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Editorial, Harry Díaz’s rebellion; and Hillary’s server (again)

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HD
Magistrate Harry Díaz. Photo by the Supreme Court.

Harry Díaz’s rebellion

In an October 2014 interview with La Prensa — for which he is now being accused of a crime — Supreme Court magistrate had this exchange with the newspaper’s Flor Mizrachi:

LP: In general, what are the magistrates’ bad practices?
HD: Hiding files and selling judgments.
LP: What purpose do the magistrates’ trips serve?
HD: Supposedly they are for work.
LP: When is the court going to collapse?
HD: Now. It has been for some time.
LP: What’s missing?
HD: That people come and shut us down. That’s the only thing.

Díaz was talking about a court over which José Ayú Prado presided at the time. With the new year came an election in which Díaz opposed Ayú Prado for the court’s presidency for the next two years, but the latter was re-elected. Most court reformer advocates found Ayú Prado’s re-election repugnant. Then Díaz made angry statements, mixing personal disappointment, more specific charges of misconduct by Ayú Prado from before he was on the court and serving as Ricardo Martinelli’s attorney general, and lurid gossip about how one former colleage called a current one a pedophile.

As to Díaz’s tales of corruption, it was said that he was either complicit or silent until moved by a personal grudge not to be. But he had been talking about the general problem for more than a year before that election among magistates. The pedophilia rumors that Diáz publicized may indeed be about criminal activity but they are the sorts of things that Panamanian culture does not accept as subjects of public discussion, especially when unaccompanied by ironclad proofs. The complaints about the high court leadership election were both an expression of widely held public concerns and crybaby talk by someone who lost an election.

Díaz has now been charged with crimes by fellow magistrates, under Panama’s benighted criminal defamation laws. But the embattled magistrate has picked up the gauntlet, volunteered to testify before the legislature’s Credentials Committee and issued a five-page open letter to the nation.

The open letter is partly self-serving, partly civic-minded. Díaz points out some faults with the way that the court is run and offers some suggested solutions. Some of these would be positive administrative rules to deter judicial corruption. Some are based on naive notions that law can be separated from politics or that the selection of ideal magistrates can somehow approach an exact science.

A lot of the wrath that has come Harry Díaz’s way is the typical lot of whistle blowers everywhere. People whose real complaint is that they don’t want their own misconduct discussed at any time or in any manner insincerely ask “Why didn’t you say something before?” People attack the person with guilty knowledge and urge that such knowledge be categorically discounted because of the character of the person who reveals it.

Harry Díaz is not going to be a perfect witness. The serious charges that he makes should not be taken at face value without any attempt to corroborate them with extrinsic proofs. But there is already a body of independent evidence about the sorts of things that Dáiz alleges on the public record — witnesses to judicial misconduct, documentary evidence of files that have gone missing in the high court, financial records of third parties that suggest bribery in that institution, circumstances like courthouse security videos “gone missing” in order to “disprove” charges that Martinelli’s man Salo Shamah made frequent visits to the court when he had no proper business there.

Harry Díaz may not come out of the process smelling like a rose, but his allegations deserve a complete and serious investigaton.

 
Hillary’s server, again

People can try — and have tried — to read tea leaves or construct conspiracy theories about delays in the release of emails from Hillary Clinton’s private Internet server. However, on the afternoon of the Friday before the Monday of hotly contested Iowa caucuses, the Obama administration said that notwithstanding Mrs. Clinton’s earlier denials, her home server contained government secrets that were supposed to be carefully guarded. That private Internet server was vulnerable to prying by hackers, although we don’t know if its security was actually breached. Compounding Hillary’s problem was an announcement that 22 emails were so sensitive that they could not be released, and that State Department investigators would now look into whether any of the material in those emails was classified at the time they went through the unofficial server. It looks bad, and comes at a bad time for her presidential campaign.

