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Bernal, Constitutional con

coin toss
Heads we win, tails you lose! ICMA photo.

Reforms that are less than meet the eye

by Miguel Antonio Bernal

Constitutional Law teaches us that “reforming” the Constitution means altering something in its articles without changing its essence or substance. The militarist constitution in force since 1972 has been reformed four times, but its reforms have not been able to strip it of its authoritarian barracks origins, nor of its essential oppostion to citizen participation.

This time the so-called “Concertación” concurs to claim, again, based on a text proposed by a good number of those who participated in the imposition of ‘72 and several who have been present, by action or omission, in the previous reforms behind the citizens’ back, to reform so as not to change.

The main feature of what has been presented so far? They’ll dress up the monkey in silk. There are no real proposals, no constitutional innovations, no updates, nothing corrected, nothing explained.

This is extremely worrying given that they confirm for us that in Panama what they call democracy has degenerated into an oligocracy dominated by kleptomaniacs. These people haven’t the least disposition to give up the control they have over political power. It matters even less to them whether we have a democratic constitutional government in which it is understood and perceived that power is based in the people, that there is what they say.

The methodology used for these deceptive reforms sets aside human dignity, whose respect and protection is supposed to be a fundamental obligation of the state. That’s enshrined in the basic principles of treaties to which Panama is a party but ignored by the scriveners of this new deception.

One of the main teachings of the glorious French Revolution of 1789, which the deceivers would have us forget, establishes that “The constituent power can do everything and is not subject to any prior constitution.” That is why they resort to all the tricks, sophisms, fallacies and deceptions in their uncompromising desire to prevent the empowerment of citizens to fully exercise their rights, to deny citizens the protection of all the guarantees.

That is why we must bear in mind how urgent it is to demand a participatory constituent process, so that we can have the true rebirth that the country requires.


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Gandasegui, Where’s Nito going?

Varela & Cortizo
Juan Carlos Varela and Nito Cortizo. Photo from Cortizo’s Twitter feed.

Where’s Nito going? Seguro Social, the Panama Canal and Venezuela

by Marco A. Ganásegui, hijo

When Laurentino Cortizo was proclaimed president-elect, he reiterated in his speech his intention to stick to a neo-liberal government program, similar to all governments following the US military invasion in 1989. It means more privatizations, greater flexibility in worker-employer relations, and deregulation of public functions public-private initiatives’).

In the field of foreign policy at one moment in the campaign he mentioned his intention to review the free trade treaty with the United States, especially in reference to the section on agriculture. Moreover, he indicated the possibility of respecting the right of self-determination for people who are in a confrontation with the USA.

There are indications from te Cortizo and PRD camps that these two proposals will be difficult to carry out. He appointed his vice-president-elect, Juan Gabriel Carrizo, a young businessman who was his private assistant, to head the transition team with the outgoing president. The composition of that team, and the upcoming appointments to the future cabinet, will define more clearly the direction that the new president will take starting July 1, 2019.

The political parties that ran against Cortizo in the recent elections have not commented on the president-elect’s plans. All of them appear to be deeply involved in internal reconstruction tasks on their respective houses. Outgoing ruling party, the Panameñistas, will convene a special convention to restructure the organization’s leadership. Cambio Democratico (CD), is concerned about the unfolding trial of former President Ricardo Martinelli. The Broad Front for Democracy (FAD) is analyzing its unfavorable election results.

In a meeting held by the Panamanian unions the problem of the Social Security Fund (CSS) was raised, which for years has been poorly managed and, according to its directors, is in a financial situation close to bankruptcy. A union spokesman pointed out that the CSS has to return to the solidarity system that governed until the 2005 pension system changes.

President-elect Cortizo mentioned social security as one of his government priorities. However, his approach does not seem to match that of the workers. Cortizo met with the outgoing president, Juan Carlos Varela, to begin the transfer of power. Before leaving Varela wants the Assembly to approve the appointments of a magistrate in the Supreme Court of Justice and a director in the Panama Canal Authority (ACP). It will be very difficult for that to happen given the correlation of party forces in the legislature.

