Questions begged, and “irregularity” does not answer them
La Estrella is doing a series of stories that in large part centers on the labors of attorney Rogelio Saltarín, whom President Varela would have made a magistrate on the Supreme Court if the votes can be mustered. Saltarín, working as something like a private consultant for the Ministry of the Presidency, in conjunction with the National Security Council (CSN), investigated corruption during the Martinelli administration. It is reported that he fed the results of that research to Attorney General Kenia Porcell, essentially handing her road maps to her work on a number of cases.
There is no question that this was an unusual way to proceed, but we should ask ourselves, as a nation, whether any of this was improper and if so, what was done wrong and why it was wrong. It’s an important set of questions looking forward, and looking back.
Varela took over a CSN that had been thoroughly corrupted into an appendage of Ricardo Martinelli’s personal hatreds, fears and ambitions. That a laptop left behind at that agency contained surveillance reports on a list of Martinelli’s 150 top people of interest forms the foundation for the criminal case against the ex-president that is now on trial before the Supreme Court.
Those 150 individuals, we reasonably know by several different ways, were a relative few of those caught in the surveillance. We know this because right after losing the 2014 election Martinelli threatened the Cambio Democratico legislators-elect, telling them that he had a dossier on each of them in case they did not follow his instructions — but only a few of these people were on that list of 150. We know this from Kenia Porcell’s complaint that Martinelli intended to blackmail the Supreme Court into dropping charges, which complaint contained references to the electronic surveillance of some 5,000 people. We know this because if all of the emails and phone calls of the 150 people on the list were monitored, all of those with whom these 150 people communicated were also caught in the net. Knowing that, however, doesn’t the government owe it to all of the people whose privacy was violated notification of the known facts? Isn’t the general public owed a more complete description of what went on?
To come into the presidency amidst institutions that have been corrupted in this way more or less imposes a duty to undertake unusual actions that are outside of regular channels to set things right. To be a politician who was and is immersed in this sort of political warfare reasonably does call for some unpublicized independent “opposition research.”
Were people framed on bogus charges for political reasons? Was a massive spy operation merely redirected from one large group of innocent people to another? Did the attorney general get lazy at her job and let a presidential consultant do homework that she should have done on her own? Were public funds spent in improper and unaccountable ways? THOSE would be matters of serious public concern.
But irregular things in the wake of unusual events? In themselves these are no reason for public outrage.
The next administration will have to do some unusual things to see justice done in the Blue Apple and Odebrecht cases, including examinations of the Varela presidency and the mayoral decisions of José Isabel Blandón. Called-for “irregularities” may include defiance of courts and prosecutors if they say that a plea bargain on corruption charges frees a guilty company and its guilty principals and agents from a ban on doing further business with the government.
Let’s not concentrate on what is regular, but on what is proper.
Young Americans: REGISTER and VOTE
The question is not whether your future will be stolen. It has been stolen. The latest extraction from your chances of a prosperous future in an advanced nation was in the form of another $3 trillion tax break for ultra-rich, throwing the US government in a debt spiral for at least a generation — for YOUR generation. Your elders may have had some prosperous years? Not you and most of the people your age. Not unless you act decisively to take back what has been stolen.
Your education, your standard of living, your possibility of old age retirement, the infrastructures of daily life in the USA, the productive activities that are the foundation for your nation’s wealth — those have been taken from you.
You didn’t notice because this ultimate grab was rammed through the House of Representatives while public attention was riveted on a Senate committee trying to jam through the high court nomination of perhaps the most morally unfit presidential appointee ever? It was timed that way.
This is too partisan a rap, you might protest? It has been a process underway for a long time, under both Democratic and Republican administrations. That nobody went to prison for the huge mortgage fraud that caused the 2008 economic crisis was a bipartisan dereliction of duty. The endless wars without exit strategies or even defined war aims all over the planet are all bipartisan follies put on a tab that your generation is expected to pay. But the latest Republican tax bill is the ultimate “take the money and run” play at your expense.
The editor of The Panama News did his undergraduate studies at a university that as the cornerstone of one of its buildings had a monument to a generation faced with as onerous a predicament. A tiny minority of slave owners was holding the nation hostage and when they lost an election tried to destroy the nation. The men of the class of 1861 of what was then Michigan Normal College graduated, then marched en masse to the recruiters’ office and joined the Grand Army of the Republic. Many of them died in just a few minutes at Antietam. Their names were engraved on that cornerstone.
At this point nobody is asking you to lay down your life for a cause, but the threat to America is every bit as grave. What you are called upon to do in this crisis is to REGISTER and VOTE.
In many states the registration deadline is October 9. If you are living in the USA, start the process online or at least get information about it via When We All Vote. If you are an American citizen living abroad — including if you are a dual citizen — go to votefromabroad.org or fvap.gov or overseasvotefoundation.org. Right now.
Bear in mind…
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