Let us understand certain GOP screeds and distinguish those from proper thinking. Many Republicans will scream treason, but this is not treason. Treason is narrowly defined in US law as making war against the United States — like, arguably, that Bundy crowd — or adhering to and giving material aid to America’s enemies in times of declared war. The ultra-right likes to scream treason a lot because they are vicious totalitarians and treason is a death penalty offense. These people are the spiritual heirs ot the people who lynched Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman. Hillary’s critics on the Democratic side may momentarily have some adversaries in common, but have hardly anything in common with the far right or with what they think and say.

So did Hillary commit a crime? That’s debatable. Even if the material in those 22 emails was classified at the time, liability largely would hinge around knowledge and intent. We should leave those arguments to lawyers in judicial settings. The issue before the voters is not who is a criminal but the relative qualities of the judgment of those who would be president of the United States.

Hillary Clinton showed dangerously bad judgment. For starters, the main purpose of that private server was to evade the Freedom of Information act and hide non-classified public business from public view. She’s neither careful about protecting the nation’s secrets nor forthcoming with information that it’s the public’s right to have. Sure, she has all this international experience. But in the course of it she has never done very well. Hillary’s experiences are not qualifications and this is but one more example of his.

 
Bear in mind…

 

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world: indeed it’s the only thing that ever has!
Margaret Mead

 

I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.
Albert Einstein

 

Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

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Jackson: Vaya con Dios, Paul Kantner

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Vaya con Dios, Paul Kantner

por Eric Jackson

Paul Kantner murió ayer en su natal San Francisco. Para entender la generación de estadounidenses que se resistió a la guerra de Vietnam, y para entender la campaña de Bernie Sanders de hoy, ayuda a entender lo que Pablo Kantner representaba.

“Wooden Ships” –buques de madera– es uno de los himnos clásicos contra la guerra. Paul Kantner era el autor de las letras. Se trata de un encuentro entre dos soldados en las secuelas de una guerra atroz que dejó la tierra envenenado y todo de metal con un brillo radiactivo.

Si me sonríes, sabes lo entenderé
Porque eso es algo que todos en todas partes se hacen en la misma lengua

Puedo ver por tu abrigo, mi amigo, que estás del otro lado
Sólo hay una cosa que tengo que saber –¿Me puede decir por favor, quién ganó la guerra?

Paul Kantner y su esposa y compañero de banda en el momento, Grace Slick, estaban allí para la lucha, prestando asistencia cuando estábamos encarcelados, impulsándonos hacia adelante con su música.

Vaya con Dios, Paul Kantner.

 

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Vic Brown’s Panama Jazz Festival scenes (2): the Wednesday gala

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Jazz
Three generations of Danilo Pérezes, with wives and mothers. The middle Danilo was proud to show off his “galactic” new shoes. Patricia Zarate, a saxophonist, educator, healer and mother of the third generation Danilo, ran the Latin American Music Therapy Congress that was held in conjunction with the festival. The first generation Danilo, an educator and noteworthy singer, plays a management role in the festivals and foundation and is credited by his son as inspiring these events.

Vic Brown’s Panama Jazz Festival scenes (2): the Wednesday gala

photos by Victor Brown
 
Multifaceted Puerto Rican singer Danny Rivera.
Multifaceted Puerto Rican singer Danny Rivera.

 

PJF
Danny Rivera and Danilo Pérez Jr.

 

PJFVic
Danny Rivera and Joshue Ashby.

 

Vic Weston
Mayor Blandón presents Brooklyn jazz pianist Randy Weston with a key to the city.

 

Vic MC
The Pan-American Detroit Big Band, composed of students and professors from Wayne State University and the Berklee Global Jazz Institute.

 

PJF b
How it’s done.

 

Danny Rivera and Danilo Pérez Sr. perform"Historia de un Amor." Rivera gave Danilo Pérez Jr. one of his big breaks in music by having the latter accompany him when he was a 14-yearr-old piano prodigy.
Danny Rivera and Danilo Pérez Sr. perform”Historia de un Amor.” Rivera gave Danilo Pérez Jr. one of his big breaks in music by having the latter accompany him when he was a 14-yearr-old piano prodigy.

 

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Chan, The spreading Zika epidemic

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zika
One of the symptoms of a Zika virus infection. Photo by Alexius Salvador.

