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On the US campaign trail: The Democratic presidential hopefuls, at length

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da dems
The five Democratic presdential candidates in Iowa
You may want to bookmark this and take it in several sittings, as it will take about four hours to get through it all — or you may only be interested in what one or some of the candidates have to say. The editor has his opinion, but The Panama News is going to try very hard to give the primary candidates of both major parties — and along the way the most noteworthy of the minor candidates — time and space to state their cases

What Democrats are saying

Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders

Jim Webb

Martin O’Malley

Lincoln Chafee

Cutting child support: beyond the Varela administration’s pale

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Hermes Ortega
Hermes Ortega urinated on one of the third rails of Panamanian politics. Photo by MIDES

Cutting child support is a nonstarter with the Panamanian political party most identified with women’s suffrage, but beyond the merits of the issue, with Juan Carlos Varela perhaps the most mortal sin of all is looking foolish

What was he thinking?

by Eric Jackson

Hermes Ortega is out as secretary general of the Ministry of Social Development. Last January he submitted a proposal to modify Panama’s child support law, which was last changed in 2012. It would cut off child support payments by non-custodial parents in January and February when school is out, and at times when the children are visiting with the parent who does not have custody. On July 27 Minister of Social Development Alcibiades Vásquez fired Ortega specifically because of this proposal, which had languished in the legislative hopper until coming to the attention of the National Assembly’s Children, Women, Youth and Families Committee — now presided over by CD deputy Marilyn Vallarino — and of various women’s groups. Vásquez said that the proposal was made without consulting anyone, does not represent the Varela administration’s thinking and is not in the best interests of children.

Varela’s Panameñista Party was founded by Dr. Arnulfo Arias, under whose administration Panamanian women — at least those not of races whose citizenship he revoked — got the rights to vote and hold public office. Arias’s widow, Mireya Moscoso, was the first and so far has been the only female Panamanian president.

Vallarino led the legislative effort for the 2012 changes to strengthen enforcement of child support laws. The modifications eventually passed, but they were weakened in committee on first reading and on the assembly floor on second reading. Non-custodial parents who have been ordered by the family courts to pay child support — in most instances these are men — and who fail to pay the ordered child support can get 30 days in jail for it. Vallarino would have stripped child support deadbeats of their drivers’ licenses, but that provision was taken out of her proposal amid many protests from male colleagues from across the partisan spectrum. The 2012 changes also in certain cases look to grandparents to pay support.

The 2012 modifications were originally proposed in 2011 by the Supreme Court, then presided over by magistrate Harley Mitchell. For the courts child support orders are not only a matter of respect for judicial institutions. Kids who grow up destitute often end up before the courts on criminal matters. But despite the high court’s reasons, for the better part of a year legislative leaders of Vallarino’s Cambio Democratico party buried the proposal in the National Assembly’s agenda to keep it from coming up for votes in the body’s plenary sessions. But as male deputies in their various ways jeered and inserted amendments to weaken the original proposal, women’s groups weighed in and it became apparent to all astute political observers that defense of child support scofflaws is not a winning political platform in this country.

Hermes Ortega apparently didn’t notice.

Harrington, Los suplentes cobrarán “legalmente”

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Asamblea
La Asamblea Nacional. Foto por el Órgano Judicial

Con tales sinverguenzuras, ¡con razón que la OECD nos mantiene en toditas sus listas!

Los suplentes cobrarán “legalmente”

por Kevin Harrington-Shelton

No hay bellaco, donde no hay soquete.

Los padawanes parlamentarios no tienen por qué preocuparse: nuestra Corte Suprema es tan corrupta, que sin bendecirá el pago de sus salarios — “por factores imponderables extra-jurídicos”. Y eso hasta lo consignó –textualmente– como explicación de un fallo irracional sobre otro texto constitucional distinto, que resultaba diáfano para el resto de los mortales (no-interesados) en 1993.

Hoy es similarmente diáfano su artículo 156: “…no podrán ACEPTAR ningún empleo público remunerado”. No dice “COBRAR”. No obstante, un diputado suplente aereó airado un papel que (según él dijera en el Pleno) era un precedente en que la Corte definiría lo que RECIBÍAN en 2011 a título de “gasolina” en la Asamblea no era “salario”, sino “emolumentos”. De ser así, los cínicos de la Corte sin duda aprovecharán para reiterar su propia versión de seguridad jurídica….

Este tipo de bellaquerías propicia la pérdida de confianza en las instituciones.

