Martinelli moves to purge most of his Cambio Democratico party
by Eric Jackson
They run CD on the emotions of three people.
Yanibel Abrego (CD-Capira)
“Los locos somos más” (There are more of us crazies). Sic. In 2009 Ricardo Martinelli ran for president on a platform of being crazy, ran a corrupt and heavy-handed five-year regime and then fell short of his attempt at a proxy re-election (a figurehead with a surname for president and the first lady for vice president). Now in exile in Miami, the vagaries of the legal systems and politics of two countries make the former Panamanian president’s existence precarious. More than a dozen criminal cases slowly proceed in the Panamanian courts, with perhaps the weakest political case for a US extradition to Panama most advanced. Martinelli’s closest US political friends, the right-wing Cuban-American exiles, are politically at their weakest since the middle of the 1960s. Of the 25-member Cambio Democratico legislative caucus, 16 are in open revolt against the party’s founder and boss.
The erstwhile president’s inner circle is down to about three since an edict from Martinelli that CD Secretary General Rómulo Roux’s functions and powers will be largely transferred to former Labor Minister Alma Cortés but the Electoral Tribunal declining to recognize the validity of that reorganization. The troika would be Martinelli, his publicist Eduardo Camacho and Cortés.
The latest criminal investigation to annoy Martinelli has Panamanian prosecutors asking questions about the ex-president’s brother-in-law Aaron Mizrachi and asking courts to help them obtain bank records or other documents in three countries — the United States, Mexico and the British Virgin Islands — about a bribery scandal which has earned an exec from the SAP software company a conviction in a US federal court that came with a judge’s order not to contact any of his co-conspirators, one of whom was named as Ricardo Martinelli. If evidence comes up pointing to Ricardo Martinelli, as is surely the intention, then the investigation continues in the Public Ministry as to Mizrachi but gets referred to the Supreme Court insofar as it involves Martinelli. An extradition request to the United States about a bribery case that has already been adjudicated as to others in the US federal courts would be more politically palatable to Washington than the current request, which is about illegal electronic eavesdropping.
So is Alma Cortés, who came to the Martinelli administration from a career as a noteworthy defense attorney for money launderers and other mafiosi, going to get her man off the hook? Actually, there are other lawyers working on that — lots of them — but Cortés is facing her own troubles, about allegations that she obtained some $3.5 million while holding a public office, which she cannot explain as having come from any legitimate source.
The dissident CD deputies, now part of a majority legislative coalition with PRD colleagues who have turned their back on their party’s paper boss Benicio Robinson and the members of President Juan Carlos Varela’s Panameñista Party, are busy with talks to divide committee assignments for the next year. The group that rebelled against Martinelli is assured five of the 15 committee chairs.
Ricardo Martinelli vows to expel the wayward majority of his party and remove the rebellious deputies from their seats in the legislature. But the expulsion from the party would be much easier than removing people from the legislature. To remove a legislator the party must show that she or he violated clear party statutes that had been in force and approved by the Electoral Tribunal before that legislator was elected. Past decisions suggest that the election magistrates will set the procedural bar so high that the CD rebels will not be removable by any means that pass legal muster. If the Electoral Tribunal wants to get radical about it — unlikely, but possible — they might hold that it’s flat-out improper to run a Panamanian political party from foreign exile, or that it’s illegal for a political party to be run as a dictatorship in the context of our purportedly democratic society.
The first two test cases for Martinelli’s purge are being brought against Capira legislator Yanibel Abrego and her colleague from Anton, Raúl Hernández. They vow to fight the expulsion both inside and outside of the party. Their lawyers have begin a rather standard defense, arguing that the deputies have not received proper notice of the moves against them. Will they be able to run out the calendar on this year’s legislative term by procedural motions alone? Will the accusers be in jail by the time that any accusation against Abrego or Hernández gets heard in court?
Roux, for his part, is going through the motions of being party secretary general and most probably enjoying the lack of orders from Martinelli. He’s calling for party unity and wants to be the CD nominee in 2019.
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Are there some gringos who are so upset by the Varela administration’s decision to prolong the ban on private importation of firearms into Panama that they have decided to leave? For all of the economic hit that this could mean to the national economy, we should consider that a blessing.
There are a few other import restrictions that ought to be considered at the same time.
Panama rarely admits it, but we do have race relations problems here. What we don’t have in any substantial supply is the US obsession about race. Racial hatreds of any sort and the practice, preaching or preparation for racial violence are worse than any drug that might come into our territory.