The Panama Canal was one of the issues that was not discussed during the election campaign. Since 1994 when the economic powers that be agreed to introduce a constitutional amendment on the canal, the issue has been out of bounds. Only the protests of the workers and the corruption scandals on the board of directors are considered newsworthy. However, recent statements by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the melting of the Arctic and the opening of new routes connecting East Asia with the markets of the North Atlantic should attract the attention of the new ruler. The announcement highlights the need to create a scientific commission to thoroughly study global warming and its impact on the Panama Canal’s commercial future.

It must be clear that the interoceanic route can’t be discussed with the United States. On many occasions — and its current administration has been forceful — Washington has said that its national interests are not to be negotiated. In the 1970s, however, Panama managed to put the waterway’s transfer on the US agenda, along with the evacuation of its military bases and the end of the Canal Zone. We must demand that Pompeo first consult with Panama before making statements about the future of maritime trade between the Pacific and the Atlantic.

Cortizo referred to Venezuela and mentioned the creation of something similar to the Contadora Group, which was created by General Torrijos to deal with the conflict in Nicaragua in the 1970s. The initiative would not be for a ‘regime change’ that Trump wants, but to find a solution to the conflict. The proposal would replace the United States (via the OAS and the Lima group) as a central actor in a war against Venezuela and would put Latin America in a central role in the solution to the conflict.



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Beluche, ¿Mal augurio?

la vaina usual
La política de la calle, como siempre. Foto por Polo Ciudadano.

Una elección plagada de irregularidades, ¿mal augurio?

por Olmedo Beluche – Polo Ciudadano

En treinta años desde que se instauró el actual régimen político panameño, sobre los cadáveres y las ruinas de la invasión norteamericana de 1989, nunca se había hecho tan evidente su carácter antidemocrático y fraudulento, nunca habían quedado al desnudo los métodos mafiosos y el clientelismo de los partidos que pactaron las reglas del juego bajo la tutela del Comando Sur y el Pentágono.

Los hechos…

Las irregularidades empiezan desde la vigencia de un Código Electoral sustentado sobre el poder del dinero, el clientelismo y la hegemonía de los partidos políticos fundantes del régimen político: PRD, Panameñista, Molirena a los que se ha sumado desde hace 15 años Cambio Democrático.

A lo que hay que agregar el poder de los grandes medios de comunicación dominados por dos grupos empresariales, que coinciden en la junta directiva de un banco, que actúan como verdaderos fabricantes de ilusiones, manipuladores de imágenes, vendedores de políticos y no tan sutiles difamadores cuando les conviene. Pero esto es lo de siempre, aunque no es tan evidente para el ciudadano de a pie.

Lo novedoso de la elección de 2019 es que, iniciado el conteo, hacia las 4:00 p.m., el candidato que todos los medios daban por ganador por más de 10 puntos, Laurentino Cortizo del PRD, empezó a aparecer en las pantallas virtualmente empatado con el segundo en intención de voto, Rómulo Roux, de Cambio Democrático. Empate que se mantuvo hasta casi la media noche con el supuesto conteo extraoficial de más del 90% de las urnas.

En el interín, hacia las 6:00 p.m. el candidato Rómulo Roux denuncia que el distrito más populoso de la ciudad de Panamá, San Miguelito, se habían dejado de escrutar actas que contenían 50 mil votos a su favor, las cuales le daban supuestamente la victoria electoral y que no iba a reconocer el triunfo de nadie hasta que no se diera el recuento oficial del 100 % de las actas por la Junta Nacional de Escrutinio.

En algún momento de la noche del 5 de mayo, y en los días posteriores el Tribunal Electoral sacó de su web el sistema de Transmisión Extraoficial de Resultados (TER), por aparentes y evidentes inconsistencias, lo que acentuó la impresión en un sector de la ciudadanía de que se estaba cometiendo un fraude electoral. Hacia la medianoche los magistrados del Tribunal dan por ganador a Cortizo con una diferencia no mayor del 2% de los votos emitidos en el conteo extraoficial.

La siguiente sorpresa se dio al amanecer del 6 de mayo, cuando Roux aún no reconocía el triunfo de su oponente y esperaba el recuento oficial, llegó a los medios de comunicación el saludo del expresidente del país y fundador de Cambio Democrático, Ricardo Martinelli, al virtualmente electo Laurentino Cortizo. Martinelli, se encuentra preso en la cárcel El Renacer acusado de espionaje a sus opositores cuando fue presidente de la república.

