Judicial ethics in dark times
Some time ago, Supreme Court magistrate Harry Díaz gave a series of interviews on television and in newspapers in which he accused Ricardo Martinelli of manipulating the votes on the Supreme Court to make now-imprisoned former magistrate Alejandro Moncada Luna the presiding magistrate. Immediately law professor, radio show host and anti-corruption activist Miguel Antonio Bernal, joined by several others, filed a complaint against Martinelli in the Supreme Court. On September 22 this complaint was summarily dismissed without investigation, but with much recrimination among the members of the high court.
The 6-2 majority decision, by alternate magistrate Efraín Tello, rejected the complaint because it characterized the interference with the separation of constitutional powers a crime of which none of the complainants can be called a victim with standing to complain. The high court just told us that their corruption is none of the public’s business.
A dissent by presiding magistrate José Ayú Prado got most attention for its questioning of Harry Díaz’s ethics for making the public statements that he did, in the way that he did. Certainly it was a huge deviation from ordinary judicial demeanor. But Ayú Prado went on to opine that an accusation of this nature is a grave allegation of a crime, one that should be investigated.
In fact, there were prior allegations by others about Martinelli’s interference with the courts, several alleging that now fugitive former tourism minister Salomón Shamah was the bag man who came around to the courts with orders about how Martinelli wanted things decided. Whatever Díaz’s motives, he was not the only relevant witness to question, and that’s not even getting into the many documents that would have to be examined in any serious probe.
As to the long-running feud between Ayú Prado and Díaz, both of them Martinelli appointees, perhaps time will tell. This was the seventh criminal case against Martinelli that the Supreme Court has dismissed, with nine case accepted and pending, six complaints awaiting preliminary decisions on whether they should be accepted and an Argentine request for Panamanian judicial assistance in a case against Martinelli there all in line. At the time that Díaz made his complaint the game of constant delays to run out the calendar on cases, prosecutors taking dives instead of fighting public corruption as they should have and the former president’s mocking tweets from Miami had been well established. Under such circumstances the duty of public disclosure should outweigh the rules of judicial decorum.
As to the majority decision that judicial corruption is not the business of every Panamanian, that’s a compelling reason for a constitutional convention that replaces the entire Supreme Court. It should not be an argument about procedure and presumptions of innocence. It should be done without any litigation about who is to blame for what. What Panama needs is a revolutionary act by which the nation says that we won’t have this sort of mentality in high places anymore and embeds this decision in a new set of institutions.
Time to mobilize the antiwar movement
Barack Obama promised to get US forces out of Afghanistan. Over eight years, he didn’t. Donald Trump promised to get US forces out of Afghanistan. It took him only a few months to explicitly break that promise. That’s now America’s longest war, with a stalemate on the battlefield and no realistic possibility of a US victory.
Donald Trump, in his first days in office, gave the head of the US Africa Command permission to make war on any person, nation or political force anywhere on the continent of Africa without any prior authorization by any other authority. The US constitutional proviso that only Congress can declare war had already been turned into something close to a dead letter by a long line of presidential power grabs. Trump’s move went a long step beyond and was met with relatively little complaint from the political and economic power elites and the media that do their bidding.
Donald Trump went before the UN and threatened North Korea with nuclear obliteration. All of America’s traditionally closest allies backed away from this. Of course. Were Trump to do that, even if the North Koreans could not land any retaliatory blow at all the dust, smoke and radioactive fallout sent up into the atmosphere would kill millions of people — including a lot of Americans — and disrupt agriculture, fisheries and environmental niches all around the world. Trump’s was the ranting of a dangerous maniac.
It’s time to mobilize the antiwar movement in the United States and worldwide. We have many old and tested leaders, and let new ones emerge.
There are Republicans who as always are eager for the opportunity to call peace activists traitors. There are Democrats who reasonably fear that any success for an antiwar movement brings out the troglodytes to blame those unlike themselves for losing whatever war or place to whatever foe. But Hillary Clinton lost for many reasons, one of which was that antiwar voters who usually vote for Democrats stayed home rather than endorse her hawkish politics. And the many Americans concerned about the Trump entourage’s ties with Russia? It’s a terrible misreading of the situation to suppose that all or most of these folks are for a Cold War II with the Russians, even if they want accountability for anyone who brought foreign interference into the US electoral process.
War is bad for business. It’s worse now because the United States is not the economic powerhouse that it once was. America’s lead as a scientific and industrial power has been frittered away by spending for wars over nothing of much consequence to the United States. The “War on Drugs” violence at home and abroad has given the USA one of the world’s highest incarceration rates and this has added to the expense and the problem. These wars, and all of this mass imprisonment, have been in part paid for by neglecting education, research and civilian infrastructures.
The left is always a big part of the peace movement and will continue to be, but this time around those capitalists whose business is neither weapons nor private prisons ought to have more of a role to play. That one of the strongest antiwar voices in Washington belongs to Republican Senator Rand Paul should be no surprise
It’s really not a time of the peace movement’s choice. What’s going on now can’t continue. Peace is the break that Americans and the rest of the world need.
Bear in mind…
Like the mind-set that places men above women, whites above blacks, and rich above poor, the mentality that places humans above nature is a dysfunctional delusion.
The history of great deeds was the history of men who had the courage to stand alone against the world.
Power doesn’t corrupt — it will unmask.
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