The Panamanian government should take more care to exclude these things. Isn’t “Wild Bill” a former vendor of white supremacist materials who took his crime spree to our shores? Isn’t there a strong racial component to the “sovereign citizen” pretension about how the US Constitution is invalid because the amendments passed after the Civil War — banning slavery, establishing US citizenship for everyone born in the USA and so on — and haven’t we had people who preach that stuff colonizing here for years? Isn’t there a section of Panama’s gringo community that considers George Zimmerman’s vigilante patrols and killing of Trayvon Martin to be proper models of conduct in society? Panama already has laws against foreigners preaching intolerance, and while these could be twisted into something quite oppressive, we should at least bar entry to members of known racial hate groups that are clearly identifiable as such.
Panama has freedom of expression, which is a good thing. However, we tolerate too much in the way of false advertising — how else could fraud be a national sport? Gun sellers’ propaganda, quite often spread as undisclosed advertisements embedded within Hollywood entertainment shows, aims to convince people that having a gun in the home or on the person makes a person safer. This is demonstrably untrue, and until recently we had this stuff repeated by a member of President Varela’s cabinet. That wiser heads in the government prevailed is a relief, but that there was little argument against gun seller’s advertising in high places coming from the general public ought to be a matter of concern. That easy acceptance of a fraudulent pitch was in part the influence of imported culture.
Certainly we should do more to promote Panamanian culture and encourage a wider selection of international culture to reduce the saturation of such messages. We should also think about what we might do to limit the exposure of children to such stuff. A US ratings system that approves sadism for the whole family surely does not serve Panama very well, but then the subjectivity, biases, prudishness and opportunities for political censorship or ordinary corruption implicit in any ratings system ought to caution us about any effort to develop one of our own. However, short of setting themselves up as censors there are things that opinion leader can do. Media critics, politicians, educators and clergy ought to be in the forefront of those calling out works that would introduce weapons fetishes and the glorification of violence into our culture.
The gun sellers’ systemic failure
It won’t look like a failure when the week’s sales figures are in. A wannabe hero who was kicked out of the US Army killed five Dallas cops who were doing their jobs in honorable and exemplary fashion, and now hordes of frightened white folks will descend upon gun shops to tool up just in case there is a race war that brings some black kid armed with iced tea and skittles walking through their neighborhood. Massacres are sales bonanzas for the firearms industry.
Can we just drop the pretenses about what the NRA and its mouthpieces in government are? They are advertising proxies for weapons merchants and their arguments should always be evaluated in that light.
But what did the recent spate of racially charged killings tell us?
That racism thrives in the USA, such that black lives don’t matter as much as other people’s lives as far as the practical effect of the law’s application goes, is an ugly fact. Yeah, yeah — the GOP talking points say that it’s racist to say that. In November we shall see how emphatic non-white voters, and a lot of white ones too, can be in the face of a race-baiting major party candidate for president.
But take climate of fear and hatred that as a momentary given, and focus on the “historical” arguments made in favor of an unrestricted and enhanced arms race in the homes and stores and on the streets of the USA. Is it, as the gun sellers’ front groups say, that people need to have guns so that they can rise up against an oppressive government?
The original Constitutional Convention happened in large part because those who had led the United States to independence from the British Empire were terrified and appalled by the prospect of that sort of thing. With the just-ended Shays’ Rebellion in their minds, they gathered in Philadelphia not to celebrate but to suppress such insurrections.
So did somebody object to that effort to restrict the possibility of armed uprisings? Indeed, many did. Their most outspoken leader was Patrick Henry, who objected that the state and local militias would be suppressed under the new constitutional order. And what was the militia in his home state of Virginia, and in other southern states? It was patrols by white men, known to blacks as the patterollers, to keep black people off of the roads so as to inhibit slaves from escapíng to freedom or going from plantation to plantation to organize revolts. On the western frontier the militia was about white people being ready to resolve land disputes with established native communities at the point of a gun. Thus the Second Amendment: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
What is a “militia,” who or what are “the People,” what is the meaning of “well regulated” and what “a free State” is are all questions whose answers might be surmised by reference to what existed at the time. Back when the US constitutional order began, states could and did ban private possession of cannons or possession of any sort of firearms by black people whether enslaved or emancipated. But now the arms merchants have convinced a lot of Americans and some members of the Supreme Court that the Second Amendment references to anything beyond a notion that anyone gets to have any weapon she or he can afford to acquire are words to be ignored as if they were not there. And the gun nut shills for the firearms industry assure us that this is because we may need to violate Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution, that bit about how “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”
So how well did the Bundy family’s war against the United States go? How successful was Micah Johnson’s war against the Dallas Police and the DART transit cops? Do we hear tales of a hideous government conspiracy to kill one of the Bundys’ armed acolytes in flight after the raid? Do we see YouTube videos about how the slaying of five police officers by a fanatic was a hoax by the mayor of Dallas? Do we hear the police criticized for ending the armed standoff with Johnson by sending in a robot with an improvised bomb.