Preguntas incómodas

¿Por qué Martinelli se adelanta a su candidato Roux en el reconocimiento de la derrota de su propio partido? Tal vez porque el maquiavelismo de la política panameña ya ha demostrado que asestar puñaladas por la espalda a sus copartidarios es una manera de pelear por el control del partido a futuro. Algunos se preguntan si, ¿habrán aprovechado Martinelli y sus abogados la incertidumbre de la noche del 5 de mayo para negociar el reconocimiento de Cortizo a cambio de su libertad?

Otros se preguntan cómo es posible que el Tribunal Electoral diga que el partido Cambio Democrático ganó en las provincias de Panamá, Panamá Oeste y Colón, que tienen casi el 70% de la población, pero perdió la elección presidencial.

La interpretación del resultado presidencial: la ciudadanía castigo al gobierno oligárquico de Varela dejando a su partido en cuarto lugar; parte del descontento se canalizó hacia los candidatos por libre postulación, con casi 25% de los votos emitidos; una pequeña vanguardia lo hizo por el único partido de izquierdas, el FAD, que sacó el 0,7% de los electores según el TER, aunque su dirigencia denuncia un fraude electoral para negarle el 2%, que habría obtenido en la franja de alcaldes, requerido para la subsistencia legal del partido.

Los sectores más pauperizados canalizaron su descontento a través de Cambio Democrático con la ilusión de que el martinelismo traería un gobierno que cree empleos y drene riqueza, que es el mito construido en torno a la figura del expresidente. Laurentino Cortizo, supuestamente ganó, no solo por estrecho margen, sino que el 75% de la ciudadanía no lo eligió.

Alteración, robo de actas y “chanchullerias”

Si esto sucedía en las presidenciales, en las elecciones a representantes de corregimientos, alcaldes y diputados salieron a la luz toda clase de malos manejos, manipulaciones hasta violencia en torno a los centros de votación y juntas circuitales. Desde días antes hubo denuncias de clientelismo con “regalos” de dinero, bolsas de comida y materiales de construcción, que son tradicionales en la política panameña.

El propio día de la votación, los grandes medios de comunicación rompieron la veda electoral y se sumaron a la campaña promoviendo algunos candidatos con entrevistas y declaraciones que claramente están prohibidas por la ley.

Mientras que el electorado castigó a un buen número de diputados cuestionados de corrupción que querían elegirse, sobre todo en circuitos uninominales, votando por nuevos figuras, aunque la mayoría de los partidos tradicionales; en los circuitos plurinominales, la aplicación anómala de la asignación de curules por cociente, mediocociente y residuos, permitió a algunos reelegirse mediante mañas que pueden ser calificadas de fraudulentas.

El PRD, que al inicio del conteo no tenía mayoría absoluta en la Asamblea Nacional, mediante estos métodos cuestionables se hizo con el control de más del 49% de las curules, y junto con su aliado Molirena se aseguró más del 55%. Las denuncias llovieron incluso de candidatos de su propio partido que se sintieron afectados por la manipulación de los números y de las actas para imponer a políticos de vieja data y muy desprestigiados.

Hubo protestas, agitación y quema de vehículos en el circuito 1-1, contra la reelección como diputado del presidente del PRD, Benicio Robinson; en la ciudad de Colón hubo denuncias de fraude contra la elección del alcalde del PRD; así mismo, hubo protestas y empujones en la designación de curules en los circuitos 8-6 y 8-7 de la ciudad de Panamá, donde hubo denuncias de manipulación de los residuos.

Lo que se trama…

El objetivo de estos cuestionables actos es imponer al presidente por el que el grueso de la burguesía panameña había demostrado preferencias, y luego darle estabilidad a un gobierno con una mayoría legislativa de dudosa honestidad para imponer las reformas neoliberales y antipopulares que se vienen y que la Cámara de Comercio ha exigido en su documento Agenda País 2019-2024.

