A charming exchange with Rubén Blades

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Rubén Blades. Archive photo by Eric Jackson.

A charming email exchange with Rubén Blades

by Eric Jackson and Rubén Blades

It started out as this email exchange about a recent columm that Blades published, complaining as many do about how the politicians in the legislature are rigging the election rules to keep unpopular parties and individuals on the public gravy train. The column was published on a day when Administrative Prosecutor Rigoberto González called on Attorney General Kenia Porcell to publish the text of her reported plea agreement with Odebrecht. During the days of the email exchange:

– a small but diverse group of veteran anti-corruption activists was calling for a January 25 demonstration at the Iglesia El Carmen and demanding the names of those under investigation for taking Odebrecht bribes;

– the Chamber of Commerce expelled Odebrecht from its membership rolls and called upon all sectors of society to join in a crusade against corruption;

– the Independent Movement (MOVIN) that is composed of some of the wealthiest Panamanians and whose support was critical in getting Juan Carlos Varela elected president called for an audit of all Odebrecht contracts and said that it’s the president’s job to dismantle the culture and mechanisms of corruption surrounding the government and that Varela is not doing this job;

– The Panamanian Business Executives Association (APEDE) jumped on the Chamber’s bandwagon; all three major political parties called to Odebrecht investigations — with respect to the other parties’ wrongdoing; and

– Comptroller General Federico Humbert said that more than the reported $59 million in bribes and more than the reported but unidentified four individuals were involved.

A crisis in the making, or just another “Move along, nothing happened here” moment?

So in light of the situation and in light Blades’s column, this reporter, not wearing a reporter’s hat but as one activist to another, had this email exchange with the entertainer who would run for president again:

Eric Jackson:

If you are serious about running for president you really need to be in front of the El Carmen Church on Wednesday the 25th at 5 p.m. — even if you think most of the people who will present themselves as leaders there are weenies and the opinion may be mutual.

To folks who were in the Detroit area of a certain age, it’s about being “down for the struggle.”

And is your Panamanian legal training so hard-wired as to be about procedure and semantics to the exclusion of substance? If you can rise above that and start talking about key features of what kind of a new constitution Panama needs, it might influence the lawyers and the activists who are right as far as they go to start talking in terms that matter to most people.

Ah, but what kind of political advisor am I? 2016 was quite the up and down year for me, with some personal victories — or should I say come defeats reversed? — but with the huge defeat of the United States giong fascist overshadowing all else.

Rubén Blades:

On Wednesday 25 I will be abroad, working for a living, as opposed to many politicians.

As for “the struggle,” I’ve demonstrated a decision to serve my country by giving it five years of my life as a public servant, at the expense of my personal interests. As for the constitutional changes, please don’t be as arrogant as to assume that I would dare show my face as a candidate without any concrete proposals.

We have been studying the situation, a group of friends and myself, for some time now. We are considering changes needed mostly to,
a) eliminate and/or regulate areas that permit corruption and inefficiency within our administrative structure,
b) create the vision and groundwork that will permit a long term national development strategy to be developed, protected and guaranteed in its continuity by the Constitution.

Perhaps you are not listening, or not reading my statements properly, regarding my plans.

I’ve publicly stated, on several occasions that my decision to participate in the 2019 election depends on my capacity in 2017 and 2018 to cancel all my existing debts and obligations and have funds to face life after public service. If that goal is not achieved, it would be irresponsible for me to forfeit my existing obligations and affect those who depend on me. No one else can or would help me in these areas, least of all as we all get older.

As for tomorrow, you people seem to harbor a deep rooted nostalgia for the British monarchy. Now you have a King.

You continue to be a mystery to me, “Eric”. Sometimes your thoughts seem right on, other times not, sort of an intelligence operator, posing as a provocateur, posing as a nut.

Whatever else you do, we hope y’all never stop taking your medicine, hear?

 

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