In the real world governments and their officers sometimes do abusive things, but taking up arms against governments is usually a good way to get crushed like a bug and left in a pool of blood. But hey, Nancy Lanza was a good customer when she was making her doomsday preparations, and if her particular doomsday came at the hands of her equally crazed son Adam, that’s just business for the arms merchants. We can also be sure that Micah Johnson was somebody’s profitable customer.
The sales pitch used on Nancy Lanza got a bunch of little kids and some of their school’s teachers and its principal and psychologist killed. The sales pitch used on Micah Johnson got five police officers killed. The fallacies made the sale, but while the atrocities that were sparked boosted gun sales, now those sorts of pitches annoy rather than convince most Americans. They still do a brisk business, but the gun merchants’ propaganda campaign has failed.
What any society’s weapons laws ought to be is a complex matrix of considerations. Delusions and fake history are properly excluded from the factors that are taken into account.
Bear in mind…
It is hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.
Like the wind crying endlessly through the universe, Time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike. And all that we are, all that remains, is in the memories of those who cared we came this way for a brief moment.
Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
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We mourn all the victims of violence, including the large volume of violence against people that goes unreported and underreported, including poor people and people of color, but also we mourn for the very few police officers who have been hurt or killed by those outraged at the way police have been harassing or murdering members of their community, their people, their race, etc. EVERY HUMAN LIFE IS PRECIOUS. None of the violence is OK. Not black on black violence, not white on black violence or black on white violence, not police violence, not acts of violent retribution. A hard message to get across in a society that responded to the horrendous killing of 3,000 plus Americans on 9/11 by engaging in assaults (both military and economic) on Afghanistan and Iraq that caused the loss of lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Yet violence continues to produce more violence. So the violence we delivered in the Middle East engendered ISIS/ISIL, and so it goes throughout history, and today in our own country. But for us in the religious world, the ongoing violence normally ignored by the media and genuinely not known or understood by most Americans is a spiritual, religious, and ethical emergency that deserves the attention of all people in every country of the world.
We at Tikkun call for an end to the violence in our society. Both the violence manifested in physical assaults and police assassinations of African Americans and the few acts of violent response by outraged African Americans at the ways their community members are being slaughtered. Also the violence caused by an economic system that denies people adequate food, shelter, health care, and other survival needs (both in the US and around the world).
Stop the violence of US wars and drone strikes.
Stop the violence of incarcerating more people than any other society on earth.
Stop the violence of rounding up and deporting refugees.
Stop the violence inherent in US trade deals that have the effect of dumping produce and other goods into foreign markets that undercut the ability of small farmers in those countries to sell their products at a price sufficient to give them enough money to make a subsistence living, thereby forcing them to either move to the slums in big cities where they face starvation or selling themselves or their children into slavery or sexual slavery, or to move El Norte (to the north) to find a way to make a living in the United States or other northern countries (where the good President Obama has them rounded up and deported, though he could instead offer blanket pardons to them all, as was argued in a persuasive op-ed in The New York Times). First step: implement the Global Marshall Plan.
Stop the violence of people against each other, by making illegal the manufacture, sale, or possession of semi-automatic weapons, assault weapons, and other conveyers of death (including new methods of killing people like bombs, robots equipped to carry lethal weapons, grenades, and whatever next comes down the pike) — if necessary through a Constitutional Amendment aimed at ending this epidemic of violence.
And while all violence is deplorable, we as a society have a special obligation to repair the damage done to Native Americans and African Americans who have faced hundreds of years of violence inflicted upon them by the white majority of this country. The psychic wounds of the American genocide against Native Americans and the enslavement and then subsequent segregation of African Americans, daily reenforced not only by an economy that disproportionately disadvantages people of color, and a police force and criminal justice system that tends to arrest and imprison people of color, and paritcularly African Americans, often for crimes that whites commit but are rarely punished for or for which they receive far less harsh punishment, give us at Tikkun special commitment to calling for reparations for these communities, and for our passionate endorsement of the notion that Black Lives Matter.