Dos son las amenazas principales: por un lado, una reforma constitucional por la vía antidemocrática de que sean aprobadas por la actual y percibida como corrupta Asamblea Nacional y ratificada por la próxima, que toma posesión el 1 de julio, electa en las condiciones con las mañas que hemos descrito; por otro lado, se pretende una reforma contra el sistema de pensiones y jubilaciones y el sistema de salud, con afectación a los derechos de la clase trabajadora.

En política internacional, algunos “progresistas” latinoamericanos han creído ver en Cortizo un hombre de “izquierdas”, pero se equivocan. El PRD es un partido de centro derecha, neoliberal y controlado por la oligarquía panameña. Además de que el secretario de Estado, M. Pompeo, lo llamó y le leyó la cartilla a Cortizo, el cual, para el caso venezolano, lo pintan como “mediador”, pero ya reconoció a Juan Guaidó como presidente de ese país.

¿Qué hacer?

Es de Perogrullo la urgencia de la unidad popular para enfrentar el plan neoliberal que se trama. El Polo Ciudadano ha propuesto la necesidad de un gran Frente Popular de defensa de los derechos económicos y sociales, primer peldaño en la continuada construcción de una alternativa política, en la que el FAD sin duda debe estar incluido, pero también debe abarcar a otros sectores que, por diversos motivos, no estuvimos en esa propuesta.







¿Wappin? Seriously / En serio

Depression – not talking here about the fleeting sadness from life’s setbacks or tragedies but the profound and prolonged, sometimes wired-in, funk that provides work for mental health care professionals and tests of love and friendship – can be deadly. Rising above its effects just enough to write words or compose music, it can also be the setting for sparks of creativity. It comes in various forms and gradations. If you can die from it or the consequences or situations that often follow – suicide, addiction, reckless or abusive behavior and so on – there are also a variety of strategies to manage the condition and get on with a productive life. Photo by Pexels.
Depresión: puedes morir a causa de ella, o vivir como enterrado. Es mucho mejor encontrar maneras de vivir con ella. Foto por Pexels.

Music to save lives
Música para salvar vidas

Joan Osborne – What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted

Robbie Robertson – Fallen Angel

Tracy Chapman – Behind the Wall

Suzanne Vega – Luka

Faithless – Insomnia

Iggy Pop – Some Weird Sin

Cienfue – Medio Alcoholico Melancolico

Janis Joplin – Ball and Chain

The Velvet Underground – Heroin

Disturbed – A Reason To Fight

David Gilmour – Wish You Were Here

Hello Seahorse – La Flotadera

Bob Marley – Redemption Song

Norah Jones – Begin Again

Aretha Franklin – People Get Ready


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Larvas misteriosas en ambos océanos de Panamá

plankton sm
Con aspecto de extraterrestres, estas larvas de foronídeos se recolectaron en la Bahía de Panamá (Océano Pacífico). A-E muestra una larva en diferentes etapas de crecimiento. A es la más joven y E es un gusano juvenil. F y G muestran dos especímenes diferentes. Y H e I son vistas diferentes del mismo espécimen. Foto por Michael Boyle. Para una versión más grande de este gráfico toque aquí.

Se descubren larvas misteriosas
en ambos océanos de Panamá

por Sonia Tejada – STRI (in English, click here)

Estas pequeñas larvas flotan libremente en el agua salada, mientras que sus padres viven en el fondo del mar, generalmente sin ser detectados. Los estudios genéticos nos proporcionan pistas de que hay más especies por descubrir.

Las fotos de muestras de agua de mar tomadas con microscopios, revelan la etapa larval de estas poco conocidas criaturas marinas llamadas foronídeos, pero contrary a sus padres es otra historia. Aunque estas extravagantes larvas llamaron la atención de los científicos que desde el siglo XIX estudian el plancton, pequeñas plantas y animales que flotan en los océanos, hasta el momento, sólo hay unas 15 especies de foronídeos conocidos en el mundo, basados en especímenes adultos. Un estudio de las larvas, publicado esta semana por científicos del Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales (STRI) en Panamá detectó ocho especies potencialmente nuevas.

“La diversidad global de animales marinos pequeños y raros como los foronídeos, está muy subestimada”, comentó Rachel Collin, científica de STRI. “No sabemos qué animales hay por ahí, y sabemos aún menos sobre cuál podría ser su papel en los océanos del mundo”.

