“Blog,” which derives from “web log,” has come to mean many things. Two of the nastiest are as a euphemism by corporate media management when they move journalists from the payroll to piecework and as an epithet to denigrate the small online media and those who work in them. But although the new front page and sections as such are not yet up, The Panama News will have a Blog section, which gets back to the more original meaning of a log of noteworthy things appearing on the Internet. But you know what? Eric Jackson won’t be the only person collecting and posting links in this section. Maybe YOU might be one of the people who will selecting links to post in the Blogs section. Send us an email if you are interested.
Donald Trump, whose mother and paternal grandparents were immigrants, rails against both legal and illegal Latin American immigrants, which has deeply offended Latin Americans. But it’s not as if The Trump Organization hasn’t done business in Latin America.
The Donald’s Latin American business associates
by Eric Jackson
Jeb Bush has to like the Mexican illegals because of his wife.
Donald Trump, about Jeb Bush’s Mexican-born wife
They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some I assume are good people but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we are getting.
Donald Trump, about Mexicans
If he ever got elected you would have people flowing across the border.
Donald Trump, about Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants
Is Donald Trump’s business operation mobbed up?
Is that an unfair question? Perhaps it is, suggesting guilt by association as it does. However, when somebody runs for president of the United States, those with whom she or he associates and does business reasonably do become matters of public interest.
With Donald Trump, the question becomes all the more reasonable because it has been asked before and the answers have raised concern. In the current contest for the Republican presidential nomination, the question becomes relevant because Donald Trump has made sweeping broad-brush characterizations of Latin Americans and meanwhile he and his network of companies do and have done business in Latin America. Does he say those things about Latin Americans because a pollster has told him that this is what he needs to say to mobilize ultra-right support in his bid for the presidency, or because it reflects what he has noticed about people with whom he and his businesses have dealt? Trump has, after all, been involved in some noteworthy real estate ventures in Panama and Mexico, and his Miss Universe pageants do seem to show a certain preference for light-skinned Latin American women. If Trump appeals to those Americans whose stereotype of Latin Americans is that the men are all gangsters and the women are all whores, does he make that pitch as a matter of sincere personal belief based upon his own experiences?
Take a poll in Panama about who is the sleaziest Panamanian of us all, and a top contender would be one Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal, now living in Miami as Panama’s legal system pursues several criminal investigations against him. Has Donald Trump said anything about this Latin American immigrant on the campaign trail? Not a peep. But it’s not as if Trump doesn’t know the man. Their photos together are all over the Internet.
But all along, hasn’t Trump made the distinction between rich criminals and poor ones?
Take Atlantic City as an example. Trump bought the land on which the Trump Plaza casino was built from Philadelphia hit man Salvatore Testa, the son of the one-time boss of the Philadelphia mafia, Philip “Chicken Man” Testa. A New Jersey crime commission report adds that two mafia-owned construction companies were used in the construction of the Trump Plaza.
Or what about New York City, where it’s hard to do construction without running into the mafia in one way or another? In Manhattan the concrete work for the Trump Tower was done by S&A, a company controlled by the Gambino family’s Paul Castellano and the Genovese family’s Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno.
But if Trump has an issue with Mexican gangsters, might that have to do with a failed Trump project near Tijuana? The Trump Ocean Resort Baja Mexico was to be a luxury resort and condo complex. The project, about 10 miles from the US border andbearing the Trump name and images, was heavily marketed to upscale baby boomers in Southern California.
Dozens of people paid hefty pre-construction deposits, more than $30 million worth, for their Trump Ocean Resort Baja Mexico condos — and nothing was ever built. Trump took his name off the project and the promoter who was left told the depositors that due to the 2008 Wall Street collapse he couldn’t get the financing he needed. Some of the money was returned, but some $22 million was “missing,” apparently spent on other things.
So had Trump been burned in Mexico by a partnership with a Mexican crook? Actually, no. The main promoter of the Trump Ocean Resort Baja Mexico project was Los Angeles-based developer Jason Grosfeld. Trump more or less disavowed any connection with the project or its failure, pleading to The Los Angeles Times that his only tie was that Grosfeld had paid a licensing fee to use the Trump name and image. But 190 depositors sued both Grosfeld and Trump in a US federal district court and in 2012 out-of-court settlements were reached with both Grosfeld’s and Trump’s companies in which both paid out millions..
Will The Donald be answering questions about the Tijuana venture on the campaign trail? Probably not. Since the settlement The Trump Organization has declined comment on the matter, claiming that a confidentiality agreement that was part of the settlement prevents any public statements about the matter.
And was the falling out between Grosfeld and Trump over the Tijuana fiasco all that bitter? Apparently not. At least it didn’t take the Trump name off of another Grosfeld project, the Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk in Hawaii. There has been a lawsuit over deposits there, too, but the thing was built. It seems that most of the deposit disputes were not between the Grosfeld’s company and people who had put money down with the intention of living in the condo tower, but with speculators hoping to flip units. The project was announced in 2006 and finished in 2009, with the US financial and real estate crash coming in between. Some of the would-be flippers argued that since Trump and his companies had no ownership stake in the project there was a risk that the name could be taken off of it at any time, impairing the value of the property on which they had paid deposits. Others claimed that their contracts provided that if they pulled out before closing and the units they had committed to buy were sold for more than they had agreed to pay, they would get their deposits back.
Also announced in 2006 — when Panama City’s later to burst luxury condo bubble was still inflating — was the Trump Ocean Club. All along it was known that the primary developer was Roger Khafif, nor was there ever any secret that its condos were primarily being marketed to wealthy American baby boomers. But the project was announced in Trump’s offices in New York, the name was and is on the project and there were no disclaimers about the Trump name contained in the promotional materials. Indeed, Donald Trump and his three children who work for the family business made repeated promotional appearances for the project in Panama.
