Editorials: Whiching day; and Varela’s Odebrecht problem


WHAT? Only a goat to sacrifice?

A whiching solstice

While neo-pagans gathered at Stonehenge and elsewhere and those who practice a variety of faiths are celebrating their different traditions this time of the year, this year’s solstice was a noteworthy political decision day around the world.

In the United Nations, there was a lopsided vote in the face of Donald Trump’s crude threats to condemn US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Actually, moving embassies to the Holy City would not be an intrinsically bad idea — but it is with some 380,000 of its citizens being deprived of rights and dispossessed. Jerusalem should be one, under a special legal status that protects the rights of all equally, and the capital of both Israel and an independent Palestine. Panama abstained, in keeping with the traditional neutrality that defends the canal by not giving anybody reason to attack it or us. Only a few of the most squalid and dependent regimes voted with the United States and Israel.

In Catalonia, the vote turnout was high a pro-independence majority was returned to office after Mariano Rajoy had dissolved the previous one and imprisoned many of its previous leaders and driven others into exile. The minority government in Madrid lost even with its adversaries campaigning from behind bars or from abroad. But the pro-independence forces fell short of a majority the popular vote, outpolling those who supported Rajoy’s crackdown but with leftists who would put off the Catalan independence question in between the pro and anti separation forces. More negotiations are indicated, but Rajoy’s departure from a political scene in which his only real base of support is among heads of state in an ailing European Union suggests that he should not be at the table. Really, the whole problem is not merely a matter of Catalan grievances. It’s Spain’s failure, in particular the scandalous nature of most of its political caste. The solution to Catalonia’s crisis is in Madrid, not by Spain reasserting its authority but by Spain getting its act together.

In Peru, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski staved off impeachment. He probably was bribed by Odebrecht but the quid pro quo was neither proven nor even investigated in the rushed and ugly proceedings. Peru avoided a return of the Fujimori family to power and put off a rash of decisions about what to do about Odebrecht for other times and other tribunals. It was not the victory for corruption that the corrupt hope that it was. There will come a day of reckoning.

Here in Panama on December 21, President Varela’s nominations to the high court, which range from dubious to clearly awful, were also put off for a later day of decision. Will the president’s people be coming around with gifts to buy the votes that he doesn’t have for these appointments? In keeping with our history, so many infamous things are done over the holidays on the supposition that nobody will notice. But we do.


Varela’s Odebrecht problem won’t go away

Marcelo Odebrecht has walked out of a Brazilian prison into house arrest, Juan Manuel Santos has been tagged but probably won’t see many consequences anytime soon because his most strident foes are also tainted, and now Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has beaten the impeachment rap in Peru. So does that allow Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela to breathe easier?

No matter what deals he makes, no matter how he might be able to pack the Supreme Court and kick an annoying prosecutor upstairs, Varela and his party are not off the hook. Four credible witnesses and several paper trails say that his party took millions from the Brazilian construction conglomerate, after which that thuggish company got no-bid or rigged-bid public works contracts from the Varela administration. The Panameñistas are going to be removed, most probably by the voters in the 2019 election.

The question is by whom and what. Let’s not hear “they’re just as bad or worse…” or “I’ll give you…” or “my family…” or any more of that. Panama has been robbed and only Panamanians can bring justice to bear. And we should.


Bear in mind…

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Romans 12:19-20


If you can’t say anything good about someone, sit right here by me.
Alice Roosevelt Longworth


There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.
Nelson Mandela


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