RC in Bocas
Rachel Collin, científica del Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales y directora de la Estación de Investigación de Bocas del Toro, donde se llevan a cabo cursos de capacitación en taxonomía. Crédito: Archivos STRI.

Debido a que las larvas de foronídeos flotan en el agua de mar, a menudo son más fáciles de muestrear que los adultos, que viven en el lecho marino enterrados la arena, en sedimentos o en escombros. Y las larvas no se parecen a los adultos, lo que dificulta saber qué larva pertenece a qué adulto sin hacer una especie de prueba de paternidad: comparar las secuencias de ADN larvales con el ADN de sus posibles padres.

Llamados así en honor a la diosa egipcia Phoronis, los foronídeos, de cuerpos tubulares, anclan sus cuerpos a rocas o corales y agitan una corona de tentáculos para capturar pequeñas partículas de alimentos. Para reproducirse, producen huevos y espermatozoides. Cuando los huevos eclosionan, las larvas salen al agua y se convierten en parte del plancton.

Las larvas tienen cuerpos cilíndricos con un anillo de tentáculos en la parte superior y una gran capucha que sirve para capturar alimentos. Algunos están decorados con manchas de pigmento amarillo y en otros es posible ver manchas rojizas o rosadas de células sanguíneas a través de sus cuerpos translúcidos. Finalmente, descienden al lecho marino, se convierten en adultos y completan su ciclo de vida, considerado el ciclo más común en el reino animal.

Los científicos recolectaron plancton de la Bahía de Panamá en la costa del Pacífico y de Bocas del Toro en la costa del Caribe. Al examinar el plancton utilizando un estereomicroscopio, encontraron más de 50 larvas de foronídeos, 23 del Pacífico y 29 del Atlántico. Utilizando una técnica genética llamada código de barras, basada en la secuenciación del ADN, pudieron distinguir tres tipos de plancton de foronídeos en la Bahía de Panamá y cuatro tipos en el Caribe.

El ADN de genes particulares de cada uno de estos animales era distinto de cualquier otro registrado en GenBank, la colección global de ADN de más de 300,000 organismos, lo que significa que todos pueden ser especies nuevas para la ciencia. Sin embargo, encontrar a los adultos de estas especies puede llevar años, especialmente porque muy pocos científicos estudian foronídeos.

mb in Panama Bay
Michael Boyle, ex becario postdoctoral Tupper en STRI y ahora biólogo e investigador principal del Programa Life Histories en la Estación Marina Smithsonian en Fort Pierce, Florida. Se muestra aquí recogiendo larvas. Crédito: Archivos STRI.

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Editorials: Insulting constitutional process; and Enlisting for the Sunni jihad?

jcv / lc
Juan Carlos Varela and Laurentino Cortizo meet to talk transition. Photo from Cortizo’s Twitter feed.

Is it now Plan B, or Plan A version 2.0?

In the days after the election we found that the PRD won 33 percent of the vote, but got 35 of 71 seats in the National Assembly. Independent candidates won 20 percent of the vote, but got fives seats. Independents outpolled both the Panameñista Party and by a long shot MOLIRENA, but the Panameñistas got eight seats and MOLIRENA five. By this year’s permutation of the ways that seats are allocated from multi-member circuits, a newcomer, running on both the PRD and MOLIRENA slates, lost out to an old face, also running in the same circuit on both the PRD and MOLIRENA slates, who got many fewer votes than the newcomer did.

THEN, a week after the election, the PRD gave a copy of a 27-page constitutional reform package to a newspaper more or less aligned with the PRD – the public still doesn’t get to see a copy – and that would make ALL candidates for the legislature run in these manipulable, cockamamey multi-member circuits. We need this because? Something about less corruption, they say, plus we are warned from the banking distict that if we had a constitutional convention somebody might question the white minority apartheid regime that is the Panama Canal Authority board of directors.

Problem is, to get this thing jammed through without any public input – the business lobbies who had a hand in drafting it are not “the public” but in fact cringe in terror at the collective majority of Panamanians – the same proposal would have to pass in as special legislative session called by President Varela for that express purpose, and then by the incoming new PRD-dominated legislature. If Varela called a session for one proposal that was passed, and the new legislature passed a different version it would have to be submitted to the voters in a national referendum.

