Panama’s best-loved public institution
Yes, November 28 is a legal holiday because that’s when Panama City joined a revolt that started in the Interior and definitively separated the isthmus from Spain, back in 1821. But it’s also the anniversary of the founding in 1885 of this country’s oldest and most beloved public institution, the Cuerpo de Bomberos or Firefighters Corps.
It’s a core of full-time professionals bolstered by a larger group of volunteers. They’re not only on call for fires, but also for floods and other disasters. These are the people who go into burning buildings from which others have fled in terror, and who wade into flood waters to pluck out those having difficulty getting to higher ground like their neighbors. Plus they have the country’s coolest marching bands.
Wouldn’t it be nice, not only for the bomberos but for everyone, if such less loved public institutions like the National Assembly and the Presidency saw to it that the bomberos were properly funded? The are not equipped as they should be to fight fires in and rescue people from tall buildings. Notoriously in Colon’s city center, but in other places as well, fire hydrants don’t get enough water pressure. Bomberos even get sent in to fight fires without proper boots, gloves, coats and breathing apparatus. And for such an international place as we are, our emergency response switchboards are underdeveloped for dealing with the many languages encountered here.
So let not parades be our only occasion to show our appreciation for the bomberos. They protect all of us every day and deserve proper support every day.
A vote count that should have been done within less than 12 hours, with final results held off for several days? Let us hope that this is a fruitless final manipulation by a miserable corrupt death squad regime that came to power in a 2009 coup. Latin America’s democracies, left and right, have a lot of problems. The violent overthrows of elected governments and rigged elections make things worse and Honduras has been a poster child for that. And please, President Varela, if former Honduran officials come fleeing here, don’t let them in.
In Panama years ago, we saw what the Republicans on the FCC are trying to do in the United States, with worldwide implications. Back then Cable & Wireless Panama blocked The Panama News website from being seen by their subscribers, and when people complained they falsely told people that we had gone out of business. At the time it appeared that it was a move to force websites in Panama to US that company’s web hosting services.
Telecom monopolists would shut The Panama News and many other websites from all over Latin America out of access to those who surf the Internet in the USA. This they would do to extort ransom. It would harm US foreign relations by dumbing down Americans about the rest of the world worse than is already the case. It would cause immediate trade conflicts between the United States and many other countries. It would reduce the interchanges of ideas and culture between Panama and its diaspora communities in the USA. It would have that effect with Americans who hail from, or whose recent ancestors have come from, many other places. In the long run — and not actually THAT long — it would lead to international rejection of and retaliation against the US companies that think that they will cash in by ending net neutrality.
Becoming a pariah is the usual thing that happens to stick-up artists. But these folks have led privileged lives that have kept them from learning that lesson. Let’s raise a hue and cry now, so that they don’t learn the hard way at everybody else’s expense.
Bear in mind…
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