Recuerda un caso en Inglaterra. A inicios de 2014, la policía anunció que “Se revisan partes noticiosos de cobros ilícitos de prestaciones en la Cámara de los Lores. Podemos confirmar que un varón de 73 años asistió a una convocatoria en una subestación policial del éste de Londres, a ser indagado respecto de una alegación de fraude.” Una presunción de inocencia ausente en los juicios promovidos en los medios –selectivamente– por el presidente Juan Carlos Varela, aunque a ello “obliga” nuestra legislación vigente. El par del reino inglés resultó condenado por algo que, aunque en Panamá no es ilegal, bien podría interesar a nuestros Padres de la Patria. Un tabloide había seguido a Lord Hanningfield, documentando que cobraba las dietas de $500 diariamente, aunque permaneciera pocos minutos en el sitio de trabajo. En Panamá los principales Y los suplentes cobran igual, si se pavean (cosa MUY frecuente).

Nuestra Asamblea tiene un Código de Ética por hacer ver que lo tienen; aunque no compara en lo moral ni en detalle con las 23 páginas digitales del británico, que allá sí se cumple. En poder adquisitivo, allá ganan la tercera parte de lo que perciben los nuestros, no tienen carros exonerados, y su blindaje sólo alcanza lo dicho dentro del Pleno.

Y les podrá interesar, que a los ingleses no los pueden botar jamás, sin la necedad de re-elegirse….

Historia panameña: La batalla del puente de Calidonia

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Puente de Calidonia
El Puente de Calidonia

La batalla del puente de Calidonia

por Olmedo Beluche

En julio se conmemoran 115 años de la histórica Batalla del Puente de Calidonia, en que los liberales panameño-colombianos fueron masacrados en la Guerra de los Mil Días.

Quisiera aportar a la reflexión sobre la famosa batalla del Puente de Calidonia, ocurrida el 26 de julio de 1900, en la que fueron aniquiladas las fuerzas liberales a las puertas de la ciudad de Panamá.

Cabe preguntarse: ¿Por qué, después de los contundentes éxitos de las tropas liberales en el interior, el general Emiliano Herrera se lanzó a un ataque suicida, enviando a sus tropas a través del puente desguarnecido frente a los parapetos de ametralladoras de los conservadores, ubicadas en las proximidades de lo que hoy es la Plaza 5 de Mayo?

La respuesta la encuentro en el papel activo que tuvieron los cónsules de las potencias representadas en Panamá: Francia, Inglaterra y muy especialemente el de Estados Unidos. Según se desprende del libro “El Panamá Colombiano”, de Araúz y Pizzurno, estos cónsules exigieron tanto a conservadores como liberales que no fueran afectados por el combate, ni la ciudad, ni el ferrocarril. Por supuesto, la amenaza subyacente era la intervención militar extranjera contra quien pusiera en peligro esos intereses extranjeros, apelando a la manera como EEUU entendía el Tratado Mallarino-Bidlack.

El 21 de julio forzaron al general Albán, conservador, a presentar batalla en Corozal, donde fue derrotado por Herrera. Teniendo que retirarse el primero a la ciudad de Panamá donde montó sus barricadas.

Con la complicidad de la Compañía del Ferrocarril, y de su gerente, el coronel Shaller, que jugaría un papel central en la Separación de 1903, se trasladan tropas conservadores desde Colón para reforzar a Albán. La Compañía y el cónsul norteamericano, lejos de ser neutrales como pretendían, jugaron un papel activo apoyando a los conservadores.

Previo al asalto liberal de la ciudad, el cónsul norteamericano se reunió en Perrys Hill (Perejil) con Emiliano Herrera, reiterándole la exigencia de no afectar la ciudad.

A mi juicio son estas presiones del cónsul norteamericano las que llevan a Herrera a presentar el nefasto esquema de ataque, que en pocas horas aniquiló a las huestes liberales (200 bajas entre muertos y heridos).

Esta me parece es la razón por la que, en 1901-1902, cuando las tropas liberales se recuperaron, gracias al papel de Victoriano Lorenzo, que transformó la guerra política en guerra social, campesino-indígena, llevando a los liberals a controlar todas las provincias del Istmo, menos la capital, tampoco intentaron nunca tomar la ciudad de Panamá.

El problema para la cabal comprensión de este acontecimiento es que la historia oficial panameña deja por fuera el papel jugado por las potencias imperialistas y reduce toda la explicación a una simplista contradicción entre “panameños’ y “colombianos”.

No hay duda de que hubo una lucha por el mando liberal entre Belisario Porrras y Emiliano Herrera, y posteriormente, Benjamín Herrera. Pero en este caso el factor determinante es la intervención norteamericana en toda la Guerra de los Mil Días.