The latest noises we hear suggest that Cortizo will submit constitutional questions to the voters early in his administration. As in, Varela seems not to be going along with the plan.

The changes mentioned are inane, would make everyone run for legislature in larger circuits where it costs more to run. Of course the rich love that, plus the added feature that with the larger circuits all of the legislature could come from upscale neighborhoods and none from where the poor live.

The parts of the proposal of which we have been told would create a runoff system with three new sets of calculation – first round percentage for the front runner, then whether the second place person came within five percent, then who has the most votes in the end – instead of the present one comparison. And hasn’t Panama seen elections wherein it was declared that in some district or circuit or mesa there were irregularities, so that part of the result will be tossed out for the final count? It’s how Noriega’s man was declared the winner in 1984. Add the extra calculations and there would be more opportunity for this sort of thing. Why not just if nobody gets 50 percent plus one, there is a runoff between the top two finishers? Might it be that parties that never get much more than one-third of the vote are afraid of that?

We ought to have a constitutional convention. The same guarantee that the nation would have if Varela won’t cooperate and Cortizo sends something to the voters would apply if a convention does a poor job of drafting a new design for how we govern ourselves. In either of those cases, then people just vote the proposal down. That has also happened before.


gunboat diplomacy
Gunboat diplomacy. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group passes through the Suez Canal headed for waters off of Iran. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Darion Chanelle Triplett.

Off to the jihad, dragging Panama along?

Donald Trump has sent an aircraft carrier group and a large supply of missiles to the Middle East.

En route the usual Sunni jihadis, the Saudis and the Emiraitis, have told the world how Iran has blown holes in four tankers in Emiraiti waters. Showing zero evidence they blamed Iran. But satellite photos show no damage, no leakage.

Those photos from on high having been published, now the Saudis say that an explosives-laden drone has attacked one of their pipelines. Did it happen? If it did and the attack came from Yemen it served them right. Maybe a regime the cuts a journalist apart alive with a bone saw has a different version of Islamic law that maintains that they can bomb and starve a civilian population but it’s vile terrorism if anyone shoots back at them.

The world doesn’t buy it. The folks who were on the same side of the table with the United States to negotiate the Iran nuclear deal – having been insulted and called enemies by Trump, and having their domestic politics disrupted by Trump-backed neofascists – say that they will not join the USA in this adventure.

So does America sign on for an expansion of the Sunni jihad, which after having failed in Syria and Iraq is now setting its sights on Iran? Getting involved in a Middle Eastern religious war would be the worse sort of perversion of the founders’ foreign policy principles, but that would be just one more perversion for Trump to sample.

The question is whether Panama will see the need to go along. With Juan Carlos Varela one might expect that. With Nito Cortizo it’s not so clear.

Panama should maintain cordial relations with Iran, stay out of any war in the Middle East, and maintain the neutral right of passage for the ships of all nations that do not attack us. There is no reason for Panama to go down into an improvised foxhole with Cadet Bonespurs.


The Col.
Oveta Culp Hobby was commander of the Women’s Army Corps in World War II and later served as US Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare.

Bear in mind

I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.


People with bad consciences always fear the judgement of children.
Mary McCarthy


To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.
Isaac Asimov



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Sanders, Intolerant authoritarians are a global problem

Don Bernardo
Canary in the coal mine of democracy. Graphic by DonkeyHotey.

A GLOBAL problem

by Bernie Sanders

One of the great crises facing the global community today is that democracy, the right of ordinary people to control their own lives, is on the defensive while authoritarianism is growing stronger.

And at its root is the fact that a handful of incredibly wealthy people are exerting enormous economic and political power over the planet. Unbelievably, in the global economy today, the top 1 percent owns more wealth than the bottom 99 percent, and a handful of billionaires own more than the bottom half of people around the world — that’s 3.7 billion people.

That is the reality.

People in our own country, and around the world, are angry and betrayed, and they feel that nobody is listening to their pain.

And one of the results of that reality is that in Europe, in Russia, in the Middle East, in Asia and elsewhere we are seeing movements led by demagogues who exploit people’s fears, prejudices and grievances to achieve and hold on to power.

Next week, Donald Trump is set to welcome one of those leaders into the White House: Hungary’s far-right authoritarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán.