Stop the violence by legally empowering the African-American community in each major urban area, the major target of police violence, to create an independent police review commission with the power to indict police who have engaged in harassment, racist behavior, arrest without cause, or actual physical assaults on people of color, and then those indictments must be tried before juries that have been given a mini course on racism, classism, and other forms of discrimination and oppressive behaviors that have long existed in our society and which may still be a factor in the way that juries in the past have exonerated police for violent or murderous behavior.
Stop the violence by refusing to allow participation in otherwise peaceful demonstrations of anarchists who believe that violence is OK. And send to prison undercover agents of the US government or any other branch of government or the military that use undercover agents to incite violence or engage in violence.
Violence, whether physical or built into the economic and political structures of our society, is usually the product of “othering,” in which we fail to see the humanity of an individual or more frequently of everyone who belongs to a certain group. While the most frequent form of othering in the US is racism toward people of color, sexism, homophobia, classism, Islamophobia and antiSemitism, it also in some liberal and progressive circles manifests in the demeaning of all people who are into religion (I call that religiophobia), all people who are part of the 1% (ignoring the many — though just a small minority — who align themselves with social justice and environmental movements), and the police (many of whom try to do a conscientious job of enforcing the laws of our society without bias, even though the dominant ethos in many police forces does in fact validate violence and many such forces do have a culture of racism, sexism and homophobia — but still that doesn’t justify generalizing to everyone in those police forces much less all police everywhere).
Stop the violence by creating not a minimum wage but a Living Wage as defined by the MIT organization that determines what that amount is city by city and region by region. And by creating a guaranteed annual income at a level high enough to make it possible for every family living on that income to live with all the basic necessities and without fear that they must cut back on food to have money for health care or cut back on health care to have money for lodging, or cut back on lodging to have money for some basic clothes for themselves and their children.
Stop the violence by transforming education so that compassion, empathy, caring for each other and caring for the earth gets at least as much emphasis as reading, writing, and math, and these are given priority in entrance to college or university and entrance to graduate or professional training. And stop the violence by adopting a New Bottom Line.
Stop the violence by ending racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and all other forms of hatred. Have every school system require courses at every grade level from kindergarten through graduate or professional schools, and every television network, tv and radio station, as a condition of continuing to use the public airwaves, provide prime time programming aimed at achieving this goal.
Unfortunately, the likely consequences of the murder of the police in Dallas will be an increase in the militarization of local police forces, increased repression, and only token acknowledgment of the systemic racism and belief in the efficacy of violence that has permeated American history and its institutions. Few of the systemic changes that are needed are likely to even be discussed much less implemented. All the more reason to mourn for all the victims of violence both in the United States and around the world.
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Las exoneraciones de impuestos para los puertos de Corozal
entrevista realizada por Carlos Núñez L. a Arnoldo Videla D.
“Hablando de exoneraciones de impuestos y de la política pública de incentivar las inversiones en la construcción de puertos del Canal.”
¿Cree Ud. que es válida actualmente?
La política de exoneración de impuestos, en concesiones para desarrollar proyectos que se consideran claves o de importancia para la economía de un país o una región, es un instrumento ampliamente utilizado por gobiernos en todo el mundo.
Su propósito de incentivar las inversiones da generalmente los resultados económicos esperados. Una característica muy importante es que dichas exoneraciones son por plazos muy cortos, transitorios, pues son ingresos que deberían recibir los Estados y ser destinados a otros usos prioritarios.
Por ello se consideran un sacrificio fiscal momentáneo con buenos propósitos claramente definidos.
La experiencia mundial en países de bajo y mediano desarrollo es perversa, ya que al pasar el tiempo, esos dineros son utilizados para generar sobreganancias de transnacionales y empresas locales asociadas.
Panamá no escapa de esta realidad y la vemos reflejada en nuestros puertos en el Canal y ahora se insiste en usar la política de exoneraciones en el proyecto de puerto en Corozal.
Sin duda que lo fue cuando revirtieron los bienes y terrenos de la que fue la llamada Zona del Canal. Los puertos revertidos (muy deteriorados) había que reconstruirlos y desarrollarlos. Se necesitaba un estímulo para hacerlo relativamente rápido y con montos de inversión significativos. Fue una política apropiada, pero debía ser transitoria, no permanente, que es lo que vemos ahora.