New Panama paintings by George Scribner

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Mar Carive
Mar Caribe

New Panama paintings by George Scribner

 

Expansion work
Expansion work

 

net mending
Net mending in Santa Clara

 

Miraflores Lake approach
Into Miraflores Lake

 

upcoming events

Suspensions, fines and outrage over ref’s Gold Cup gift to Mexico

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The soccer world is close to unanimous that the American referee’s penalty kick and red card calls — which swung the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal game in which Panama had dominated to Mexico — were completely outrageous.

Penedo and Tejada suspended for two games each, Panama’s soccer federation and Mexico’s coach fined — but the popular opinion here is that it’s one more case of the soccer establishment’s corruption

Mexico 2, Panama 1 on worse than bad calls

by Eric Jackson

A Gold Cup run in which Panama beat nobody in regulation time but in which nobody could beat Panama ended in a July 22 semifinal game against Mexico in the Georgia Dome. But the widespread opinion of the soccer world is that Mexico didn’t beat Panama either, but rather that American referee Mark Geiger gave the game to Mexico.

In the 24th minute Panamanian striker Luis Tejada was sent off with a red card for elbowing Mexican defender Paul Aguilar. Whether or not there was actually any elbow contact is debatable, but its treatment as an intentional foul was called by sportswriter Simon Rice of the British daily The Independent a reaction to “arguably the most ridiculous dive of all time.”

Short-handed, Román Torres headed a corner kick into the net at the 56th minute, putting Panama ahead. The Mexican fans showered the Panamanian team with beer as the scenes on and off the field became increasingly chaotic, with both Mexican and Panamanian fans throwing things onto the field.

Both of Mexico’s goals came on penalty kicks, the first in the 89th minute for Panamanian defender allegedly handling the ball (which does not show up as such on video replays) as he fell after being fouled (which clearly does show.) That gave Mexico the tying goal against a short-handed Panama. After the game Mexican coach Miguel Herrera opined that this “was not a penalty” and that his team didn’t deserve to win but took advantage of referee mistakes.

As the match ended on a Mexican penalty kick in overtime — this time it was a pretty clear penalty, after other clear penalties that just as well could have been called to give Panama a penalty shot were not — there were rowdy confrontations between the teams and Geiger had to be escorted off of the field by CONCACAF bodyguards.

Panama issued its protests about Geiger, and CONCACAF issued its penalties: for Tejada, in addition to the one-game suspension on the red card, another game for not leaving the field promptly. For goalie Jaime Penedo, the heart and soul of Panama’s Gold Cup run, a two-game suspension for physical contact with an assistant referee after the game.  A fine for Panama’s FEPAFUT soccer federation. A fine for Mexico’s coach for criticizing Geiger’s performance after the game.

Panama plays the United States for third place on Saturday the 25th at 3 p.m. Panama time in Philadelphia.

FEPAFUT president Pedro Chaluja told reporters that the semifinal game had been fixed. With two former CONCACAF presidents facing US bribery charges and a clear financial incentive for CONCACAF to prefer Mexico and its large television market over Panama’s much smaller audience in the final, a lot of Panamanians believe Chaluja.

Robinson-Martinelli alliance cut out of committee chairs

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National Assembly website down
Benicio Robinson not only lost his bid to continue as head of the budget committee. He and his Martinelista allies were shut out of committee chairs and are also about to lose all of the political patronage jobs that they controlled over the previous year. That would include the people who run the legislature’s website. Thus any official online report of Robinson’s and Martinelli’s rout in the legislature will have to wait.

Sequel to Martinelli’s and Robinson’s failed bid to take over the National Assembly (2)

Robinson gets no committee chairs

by Eric Jackson

The fallout continues from the failed July 1 bid for control of the National Assembly by PRD and CD party bosses Benicio Robinson and Ricardo Martinelli respectively. Robiinson still commands the loyalty of 20 members of his party’s 26 deputies, but on the Cambio Democratico side 13 of the party’s 25 deputies defied Martinelli’s orders to vote in a bloc with Robinson.

In the wake of it Robinson was able to retain a plurality of the PRD directorate and put off internal party elections until October of 2016, and on the strength of that he demanded party unity under his guidance but was ignored by the rebellious legislators. By Robinson’s math, as head of the National Assembly’s largest party caucus he was entitled to retain his position as the chair of the largest and most important of committees, the Budget Committee. Any substantial government spending has to pass through that committee and control over it gives leverage to demand jobs or government contracts to be passed out to loyal supporters. That sort of patronage to use in a prolonged battle for control of the Democratic Revolutionary Party is the last thing that the six dissident legislators want to give Robinson. Nor do any of the elements of the odd coalition that took over the legislature — the Panameñista Party, 12 CD deputies, the six PRD dissidents, the small MOLIRENA and Partido Popular contingents and the assembly’s lone independent — care to keep any of Robinson’s loyalists in political sinecures with the legislature itself. No replacement for the notorious former PRD legislator Franz Wever as the assembly’s secretary general has yet been announced, but surely that move is in the works.

Robinson used various parliamentary tricks to delay committee chair selections for three weeks but in the end he didn’t have the votes. He wll be replaced as chair of the Budget Committee by Jorge Alberto Rosas, a Panameñista from eastern Chiriqui province. The other committee chairs are:

Credentials: Jorge Ivan Arrocha (Panameñista)

Economy & Finance: Miguel Salas (Panameñista)

Commerce: Quibian Panay (PRD)

Infrastructure: Juan Carlos Arango (Partido Popular)

Education: Juan Moya (Panameñista)

Labor & Health: José Luis Castillo (Panameñista)

Communication & Transportation: Héctor Carrasquilla (CD)

Foreign Relations: Dana Castañeda (CD)

Population, Environment & Development: Luis Barría (Panameñista)

Indigenous Affairs: Absalón Herrera (CD)

Agriculture: Juan Miguel Ríos (Panameñista)

Government: Pedro Miguel González (PRD)

Women’s Affairs: Marylin Vallarino (CD)

Municipal Affairs: Javier Ortega (PRD)

Politicians’ impunity laws being rolled back

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Ana Matilde Gómez
Independent deputy Ana Matilde Gómez got the legislature to pass a bill that would restore the old statute of limitations for theft of public funds, unjustifiable enrichment while in public office and improper diversions of public funds. Photo from Gómez’s Twitter feed

Sequel to Martinelli’s and Robinson’s failed bid to take over the National Assembly (1)

Statute of limitations for corrupt pols raised, time limits on investigations challenged

by Eric Jackson

On July 23 the National Assembly passed Bill 149, an amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure that repealed Ricardo Martinelli’s 2013 law that halved the time for the statute of limitations to run for theft of public funds, unjustifiable enrichment while holding public office and diversion of public assets to private uses. As with most crimes — the main exception being murder and offenses deemed crimes against humanity under international law for which there is no statute of limitations — the period in which charges had to be brought for these crimes commonly committed by public officials was (and will again be) twice as long as the maximmum penalty for the offense. The law restoring the old statute of limitations is likely to be signed by President Varela.

So does this aggravate the potential legal woes for Ricardo Martinelli and his minions, or would it just apply to future crooks in high places? If there is to be any retroactive effect, it will not apply to cases already decided, nor those cases that are now in the processes of investigation or trial. But what about a theft of public assets that happened in 2013 which has yet to be formally investigated? Lawyers will surely argue about that one. In the Anglo-American Common Law system there is a fairly clear line about ex post facto laws: procedural laws can be retroactive, but substantive laws can’t be. The norm in that system is that statutes of limitation are substantive and can’t be changed retroactively to the detriment of the accused. But the Civil Code family of legal systems, of which Panama is a part, does not make this distinction between procedural and substantive. Already Ricardo Martinelli’s lawyers have been skirmishing in the Supreme Court over whether the new accusatory system of criminal procedure or the old inquisitory system will apply in his cases. Those issues have yet to be decided.

Meanwhile another of Martinelli’s impunity for politicians laws is under constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court. That 2012 law provides that when legislators — or in Martinelli’s case, members of the Central American Parliament — face trial before the Supreme Court, the investigation must be concluded within two months of the appointment of an investigating magistrate. For anyone else accused of a crime and facing ordinary criminal processes, that period is ordinarily one year. Supreme Court magistrate Oydén Ortega, who has been assigned the prosecutor role in the case of no-bid contracts with kickbaks in the purchase of dehydrated foods for school lunch programs, moved on July 2 for the assigned judge, Jerónimo Mejía, to grant him a 30-day extension of the time to finish his investigation and at the same time interposed a constitutional challenge to the shorter time given for investigating legislators. The case is on hold while the high court decides if the 2012 law is constitutional.

Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley at the Netroots Nation conference

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On the campaign trail

Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley
at the Netroots Nation conference

the bern in AZ
A Sanders supporter feels the Bern. Photo by Gage Skidmore

At the town hall — Bernie, Martin and the hecklers:

Sanders speaks in Phoenix later that night:

 

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