Now, I have always found it very strange that Trump has such a hard time getting along with leaders of the world’s major democracies but feels very comfortable with authoritarians like Orbán, Putin, Xi Jinping, Bolsonaro and Mohammad bin Salman.

But the truth is, while they all differ in some respects, they share a number of key attributes: hostility toward democratic norms, antagonism toward a free press, intolerance toward ethnic and religious minorities, and a belief that government should benefit their own selfish financial interests.

This trend certainly did not begin with Trump, but there’s no question that authoritarian leaders around the world have drawn inspiration from the fact that the leader of the world’s oldest and most powerful democracy seems to delight in shattering democratic norms.

Other authoritarian states are much farther along this kleptocratic process.

In Russia, it is impossible to tell where the decisions of government end and the interests of Vladimir Putin and his circle of oligarchs begin. They operate as one unit. Similarly, in Saudi Arabia, there is no debate about separation because the natural resources of the state, valued at trillions of dollars, belong to the Saudi royal family. In Hungary, far-right authoritarian leader Viktor Orbán is openly allied with Putin in Russia. In China, an inner circle led by Xi Jinping has steadily consolidated power, clamping down on domestic political freedom while it aggressively promotes a version of authoritarian capitalism abroad.

So the question is: Where do we go from here?

To effectively oppose right-wing authoritarianism, we cannot simply go back to the failed status quo of the last several decades. In order to fight this trend, we need to strengthen the global coalition of progressive democrats.

While authoritarians promote division and hatred, we promote unity, inclusion, and an agenda based on economic, social, racial, and environmental justice.

The people of the world must come together to end the absurdity of rich and multinational corporations stashing over $21 trillion in offshore bank accounts to avoid paying their fair share of taxes and then demanding that their respective governments impose an austerity agenda on their working families.

It is not acceptable that the fossil fuel industry continues to make huge profits while their carbon emissions destroy the planet for our children and grandchildren.

It is not acceptable that a handful of multinational media giants, owned by a small number of billionaires, largely control the flow of information on the planet.

It is not acceptable that trade policies that benefit large multinational corporations and encourage a race to the bottom hurt working people throughout the world as they are written out of public view.

It is not acceptable that, with the Cold War long behind us, countries around the world spend over $1 trillion a year on weapons of destruction, while millions of children die of easily treatable diseases.

In order to effectively combat the rise of the international authoritarian axis, we need a global progressive movement that mobilizes behind a vision of shared prosperity, security and dignity for all people and that addresses the massive inequality that exists, not only in wealth but in political power as well.

Such a movement must be willing to think creatively and boldly about the world that we would like to see.

We must take the opportunity to reconceptualize a genuinely progressive global community based on human solidarity, that recognizes that every person on this planet shares a common humanity, that we all want our children to grow up healthy, to have a good education, have decent jobs, drink clean water, breathe clean air, and live in peace.

Our job is to reach out to those in every corner of the world who share these values and who are fighting for a better world.

In a time of exploding wealth and technology, we have the potential to create a decent life for all people. Our job is to build on our common humanity and do everything that we can to oppose all of the forces, whether unaccountable government power or unaccountable corporate power, who try to divide us up and set us against each other.

We know that those forces work together across borders. We must do the same.


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Kermit’s birds / Las aves de Kermit

boid small
Black Throated Trogon ~ Trogón Gorginegro ~ Trogon Rufus / © Kermit Nourse
click here for a larger version / para una versión más grande toque aquí

Black Throated Trogon – Trogón Gorginegro
Scientific name Trogon Rufus

male, photographed in Parque Natural Metropolitano by Kermit Nourse

This species has three distinct ranges that do not overlap. One runs from Honduras though Panama and into Peru. There are separate zones in Paraguay and in northeastern Argentina and southern Brazil. Here they are found mainly in humid lowland forests, either old growth or mature second growth. They are on both sides of the isthmus but more common on the Atlantic Side. They don’t go to altitudes much higher than 3,000 feet. Primarily insectivorous, they are also known to eat fruit.

