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The problem with Panama…

A recent ACP forum on this country’s future as a logisics hub was these people talking…

Panama’s big problem

as shown by these photos from the ACP magaine, El Faro

These photos come from a logistics forum in January, but now that the discussion has turned toward damage control in the wake of the Panama Papers leaks, we see comparable scenes. Mostly to limit embarrassment but also as a function of Latin America’s concepts of race that are markedly different from those in the USA, the censuses here do not take data on race. Most Panamanians are of mixed race. White people are a small minority, 10 percent or less depending on how one wants to define the concept. But among those who are consulted and who make the decisions regarding our nation’s economic future….

... to this audience. Photos by the ACP / El Faro.
… to this audience. Photos by the ACP / El Faro.


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Bernal, Offshore government

1 for you 19 for me
Her Majesty’s taxman’s warning — but not for the Camerons and their friends.

Offshore government

by Miguel Antonio Bernal

In the past few weeks the president and his cabinet ministers, the party leaders and pundits and the imitation legal analysts have taken it upon themselves to aggravate the offense to national dignity and Panama’s slight international standing.

First of all the difference has been shown between the principles they espouse and understand as national dignity and what these days is considered one of the structural elements of every modern state. Thus it’s important for us to take a moment to summarily consider this subject.

They, forever discarding citizen participation, have been primarily speaking up in defense of the personal interests of those most responsible for the moral damage that has been done to Panama. They’re maintaining the vices of a political system imposed in 1972, originally by the military regime and later adopted by themselves. It’s still in effect.

The problem that concerns and aggrieves us is not one that can be solved by simply applying a more refined legal technique to correct the grossest vices of our weakened public institutions.

If indeed the use of good legal techniques will eventually be necessary, this is not the main thing. The principal problem that we face is that the people who run our government lack a vision of our country. They have even less of a vision of the our country’s place in the world. The only things that our politicians can talk about are the canal, tourism, business and the money that these things mean for their Panama.

But from all these resources that have come into and are coming into Panama, who benefits? If our country is so prosperous, why don’t we invest in education instead of in the masters of spreading corruption? Why we have not developed a country where everyone can build their future while contributing to the development of their community? Consider this not only in terms of money or material goods, but in terms of solidarity, in terms of common identity, as a matter of the development of the individual and collective potentials that our people have.

Panama can’t just be a canal and an offshore government. The Panamanian people are much more than that and for this reason we urgently need an environment that allows a process of dialogue, debate and discussion, which sets aside imposition, autocracy and all the rampant corruption.


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The wild cousins of Panama’s dogs

bush dog
A bush dog at the Prague Zoo. Photo by Bonnie1978.

About some wild cousins of Panama’s dogs

by Eric Jackson

The domesticated dogs that are found in Panama likely came in two major waves, one with the people who walked into the Americas over the Siberian-Alaskan land bridge that existed in the Ice Age and another that came on ships with the European conquest. Is some of South America’s pre-Columbian population of Pacific islander origin? If so they probably brought dogs with them as well, and those would possibly be of Australian origin. Figure that the genetic mainstream of domesticated dogs indigenous to the Western Hemisphere at the time of the European Conquest were descended from Asian and North American wolves, perhaps with and admixture of coyote ancestry. Probably those dogs that came with the Europeans were mostly descended from Eurasian wolves, perhaps with an admixture of African jackal ancestry. DNA studies could clarify this, were the cost of such studies to come down or grants to conduct them more available. Wolves and perhaps coyotes and jackals that were not themselves found on the isthmus are surely the closest wild relatives to Panama’s domesticated dogs.

However, we have other wild canids here. The primarily North American coyotes (Canis latrans) and the primarily South American bush dogs (Speothos venaticus) also live in Panama.

Had coyotes inhabited Panama in antiquity, then been absent for a time, only to relatively recently make their return? So far the fossil record does not tell us that, but for the Meso-American Isthmus farther north and west that does seem to have been the case. In legend, the coyotes of Mexico and Central America were sometimes seen as divine tricksters. Folk tales and fossils suggest that with expansions and contractions of agricultural frontiers, coyotes came and went. They do well on cleared land, in forest fragments and in urban and suburban areas. They are not particularly well suited as jungle animals. If catastrophe decimates a neotropical human civilization such that the forest takes back farms and pastures, does that drive the coyotes away? That may have happened in parts of Central America after the collapse of the Mayan civilization. There are parts of Panama that at the time of the conquest were well populated and cleared agricultural lands, but with the ravages of wars and diseases the Europeans brought to the isthmus the population shrank and in many formerly cultivated places the jungle grew back. Did that exile an existing Panamanian coyote population, as it apparently did in parts of Central America? So far we can only speculate.

However, about in the 1970s the southern range of the coyotes began to extend from Mexico down into Central America and by the 1980s they were in Panama. It was thought that the Panama Canal was some sort of barrier, but by early 2013 there were coyote sightings in Chepo, east of Panama City and farther yet east of the canal. Now the speculation is whether they will penetrate or circumvent the forest barrier known as the Darien Gap, so as to get into Colombia and spread throughout South America.

This writer has never photographed a coyote, but did see one from a bus traveling along the Pan-American Highway near the boundary of Chame and San Carlos districts in Panama Oeste. HEARING coyotes is a far more frequent event. At the foot of the foothills of Cocle province the occasional howling is unmistakable, and it tends to drive the local dogs nuts. As time goes by, will we see more dogs that are part coyote, or vice versa? As the two species can interbreed and both live around people, that will probably be the case. As agricultural pests the coyotes are probably overrated, but they will kill and eat barnyard fowl, cattle, goats and household pets. To the extent that rural Panamanians expect them to be predators of their livestock the coyotes are and will be treated as pests, which means that these rather intelligent wild canids will be reinforced in their natural shyness about interactions with humans.

More elusive and but probably geographically more widespread in Panama are the bush dogs. These creatures have short legs, rounded ears and plump bodies, to the extent that they might appear to be tiny bears or relatives of the badgers rather than the dogs. They are canids, arguably related to the South American maned wolves or the African wild dogs. There have been a few sightings in Costa Rica, but Panama appears to be close to the northern end of their range.

The bush dogs, which have partially webbed feet, will hunt in packs along jungle streams, with some pursuing their prey on land while other lay in wait in the water for dinner to try to get away by crossing to the other side of the stream. They avoid people and their domesticated animals, but recent camera trap studies have detected the bush dogs in a wide variety of ecological niches throughout the Panamanian isthmus.


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Editorial: Earth Day 2016


Earth Day 2016

This year Earth Day finds Panama in a terrible drought, the worst on record and probably an example of things to come. Climate change is upon us and although it is important to do certain things to avoid making it worse, no country alone can change the overall course of events and even standing together the world will not turn things around in an instant. Adaptation has now come front and center on the nation’s and the world’s job list.

Panama has done well in certain areas and badly in others. There is less deforestation. There is less burning. But solid waste disposal is a total disaster and our fisheries are collapsing. We have no coherent carbon emissions policy, there isn’t much progress toward the promised clean water system that covers all of the nation’s households and some steps in the other direction have not changed the trend toward designing the capital and its environs for cars rather than people.

The economic life that the nation has been living is threatened on several fronts. We probably won’t be allowed to continue with a thriving “offshore asset protection” economy, we will probably fall well short of the shipping volume projections that were the premise for the canal expansion and the downturn in our import / export business promises to be prolonged due to a generalized regional economic stall. “Free trade,” blights, land speculation and the vagaries of markets have scaled back our most basic national security requirement, the ability to feed ourselves.

However, because all of these troubles will oblige us to rethink the economic model by which Panama works — or else we will be left standing amidst the rubble of the old model’s collapse without any alternative in mind — we will have the opportunity to deliberately move toward a more holistic way of life. It won’t be easy, but it won’t be as hard as it would be to try to continue doing what we have been doing. The essential things are that we need an economy in which we produce more of the things that we eat and use and develop new goods and services that the world will want and buy, and do these things without destroying our land and seas or adding to our carbon footprint. Socially and politically it can’t be done in any lasting way if it means selling the country to foreigners or adding to our own extreme domestic inequalities.

In the meantime, there are some common sense things to do, some of which are being done:

  • Our energy policies need to first and foremost focus on using less of it to do what we need to do, with the extension of our commuter rail system, a variety of taxes and fees to make the driving of internal combustion vehicles more expensive and import duties and policies that make energy-saving and clean energy-producing devices cheaper;
  • We should enact mandatory bottle deposit laws and restrictions on the free distribution of disposable shopping bags at stores as relatively easy steps toward the end of a throw-away society;
  • Our clean water system should be developed, interconnected and rationalized but neither by privatization and the dispossession with little or no compensation of rural communities, nor by discriminatory distribution policies that would make it another subsidy only for the rich, nor skipping new common sense and commonly agreed rules about water use in a country where climate change is making the resource chronically scarce;
  • We need a rural jobs program that creates honorable work at living wages reforesting the country with a mix of trees and ground cover plants that restores wild areas rather than creates temporary cash crops where wildlife will not thrive, creates new coral reefs, renewed mangrove swamps and artificial oyster beds as breeding grounds that will revive the marine food chain, builds new hatcheries for pelagic fish to become part of a regional and global commons, and hires people to guard and maintain all of these works plus the natural assets that we already have; and
  • We ought to incite a new sense of pride in a clean and beautiful Panama, a land without throw-away places or people, a country to which people with good taste and healthy social values will flock to visit.

An awfully expensive Earth Day shopping list? Perhaps. But not nearly so expensive as drifting along in the direction we have been going.


Bear in mind…

If we don’t do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable.
Petra Kelly
Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water.
Carl Sagan
They fear us because we’re fearless.
Berta Cáceres


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¿Wappin? We shall endure…

the artist
Prince, at the Coachella Festival in 2008.

¿Wappin? We shall endure…

If you’re not a buzzardly old hippie or just slightly younger, bear with us and listen. Then go back to what you were playing, but do so with a better perspective.

Chambers Brothers – People Get Ready

Bob Marley – Crazy Baldheads

Youssou N’Dour & Neneh Cherry – 7 Seconds

Dido – No Freedom

Lou Reed – Heroin

David Bowie – Blackstar

Natalie Merchant – Giving Up Everything

The Corrs – Little Wing

Chaka Khan – Through the Fire

Wendy & Lisa – Waterfall

Mott the Hoople – All the Young Dudes

Melodians – Rivers of Babylon

Prince in Concert, New Jersey 1982


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More Panama Papers blog links

The cover of the current issue of Private Eye (UK).

The Panama Papers scandals multiply and accelerate

Links in English

The Guardian, US Justice Department to probe Panama Papers tax cheats

Boston Globe, Panama Papers provide a peek at the divorces of the rich

Reddit, A chat with three reporters who helped to break the Panama Papers story

Hightower, Cameron is cornered

The Guardian, Hong Kong editor sacked after publishing Panama Papers story

Center for Public Integrity, Banks must reveal Panama dealings to NY regulator

Fortune, Why the Panama Papers largely spared Americans

Financial Times, UK financial enforcer says Panama Papers charges will be difficult

The Non Profit Times, Mossack Fonseca arranged fake charitable gifts

South China Morning Post: Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong pols named in Panama Papers

Mint, Dubai is a new magnet for India’s money launderers

Reuters, Venezuela indicts businessman named in Panama Papers

ANCIR, Namibian receptionist finds she’s listed as owner of companies

Politico, Why we should worry about the Panama Papers

ABC, Some 80 Australian criminals found in the Panama Papers

BBC, The Panama Papers and Pakistan’s prime minister


Vínculos en español

El Espectador, ¿Qué esconden los papeles de Panamá?

El País, Mossack Fonseca aparece en una veintena de causas judiciales en España

El Confidencial, De Andorra a Panamá

Radio Macondo, Casa Real española en jaque por los papeles de Panamá

El Confidencial, Pareja de Felipe González tenía un negocio offshore

Bernal, Nuevo Amanecer

La Prensa, Periodistas de La Prensa rinden declaración jurada

Prensa Latina, Posibles vínculos de Mossack-Fonseca con invasión a Panamá

Video, Sindicalistas exigen investigar a panameños en Papeles de Panamá

EFE, Superintendencia de Valores inspecciona actividad de Mossack Fonseca

TeleSUR, Empresario venezolano detenido por caso Panama Papers

El Día, Procurador dominicano espera datos de Panamá

Prensa Latina, Senado uruguayo crea comisión para investigar Panama Papers

Forbes México, Repatrian 170 millones de pesos tras escándalo de Panama Papers

Infobae, Mexicanos protestaron desnudos por los Panamá Papers


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We’re Number 91! ~ ¡Somos número 91!

De acuerdo del grupo Reporteros Sin Fronteras, entre 180 países Panamá tiene el rango de número 91 en terminos de la libertad de la prensa.

To learn more, click here to go to the RSF website in English

Para aprender más, toque aquí para ir a la página de RSF en español



Donar a RSF para defender a periodistas ~ Donate to RSF to defend journalists





Ciclo de conversatorios sobre autores panameños del siglo XX


autoresPara la agenda completa de conversatorios, toque aquí


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Harrington: Quien paga, ¡MANDA!

Representantes del pueblo panameño consultado por el presidente sobre el secretismo empresarial y bancario. Foto por la Presidencia.

Quien paga, ¡MANDA!

por Kevin Harrington-Shelton

Desde nuestras primeras aulas a los panameños nos mantienen mareados con lo de “Panamá, centro del mundo, corazón del universo” — cuando en realidad siempre hemos dependido del resto del mundo.

La intranquilidad aupada artficiosamente por el nombre escogido para el destape de las offshore ilustra cómo un periodismo (más interesado en prestarse al sensacionalismo para desenfocar de la problemática política) no aporta perspectivas para entender las travesuras de una clase política totalmente corrupta, y que prefiere pasar agachada, a resolver problemas prioritarios al bien común acumulados por su propia ineptitud. Con demasiada frecuencia, nuestros medios prefieren hacer suyas sin cuestionar, gacetillas sin sustancia. La verdad es que, mediante las telecomunicaciones modernas, la coyuntura tiene explicaciones muy fáciles de analizar — con alguito de esfuerzo y profesionalismo.

Cabría hacerlo a través de una cronología de los hechos conocidos públicamente.

La mitad de la industria de servicios internacionales es atendida hoy en dependencias británicas de ultramar. Como el resto de Europa, hoy el Reino Unido reacciona ante un grave déficit fiscal. En octubre 2015 se les formó una crisis constitucional, cuando la bancada de 26 obispos anglicanos en la Cámara de los Lores logró la aprobación –y por razones de moral– de una demora de los recortes en servicios sociales autorizados por la cámara electa del Parlamento. Estos habrían perjudicado tanto a personas con capacidades especiales (toque aquí, Column 995) como a tres millones de las familias más necesitadas del país. En el debate salió a relucir, que el gobierno mantenía un déficit de 40 MIL millones de Euros pendientes de cobrar para cuadrar su presupuesto. (Los recortes demorados involucraban tan solo 400 millones.) No obstante, el Primer Ministro David Cameron programaba reducir el 20% de sus cobradores. No resulta muy difícil concluir que su Partido Conservador ha de tener donantes sumamente convincentes.

En tal ambiente enrarecido caen como “soga en la casa del ahorcado” la ideología del gobernante Partido Popular sobre evasión de impuestos. De paseo por Europa, nuestro ministro de Gobierno Milton Henríquez aclara, que él no entiende “por qué Panamá tiene que convertir en delito todo aquello que los demás países quiere o no hacer delito”, (Primicia que no difunde el espacio radial de su propiedad.) Y, en su ya-característico estado de negación sobre la realidad, el propio presidente Juan Carlos Varela “echa más kerosene al fuego” en ambas versiones de “su” carta al New York Times y —en castellano— para minimizar daños, al “olvidar” mencionar que uno de los principales del bufete legal mencionado disfruta una calidad de ministro que le confiere información privilegiada en su gabinete. Y nuestros medios guardan un respetuoso silencio.

Comienza el panameño a preguntarse por qué su Ministerio Público no ha visitado las oficinas del bufete tan espectacularmente mencionado –en el Exterior.

Luego del calvario de Cameron apenas abierta la caja de Pandora en Panamá, el 11 de abril 2016 se le cuestionó por qué los centros offshore ingleses gozarían de un régimen de registro de acciones cerrados en contraste con los registros abiertos ya legislados para sociedades en la Madre Patria — sin obtener respuesta seria alguna de la bancada oficial respecto de aquella excepción hecha-a-la-medida de sus donantes. En Bruselas el 12 de abril la Comisión Europea aprobó su sistema de listas-negras y reportes automáticos de centros financieros — a propuesta del Reino Unido. En la Cámara de los Comunes el 13 de abril la Oposición le sacó en cara al Primer Ministro, el que sus Euro-diputados votaron en contra de su propia propuesta. (Column 344). Y además que sus paraísos fiscales tendrían que asegurar que las offshore “pagaran sus impuestos…” y que en Jersey los registros de acciones involucrarían solo a sociedades sospechadas del terrorismo (Column 346). Como periodista profesional, la parlamentaria Caroline Lucas puso al Primer Ministro contra la pared, preguntando por qué el equivalente del Ministerio Público allá (aún) no había allanado la filial londinense de Mossack Fonseca (Column 352), aduciendo razones irrepetibles fuera del recinto parlamentario.