Pero esa etapa y la situación actual no es la misma de esos tiempos. Lo demuestra el alto interés, de las empresas especializadas y con experiencia, en la licitación de Corozal. No se necesita el incentivo.
Además, hay que señalar que la política de exoneraciones es muy sensible y controversial, pues limita los recursos que pueden tener un destino social como opción de asignación. Aplicar esa politica implica que el Estado asigne recursos (por recibir y planificados) para evitar que las empresas de interés estratégico (en este caso los puertos del Canal) tuvieran pérdidas en una etapa inicial de desarrollo. Es decir, se sacrificaron los beneficios (decisión que debían ser sólo por un tiempo) que debería recibir la población, en aras de un interés nacional y de la futura obtención de mayores y variados beneficios para el Estado en el mediano y largo plazo.
¿Hay conciencia de las autoridades sobre el tema?
Muy poca. Son contados los representantes del Ejecutivo y del Legislativo que hablaban y hablan públicamente de ello. Fue importante, aunque ineficaz, el rechazo inicial que hubo en la Asamblea hace meses. Incluso la Comisión Legislativa de Infraestructura y Asuntos del Canal escuchó las peticiones y cuestionamientos de comunidades y organizaciones sociales. Allí estuvimos y pareció que los HD estuvieron interesados en el tema de Corozal y en limitar las exoneraciones de impuestos. Pero a estas alturas creo que casi todos callan y ya no se acuerdan del tema, ya sea por algún interés o por temor a la recriminación de sus colegas partidarios del statu quo. Asimismo, el Ejecutivo y sus miembros, aunque en privado no estén de acuerdo, no cuestionan las propuestas de la ACP, al menos públicamente. En esta semana la ACP entrega los pliegos para la licitación a los interesados y las exoneraciones van a pasar como “por un tubo”, sin objeciones.
Así es que, como también la mayoría de la población está al margen de la información o preocupados de sus intereses inmediatos, presta muy poca atención a lo que ocurre con las políticas públicas, y seguimos en el statu quo.
¿Se ha perdido el sentido de la exoneración de impuestos?
En el caso de los puertos del Canal, totalmente.
En muchos países incluso es fuente de coimas a funcionarios públicos.
¿Esta situación de sobreganancias es sólo panameña?
Por ello hay un movimiento mundial en contra de las exoneraciones de impuestos a las transnacionales.
Uno de sus líderes es el premio Nobel de economía Stiglitz. Denuncian que estas empresas reciben millardos (miles de millones o billions en inglés) por la colusión entre autoridades de gobiernos y de legisladores con las empresas.
Esto no permite disminuir la pobreza en nuestras sociedades, incide directamente en el desarrollo de nuestros países.
Cree que en Panamá se pondrá freno a las decisiones de otorgar exoneraciones al respecto y que Ud. ¿Y otros economistas consideran desatinadas?
Tampoco lo creo. Es muy difícil, tal como está armado el proceso y como ACP logró sortear a las voces opositoras … hubo un intento de algunas diputadas y diputados a finales del año pasado de cambiar los criterios y reglas, pero sin resultados. En el reciente Acto de Informe al País del Presidente en la Asamblea, la diputada Rodríguez criticó y mencionó el polémico proyecto Corozal. Pero a la larga se imponen los criterios de las autoridades que impulsan las exoneraciones, para hacer más atractivos los negocios internacionales, otorgándolas por el interés de ofrecer más ganancias, superiores a las medias en otros países, y, de paso se benefician algunas empresas locales, que no son escogidas al azar ni del montón. Es la ley o regla del sistema imperante. De esto y cosas similares se vio mucho en el gobierno pasado y nada se corrigió, vamos por el mismo camino.
¿Está relacionado el tema de exoneraciones a las empresas que operan en el Canal con el reconocimiento hecho por el Presidente de que beneficios del canal “no permean”?
El Presidente Varela reconoció en su discurso del 26 que los beneficios deben verse, ser tangibles para la población, en especial para los más necesitados. Los principales beneficios de la reversión del Canal y áreas aledañas han sido para el Estado en general y para el sector empresarial, que en sus últimas declaraciones públicas tienen fe, entusiasmo y expectativas en que el canal ampliado les traerá muchas oportunidades y negocios muy rentables.
Está por verse si también traerá beneficios concretos para la sociedad engeneral y para los grupos populares. Por ahora, solo hay un ofrecimiento del Presidente y de otras autoridades que sólo tienen 3 años más para cumplir las promesas. El pueblo sólo tiene esperanzas en que la consigna “el canal es de todos” también “permee” para ellos. Las caricaturas que hemos visto en los diarios al respecto, son tremendamente gráficas y críticas de la situación actual.