Briefing to the WHO Executive Board on the Zika situation

by Margaret Chan — director of the World Health Organization

Distinguished members of the board, representatives of member states, ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to this briefing on the Zika situation. I will give you a brief history of this disease and explain why WHO is so deeply concerned.

The Zika virus was first isolated in 1947 from a monkey in the Zika forest of Uganda. Its historical home has been in a narrow equatorial belt stretching across Africa and into equatorial Asia.

For decades, the disease, transmitted by the Aedes genus of mosquito, slumbered, affecting mainly monkeys. In humans, Zika occasionally caused a mild disease of low concern.

In 2007, Zika expanded its geographical range to cause the first documented outbreak in the Pacific islands, in the Federated States of Micronesia. From 2013-2014, four additional Pacific island nations documented large Zika outbreaks.

In French Polynesia, the Zika outbreak was associated with neurological complications at a time when the virus was co-circulating with dengue. That was a unique feature, but difficult to interpret.

The situation today is dramatically different. Last year, the virus was detected in the Americas, where it is now spreading explosively. As of today, cases have been reported in 23 countries and territories in the region.

The level of alarm is extremely high.

Arrival of the virus in some places has been associated with a steep increase in the birth of babies with abnormally small heads and in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome.

A causal relationship between Zika virus infection and birth malformations and neurological syndromes has not yet been established, but is strongly suspected.

The possible links, only recently suspected, have rapidly changed the risk profile of Zika, from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions. The increased incidence of microcephaly is particularly alarming, as it places a heart-breaking burden on families and communities.

WHO is deeply concerned about this rapidly evolving situation for four main reasons:

  • the possible association of infection with birth malformations and neurological syndromes
  • the potential for further international spread given the wide geographical distribution of the mosquito vector
  • the lack of population immunity in newly affected areas
  • and the absence of vaccines, specific treatments, and rapid diagnostic tests.

Moreover, conditions associated with this year’s El Niño weather pattern are expected to increase mosquito populations greatly in many areas.

The level of concern is high, as is the level of uncertainty. Questions abound. We need to get some answers quickly.

For all these reasons, I have decided to convene an Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations. The committee will meet in Geneva on Monday, 1 February.

I am asking the committee for advice on the appropriate level of international concern and for recommended measures that should be undertaken in affected countries and elsewhere. I will also ask the committee to prioritize areas where research is most urgently needed.

Decisions concerning the committee’s advice to me will be made public on our website.

Thank you.

 

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What Democrats are saying: Bernie picks up endorsements

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Lucy 2Why I support Bernie Sanders

by Lucy Flores

I was a junior in college when the reality of today’s economic and social injustice hit me squarely in the gut with soul crushing force. After managing through my own set of difficult circumstances — escaping the cycle of poverty and dysfunction that included abandonment by my mother, gang-involvement, a stint on juvenile parole, a teenage abortion and becoming a high school drop-out — I was working several jobs to get myself through school at the University of Southern California.

One of those jobs was assessing kids involved in a long-term study on the impact of early learning on brain development. As a research assistant I would go to the kids’ homes and periodically assess their progress. Many of our participants lived in neighboring South Central Los Angeles where poverty, violence and drugs were rampant, but given my own experience growing up in similar conditions, that type of environment didn’t shock my senses very much.

I arrived at my assigned child’s house one day and began my normal routine of introducing myself to the parent and figuring out where in the home was best to do the assessment. I was used to working just about anywhere given that most homes I went to were tiny and cramped and generally didn’t have a lot of room to work with, but on this occasion I noticed right off the bat that this was going to be different.

As soon as I walked into the tiny one-bedroom, single-story apartment, I looked around and saw things everywhere — dirty clothes, dishes, shoes, plastic and paper bags, and what seemed like countless other things — on just about every surface imaginable. There literally was not a single space to clear off or rearrange and the house smelled like it hadn’t been exposed to fresh air in weeks, so I decided to work with the child on the apartment stoop.