So who, really, is Roger Khafif? By all accounts as a developer he operates through a network of companies he calls the K Group. Bloomberg identified his higher education with the Southern Institute of Technology (in New Zealand) and summarized his background in this way:
Mr. Roger Khafif serves as the President of Newland International Properties, Corp. Mr. Khafif also serves as President of K Group developers, one of the strategic partners of Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower. Mr. Khafif is a partner in 2 companies located in the Colon free zone: Kedco Fashion Corp. and Rafkas Imp/Exp. From 1978 to 1981, Mr. Khafif worked as textile engineer in one of the main textile mills of Guatemala. He serves as the Chairman of Newland.
So did Khafif make a fortune as a Colon Free Zone merchant, as the platform for a career as a developer? Some very well connected Free Zone people whom The Panama News asked did not know of Khafif in any role at the duty-free import/export zone.
Looking online, one finds Khafif variously described as Colombian, Panamanian and as a Florida developer. Try to find an online K Group, Newland or Khafif mention in connection with a real estate development in Florida or Colombia, however, and one comes up with a blank. In Panama, K Group comes up with references to the Coronado Country Club Resort and to a development called Emerald Bay on Isla Contadora.
Coronado Country Club Resort does exist — but the actual country club, as in the place with the golf course, is the much more established Coronado Beach and Golf Resort, an Eisenmann family venture that has no Khafif or K Group connection. Khafif is also not known as a man about town in the Coronado community.
Emerald Bay? One finds resorts of that name in the Bahamas and a number of other places, none apparently connected to Khafif. You find a dissolved Panamanian corporation called Emerald Bay Inc in Panama’s Registro Publico. The Registro does have company called Emerald Bay Development Inc, an Emerald Bay Associates Inc, all with with no apparent Khafif connection. (Under Panama’s corporate secrecy laws, however, the owners or managers of a company do not necessarily show up in public records.) There is an Emerald Bay SA, a property of developer Herman Bern. There are references to an exclusive and remote place on Isla Contadora in the Perlas Islands called Emerald Bay, said to be only reachable by private plane or yacht — but you won’t find photos, reviews or booking information about it online.
Khafif comes up as nearly a cipher, a face posed with various dignitaries and the main guy at the Trump Ocean Club to be sure. But who is he? Ah, but of course, there is the Ricardo Martinelli endorsement. The former president says that everything that Trump and Khafif touch turns to gold. You can trust what Martinelli says, can’t you?
When the Trump Ocean Club was conceived, however, Ricardo Martinelli was not president. Martín Torrijos was. If Trump had already acquired a reputation for dealings with the likes of the Genovese family, that should not have bothered Torrijos. He and the first lady, and his minister of agriculture, were using their public positions to pumpa Swiss-based bogus teak plantation schemecalled Prime Forestry, which also had a Genovese connection. In the present scheme of things, however, that’s not the set of ties that should concern us.
Back then Khafif had a business partner, a Brazilian named Alexandre Ventura Nogueira — Alex Ventura — and in turn Ventura and Torrijos had someone in common, a Colombian named David Murcia Guzmán. Murcia Guzmán also allegedly had a Martinelli connection, and was business partners with the two sons of then Colombian President Álvaro Uribe.
Alex Ventura, having skipped out on a million and a half dollar bail, is a fugitive from Panamanian justice, facing a five-year prison sentence that was handed down to him in a fraud case. David Murcia Guzmán, were he returned to Colombia, would have a 30-year sentence to serve for financial crimes. But he was extradited to the United States, pleaded guilty to laundering drug money for Colombian and Mexican gangsters and is in a US federal witness protection program.
Before a falling out between Khafif and Ventura and another falling out between Murcia Guzmán and the presidents of both Colombia and Panama — which were more or less simultaneous in late 2008 — Khafif and Ventura were real estate partners in The Loft One Corporation, a joint venture between Ventura’s Homes Real Estate Investment Services and Khafif’s Newland International Properties to buy and sell apartments in an upscale Panama City residential project. Ventura was a partner in Murcia Guzmán’s DMG.
David Murcia Guzmán had been selling pirated videos on the streets of Santa Marta, Colombia, but shortly after a US-backed Plan Colombia offensive on the other side of the country displaced FARC rebels from their position of being able to tax the drug trade in Putumayo department and gave that opportunity to the AUC paramilitary, the street vendor moved to Putumayo and suddenly became very wealthy and influential. The vehicle was DMG, an investment scheme that looked an awful lot like a Ponzi-style pyramid swindle. Eventually the Colombian authorities called it that, but had it been such it should have collapsed under the weight of demands from later investors. It never did. There was always a lot of cash coming in. US authorities called it a drug money laundering scheme. Various Colombian media identified Murcia Guzmán with the Valle del Norte Cartel, at the time when the erstwhile CD vendor got rich associated with the AUC. Also by that time the AUC had acquired such an odious international reputation from a string of massacres that it had been placed on the US list of terrorist organizations.
In the fall of 2008 Ventura was in addition to the Loft One business with Khafif engaged in pre-construction sales of condo units in the Trump Ocean Club. Ventura claims that he had been a guest in Donald Trump’s home, which Trump denies. Then Colombia’s Uribe administration, most probably at the behest of US authorities, came down on DMG, branding it a pyramid scheme. At the time Murcia Guzmán was in Panama, tooling around in a fleet of Ferraris, Maseratis and Lamborghinis, guarded by SPI presidential guards, escorted around customs and immigration officers at the airport by the National Assembly’s protocol staff and apparently — although all politicians involved deny it — making large and illegal campaign contributions to candidates of both Torrijos’s Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) and Martinelli’s Cambio Democratico party (CD). Paper trails, accounts in US Embassy cables revealed by WikiLeaks and the local gossip had both leading presidential candidates for the 2009 elections, the PRD’s Balbina Herrera and CD’s Ricardo Martinelli, on the take from Murcia Guzmán.
When the DMG scandal broke Kahfif dropped Ventura like a hot rock, and accused the latter of swindling him out of more than $800,000 in an investment scheme related to apartments in a building that was never intended to be built. That’s the basic complaint for which Ventura was sentenced to prison and skipped the country on an appeal bond.
The situation got noticed in some of the world’s Spanish-language media at the time, most notablythe Univision television network, which until a few weeks ago had the contract to broadcast Trump’s Miss Universe pageant in Spanish. The Donald’s son Eric Trump dismissed the relationship as a matter of an independent real estate agent selling units in theTrump Ocean Club: “I looked into him, having never heard the name and not being in our database, and what I found out was Mr. Ventura owns a real estate agency in Panama that has sold apartments in our building, but it’s a third party real estate agency.”
Meanwhile, Ventura defended Murcia Guzmán, appearing with two others at a press conference organized by the latter’s defense lawyer. With Ventura were a man of Belorussian origin, Alexander Altshoul, said to be like Ventura a partner in DMG, and American attorney Juliette Passer. Altshoul,according to claims asserted in a Canadian court, is a member of the Russian mob. (The court did not rule on that claim, but held that is was beside the point in the matter of a lawyer who said that he stole under duress from Altshoul.) Passer also has a Russian connection, as adviser to the Committee of Economic Development of St. Petersburg for the development of free economic zones — in the Yeltsin-era years of 1990-93 when Russia’s oligarchy and mobsters were rising in tandem and looting what was left of the fomer Soviet Union.
(So might someone dismiss suggestions that Trump, indirectly and several time removed, associated with the Russian mob here? Fair enough. It might not be at all fair to mention but for Trump’s partner in New York’s Trump Soho, Russian businessman Felix H. Sater. Mr. Sater was named in a sealed US federal indictment and as an unindicted co-conspirator in other indictments as a money launderer for four different US mafia families. By several accounts Sater pleaded guilty, turned state’s evidence and got the conviction record sealed. Enough is known, and was known when Trump went into business with Sater, to set off alarm bells. But Donald Trump told The New York Times that he didn’t know about Sater’s criminal past. “We do as much of a background check as we can on the principals. I didn’t really know him very well.”)
Now that Trump is making a pitch for the white racist vote at the expense of Latinos, Latin American media are re-examining The Donald’s history in Latin America. The Colombian newspaper El Espectador recently recounted “The Trump Bubble in Colombia,” a tale of a decade of business exploration by the Trumps in that country. Describing Donald Trump as “the anti-Latino candidate,” El Espectador’s tale starts in 2005, with Khafif and Ivanka Trump in Colombia, looking to bring a Bogota company in on the Panama City project. Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. were back in 2006, discussing a possible project in Cartagena and trying to arrange a meeting with then President Uribe.
They never got their meeting with Uribe. Would an awareness of Trump’s Atlantic City and New York mob ties have scared Uribe off? Or were a younger generation’s questionable ties — the people around DMG — a warning signal? Or was it The Trump Organization’s de facto director for the Latin American region, financier Camilo Benedetti?
Benedetti worked out of New York and is the brother of now senator Armando Benedetti, who was president of Colombia’s House of Representatives when the Trumps were trying to get a meeting with Uribe. At the time Armando Benedetti was politically aligned with Uribe, but when Uribe and his successor Juan Manuel Santos parted ways Benedetti went with Santos.
In the waning days of the Uribe era, in 2009, Camilo Benedetti came under investigation for an alleged scheme to defraud the Colombian government of oil royalties. That case seems to have gone nowhere, and in 2011 Donald Trump Jr. got a meeting with now President Santos, along with both Benedettis.
But when Univision looked into the Trump and Benedetti connection, stories shifted. First it was that the Trumps didn’t know of Camilo Benedetti’s legal troubles. Then they did know, but considered it irrelevant because Benedetti was just an intermediary in the questioned transaction. Then Camilo Benedetti allegedly never had any business connection with the Trumps.
Is it a matter of Donald Trump having insulted Latin Americans, who are now ganging up on Donald Trump? It could be. However, the hard questions about Trump associating with underworld figures, in Latin America and elsewhere, have been around for years.
It’s a long road to the November 2016 US presidential elections. The conventional wisdom is that a Republican needs at least 40 percent of Hispanic voters to win the presidency. It’s not easy math because the Hispanic constituencies in the United States are by no means a fungible mass, let alone a solid voting bloc. The largest and oldest components of the Latino ethnic groups, the Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans and Puerto Ricans, are each subject to a different set of immigration rules, for example. There are Spanish-surnamed Americans who are entirely assimilated into the Anglo culture and speak no Spanish, but there are more than 40 million people in the United States for whom Spanish is their first language. Among Latinos here are differences of class, religion, race and political ideology.
Perhaps Mr. Trump has found a way to discard all such distinctions and ride an anti-immigrant, anti-Latino wave to the presidency. Even if he has, however, as with the aborted Tijuana adventure, Panama City’s Trump Ocean Club may cause the presidential hopeful headaches that are not “a Latino issue.” There are grievances, and most of the people who are raising them aren’t Hispanic. They tend to be white people with more money than most Americans, a demographic segment to which Republicans try to appeal.
Panamanian corporate secrecy keeps us from knowing whether the Trumps retain an ownership interest in the project here, and if so what that would be. But a group of people who put down deposits on condos there went to a federal court in Florida, complaining that they were sold a project with the Trump name and with representations that The Trump Organization would run the hotel and casino, the latter two plans having then been changed. The plaintiffs also claimed that they had been told that those who put down 30 percent of the purchase price as a deposit would get financing of the rest from The Trump Organization, and that those who had paid deposits for two units could resell one at a profit before they would be required to close on the second, and the promises were not kept.
Under US law those sound like material breaches of a contract, which would in equity at least give the depositors the right to cancel the deal and get their money back. However, the contracts specified that any dispute was to be resolved in a Panamanian court. In Panamanian law (as in the Civil Code family of legal systems generally), principles of equity as known in the Anglo-American Common Law don’t exist as such. The court in Florida dismissed the depositors’ complaint without prejudice, allowing that if it turns out that there is no semblance of justice for them in the Panamanian courts they could come back and refile their suit. The process in Panama would take years, maybe decades.
The rule was different for Mr. Khafif’s Newland International Properties, which faced default on some $220 million in bonds it floated to build the Trump Ocean Club. Khafif’s company went to a US federal court in New York and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Newland alleged that problems getting banks to finance upper end real estate led them to the bankruptcy, and the judge approved their petition.
The concerns of condo flippers who gambled and lost their deposits, or of bondholders who got wide-eyed about the Trump name and now won’t get paid back as quickly as they thought they would, probably won’t move a large portion of the US electorate. Especially so, when Trump can say that it wasn’t him but the other guy. Early polls suggest that even Trump’s own four bankruptcies don’t offend too many likely Republican primary voters.
However, the grandson of German immigrant Friedrich Drumpf and son of Scottish immigrant Mary Anne MacLeod has made complaints about immigration and stereotypes about Latinos the centerpieces of his presidential campaign. So how persuasive will he be to Republicans if it is perceived that he hooked up in a business venture with Latino characters who have underworld ties, and when things didn’t go right it was upscale white American investors who ended up with the short end of the stick?
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Our great friend Carla mentioned that some folks do not know where to start when they want to make compost or just compost in place.
First, Lazy and Free are the main starting points.
Then chop and drop.
Do not worry about compost except in a vegetable garden.
Take a walk on the wild side. What do you see in the jungle? I saw Mother Nature dropping leaves, branches and giant trunks. Then she went to the hammock and opened a cold one.
Think about it.
Holes are your friends. Throw your scraps into little ones, big ones, round ones, long ones. If the material, such as kitchen scraps, might attract black hat types, cover it.
Moving on to the bigger and better.
Cleaning up and trimming your bushes is more fun when your fruit trees smile at you and you hear them purring.
Where there is smoke, there probably is fertilizer.
It is waiting to be hauled to your place to be put around trees, at the drip line, or dumped in holes.
Mother Nature told me….
When you burn your leaves, you burn your money.
All those living fences you drive by are just waiting to give you rich and black soil. Balo not only fixes nitrogen but it repels and, when foliar fed, kills bugs.
We chopped and dropped the leaves, branches and trunks of the almacigo. The peeling red bark over a green trunk reminded me of a tourist in the Panama sun. Sunburned or not, it grew us a 63-pound yuca and a bunch of 20-pounders.
WOW Y GUAU! CHOP AND DROP!
Most importantly, do NOT think about it, DO IT.
Go thee out and grow thee rich black soil.
We are looking for a variety of papaya seeds for a park project in Panama City.
Don Perezoso = The Lazy Farmer … THE SECRET IS IN THE GARBAGE
En el marco del 34 aniversario de la desaparición física del Comandante Omar Torrijos, con el país en un alucinante crecimiento económico sin equidad social, hombres y mujeres que aportamos al proceso revolucionario, nos hemos auto convocado, de acuerdo a las nuevas realidades, a fin de impulsar los cambios necesarios para resolver las reivindicaciones sociales que han sido aplazadas, abandonadas después de culminar el objetivo anticolonial que unificó al pueblo panameño.
Surgimos de la madurez de condiciones sociales y la lucha que alimentaron la recuperación de nuestra integridad territorial, nuestro derecho a la autodeterminación y por el acceso a nuestras riquezas para la solución de nuestros problemas como nación independiente y soberana.
Pero hoy, desaparecido el enclave colonial, nuestro pueblo ha sido asaltado por el voraz apetito de las elites económicas que más allá de hacer el uso más colectivo posible de los bienes y recursos recuperados, hacen el uso más privado posible sobre los bienes e ingresos del Canal y a nivel nacional, han impuesto un modelo económico basado en el despojo y en la entrega al capital transnacional, al cual se asocian mercantilmente.
Nuestro propósito como Torrijistas es contribuir unidos a las fuerzas progresistas, los movimientos sociales, los jóvenes, las mujeres, la diversidad humana, los trabajadores del campo y la ciudad, los empresarios comprometidos con una economía humanista y con todo aquel ciudadano o ciudadana, a forjar un proyecto de nación por encima de las ambiciones político electorales, que ha de servir para lograr bienestar en toda la sociedad sin exclusión alguna con una institucionalidad consecuente.
Crecimiento económico sin rostro humano
La incorporación de los recursos de la antigua “Zona del Canal” a la economía, valorados en decenas de miles de millones de dólares, las reformas económicas neoliberales y las inversiones en megaproyectos, han consolidado un modelo económico cuya lógica privilegia el amasamiento y concentración de enormes excedentes en manos de pocos y la exclusión de la mayoría de la población del disfrute de los beneficios.
El orden político post-invasión, carente del contrapeso de organizaciones de los sectores populares y de políticas de arraigo social, ha permitido que las fuerzas económicas regentes desaten sus energías en la concentración del poder político. El control del Estado se usa para garantizar la apropiación de la renta de la posición geográfica o como facilitador de los grandes negocios. El rescate de la democracia no es suficiente ante la instauración de la plutocracia.
El distanciamiento del legado político de Omar Torrijos y la cruenta invasión militar norteamericana, sirvió a un pacto entre los grupos económicos que, al amparo del capital transnacional, aplican un modelo político supuestamente democrático, con un número plural de partidos, y un solo proyecto económico, el neoliberal.
La actual coyuntura política se caracteriza por la falta de representación social de los partidos políticos, la persistencia y afianzamiento del presidencialismo y el total sometimiento al modelo de dominación conservador, impuesto a escala global.
Construyamos una nueva república
La nación necesita un nuevo pacto que le permita construir una nueva república con equidad social. El eje de ese pacto deberá ser la inclusión de los sectores marginados del desarrollo, la edificación del poder social y el ejercicio de una democracia participativa, deliberativa, protagónica y de contenido humanista sobre la base de la participación y la organización de las comunidades y del movimiento social (gremios, sindicatos, grupos estudiantiles, los pueblos originarios, Afrodescendientes, los campesinos, entre otros).
Salida democrática a la crisis
Hemos analizado los acontecimientos internacionales y nacionales en el ámbito económico, social y político. Como demócratas revolucionarios y leales al pensamiento político del Torrijismo, consideramos que a todas las fuerzas y corrientes progresistas del país, nos toca construir el poder social capaz de superar las deformaciones de la partidocracia, en especial el caso del PRD, a través de la movilización e impulsar la transformación del Estado.
Es la hora de ponernos de acuerdo y de articular nuestras luchas para hacer realidad un proyecto alternativo, solidario, equitativo, ambientalmente sostenible y participativo, que derrote de una vez por todas, el modelo económico y político de las élites de apropiarse de los recursos de la nación y de los beneficios de nuestro principal recurso, por fin recuperado. Alcanzar la transformación democrática de la sociedad no sólo es necesaria, sino también posible dentro de la diversidad de nuestras especificidades.
Nos proponemos vencer al clientelismo, retomamos los principios, postulados y método Torrijistas, no demagógicamente para hacer negocios, sino para devolver el propósito de la política como un bien común ciudadano, adecuándolos a las nuevas y complejas realidades nacionales e internacionales.
La sobrevivencia del Torrijismo radica en su vinculación entrañable con las causas del movimiento popular y social, en el debate reflexivo para encontrar nuestra propia aspirina, así como la militancia en el seno de nuestro pueblo a lo largo y ancho del país.
Como tarea, inmediata asumimos el compromiso de que BAYANO circulará nuevamente como medio de orientación al servicio del Torrijismo y de las nuevas generaciones.
Nuestra membresía, que así lo decida, se mantendrá y militará en el PRD para recuperar el Partido de Omar y ponerlo al servicio de la nueva república.
Además, nos integraremos al tejido de las organizaciones que luchan por las reivindicaciones sociales con el objetivo de convertirnos en una fuerza política alternativa capaz de conducir al pueblo a la victoria del desarrollo.
Instamos a todos los patriotas del país a trabajar en la construcción de un poder social permanente, basado en la búsqueda de soluciones a los problemas y reivindicaciones de nuestras comunidades, gremios, organizaciones populares y de la sociedad civil.
Is scandal fatigue setting in just as the investigations reach the Panama Canal Authority’s board of directors?
Innocent unless proven guilty is the standard of justice but not of good government
It is reported that both testimony and a paper trail indicate that construction company owner and Panama Canal Authority board of directors member Nicolás Corcione Pérez Balladares facilitated, coordinated and was a beneficiary of a scheme for overcharges and kickbacks in the construction and renovation of court facilities. That scheme, so it seems, was one of the ways that Alejandro Moncada Luna got rich by means that he could not legitimately explain while he was the presiding magistrate of the Supreme Court.
“Innocent until proven guillty.” It’s an important cornerstone of criminal justice and Corcione is due his day in court. Whether the process that is due to him and other members of Ricardo Martinelli’s inner circle is the courts entertaining motions by lawyers on their behalf while they are out of the country is another issue. And while conviction on any serious charge gets Corcione kicked off of the ACP board, the question of whether there are criminals involved shouldn’t be the beginning and end of a long overdue public review of the Panama Canal’s governance.
Any public review that’s of a grandstanding “gotcha” nature would detract from its most important public purpose. There are genuine forward-looking policy questions that ought to be answered and to properly do that we have to look clearly through and beyond the hype to see where canal governance has been. We need to sort out the myths from the realities and take account of both the triumphs and the tragedies. With the canal expansion mega-project nearing completion the ACP management is moving to expand the scope of the institution’s economic activities and thus regulatory authority and Panama is not well served by a Varela administration and fragmented National Assembly acting as uncritical rubber stamps in such a process.
Back in the days when the old Canal Zone was by and large a US government company town, the Panama Canal Company was a widespread and not always so efficient conglomerate. The first limits on that came years before the Torrijos-Carter Treaties as Panamanian merchants pressed for controls that reduced the competition that they faced from the Canal Zone commissaries. In the treaties and in the decisions made after the treaties, the scope of PanCanal activity was greatly narrowed, often in ways detrimental to the nation. Assets and activities were abandoned or sold when they should not have been. Some decisions seem to have been a matter of a new set of masters asserting their authority for no other reason than calling dibs on political turf.
Might it be wise for the Panama Canal Authority to go back in the direction of the old Panama Canal Company, running ports, pipelines, fossil fuel power plants and a plethora of other businesses? Perhaps. But first of all, it should not be presumed that the ACP has the talent pool to do those things well, and second the nation should consider the implications of expanding the scope of an authority that for practical matters has not been answerable to outside public scrutiny and decision making.
Then we should consider Mr. Corcione, regardless of the facts of these criminal allegations, as a symbol of who has been running the Panama Canal. The aristocratic rabiblanco families play a dominant role on the ACP board. There are no labor representatives or PanCanal retirees on that board. Panama’s small white minority has a large majority on the board. One of the most obnoxious of the board members is in the ship waste disposal business but in effect a representative of certain port interests. The financial sector, the corporate law firms and the construction industry have all been well represented. In the canal expansion there have been abundant and flagrant conflicts of interest, as there have been all along, for example with the early decision of the Panamanian canal administration to discard the apprenticeship program and effectively privatize the training of new talent via an undistinguished for-profit university in which a person in the canal administration had a prominent role. The whole scheme of canal governance, including but not limited to its cast of characters, needs to be reviewed and subjected to public scrutiny, comment and debate.
Now is not the time for people to tire of all the scandals and allow parts of the Panamanian government — which the ACP is, notwithstanding its posturing as a private corporation — to go unexamined. As the Panama Canal expansion process approaches its completion we actually come to an appropriate moment to review canal governance and the role that the ACP plays in our society. This should be done before the authority gets into a port venture that in the present structure of things is more appropriately the bailiwick of the Panama Maritime Authority, energy projects that more properly belong under other jurisdictions or so on. For one example, if there are reasonable arguments to merge the canal and maritime authorities, those ought to be made and heard, if that is done then we should then all understand that the current directors and management of the canal authority are insufficient for the new role.
Spare us the propaganda and information control. Open the books, scrap the rules and customs against candor by people working for the ACP and get outside audits and opinions. “Not guilty of an infamous crime” is not a suitable standard for the governance of Panama’s principal public asset.
Bear in mind…
Centralism, the army and absolute authority have been related ideas, sisters like the Furies, destined to bring about the people’s ruin and humiliation.
I drank to drown my sorrows, but the damned things learned how to swim.
Calling Bush the devil offends the devil. Bush is a tremendously dimwitted president who has done great damage to the world.
Editor’s note: You, the reader, should know of the editor’s bias here. Mr. Corcione’s alleged partner in crime, El Renacer Penitentiary inmate Alejandro Moncada Luna, once between his stints in government that included being fellow inmate Manuel Antonio Noriega’s man in charge of closing the opposition press and his last public sector post as a Supreme Court magistrate, was the unsuccessful private prosecutor of the editor for this story about convicted felon Mark Boswell (alias Rex Freeman) who now runs a “Panama Christian Foundation” (sic) scheme in the Coronado area. The editor won the case because the story is true.
Government adamant about an agreement to dam the Tabasara River that no credible indigneous representative would countenance, rival Ngabe factions spar over how best to resist the company and authorities
Varela can’t get Ngabe acceptance of GENISA’s European-financed fraud
by Eric Jackson
The cancellation of the work is not an option. Chamber of Commerce
We will not move from here until the president of the republic, Juan Carlos Varela, comes to this place. Clementina Pérez Jaramillo Mama Tata leader and deputy regional cacique
The Honduran-owned GENISA company that’s building the Barro Blanco Dam? Their permits were obtained by fraud, and a member of their board of directors is in prison in Honduras for another fraud. The Dutch and German banks that backed GENISA? They didn’t do their due diligence, which would have exposed the fraudulent misrepresentation by the company and its Panamanian lawyers that no cultural sites were affected, when in fact the plan to flood the Tabasara River would destroy ancient petroglyphs that are protected by UN conventions and considered holy by the 60,000-member Mama Tata denomination that accounts for about one-third of the Ngabe indigenous nation.
The Varela administration is offering jobs and development projects, but the destruction or removal of the petroglyphs is a nonstarter for anyone who wants to endure in the fractious world of Ngabe politics. A coup d’etat to replace the current general cacique of the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca, Silvia Carrera, who insists on the dam project’s cancellation and demolition? The company already tried that once. But Carrera and her allies in the April 10th Movement (M-10) do have ever stronger competition from the September 22 Movement (M-22) — which should be no comfort to those who want the dam project to proceed.
So are Dutch and German bankers, and Panama’s Chamber of Commerce, insistent? None of them live in the area to be affected by the dam. None of them are indigenous, speak Ngabere or stand to be directly affected by a religious conflict that would be sparked if Carrera signed off on a deal to destroy a place that’s sacred to a large part of her constituency. Ever the defender of its members’ property rights, the chamber routinely supports the dispossession of impoverished rural communities. The fraud artists — those who commissioned, concocted and filed the dishonest environmental impact statements — are letting other people do their bidding and have not been called in to be interrogated by prosecutors. Polls show that by about a two-to-one margin Panamanian believe that they know exactly what is going on and support the indigenous side in the dispute.
That leaves the GENISA supporters with the usual rabiblanco divide and rule tactics in the face of a strong majority. Might there be major national power outages for which Silvia Carrera is blamed? The Martinelli administration already played that card. But the main problem is that the division which is there to play is between rival factions that claim to be more militantly opposed to the dam than the other.
In the last elections for the Ngabe-Bugle General Congress, the Electoral Tribunal took a census in a season when migrant farm workers were away picking crops and eliminated much of the electorate from the poll list. Ricardo Martinelli’s people poured significant government resources into the campaigns of those with whom they intended to take over the comarca’s government — and lost to the PRD, with many people who were not on the poll lists boycotting. Martnielli then bribed enough of the PRD-aligned delegates who were elected go get one of his followers elected as president of the congress — but nobody respected that man and the notion that he and those who voted for him would choose a general cacique was a nonstarter. Instead they called an election for general cacique. The Electoral Tribunal restored the voting rights of most of those who had been disenfranchised in the previous voting, but there was also a widespread boycott of that election. Lo and behold, farmer and craftswoman Silvia Carrera, an activist in the movements against dams and strip mines in the comarca, walked from village to village and won the election.
Carrera had the support of a lot of the teachers, who are mostly members of the Veraguas Educators Association (AEVE), a militant union whose leaders are aligned with Juan Jované’s faction of the left. But the election she won was boycotted by traditional leaders who object to any role for such outsiders as the Electoral Tribunal in indigenous self-government and by those aligned with Genaro López’s faction of the left. Among the most insistent opponents of elections run by non-indigenous authorities were the members of the Mama Tata denomination, a syncretist religion with both Christian and traditional indigenous roots that was preached by their late prophet Mama Atencio in the 1960s. The traditionalists called a Traditional Ngabe-Bugle General Congress to conflict with the government-sponsored elections and chose its own general cacique and officers who claim to be the legitimate authorities in the comarca. The local Buko Day police force takes directions from Carrera rather than the traditionalists or Martinelli’s discredited congress. Carrera avoided a major power struggle with the traditionalists and soundly thrashed the Martinelli people when they tried to remove her.
But as the impasse over the Barro Blanco Dam has dragged on, a new alliance that includes the Mama Tata faith, the Traditional Ngabe-Bugle General Congress and FRENADESO supporters has been camped out near the dam construction site, carrying out protests and participating in the talks with the government as the September 22nd Movement. While M-10 and M-22 trade insults and pursue separate tactics, there is no division between the about whether to accept the dam.
The resumption of work on the dam was accompanied by police moving into the M-22 campsite. The talks dragged on with neither side budging and new leadership emerging in Silvia Carrera’s part of the indigenous side, with Rolando Carpintero, the mayor of the Muna district of the comarca of which the places to be flooded are a part, taking a high profile. On the M-22 side Mama Tata leader Clementina Pérez Jaramillo has emerged as the principal spokeswoman.
On July 25 a small group of M-10 supporters blocked the Pan-American Highway near Tole and the police moved in to clear the road. There were 20 arrests and some rough play that caused some injuries that were not life threatening. Although those who were arrested were quickly released M-10 has taken the occasion to withdraw from the talks and La Prensa reports that people have been walking down from the largely roadless hills of the comarca to reinforce the protesters near Tole. M-22 has not formally withdrawn from the talks, remains encamped near the dam and has filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Human Rights Court to enjoin further work on the dam.
The government and M-10 have called for United Nations mediation. During the Martinelli administration there had been UN mediation but when the mediators found justice in the indigenous cause the government just ignored them.
The impasse continues, but the situation is far from static.
“Realizaremos todos los esfuerzos que la Constitución y las leyes nos permiten para lograr la renuncia o salida anticipada del profesor Gustavo García de Paredes…”
Declaración de Santiago
por el Movimiento de Adecentamiento de la Universidad de Panamá (MOVADUP)
Nosotros, los delegados del Movimiento de Adecentamiento de la Universidad de Panamá, provenientes de las provincias de Chiriquí, Colón, Herrera, Los Santos, Veraguas y Panamá, hemos deliberado ampliamente sobre la desastrosa realidad que padece la institución bajo sus actuales administradores, realidad que refleja una política conscientemente orientada hacia el deterioro de la educación superior pública con el fin de favorecer un proyecto de deseducación que abandona la integralidad académica y la integridad administrativa, desconoce la educación superior como un derecho y estimula su privatización al mismo tiempo que favorece a una burocracia cuya corrupción es imposible de ocultar, perjudica los intereses de la academia y hace grave daño a los estudiantes, siembra el terror entre los profesores y administrativos y deprime, de forma sistemática y dolosa, la presencia y proyección de la Universidad de Panamá en la vida nacional.
Tras haber concluido las deliberaciones, hemos resuelto firmemente no cejar en nuestros esfuerzos para revertir esta aciaga situación, totalmente injusta e inmerecida para la Universidad de Panamá. Por lo tanto, declaramos solemnemente lo siguiente:
1. Fomentaremos la conciencia ciudadana en el sentido de que esta reivindique, como natural, su derecho soberano, supremo e indiscutible a participar en los procesos de la Universidad de Panamá.
2. Realizaremos todos los esfuerzos que la Constitución y las leyes nos permiten para lograr la renuncia o salida anticipada del profesor Gustavo García de Paredes del cargo de rector de la Universidad de Panamá, no solo por su responsabilidad en la triste situación que se ha descrito, sino porque su permanencia en el cargo ha demostrado ser perjudicial para las investigaciones que se adelantan contra la corrupción campante en esta institución.
3. No claudicaremos en el impulso y seguimiento, por todos los medios a nuestro alcance, de los evidentes casos de corrupción en los que está involucrada la actual administración de la Universidad de Panamá.
4. Apoyaremos, con todas nuestras fuerzas, a los miembros del MOVADUP que son víctimas de los atropellos de la administración universitaria actual, especialmente a quienes adelantan casos en los tribunales contra los abusos perpetrados por ella.
5. Acogeremos y ayudaremos, con todos los recursos legales y políticos de que disponemos, a quienes recurran al MOVADUP por estar siendo acosados, perseguidos y vejados por orden de las autoridades de la Universidad de Panamá.
6. Nos esforzaremos al máximo para lograr el sufragio efectivo y que sea aprobada la ley que reinstaura la NO REELECCIÓN del rector, decanos y directores de Centros Regionales, pues más de veinte años de asociación de los mismos individuos han creado un impresionante edificio de corrupción que da primacía a intereses particulares y promueve un sistema delincuencial que se ha adueñado de la Universidad de Panamá.
7. Procuraremos alcanzar que, mediante ley, se disminuyan los poderes casi omnímodos de los que goza el rector, que lo convierten en juez y parte en los órganos de cogobierno y han propiciado que deje impunes a personas que han cometido delitos en la Universidad de Panamá mientras castiga a los que denuncian las irregularidades, manipule el otorgamiento de descargas horarias y de cátedras incluso sin concurso, insulte sin consecuencias para él a los estudiantes, desacate órdenes judiciales, negocie opinión favorable a instituciones de educación superior privada que no soportan acreditación y un largo etcétera.
8. Lograremos que se reforme el sistema de ponderación electoral de manera que ningún estamento alcance, por sí solo, una mayoría absoluta y concluyente, dado que el desequilibrio del sistema actual promueve el comercio abierto y encubierto de las conciencias y es el origen estructural del clientelismo. Esta reforma deberá incluir el voto de los egresados de la Universidad de Panamá, puesto que su capacidad académica es indiscutible y son el vínculo natural e inmediato de esta institución con la comunidad que la sostiene.
9. Aseguraremos que el Organismo Electoral Universitario sea independiente, que sus miembros no se deban al influjo pernicioso del rector de turno para ocupar sus puestos y que el trabajo de este organismo sea debidamente supervisado por el Tribunal Electoral de la República.
10. Propondremos elevar rigurosamente, mediante ley, el perfil académico y personal de cualesquiera aspirantes a los cargos de rector, decanos y directores de centros regionales, de forma que sean elegidos a estos puestos panameños con realizaciones académicas de la más alta calidad y de integridad fuera de toda duda.
11. Efectuaremos todos los esfuerzos posibles para lograr la descentralización de la Universidad de Panamá, dado que su actual administración desatiende dolosamente las necesidades de las regiones, les impide su crecimiento y el desarrollo de su oferta académica y favorece de este modo que la educación universitaria privada se expanda a costa del estudiantado, sobre todo del más humilde, que debe realizar un esfuerzo económico tremendo si desea estudiar una carrera que, debido a lo antedicho, no ofrece la Universidad de Panamá.
12. Apoyaremos decididamente la creación, mediante ley, de una Universidad Pedagógica sobre la base del Instituto Pedagógico Juan Demóstenes Arosemena, que funciona en la Escuela Normal Juan Demóstenes Arosemena, proyecto que fue truncado por la mezquindad y compromisos políticos espurios de la administración de la Universidad de Panamá en contubernio con el gobierno corrupto de Ricardo Martinelli y su ministra de Educación, Lucy Molinar.
13. Nos constituiremos en plataforma permanente que sirva a la ciudadanía como observatorio y punto de apoyo de sus iniciativas respecto de la Universidad de Panamá que promuevan una educación superior popular, de alta calidad y de elevada conciencia social y solidaria.
¡El pueblo panameño recuperará su universidad!
¡Por la excelencia académica, adecentamiento universitario!
Panama gets another careeer diplomat as US ambassador at a time when many of the policies he has implemented and defended are increasingly questioned in the hemisphere
Drug War veteran to head the American embassy here
by Eric Jackson
On July 28 US President Barack Obama named John D. Feeley as he next American ambassador in Panama. He will have to be approved by the US Senate to take up the post, and while these days in Washington the Republicans who control the senate would grab at most excuses to block an Obama appointment they would probably have to contrive some excuse if they intend to block Feeley. The man is identified with the “War on Drugs” and free trade on the NAFTA template as the centerpieces of US policy toward Latin America and there are few Republican senators who oppose those basic premises of American foreign policy in the region. US critics of these policies, mostly on the left but also including libertarians like Rand Paul on the right are likely to be less impressed, but those who are not grandstanding will understand that their argument is with presidential policies rather than the diplomats appointed to carry them out.
On the Panamanian left the tendency is to ignore the intricacies and subtleties of US policy and presume that any American ambassador is the representative of a hostile imperial power and any man or woman of this country’s left who meets with such a person is a traitor. Much of the Panamanian left also doesn’t openly question militarized anti-drug policies advocated and financed by Washington. Were Panamanians on that end of the spectrum to pay attention they might find Feeley’s characterization of Mexican concerns about national sovereignty as “tired shibboleths” to be an issue for Panama. But as the US State Department’s luck would have it, such matters tend to be treated as deviations from the more important struggle over which faction is the vanguard of a Panamanian revolution that doesn’t seem to be happening at the moment.
Feeley came to the US Foreign Service after service with the US Marine Corps as a helicopter pilot and graduate of Georgetown University and later — as a diplomat rather than as an active duty military man — of the National War College. He was an aide to Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice. He has served in two assignments in Mexico, one as chargé d’affaires n 2011 and 2012. He has also been posted to Colombia and the Dominican Republic and in Washington has run the El Salvador desk, been Deputy Director of Caribbean Affairs and Director of Central American Affairs and worked with the State Department’s Operations Center. Since 2012 he has been Foggy Bottom’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
Feeley is married to another diplomat, Cherie Feeley, with whom he has two sons. We may be getting another power couple at the American Embassy.
Are the diplomatic issues of the day between Panama and the United States readily apparent? Perhaps not. There is discretion in the business and perhaps the most important thing that could be learned from the WikiLeaks cables from Panama was the difference between what was said in public and the actual concerns at the time. For example, at the moment we might surmise that Ricardo Martinelli’s presence in the United States would be an issue, given that the State Department could pull his visa at any moment for just about any reason or for no reason with very little legal recourse — but we don’t know if President Varela has told the Americans that he’s just as soon have Martinelli somewhere other than in Panama. Colombia’s civil conflict and law enforcement concerns with international criminals whose businesses include but go beyond drugs would seem to be parts of the beat to which Feeley is being assigned. Increasingly, American ambassadors are also functional advocates for US-based multinational corporations and there are a number of those with significant operations here.
A setback for Panama’s labor movement, but it may be a matter of intact unions retreating to buy time for their next moves rather than fighting on and suffering a crushing defeat
18-day beer and Coca-Cola strike suspended for arbitration
by Eric Jackson
On July 28 unionized workers at the Cerveceria Nacional and its related FEMSA Coca-Cola company went back to work without a contract after an 18-day strike. The companies, subsidiaries of the South Africa based SABMiller, had met with union representatives some 30 times over more than a month and a half but had never responded to union proposals nor submitted any proposals of their own. By all appearances the global giant — the world’s second-largest beer brewing combine and holder of many countries’ Coca-Cola bottling concessions — seemed intent on destroying the Beer Industry Workers Union (STICP) and the Coca-Cola workers’ union with the long acronym (SITRAFCOREBGASCELIS). However, when the unions filed with he Ministry of Labor Development for arbitration the companies agreed and no reprisals against strikers is ordinarily one of the requirements for such government intervention. The outcome of a government arbitration process, however, won’t be binding on a party that thinks that it has lost.