Las exoneraciones de impuestos impiden que mayores beneficios lleguen a los menos favorecidos de nuestra población. Es una falla del subsistema de políticas públicas y del sistema económico en general.
Arnoldo Videla D. es economista y miembro de la Alianza Estratégica Nacional (AEN)
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After a prolonged vote count, the
Rector Magnifico’s people lose
by Eric Jackson
The University of Panama went to the polls on June 29 and the results were supposed to be announced the next morning. Instead the results were not proclaimed until July 4, with a two-day deadline after that for people to challenge the results. It appears that nobody has impugned any of the announced results, and that physics professor Eduardo Flores will be the next rector, with his followers winning the races for dean in the faculties of public administration, sciences, nursing, computer sciences and communication, medicine and veterinary medicine. Supporters of the outgoing “Rector Magnifico” Gustavo García de Paredes won the deans’ races in the faculties of architecture, agronomy, pharmacy and the humanities, while independents were elected deans of the faculties of law, fine arts, dentistry, education and economics. Flores and García de Paredes supporters won the directorships of four regional university centers each, with the one in Cocle going to an independent.
García de Paredes did not attend the July 4 proclamation ceremony, nor did he have any public response to Flores’s call to create a transition team. The outgoing administration did announce a resolution that had been passed several weeks earlier and gives job tenure to all temporary university employees with two years or more on the job — something that Flores said that are due anyway — and purporting to keep everyone, from the seven vice-rectors on down, in their current positions. That latter point conflicts with Flores’s promise to review and reorganize the administration. In any case it should be expected that ongoing criminal investigations of the university’s finances are likely to remove some of the outgoing rector’s second tier of management from public employment altogether. Flores has promised to give free access to all university records and information to government auditors, who were grudgingly given access to only partial records only the past few years of the generation-long García de Paredes administration. The next rector, however, has vowed not to take revenge against those who did not support him.
Will Flores take office on October 1 as scheduled, or will the transition be quicker than that? The rumor about campus is that García de Paredes will resign in mid-July. If that happens, then the question of to whom the reins would be handed for the next few months could become a contested legal and political issue. The context is that the old regime did not have the votes: professors and administrators who had supported it in the past threw their support to others and the machine’s breakdown will accelerate as people interested in their own careers make their adjustments to the new leadership.
The big problem for Flores, however, is most probably economic. Some 93 percent of the university’s budget goes to pay salaries, which is why, for example, the library and research labs are pathetic by international standards. The national government is unlikely to come up with substantial new funding, as it is going ever deeper into debt as the Latin American economy on which our import/export and canal sectors are largely based is very weak and expected to remain so for several years. There will probably be attempts to in one way or another recover stolen property, but those are not the sorts of prospects on which sound financial plans can usually be built. Is the solution some variant of rocket science? The next rector is, after all, a physicist.
For leftist sociology professor Marco Gandásegui Jr. the problem is with Panama’s economic model and ruling political and economic elites. The template these days, he complains, is to produce professionals to fill a succession of low-paid temporary jobs in an insecure economy. The people who make most of Panama’s decisions, he adds, tend to have little interest in either science or the human beings who make up Panamanian society.
And the more conservative voices? The engineering faculty seceded from the University of Panama back in the 1970s to found the Panama Technological University, which has more rigorous academic standards than the institution that it left behind. It was not particularly a right-wing movement but it was driven in large part by a yearning for traditional academic values. Jesuit academic standards are applied as best as can be managed at the nation’s Catholic university, USMA. “Conservatives” as in greed-driven hustlers? Those types have a plethora of private universities, some of them on models remarkably like that of Trump University, that by hook or crook got the University of Panama — which has superintending control over all other institutions of higher learning in this country — to approve their existence. By and large Panama’s more conservative academics, students and parents have voted with their feet.
Two pending issues for the new administration will be whether the Normal School in Santiago will be chartered as a university and whether the long-standing demand for an indigenous university will be allowed. The movement for an indigenous university, which is strongest in the Ngable-Bugle Comarca, was steadfastly blocked by García de Paredes for a generation. The movement to promote the Normal School into something more was blocked by the turf claims of the University of Panama’s education faculty, but given recognized needs to improve Panama’s poorly performing public schools the demand for more teachers may drive new political realities on that subject.