The child was about 5 years old — a young black boy who even despite his living conditions had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. I made my way through my standard questions — “How often do you read?” “Sometimes, when I’m in school.” “How often does your mom read with you?” “Never.” “Do you enjoy reading?” “Yes.” “How much? On a scale of sad face to happy face, point to the face that shows how much you enjoy reading.” He pointed to happy face. So on and so forth. When we got to the end, I told him he did great and began to put away my things.

As I was packing, he abruptly pointed to something and said, “Can I have that?” I didn’t have anything special so I looked at him confused and asked, “Have what?” “That.” He said, still pointing. I looked down again and saw that my happy face assessment sheet was at the top of my stack of papers. I immediately realized he wanted to keep my sheet – my black and white, photo-copied a thousand times over, sheet that had sad to happy faces on it. Then I realized how anxious he seemed that I might say no, so I asked, “Do you have any books at all in there?” “No.” “Do you have anything to read at all? A magazine or something?” “No.” “Do you have toys? Or anything to play with?” “No.” “Do you have anything at all? Like crayons or pens or something?” “No.”

And then it struck me: this bright kid, this happy, starry-eyed kid, this kid with all the potential in the world, had nothing. He had a filthy, dirty apartment with no active parenting, no role models around, and I was about to make his week just by giving him my happy face sheet. So I said, “Well of course you can have my sheet!” Then I started to furiously dig around my bag to see what else I could find. I found some neon highlighters he could color with, a few extra happy face sheets, and some red and blue pens.

I gave it all to him. Then I said, “Ok, I have to go now. Have fun coloring your sheets. And remember to read at school every chance you get!” He happily nodded as he walked back into his filthy apartment. I walked to the sidewalk, sat on the curb, and sobbed uncontrollably. I sobbed with despair I hadn’t felt, well, ever. I knew as soon as I walked away what was likely in store for that kid — I knew the odds were against him, just like they were against me. I knew that statistically-speaking, he was likelier to end up in prison or dead than end up attending college. I knew that I had just witnessed the human tragedy that is wasted potential.

And I knew I was powerless to do anything about it. Until I realized that I wasn’t.

Until I realized that change is achieved one person at a time, one day at a time, and one vote at a time.

I think about this boy all the time. I wonder if he beat the odds. I wonder where he is. I wonder if he’s still alive. He still makes my heart hurt. I thought about him when I first heard Bernie Sanders speak.

Choosing which candidate to support for president was one of the most difficult tasks I have done in the recent past. I’ve always been strong in my resolve, firmly planted in my roots and guided by my sense of justice. I have never made a political decision based on what was the “smart” or “safe” thing to do (just ask any of my often times dismayed political advisors) and I have always done what I believed aligned with my values and my ideals. But this decision was difficult because both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are both accomplished and worthy candidates, and both are light years ahead of any of the Republican choices. And as the first Latina elected to the Nevada legislature in the history of the state, and as a young woman who has struggled mightily in this male-dominated world of politics, Hillary inspires a lot of pride.

But only one of these candidates makes me think of that young boy in South Central Los Angeles — and that’s Bernie Sanders. We used to live in a country where the “American Dream” was attainable for most. We used to live in a country where you could make it if you tried, where upward mobility was a tangible thing, and where education was the key to success.

But that’s not the America we live in anymore. Fewer and fewer Americans are able to break the cycle of poverty, wages are stagnant or declining for most except for the top 1%, and our political system is dominated by millionaires and billionaires. Secure retirements and pensions are becoming a thing of the past, and that key to success via education is instead becoming a weight of massive debt hanging around the necks of young people everywhere, myself included. How did we end up in a country where you can break the cycle of poverty only to end up in a cycle of debt?

I believe that Bernie Sanders wakes up every day with these things on his mind. That the unfairness of it all weighs on his heart, just like it does mine, and that when he is elected, he will do whatever it takes to make America the land of opportunity again. I believe that Bernie Sanders will lead the charge, with many millions of Americans behind him, against the unfettered Wall Street greed that has threatened the very existence of the middle class and shackled so many more to permanent poverty. I believe that now, more than ever, America needs a political revolution.

I hope you will join me.

 Lucy Flores, the first Latina to serve in the Nevada legislature, is running for Congress in that state’s Fourth Congressional District.