Esta especie tiene tres rangos distintos que no se superponen. Uno corre desde Honduras a través de Panamá hacía Perú. Hay dos otras zonas separadas, una en Paraguay y la otra en el noreste de Argentina y el sur de Brasil. Aquí se encuentran principalmente en bosques húmedos de tierras bajas, ya sea de crecimiento antiguo o de crecimiento secundario maduro. Están a ambos lados del istmo pero más comunes en el lado Atlántico. No llegan a altitudes mucho más altas que 3,000 pies. Principalmente insectívoros, también se sabe que comen frutas.

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The Panama News blog links, May 11, 2019


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, PanCanal tightens draft restrictions for the sixth time this year


Reuters, United States seizes North Korean bulk carrier


gCaptain, Finland-Norway rail link planned to support Arctic sea routes


Sports / Deportes

Be Soccer, Uruguay v Panama June 8 international friendly


TVN, Jugadores de béisbol latinos y afroamericanos dejaron plantado a Trump


Economy / Economía

BBC, AMLO a favor del petróleo como motor económico de México


Sachs & Weisbrot, US sanctions against Venezuela


Earther, World spends more than $5 trillion a year on oil and gas subsidies


Wei, The case for climate tariffs


Steele & Sarcevic, Corporations fund nutrition research: why you should worry

BBC, Cuba steps up rationing amid shortages


Science & Technology / Ciencia & Tecnología

BBC, ¿Por qué es tan difícil hacer que los aviones contaminen menos?


Javanbakht, What mass shootings do to those not shot

STRI, Habitat symbiosis


El País, El grafeno y la nueva revolución industrial en materiales


BBC, How do you learn to drive on Mars?


Honty, How indigenous genocide contributed to climate change


News / Noticias

Newsroom Panama, Taboga’s mayor ousted over environmental gaffe


Página 12, Comunidades negras pueden ser afectadas por un base en Brasil


Daily Kos, OH and GA 11-year-old girls can be sentenced to life for being raped


Raw Story, GOP lawmaker shaken after being trolled for being a rape victim


The Hill, Pence calls for Omar to be removed from House Foreign Affairs Committee


The Hill, Trump retweets Falwell’s suggestion to extend his term


Real News Network, Privatization and corruption in Baltimore


El País, Jailed Catalan deputies-elect call for their release, trial to be suspended

NCR, Francis mandates abusive clergy reporting


Opinion / Opiniones

Srivastava, We need to reclaim the original intent of Mother’s Day


Code Pink: Give us peace, not brunch


Omar, I’m a survivor of war


Davidson & Fletcher, A left strategy to win the 2020 elections and beyond


Russell, The danger of a constitutional crisis


Sagel, Panamá tras las elecciones


Young, Acerca de Nito y algunas lecciones de estas elecciones


Díaz Herrera, Presidente Nito Cortizo: la cirugía institucional o el caos


Gandásegui, Elecciones 2019: algunas sorpresas pero nada nuevo


Culture / Cultura

Louis Theroux: ‘I worried I might be mansplaining motherhood’


Jezebel, YouTubers say their Coachella influencer house was segregated


Remezcla, Ricky Martin and the Crossover Trap


Remezcla, The new Los Rakas album


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Bonilla, Open letter to Trump

The first Americans also came on foot, by this route. US National Parks Service graphic.

Mr. President:

You were elected to govern the United States of America. Not to divide it by race, religion, or national origin or ethnicity. The first Americans, who founded this country, weren’t born on this country. They, like your ancestors, where born not in the US but overseas. Please remember, is the “United” States of America.

All Americans, wealthy or poor, must have opportunities to live on decent conditions. You must seek not party members benefits, but benefits for all Americans regardless of their political affiliation or belief. The press is not your enemy, it is a mean for all Americans to learn about your conduct and decisions, which impacts all Americans. It has been said that the Roman Empire fell because there was no press.

You were elected not to play golf and send tweets, but to govern and guide this great country. To what we all expect will be a better future. Not to alienate the countries that have supported America, in policies and wars. That damage will be difficult to overcome.

The credibility of our country and our policies will be hard to restore. Your presidency will eventually pass, but America and the need for credibility and respect for it from other nations will remain. Make true your frequent images embracing the American flag.

“Make America Great Again,” your campaign slogan, must not be a hollow statement, but a true assertion. Time will judge you, and time is a merciless judge. 

Alfredo Bonilla III


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