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Disastrous toll – 21 Latin American journalists killed in past six months
by Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled to have to report that no fewer than 21 journalists were killed in the first six months of 2016 in Latin America, 14 of them in just two countries — Mexico and Guatemala.
This disastrous toll is attributable in part to flawed or non-existent protective mechanisms but above all to the alarming level violence, corruption and impunity in most of the region’s countries — a region that is now one of the world’s most dangerous for media personnel.
As in 2015, Mexico continues to register the biggest death toll, with nine journalists murdered in the first half of 2016. It is followed by Guatemala with five, Honduras with three, Brazil with two and Venezuela and El Salvador with one.
None of these countries is officially at war, but each of them suffers from a significant degree of structural violence linked to ubiquitous armed groups that include Mexico’s cartels and Central America’s “maras.”
The motive of most of these deaths is still unknown. When the police investigate them, the investigations soon get bogged down and are obstructed by corrupt officials. Impunity is, more than ever, at the center of a vicious circle of violence against media personnel and journalism’s chronic depreciation.
The circumstances of these murders are usually very similar. The victims are often radio hosts or local correspondents based in regions far from major cities who cover crime, corruption or sensitive social issues. They are gunned down by “sicarios” (hit men) near their home or workplace and in some cases they had been warned in advance about their reporting.
If there is any room for doubt, the police and judicial authorities quickly rule out any connection between the murder and the victim’s work as a journalist. They often try to cast doubt on the quality of the victim’s journalism and even go so far as to suggest that the victim was linked to local criminal groups.
“The toll of murders of journalists in Latin America in the first six months suggests that 2016 will be a terrible year for the region,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America desk. “The spiralling violence, especially in Mexico and Central America, is transforming Latin America into one of the world’s most dangerous regions for media personnel. When you add the countless attacks, abductions, enforced disappearances, threats and cases of judicial harassment, you end up with a climate of terror in which journalists are clearly no longer at home. It is high time the region’s leaders did their duty and undertook to do everything possible to end this deadly spiral.”
The Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression that was adopted by the Organization of American States (OAS) says: “The murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of the state to prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation.”
Many OAS member states seem to have forgotten these principles because they do not treat the protection of journalists as a priority. Only two Latin American countries, Colombia and Mexico, have created national mechanisms for protecting journalists and in both countries the mechanisms fail to serve their purpose because they are cruelly denied adequate financial and human resources and autonomy vis-à-vis the political class.
As a result of strong pressure from civil society and journalists’ associations, a mechanism is in the process of being created and implemented in Guatemala. In response to the almost total impunity for crimes against journalists in Honduras, RSF is calling for the creation of an independent investigative body with trained and qualified personnel that is able to clearly establish the links between the murders of journalists and their work and to make its findings public.
The 2016 death toll as of July 1:
Mexico, 149th in RSF’s 2016 press freedom index: 9 victims
– Marcos Hernández Bautista, 38, killed on 21 January 2016, Oaxaca state. Medium: Noticias, Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca.
– Reinel Martínez Cerqueda, 43, killed on 22 January 2016, Oaxaca state. Medium: El Manantial community radio.
– Anabel Flores Salazar, 32, killed on 9 February 2016, Veracruz state. Medium: El Sol de Orizaba.
– Moisés Dagdug Lutzow, 65, killed on 20 February 2016, Tabasco state. Medium: head of the VX media group.
– Francisco Pacheco Beltrán, 55, killed on 25 April 2016, Guerrero state. Medium: El Sol de Acapulco.
– Manuel Santiago Torres González, 48, killed on 14 May 2016, Veracruz state. Medium: Noticias MT website, TV Azteca.
– Elidio Ramos Zárate, 44, killed on 19 June 2016, Oaxaca state. Medium: El Sur.
– Zamira Esther Bautista, 44, killed on 20 June 2016, Tamaulipas state. Medium: freelancer, El Mercurio and La Verdad.
– Salvador García Olmos, 31, killed on 29 June 2016, Oaxaca state. Medium: Radio Tuun Ñuu Savi.
Guatemala, 121st in RSF’s 2016 press freedom index: 5 victims
– Mario Roberto Salazar, 32, killed on 17 March 2016, Jutiapa department. Medium: head of Radio Estéreo Azúcar.
– Wiston Leonardo Cano Túnchez, 41, killed on 8 April 2016, Escuintla department. Medium: Radio La Jefa presenter.
– Diego Salomón Esteban Gaspar, 22, killed on 30 April 2016, Quiché department. Medium: Radio Sembrador.