 

 

 

 

Kareem  

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What Democrats are saying: Hillary picks up endorsements

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What Democrats are saying:
Hillary picks up endorsements

 

 

 

 
HRC for HRC

 

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What Democrats are saying (the January 17 debate and tonight’s town hall)

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CNN
Tonight on CNN, with all of the Democratic candidates, hosted by Chris Cuomo.

What Democrats are saying

The transcript of the January 17 debate

 

 

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¿Wappin? Holding out for the rains

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BC
Belinda Carlisle. Photo by Marek Jezierski.

¿Wappin? Holding out for the rains

Joss Stone – People Get Ready
https://youtu.be/msC8HkU3dpI

War – City, Country, City
https://youtu.be/DZmeFGmiQDI

Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Pancho and Lefty
https://youtu.be/CvdmxszsDM8

Duke Robillard – Blues A Rama
https://youtu.be/fl0l0mBmGDk

Buckwheat Zydeco – Beast of Burden
https://youtu.be/p9OGc99LOd0

Alejandro Escovedo – Sally Was a Cop
https://youtu.be/kTLu-wh5TIU

Eric Clapton – Let It Rain
https://youtu.be/y86kDFaJ2h4

Nikki Reed – Fly With You
https://youtu.be/L0_2e1-uUPc

Melissa Aldana – You’re My Everything
https://youtu.be/AueMO4N2BLA

Hello Seahorse! – Me He Convertido
https://youtu.be/GWQd-xzfXL4

Sia – Unstoppable
https://youtu.be/cxjvTXo9WWM

The Doors – Light My Fire
https://youtu.be/deB_u-to-IE

Phish – Blaze On
https://youtu.be/dn_wiM3xLDE

Tracy Chapman – Talking About a Revolution
https://youtu.be/Xv8FBjo1Y8I

Crosby, Stills & Nash – Wooden Ships
https://youtu.be/33SJMewZts4

Belinda Carlisle – Heaven Is A Place On Earth
https://youtu.be/P-WP6POdTgY

Simon & Garfunkel – America
https://youtu.be/W773ZPJhcVw

 

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Courts in crisis — the usual, and then some

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FB Miguel and Mariela
Here we have a Facebook exchange that includes two of the nation’s noteworthy newspaper columnists, constitutional law professor Miguel Antonio Bernal and former Government and Justice Minister Mariela Sagel. He pointed out that the televised statements of magistrate Harry Díaz reveal the man to have been an accomplice in the crimes that he denounced. She found the whole situation repugnaant, both the content of what was said and the context in which it was said, and cited it as evidence of a rotten Supreme Court.

Another judicial crisis

by Eric Jackson
This situation could nullify the process.
José Ayú Prado
presiding magistrate of the Supreme Court
suggesting that magistrate Harry Díaz’s declarations about
Ayú Prado’s alleged role in Ricardo Martinelli’s eaavesdropping
could let Martinelli off on criminal invasion of privacy charges

 

I am completely at the disposition of the Honorable Assembly of Deputies, for what it considers pertinent.
Supreme Court magistrate Harry Díaz
volunteering to testify before the legislature

 

I was the object of the slimiest and most unfounded allegations made by a colleague on the Supreme Court of Justice.
Supreme Court magistrate Luis Ramón Fábrega

 

The crisis in the justice system is a problem with diverse causes and one of the solutions is in the president’s hands, by constitutional reforms.
Juan Carlos Araúz
VP of the Colegio de Abogados

 

In a nutshell, we have divisions in a nine-member Supreme Court of Justice, five of whose magistrates were appointed by our thuggish fugitive ex-president Ricardo Martinelli, atop a judicial system that has been notoriously corrupt since well before Martinelli arose as a public figure. In December the court approved an arrest order against Martinelli, but the issuance of this warrant is administratively delayed for reasons yet to be explained. The popular expectation was for the warrant to be promptly signed and passed on to INTERPOL and the US government so as to begin proceedings to extradite Martinelli from Miami — or to prompt the Obama administration to embrace the supermarket baron and would-be proxy president as a most desirable alien.

So were two new appointments by President Varela the change in the high court’s direction for which many had hoped? The two new magistrate, Angela Russo and Cecelio Cedalise — who replaced Martín Torrijos appointees — voted with Martinelli appointees José Ayú Prado, Luis Ramón Fábrega and Hernán De León to re-elect Ayú Prado for another two years as the high court’s president. The other two Martinelli appointees, Harry Díaz and Abel Zamorano, voted for Díaz. One of the problems with Ayú Prado is that at the time of his re-election he had eight different criminal complaints about him unresolved and pending before the National Assembly’s Credentials Committee. Ayú Prado began his public sector career as one of General Noriega’s prosecutors and the most explosive of the allegations against him comes from the time that he was Ricardo Martinelli’s attorney general. It is said that he, along with former Tourism Minister Salomón Shamah, tampered with a key witness in the Financial Pacific scandal, Mayte Pellegrini, to coerce her into retracting insider stock trading allegations against Ricardo Martinelli. The Financial Pacific case is one of matters about Martinelli hat is before the Supreme Court. Ayú Prado had been chosen as the judge in that Supreme Court proceeding but after a great public hue and cry he removed himself from any participation in the case

Díaz was annoyed about losing the race against Ayú Prado for the high court presidency and suggested a dark conspiracy about it. Most of the nation’s justice reform advocates were also annoyed, and Ayú Prado was, after all, one of the people whom Varela advised to resign shortly after the May 2014 presidential election. That call went unheeded and now Ayú Prado is the only one left in office of the several officials whose exit Varela had requested. In this instance, however, the president took the public position that elections of court officers and arguments among magistrates are matters exclusively for the judicial branch of government, in which the executive branch should not interfere.

So on January 14 Díaz sat down with Telemetro for an interview, and in the course of a generally bitter rant dropped two hearsay bombshells. He said that former Martinelli attorney and victim of Martinelli’s eavesdropping Rosendo Rivera testified last September in the Martinelli eavesdropping case that the electronic surveillance program had a “legal” tangent wherein Ayú Prado and Shamah plotted — when Ayú Prado was attorney general — to insert the political spying files into supposedly ultra-secret drug and organized crime prosecution files. Rivera said that another prosecutor was present for the conversation, she or he not being named at this time. Diáz also said that current jailbird but then Supreme Court magistrate Alejandro Moncada Luna had told him that their colleague Fábrega is a pedophile.

The Code of Criminal Procedure provides that material from investigations is to be confidential while a matter is pending — a principle that is frequently violated by prosecutors. It seems that it is not actually a crime to break this rule, although arguments to the contrary can be made. Under the relatively recent adversarial system rules it’s not particularly clear what the remedy for a breach of confidentiality would be.

And spreading infamous gossip about a colleague? Forget about the law, and whether Díaz can stay off of a defamation hook by saying that he’s just repeating what someone told him and not stating the underlying allegation as a matter of fact. It’s crude behavior, and not just for judges, especially when the source of the bochinche is somebody as notoriously dishonest as Alejandro Moncada Luna.

So what was the nature of the firestorm of criticism that Díaz set off? For part of the press it was a big scoop. But for most court reform advocates it was scorn for Díaz coupled with a renewed call for a thorough investigation of the Rosendo Rivera allegations that he passed on and about high court corruption in general.

Ayú Prado sent a note to the legislature’s president, Rubén De León, asking him to begin proceedings to remove Díaz for unethical behavior. Díaz said he’d gladly testify in such a proceeding. With the sole exception of the erratic PRD deputy Zulay Rodríguez, the Credentials Committee rejected Ayú Prado’s request, arguing that it did not meet the standards for a proper criminal complaint against a public official. So Ayú Prado, this time joined by magistrates Fábrega and De León, came back with a complaint more or less in standard form, with the “summary proofs” being the Telemetro interview and an October 2014 interview with La Prensa in which Díaz suggested that the Moncada Luna affair was “just the tip of the iceberg” of Supreme Court corruption. Díaz responded with a criminal complaint of his own, attaching Rivera’s testimony as the summary proof.

In his own statements to the press, Ayú Prado has asserted two controversial legal theories. One is that information from one investigation — in this case the spying case against Martinelli — can’t be used to investigate another matter such as Ayú Prado’s and Shamah’s alleged involvement in that program. The other is that a breach of confidentiality in an investigation voids the possibility of a prosecution. (Think, for a moment, on how that principle would apply to all of those police and prosecutor trophy photos of the drug suspects with the stuff they were said to have been holding.)

The legislature itself may be too fragmented and corrupt to effectively confront these new charges. They just might want to put these on the docket after the other pending matters and first move against Ayú Prado for witness tampering in the Financial Pacific case.

With respect to Shamah, the ordinary prosecutors of the Public Ministry rather than the Supreme Court would have jurisdiction. This would not be the first time that allegations of his interventions with the legal system have come up. Former Fourth Penal Circuit judge Alexis Ballesteros had complained back before the 2014 elections that Shamah had visited Ayú Prado and alternate magistrates Secundino Mendieta and Wilfredo Sáenz at the Supreme Court to intervene in a case that was before Ballesteros. The complaining trial judge cited courthouse security videos as proofs that these meetings with Shamah happened — but then the videos went missing. Ballesteros was removed from the bench.

Meanwhile, any number of people could recite a litany about the Panamanian courts that goes way back. To cite just a few current things:

  • When Alejandro Moncada Luna was removed as a magistrate, his erstwhile colleagues found the files of more than 100 cases on which he had been sitting, improperly blocking action on them. This docket backlog has hardly been addressed. One of the matters still left haning was an amparo de garantías — a constitutional challenge — to the voiding of the Charles Wilson Lucom will, in which the wealthy American left Hacienda Santa Monico, now valued at about $150 million, to a foundation for the benefit of Panama’s neediest kids. That property is now in the hands of Alberto Vallarino, one of Panama’s richest men, a former government minister and a prominent member of President Varela’s Panameñista Party. Were the prompt hearing that was supposed to happen years ago to take place and the will to be restored, it would have major economic consequences, not only for Vallarino and those from whom he purchased but also for foreigners who would have a bit of reassurance that their estates would not be stolen by way of judicial corruption.
  • Fugitive Mayer Mizrachi, the son of Ricardo Martinelli’s brother-in-law Aaron Mizrachi, was arrested in Colombia pursuant to an INTERPOL “red note” arising from charges that he was paid by the Panamanian government for a set of Criptext email tracking and erasure programs that were never installed. A trial judge denied a defense motion in absentia for bail, but an appeals judge granted a bail that does not even require him to return to Panama and present himself before the court.
  • The Chiriqui chapter of the nation’s main bar association, the Colegio de Abogados, issued a stinging complaint about widespread judicial corruption, including by killing cases by denying the funds needed to pursue them.
  • The tax prosecutor has received a complaint about a juvenile court judge, known for some odd rulings on child support and alimony cases and some close ties to Alejandro Moncada Luna, having amassed a real estate empire that can’t be explained by her judge’s salary or other legitimate income.

… and on and on. It’s renewing calls for a constituent assembly that could draft a new constitution that would cut short the careers of all Supreme Court magistrates once adopted and in effect. However, there would be many obstacles to surmount on the way toward that. There is a very difficult and unprecedented means to call a constitutional convention by citizens’ petition, but otherwise the president or the legislature would have to convene such a process. It doesn’t seem at this point that there is much will to do this within Panama’s political caste.

 

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Polo Ciudadano, ¿Hacia dónde va el País?

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JC y AP
Varla y Ayú Prado. Foto por la Presidencia.

¿Hacia dónde va el País?

por el Polo Ciudadano

La corrupción continúa carcomiendo al régimen político panameño, ahora bajo el gobierno del partido Panameñista, encabezado por Juan C. Varela.

Frente la mirada del pueblo panameño, el régimen político panameño continúa su proceso de putrefacción heredado de los gobiernos de los últimos 25 años, disfrazados de “democracia”, pero en los que una oligarquía corrupta sigue mandando a través de un puñado de partidos (PRD, Panameñista, CD, Molirena y PP).

