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The Mercado de Abastos


sandiaA stroll through the farmers’ market

photos by Eric Jackson

Late on a Saturday morming — the most activity and best deals are early — this reporter went through a market that was slated to be shut down a few years ago. This venerable locale in Curundu was to be replaced by another market in Juan Diaz, or so the Martinelli administration announced. The new venue would have been inconvenient for farmers driving in from the Interior and for residents in and near the city center, but it seems that intra-Cambio Democratico politics — Martinelli wanted to replace the mayor of his party with a gunslinging drunk driver TV star, so didn’t want to let her get the funding for any accomplishments to show for her time in office. Part of the old market was torn down to make way for the Tribunal Electoral headquarters but the old market stayed open, now more cramped and crowded with driving and parking nightmares. But it’s still a cool place, and a necessary place for the proprietors of so many mini-supers, fondas and restaurants. The parking and congestion problems are all easily soluble if the municpal and national governments seek to restore and improve upon the market’s old glory. This is, of course, the dry season (and a very dry one at that), so that limits the market offerings that you see here.


some prices


call any vegetable




roots harvest




beware the cat lurking outside the photo


light from the loading dock


shakes and stuff


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A friendly message from the local gangsters

no sea lambon
It means “Don’t be an ass kisser” and it is written on the wall of an abandoned government building in Curundu. Photo by Eric Jakcson.


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Eight of 15 cases against Ayú Prado dismissed

PRD legislator and former judge Zulay Rodríguez, perhaps best known for her rants against foreigners, seems to have alienated her colleagues on the Credentials Committee. Photo by the Asamblea Nacional.

Ayú Prado wins a round, for strange reasons

by Eric Jackson
I don’t dismiss, you don’t dismiss, we don’t dismiss. They, the deputies on the Credentials Committee, do dismiss.
law professor Miguel Antonio Bernal


In other legislatures’ times what they did was dismiss without processing the complaints, which is different from this legislature, which gave an opportunity for debate.
National Assembly president Rubén De León


On March 16 the legislature dismissed eight criminal complaints against the Supreme Court’s presiding magistrate, José Ayú Prado, along with a 40-page report on these cases by one of the committee’s members, deputy Zulay Rodríguez Lu (PRD – San Miguelito). All eight complaints were variations on the same matter, allegations that Ayú Prado acted illegally in removing a Colon juvenile court judge, Juan Domingo Ibarra. Ibarra was suspected of accepting bribes to free youths accused of serious crimes, but no such case against him has been proven or even formally alleged by prosecutors. The Ibarra affair pits the high court’s supervisory role over lower tribunals against the concept of judicial independence. Most probably the committee’s decision was also something of a legislative referendum on Rodríguez’s reputation among her colleagues.

The committee found that the complaints did not contain proofs of the elements of a crime. That’s not a remarkably wrong conclusion, but the use of that standard to dismiss the complaints is controversial. In effect the committee was voting on whether to begin an investigation. The decision was not based on whether there was probable cause to begin an investigation, but whether the complaint contained the full proofs needed to convict. It was in part a back door revival of the infamous summary proof rule, which holds that no criminal investigation may commence against a public official unless complete and competent proof that a crime has been committed and that the official accused committed it, and moreover requires that any investigation done without such summary proof attached to an accepted complaint bars any investigation of the matter. But of course, to have the required summary proof to attach to the complaint the person making the complaint or somebody on his or her behalf would generally have had to investigate the matter at least enough to get that proof.

One of the dismissed allegations against Ayú Prado was that he used a forged criminal case file against Ibarra to get other magistrates to support him in removing the judge, when actually there was no such case. If there is probable cause to allege that, it would seem easy enough to investigate and find out if such a purported set of documents was shown around. But that would get the legislature into inquiring about the conduct of the high court’s daily business, arguably in violation of the constitutional separation of powers.

Rodríguez used to be an alternate judge, and in that role also at one time functioned as a de facto clerk for the Supreme Court. She was forced off of the bench — amidst never-confirmed rumors of US Embassy pressures — for letting some Colombian drug suspects out of jail on bail. In Panama, thanks largely to US “War on Drugs” urging, there is no bail for drug offenses. Since her election to the National Assembly in 2014 Rodríguez has been known both for her emotional rows with colleagues and for her railing against foreigners, particularly Venezuelans and Colombians, the latter whom she broad-brushed characterized as “scum.” Within a fragmented PRD that seems to have lost all unifying principles, she and her xenophobic politics have become one of the forces with which to reckon. She has many fervent supporters, but within the legislature she is the subject of much fear and loathing. That may not be a huge liability, as for many years polls have consistently shown the National Assembly to be one of the most hated of public institutions. In its February 2016 poll, Dicther & Neira found only 27 percent of those surveyed with a positive view of the legislature, against 68 percent expressing a negative opinion about the institution. The vote to dismiss the complaints about Ibarra were eight in favor with Rodríguez abstaining, so it might leave her in a position to say that she stood alone against a corrupt legislature and garner some substantial public support by doing so.

Still before the committee are seven more complaints about Ayú Prado, both for his actions on the court and for acts allegedly committed from before that time, when he was attorney general under Ricardo Martinelli. The three newest complaints, all filed this month, are about alleged abuses of power in a series of firings and arrests for corruption in one of the lower courts. Those would present some of the same problems as in the Ibarra matter. Then there are a couple of rather straightforward cases, which would be easy enough to investigate and prove if the committee doesn’t invoke some supposed rule or policy against investigations. One, against Ayú Prado and two colleagues, is about abuse of the high court’s travel funds. The other, from when Ayú Prado was attorney general, is about him allegedly ordering the destruction of evidence in a wiretapping case. There is a case in which it is alleged that the presiding magistrate and eight colleagues unanimously but unconstitutionally approved the deportation of a French citizen. And the then there are the two most far-reaching and explosive cases, one alleging that Ayú Prado was a conduit for Ricardo Martinelli’s presidential interference in court cases and the other that as attorney general Ayú Prado used threats to alter testimony about Martinelli’s alleged insider trading activities that are part of the much broader Financial Pacific brokerage firm scandal.


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730 scholars on impunity in Honduras

Juan Orlando Hernandez, who presides over the US-backed death squad regime in Honduras. Photo by the Honduran Presidencia.

Scholars complain of abuses with impunity in Honduras

March 16th, 2016
US Secretary of State John Kerry
Washington, DC

Dear Secretary of State Kerry:

We, the undersigned Latin American experts, are writing to protest the political assassination of Berta Cáceres on March 3, 2016. Cáceres led the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH), and she won the prestigious Goldman Prize Award in 2015 for her work in the protection of the rights and environment of Indigenous people. Cáceres was an effective and well-loved environmental justice leader, Indigenous rights organizer and racial justice pioneer in Honduras. Due to her work against corporate interests, she received numerous death threats for years. Though she was under precautionary protective measures she was not under police protection at the time of her murder. The murder of Berta Cáceres, therefore, represents an assassination of great magnitude in a beleaguered country. Her loss to the Indigenous movement in Honduras is akin to the loss of Martin Luther King, Jr. to the civil rights movement in the United States.

We are deeply concerned that the US government condones and supports the current Honduran government by sending financial and technical support to strengthen the Honduran military and police, institutions that have been responsible for human rights violations since the coup d’état of 2009. By all accounts, the 2009 coup collapsed the judicial system and the rule of law. The country has one of the highest rates of homicides, feminicides, and LGBTI murders in the world. In spite of this egregious situation, the US government continues to fund a government that has unapologetically disregarded the right to life of its citizens. Berta Cáceres has become the 101st environmental justice organizer to be killed in Honduras since 2010, demonstrating the blatant disregard and danger facing environmental justice organizers.

According Human Rights observers on the ground and the Mexican organization Otros Mundos, the life of the sole witness of Berta’s murder, Gustavo Castro Soto, a Mexican citizen and human rights worker, is in danger. Human rights workers in Honduras believe that he was also the target of assassination. The Honduran police are interrogating him for long periods of time refusing him breaks, food and water. The Honduran government is refusing to allow him to return to his country and will hold him for 30 days. We fear for his life and join the international community in calling for the protection and immediate release of Gustavo Castro Soto.

We urge the US government to immediately suspend support to the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez. We ask the US government to introduce sanctions against the Honduran government, until it allows the entry of an independent international team of investigators to solve the crime against Berta Cáceres.

We join the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Americas in calling for the following actions:

1. WE DEMAND that the government of Honduras:
• Conduct a timely, transparent and diligent investigation of the assassination of Berta Cáceres.
• Ensure the speedy identification of the intellectual and material actors of the crime.
• Allow the participation of international human rights experts in support of the investigations, particularly in examination of the threats against Berta Cáceres as a human rights defender.
• Protect the life of Mexican Human Rights worker, Gustavo Castro Soto, the only witness of the attack on Berta Cáceres, and permit his safe exit from the country.
• Implement the Law of Protection for Human Rights workers, Journalists, Social Communicators and Justice workers.
• Adopt strategies and effective prevention plans to end persecution of Human Rights workers, including providing a budget and administrative support to the creation of an agency responsible for their protection.

2. WE REQUEST the Inter-American Court of Human Rights:
• Supervise the investigation of Berta Cáceres’ murder and to make sure that it is conducted impartially and independently with the participation of international human rights experts.
• Pursue the punctual investigation on behalf of the Honduran government and provide investigation recommendations in hopes that they will guarantee the life and integrity of investigators and defenders of Human Rights in their territory.

3. WE DEMAND that the Mission of Support Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH):
• Ensure the investigation of the murder of Berta Cáceres includes international experts and is realized with diligence independently and impartially.

4. WE DEMAND that US Congress and the US State Department:
• Cease aid to Honduras via the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle until the Honduran government addresses its poor Human Rights records, demonstrates capacity to prosecute perpetrators, and guarantees the rights of all people, especially Indigenous, Afrodescendant and LGBTI people, women and children.

Thank you.

Respectfully Submitted,

Scholars and Signatories listed on pages 3-29 here


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¿Wappin? Music to go with sausage, soda bread and green beer







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Democrats Abroad meet in Balboa on Saturday

I and I
get up stand up
If you are at the top of the front stairs to the Balboa Union Church and look down past the bak across the stree, it will be at the end of the parking area.


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The Bard, mashed and condensed



not Robby Shakespeare
Simon Tejeira, James Mattiace and Nick Miles go anachronistically retro, with lots of ellipses…

Is that how CliffsNotes did it?

a review and photos by Eric Jackson

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

showing now at the Theatre Guild’s playhouse in Ancon
based on the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare
adapted by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield
directed by Nick Miles
starring Adam Herzig, James Mattiace and Simon Tejeira
set & graphic design Stephanie Sanz
light design Juan de la Guardia
costume design Keitha Kushner
stage combat consultant Monalisa Arias
stage manager Andrea Marchosky
set construction Nick Miles
promotional photography Elena Nathani
videographer Amit Nathani
back stage assisant Maria Theoktisto
lighting operator Steve Barnett
costume assistant Terry Phipps

You blow your chance at a C- in high school English literature if you use this play instead of the CliffsNotes. Maybe this, plus a bit of old popular American music and a teacher who just wants to process you through, might get you a passing grade. The really mean teacher will test you on this play, and make you read the unabridged originals to compare and contrast. If you actually get into literature, the teacher will be doing you a wonderful favor by turning you onto The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).

With nobody credited on the playbill as producer, this was one of the Guild’s better productions. The cast was solid and well directed, with the outstanding performance in this reporter’s eyes turned in by Adam Herzig. The set as a work of art, the lighting, the campy costumes — these, too, were quite special.

The play is, of course, a mash-up, a spoof, of the works that set enduring standards of English literature. (Those standards were canonized by a generation deeply influenced by Shakespeare in the King James Bible, which appeared about 10 years after the masterpiece Hamlet and about five years before Shakespeare’s death. That towering literary work, problematic translation though it may be, was for centuries typically the only book found in a literate English-speaking home. Thus the collection of holy scriptures from Shakesperean times was the starting point for generations of writers and continues to be for many.) Your appreciation of English is stunted without direct exposure to Shakespeare and while you will enjoy this funny play without such exposure, you won’t completely get it. But therein is the genius of Long, Singer and Winfield, who crafted a zany play with jokes and story lines on several levels of sophistication, a technique whose use is also one of the hallmarks that distinguishes good from bad children’s television.

So how much Shakespeare is there in this play? No, they don’t get into Robbie. There is just enough for the audience to know that Adam Herzig can do the unadulterated stuff very well. It makes the derivative comedy that much better. The proto-psychology and swordplay are gravy.

At the time these words were written, there were to be three more performances in the little wooden playhouse near the DIJ in Ancon: Thursday, March 17 and the two following nights, all shows staring at 8 p.m. This show also goes on the road to Boquete for one show only, on Saturday, March 26 at 5 p.m. at Valle Escondido.


James Mattace also spoofs latter day pseudo-academic pretensions. His resume would get him far in Panamanian politics, if only he had the right set of surnames.
James Mattiace also spoofs latter day pseudo-academic pretensions. His resume would get him far in Panamanian politics, if only he had the right set of surnames.


The Ophelia character is often taken as the great example of how Shakespeare well knew and ably portrayed madness — little is known of his personal life, so we don’t know where he would have had the exposure to it — but some latter day feminist criticism takes the character as an example of the prevailing swinish misogyny of the bard’s time. And Adam Herzig’s performance of the role in drag? A high point of the show to this reporter, but perhaps it will bring out the church ladies to protest the depravity of thespianism on stage.


Simon T
Simon Tejeira, who also does video and gets into several types of writing, surely must know that it’s kind of dangerous to walk that way, let alone dress that way, at night a few blocks away across the busy street.

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The Panama News blog links, March 14, 2016


The Panama News blog links, March 14, 2016

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CM, Skepticism about June opening date for new locks

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JOC, Views differ on probable PanCanal traffic volume

Seatrade, Panama Maritime Authority proposes ship financing bill

Havana Times: Francisca Ramirez, a leading foe of Nicaragua’s canal project

Video, Carolena Carstens rumbo a los juegos de Río 2016

BoxingScene, Duran upset about Cabellero’s coke bust

MLB Reports, 2017 World Baseball Classic Qualifier preview: Rod Carew Stadium

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Aviation Tribune, Emirates puts Panama regional air hub on hold

Engelwood Daily, Analysts rate Copa as a buy

telecompaper, Spiegel named CEO of C&W Panama

OzarksFirst, Panama-Missouri trade deal

Times of Malta: Panama, Konrad Mizzi, Azerbaijan, trusts…

The Malta Independent, The “Panamagate scandal’s” negative impact

Prensa Latina, Panamá vs. OECD

STRI, Long ago tiny deer were hunted to extinction in the Perlas

Prensa Latina, Panama’s first heart transplant

The Recorder, Zika increases demand for abortions in countries where it’s illegal

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Barbados Nation, University of the West Indies builds ties with Panama

Indian Country, Indigenous youth cultural exchange here in June

EFE, Costa Rica and Panama complete airlift of Cuban migrants

InSight Crime, Wiretaps don’t flatter Martinelli

BBC, Brazil protesters call for President Rousseff to resign

AFP, Dilma en “modo supervivencia”

Folha de S. Paulo, Marcelo Odebrecht’s emails “disappear” from server in Panama

Gros, The end of globalization?

Wallerstein, Declining demand: is reality creeping in?

Schaller, Deconstructing the narrative of Arctic war

Gandásegui, La ciencia contra el zica

Blades, Las primarias estadounidenses del 2016

Holt-Giménez: Murder, Honduras and the Democratic primaries

Chiriquí Natural, Homenaje a Berta Cáceres por el Movimiento 10 de Abril

García, The murder of Berta Cáceres

Franzblau, Hillary Clinton’s drug war legacy in Mexico

Ming, Rubio sweeps to victory — in Argentina

Reich, My particular relationship with bullies

Video: Van Jones, Jeffrey Lord clash over Donald Trump and the KKK

Rodrik, The politics of anger

Greenwald, Trump’s rise and the sham of “neutral” journalism

Video, Washington Post runs 16 anti-Bernie stories in 16 hours

Boff, El Papa Francisco recupera el buen sentido de Jesús

ALAI, Letter from Pérez Esquivel to Obama

Reuters, Obama afirma que abordará el tema de derechos humanos con Castro

Santos, Waging peace in Colombia


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