Huge anti-corruption protest on the Cinta Costera

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As people began to gather early, this man had a message that summed up a lot of the sense of what it was all about: “Nobody is the country, we are all it.”

A rejuvenated patriotism
on the Cinta Costera

photos and story by Eric Jackson

Yes, it was panned, ignored or distorted by the major political parties and by the major news media — all of which have their ties to individuals, companies, banks, law firms, brokerages or relatives who are implicated in the massive Odebrecht and Blue Apple scandals, by which almost every public works contract with every business foreign or domestic was overpriced, with politicians, parties or politically connected individuals getting some of the excess kicked back to them. It was that way under the Martín Torrijos and Ricardo Martinelli administrations and it’s like that with the Juan Carlos Varela administration. So the power brokers angling to get the inside track in the 2019 elections were unhappy, and for those who rely only on rabiblanco media for their information it’s a story largely untold.

And then there are the Evangelical gay-bashers — who were also on Martinelli’s planilla — urging that January 9th is a day to honor those who gave their lived for Panama back in 1964, so it sullies the solemnity of the occasion to talk about corruption.  But symbols of identity and faith were common enough in the crowd. There were Che Guevara t-shirts and crucifixes and stars of David. There were rastas in dreadlocks and Orthodox Jews in black hats and Muslims wearing kufi caps. There were LGBT rainbows. But then came the common expressions of faith, as the crowd sang El Himno Istmeño and El Tambor de Alegría. It was Panamanians who despite all differences expressed a common belief that we should demand better, a common sense of justice in the face of all the sneers and fatalistic apathy.

Off on another side of town, there was the vanguard of the broad masses of workers, campesinos and revolutionary intellectuals — except for those infected by revisionism, deviationism, bourgeois eclecticism, religious obscurantism or other ideological maladies. They had exclusive dibs on the Day of the Martyrs tradition and marched off in their reduced numbers to claim it.

Then at various shrines, the government and its personalities and parties and prestigious families made their annual gestures, making their claim of exclusive dibs on an event with which they and their parties had nothing much to do.

Some of the survivors of that day in 1964 also gathered at their old high school. They were outnumbered by hangers-on who wouldn’t want to look unpatriotic but also would not be so disrespectful as to demand an end to the corruption that holds Panama in its grip.

Did the mainstream say “hundreds?” Well, yes. DOZENS of hundreds gathered on the Cinta Costera, overflowing the Mirador Fotografica and ultimately so crowding the overlooking pedestrian overpass that the police stopped people from adding to the numbers. Not that there was any nastiness with the cops — they really were interested in safety.

Yes, another anti-corruption demonstration with Miguel Antonio Bernal and his friends. But not just, and not even in its inception. This was called by the irreverent La Cascara TV show producer / director and satirist Ubaldo Davis, Senior and some of his friends. Bernal, the Colegio de Abogados and many others jumped on the bandwagon. The cry is for “civil death,” a ban on persons and companies involved in corruption having anything more to do with public business. Compared to prior demonstration, the crowd was a bit darker-skinned and substantially younger. And much larger. All of the competing distractions were dwarfed.

Where will it all lead? Hard to say. Probably those in power will not listen, but the new political reality is that those who are fed up are now on the streets in great numbers.

 


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Even before the “official” 9 a.m. start, standing on the ground one could not see where the people with the microphones were speaking.

 


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From an obstructed view spot — there were a few folks in wheelchairs, but by and large forget about any actual seats.

 


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Some notable did briefly speak, but this was neither a celebrity show nor a rally for a candidate.

 


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The crowd on the overpass and in the park got bigger and bigger, well after the appointed starting time.

 


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It is said that those who can’t deal with this generation are really going to dislike the next one.

 


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“Panameño, Panameño….”

 


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Part of the crowd, seen from the pedestrian bridge at about 10.

 

 

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From the bridge at about 11, about when the policewoman started to tell people not to go up and add to the crowd looking from on high. People marched a short way to across from the Hotel Miramar, where the president lives.

 

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