Los grandes negociados y la corrupción, que las actuales autoridades denunciaban en el gobierno anterior del CD – Ricardo Martinelli, ahora aparecen ante la faz pública como actos cometidos por los funcionarios actuales, demostrando que sólo cambiaron las formas, pero el fondo sigue igual.

Constituyen manifestaciones actuales de ese proceso de putrefacción y corruptela: en el uso continuado del PAN (ahora DAS), para repartir contratos públicos a empresas favoritas a través del método de la “fragmentación de materia”, que ha salpicado al ministro de vivienda; la detención de allegados a dos diputados con importantes cargamentos de drogas y dinero sucio; y las declaraciones auto-incriminatorias del magistrado de la Corte Suprema, Harry Díaz, por las que reconoce actos de corrupción en el sistema judicial.

A esta nueva fase de corrupción podemos sumarle la aplicación continuada de una política económica neoliberal que sigue deteriorando la calidad de vida del pueblo panameño y aumentando la pauperización. Pese a las estadísticas manipuladas, es evidente un aumento de precios considerables en los alimentos de la canasta básica; un crecimiento ligero del desempleo abierto y de la informalidad que afecta a la mitad de la fuerza de trabajo; la continuidad del deterioro de los servicios públicos en los barrios populares: (el transporte, agua, educación y salud) siguen en picada y cada semana alguna comunidad protesta en las calles y solo tiene por respuesta los antimotines y la policía.

Con relación a lo que en su momento hizo Ricardo Martinelli B., Juan C. Varela solo ha cambiado los métodos y maneras de actuar. Ya que en vez del uso inmediato de la represión y la fuerza para imponer sus políticas, cada vez que puede, este usa (como se dice en el argot popular) la “vaselina” del diálogo.

Un diálogo tramposo y amañado que sólo sirve para distraer y continuar con sus imposiciones. Ejemplo de ello fue la trampa a la dirigencia Ngäbe-Buglé con el proyecto de Barro Blanco; y la que se tendió a los gremios de la salud a cambio de un aumento salarial (incumplido a los técnicos de enfermería) para legitimar una “integración” que cargue sobre la Caja de Seguro Social el presupuesto del MINSA.

Y viene más: ya se anuncia la privatización de la producción de agua en el lago Bayano, que implicará carestía del “vital líquido”; vienen nuevas reformas al sistema de jubilaciones para aumentar la edad y las cuotas legitimando el saqueo de los fondos del programa para favorecer el negociado de la “ciudad hospitalaria”; continúa el esquema de las “escuelas modelo” de Lucy Molinar, mientras que las escuelas públicas se caen a pedazos; las concesiones mineras e hidroeléctricas a grandes capitales nacionales y extranjeros, etc.

Todas estas situaciones reales, requieren de parte de los ciudadan@s concientes y honestos del país, del movimiento obrero y popular, una respuesta que frene el proceso de las nuevas y estilizadas imposiciones neoliberales y frente a la avanzada de la corrupción galopante.

Urge la importancia de crear conciencia y unidad en la diversidad, que permita ir construyendo un movimiento social unitario y combativo, que sea referente para las luchas que a diario se producen en el país, y que sea la base sobre la que se construya un movimiento ciudadano, político y alternativo, a la partidocracia existente de la oligarquía y de los empresario corruptos.

Aunque persisten algunas siglas, la realidad es que todas las referencias que existían hace diez años, han desaparecido del imaginario popular.

Frente a esa realidad como Polo Ciudadano creemos que hay que unir esfuerzos en aras de construir, sobre la experiencia, algo nuevo que le de espacios reales de opinión, participación y acción al pueblo panameño.

Debemos superar la persistencia de métodos soberbios, sectarios y autoproclamatarios en el movimiento sindical y popular que están dificultando, obstaculizando y entorpeciendo la construcción de esa alternativa real de referencia. De lo contrario, las diversas acciones de protesta solo servirán para beneficiar a uno de los sectores burgueses en pugna. Y, en la eventualidad de que se convoque una Asamblea Constituyente, como ya suena y se rumora, corremos el peligro de quedar sin representación real y efectiva como pueblo.

 

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