El tema del libro de acciones y su inscripción en el registro oficial tiene que ver con que allá hay sociedades anónimas, BIEN anónimas: nadie sabe de quién son. Uno de los problemas que encara el Reino Unido hacia su interno, es la frecuencia con que tales offshore adquieren propiedades multimillonarias, aprovechando un trato tributario discriminatorio a favor de las empresas extranjeras. Por eso es que los precios de inmuebles en Londres resultan astronómicos, en razón de la cantidad de dictadores en el poder, jeques árabes, zares rusos y ex-mandatarios africanos sinverguenzas, que incrementan desproporcionadamente la demanda y por ende los precios, al punto que los propios londinenses ya no pueden costearlos.

Resultaría el copón que Panamá figurara en este entramado de eximidos de la igualdad ante el régimen tributario inglés. Recientemente el gobierno Panameñista mudó –innecesariamente– la residencia para su embajador, de la sensata “Panama House”, a una lujosa mansión próxima a Harrods. Nuestro actual embajador fue ex-director de mercadeo de Varela Hermanos. Ojalá y no resulte que su nueva residencia sea alquilada a una offshore organizada –sin ilegalidad ninguna– por Mossack Fonseca. Aún así, ni La Prensa, ni La Estrella de Panamá, lo divulgará. Pero SUNTRACCS sí….


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The Panama News blog links, April 19, 2016


The Panama News blog links, April 19, 2016

Seatrade Maritime News, PanCanal taking transit reservations for new locks

AFP, Nuevas restricciones de calado en el Canal

Naím, El Canal: una historia panameña

Reuters, Sacyr estima que van a recuperar un 42% de sus reclamaciones

China-US Focus, Nicaragua and Panama: a tale of two canals

Reuters, Panama says it will adopt international tax reporting standards

South China Morning Post, US Treasury boss Lew supports tax haven crackdown

ABC, Maltese PM wins no-confidence vote over Panama companies

Asbarez, Armenia’s chief bailiff resigns after Panama Papers revelations

McClatchy, Inside Panama Papers: multiple Clinton connections

The New York Times, Panama Papers reports are old news for Africans

London Economic, 300 Tories who blocked a Panama Papers probe

Gráfico, Las empresas de Ricardo Martinelli

El País, Rousseff’s future now in the hands of the Brazilian Senate

BBC, Ecuador quake toll at least 413

Caribbean News Now!, UN food relief for drought-stricken Haiti

Vargas Velásquez, Cumbre antidrogas: ¿continuidad con cambio?

Motherboard, The Hacking Team’s Latin American Empire

Derechos Digitales, Malware para la vigilancia (PDF)

E&N, Costa Rica tendrá su primer satélite

Science Alert, Russian researcher illegally shares millions of science papers

Prensa Latina, Many Panamanian kids are overweight

Mongabay, Demand for coffee threatens remaining intact tropical rainforests

STRI, African wars endanger world’s largest gorilla subspecies

Bernal, Un nuevo amanecer para Panamá

Video, Post-conflict transition for Afro-Colombian and Indigenous people in Choco

STRATFOR, A chance for change in Brazil’s scandal

BBC, Dilma says her conscience is clear

Boff, Un golpe parlamentario

D’Avila, How to save Brazil

The Intercept, Interview with the sole witness to the Berta Cáceres assassination

Achtenberg: After the referendum, what’s next for Bolivia’s left?

Weeks: The EU, TSCG and the Brexit referendum

Eyes on Trade, Audit of TPP tax cut claims shows cooked and misleading numbers

Schwartz, To shut down tax havens…

Bunch: Hillary, the Panama Papers, and the death of American kleptocracy

Daily Signal, Ukrainian politicians in trouble over corruption and Panama Papers

Video, Owning a motorcycle in Panama City

Vice, Rubén Blades recuerda a Gabo


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