– Víctor Hugo Valdez Cardona, 65, killed on 7 June 2016, Chiquimula department. Medium: Chiquimula Visión presenter.
– Álvaro Alfredo Aceituno López, 65, killed on 25 June 2016, Quetzaltenango department. Medium: director of Estéreo Ilusión.
Honduras, 137th in RSF’s 2016 press freedom index: 3 victims
– Marlon David Martínez Caballero, 27, killed on 7 February 2016, Cortés department. Medium: Radio TopMusic presenter.
– Dorian Hernández, 27, killed on 16 June 2016, Lempira department. Medium: freelance photographer, former producer for GRT Channel 31.
– Elmer Cruz, 30, killed on 19 June 2016, Yoro department. Medium: music program presenter for local TV channel.
Brazil, 104th in RSF’s 2016 press freedom index: 2 victims
– João Valdecir de Borba, 51, killed on 10 March 2016, Paraná state. Medium: Radio Difusora AM presenter.
– Manoel Messias Pereira, 46, killed on 9 April 2016, Maranhão state. Medium: Sediverte.com blogger.
Venezuela, 139th in RSF’s 2016 press freedom index: 1 victim
– Ricardo Durán Trujillo, 45, killed on 19 January 2016, Caracas. Medium: government press officer (Distrito Capital)
El Salvador, 58th in RSF’s 2016 press freedom index: 1 victim
– Nicolás Humberto García, 23, killed on 10 March 2016, Ahuachapán department. Medium: presenter on Radio Expressa, Voces al Aire.
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NASA’s Juno spacecraft in orbit around mighty Jupiter
by NASA / JPL
After an almost five-year journey to the solar system’s largest planet, NASA’s Juno spacecraft successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit during a 35-minute engine burn. Confirmation that the burn had completed was received on Earth at 8:53 pm. PDT (11:53 p.m. EDT) Monday, July 4.
“Independence Day always is something to celebrate, but today we can add to America’s birthday another reason to cheer — Juno is at Jupiter,” said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. “And what is more American than a NASA mission going boldly where no spacecraft has gone before? With Juno, we will investigate the unknowns of Jupiter’s massive radiation belts to delve deep into not only the planet’s interior, but into how Jupiter was born and how our entire solar system evolved.”
Confirmation of a successful orbit insertion was received from Juno tracking data monitored at the navigation facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, as well as at the Lockheed Martin Juno operations center in Denver. The telemetry and tracking data were received by NASA’s Deep Space Network antennas in Goldstone, California, and Canberra, Australia.
“This is the one time I don’t mind being stuck in a windowless room on the night of the Fourth of July,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “The mission team did great. The spacecraft did great. We are looking great. It’s a great day.”
Preplanned events leading up to the orbital insertion engine burn included changing the spacecraft’s attitude to point the main engine in the desired direction and then increasing the spacecraft’s rotation rate from 2 to 5 revolutions per minute (RPM) to help stabilize it..
The burn of Juno’s 645-Newton Leros-1b main engine began on time at 8:18 p.m. PDT (11:18 p.m. EDT), decreasing the spacecraft’s velocity by 1,212 mph (542 meters per second) and allowing Juno to be captured in orbit around Jupiter. Soon after the burn was completed, Juno turned so that the sun’s rays could once again reach the 18,698 individual solar cells that give Juno its energy.
“The spacecraft worked perfectly, which is always nice when you’re driving a vehicle with 1.7 billion miles on the odometer,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from JPL. “Jupiter orbit insertion was a big step and the most challenging remaining in our mission plan, but there are others that have to occur before we can give the science team members the mission they are looking for.”
Over the next few months, Juno’s mission and science teams will perform final testing on the spacecraft’s subsystems, final calibration of science instruments and some science collection.
“Our official science collection phase begins in October, but we’ve figured out a way to collect data a lot earlier than that,” said Bolton. “Which when you’re talking about the single biggest planetary body in the solar system is a really good thing. There is a lot to see and do here.”
Juno’s principal goal is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. With its suite of nine science instruments, Juno will investigate the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter’s intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, and observe the planet’s auroras. The mission also will let us take a giant step forward in our understanding of how giant planets form and the role these titans played in putting together the rest of the solar system. As our primary example of a giant planet, Jupiter also can provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars.
The Juno spacecraft launched on August 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. JPL manages the Juno mission for NASA. Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.
More information on the Juno mission is available at: