been terribly set back by an October 1941 coup in Panama orchestrated by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the politics of suspicion and hatred of Panama’s Chinese community saw a little revival both here and in the USA. It’s all pretty ridiculous, when you consider that the Chinese community, like the North American community, was first established in Panama in the middle of the 19th century. The chinos and the gringos are parts of the social mosaic that is Panama. It’s a reality notwithstanding what our home-grown racists, with our without foreign prompting, might say about it.

Meanwhile in Panama, it seems that the Panama Ports deal has not paid us as well as it should. That’s an issue for Panama, a contract and taxation matter in which the United States should have no say, but nevertheless a real issue for us.

Things became more complicated. With Panama facing a terrible debt crisis that has since become much worse, President Juan Carlos Varela made a decision to accede to Chinese demands to break relations with Taiwan in order to establish formal ties with the People’s Republic of China. The United States wasn’t really in any position to complain, as Washington had done the same decades earlier.

In Panama there were more ambivalent feelings, fed in part by Trump administration pronouncements.

China was and is a major world trading power and is a major user of the Panama Canal. Panama SHOULD have formal ties with China.

China as Panama’s new sugar daddy? Naive, short-term thinking that may serve some Panamanian official looking to take a bribe from a Chinese company but no basis at all for sound bilateral relations.

China as a threat to shut down the canal? Things have to get very desperate for that, because the Chinese use and need the canal, and would have to go to war with the United States to seize or destroy it.

But Chinese business “penetration” as a threat? Can we, for example, reasonably worry about Panama developing a 5G Internet system based on Huawei products? Perhaps. In 2006 a bot coming from China did shut down The Panama News for a few days, and much later we found that the probable reason was a story about a Falun Gong gathering in Parque Omar which, unbeknownst to us, was smuggled past the legendary if not impervious Chinese firewall and read online by a lot of people in China. So, the Chinese intercepting, shutting down or censoring Panama’s telecommunications? Panama should be as wary of that as of the United States doing so.

On a whole other range of business activity? Chinese engineering for transportation infrastructure in Panama or anywhere else in the region? A Chinese assembly plant in Colon to export tractors, trucks or cars via the Colon Free Zone? Any number of Chinese products in our grocery stores? Chinese weed whackers crowding out any US competition in our hardware stores?

General Richardson, in her moves through military assignments, received an education in military industry and was a military educator. Surely she must know that on the economic field China is a formidable competitor for the United States, that the rivalry is not going away anytime soon. Also, that to avoid being run off the field in this region the United States needs to FIX AMERICA. Fix US education. Set aside self-serving corporate dogmas and adopt a US industrial policy. Instead of threats against Panamanians who make deals with China, make them US offers that they will prefer.

And Taiwan? Was General Richardson’s appearance on the Australian billionaire’s right-wing propaganda channel a bit of the back-and-forth between China and the United States over the Taiwan question? Perhaps.

SOME of us in Panama remember Taiwan as a good friend of Panama for many years, and found the way that they were summarily and with little notice kicked out of this country appalling. There are people here who found it unacceptable that, after all of the problems Panama faced for rejecting US pressures to cut ties with Cuba, this country would cave to Chinese pressures to cut ties with Taiwan.

Might we accept China’s position that Taiwan is an integral part of China? Do we also have to take into account China’s claims with respect to waters between China and Japan, the South China Sea, Vietnam and Singapore? Do we have to accept China’s racial definition that anyone Han who lives anywhere else in the world is an “Overseas Chinese” citizen, the subject of China’s protection and potentially the basis for a Chinese extraterritorial claim?

Taiwan was a Japanese colony for half a century before the end of World War II. It was briefly united with China during the latter part of the long civil war between forces led by Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek and has, all pretenses aside, been apart from mainland China during the entire tenure of the Peoples Republic of China. This, seen through the long history of Chinese civilization, is not so unusual. China may maintain a Confucian Institute on the University of Panama campus, but the sage himself was born and died in the Kingdom of Lu, a vassal state to the Zhou dynasty, which held sway over the eastern part but not all of what is now mainland China. China may be one civilization – as Han chauvinists and others will strenuously argue – but throughout its history this civilization has encompassed more than one country.

Taiwan is apart from China, has been in the memory of everybody living today. As one of those small countries that without a lot of material resources lives well by its wits, it’s an example of what the best of Panamanian thinking finds attractive.

Let neither Panama nor the United States nor China go to war over Taiwan. But let Panama repair the hurt and get closer to that little democracy and its cat lady president. While, of course, going through all the difficult steps that a country like Panama has to take to maintain a secure, sovereign, independent and neutral position in the world.


Rita Moreno on the red carpet at the 50th anniversary of West Side Story. Wikimedia photo by John Ferguson.

Just because you’re older doesn’t mean that you’re no longer womanly or sexy. That’s ridiculous.

Rita Moreno

Bear in mind…


     Neither millions nor alms – we want justice.

José A. Remón     


     Creativity means to push open the heavy, groaning doorway of life itself.

Daisaku Ikeda     


     Act as if someone just said there’s no reason to be afraid.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge     



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Slotkin, Ayman al-Zawahiri and his demise

Elissa Slotkin chairs a “field hearing” of the US House Intelligence & Counterterrorism Subcommittee, held at Michigan State University. From her Twitter feed.

Hitting back, after all these years

by Elissa Slotkin

The news of the successful hit on Ayman al-Zawahiri stopped me in my tracks. He was one of the masterminds of 9/11, the attacks on the USS Cole & our embassies in Kenya & Tanzania, and supported al Qaeda as they targeted many others across the globe. But tonight, he is gone.

As a former CIA Middle East analyst & Pentagon official, I’ve known many people — Americans, Iraqis, and so many others from our coalition — who have been killed our wounded by al Qaeda under his direction. So many local people dragged through the streets.

ISIS, and many other groups inspired by al Qaeda, can draw a direct lineage from Zawahiri. And as someone who joined the CIA because I happened to be in New York on 9/11, I also know how many years of hard work it has taken to bring him to bring him this end.

For decades, he was second only to UBL in leading al Qaeda. Tonight’s news is a testament to the tireless work of our intelligence community and military, who have been looking him for so long.

Targeting one senior leader does not end the capacity of an organization to attack, but it does send a message that, while it may take years, we do not forget those who attack us. I commend the President for making the tough call & the national security team for this success.

Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat, is the Congresswoman for Michigan’s 8th Congressional District.



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