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Questions linger after Anton bus disaster

The bomberos were there along with police, SINAPROC, Seguro Social ambulances and crews and random drivers who came upon the scene and stopped to help. A number of the injured were taken by passersby to the hospital complex in Penonome in private cars. Surely those who lent their hands, whether because it was their job or because they saw it as the decent thing for a person to do in the situation, saved lives. Photo by the bomberos.

The shrine is up, the main facts are known, but larger questions remain

by Eric Jackson

On the afternoon of March 5 a bus carrying men from the Bocas del Toro part of the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca went off the road near the maternity and infant clinic in Anton and fell 30 feet into a creek. The crash instantly killed 16 people, including the driver. Two others died shortly thereafter. Another 36 were badly injured enough to be hospitalized. The bus had been chartered by the La Faustina farm in the Coronado area of Chame, to bring in laborers to pick watermelons. The less severely injured have started to go home at government expense, there is already a cross erected near the bridge and ravine into which the bus crashed and investigators have more or less embraced the theory that the driver fell asleep at the wheel toward the end of a long day’s drive.

The farm, owned by Omar Estrada, appears to have been operating according to laws and regulations. The law provides a $1.76 per hour minimum wage for farm laborers and Estrada’s business was paying $1.80. The farm provides lodging and cots for its seasonal workers. Meals for the workers are partially subsidized. The bus ride, on a vehicle that normally plies the Panama to David and back route but was specially chartered, was also at the farm’s expense.

Once upon a time the exportation of watermelons was looked upon as a big opportunity for the Panamanian economy. “Free trade” agreements were supposed to boost this “non-traditional export” — the “traditional” ones being mostly coffee and bananas — and build the local economy. However, melon exports have been less lucrative than expected and La Faustina is one of the survivors among yesteryear’s more numerous watermelon farms in Chame. Some of the phenomenon may be a consolidation of agriculture into larger operations, but mostly it’s about a Panamanian farm sector that is ailing across the board and producing less.

Farm labor is dirty, dangerous and poorly paid everywhere. For many years in many countries the Catholic Church has championed the cause of farm workers. But although it’s a wealthy institution if one looks at its total assets, the Church lacks the economic and political power to change the basic math of farm labor.

The Archdiocese of Panama’s indigenous mission quickly issued a statement that asked a number of pointed questions. They also objected to the notion that the accident was an act of God: “We don’t believe in ‘these terrible days,” nor do we believe in a predestined future.” The statement argued that when such tragedies fall mainly on the poor it’s the product of human actions, of social and economic disparities to which Catholicism objects.

Later, on March 10, the Holy See extended its condolences to the victims and their families through a note to Monsignior Aníbal Saldaña, the bishop of Bocas del Toro. That missive, in the parts that were reported in various Panamanian media, was not about social analysis but about sympathy and Catholics rendering such assistance to the injured and the families of those killed as can be mobilized.

Will insurance have covered some or all of the economic losses suffered in the crash? Perhaps there was a policy for the bus. Panama does have various public subsidies for widows, orphans and the disabled, which aren’t very substantial. On paper Panamanian labor law seems generous, but in practice those injured on the job or on the employer’s bus on the way to or from the job are usually more or less left to their own devices.

President Varela went to the hospitals where crash survivors were taken to be advised of the situation and to express his sympathy and concern. Flags were flown at half-mast the following day. But among the political caste the hard and dangerous lives of farm workers are not a topic of much discussion.

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¿Wappin? Uprooted / Desarraigado

holy familyAnd the Holy Family, too, were refugees… (Matthew 2:13-15)
Y la Sagrada Familia también eran refugiados … (Mateo 2:13-15)

¿Wappin? Uprooted / Desarraigado

U2 – Van Diemen’s Land

Heroes del Silencio – Entre Dos Tierras

Rim Banna – Top of the Mountain

Peter Tosh – Mama Africa

Carlos Vives – Dejame Entrar

Graham Nash – Immigration Man

Violeta Parra – Maldigo del Alto Cielo

Cultura Profética – Ilegal

Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Homeless

Sting – Englishman in New York

Elijah Emanuel – Yo No Soy Ilegal

Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris & Neil Young – Across the Border

Hello Seahorse! – Frontera (Sonic Ranch)

Boney M – By the Rivers of Babylon

Sin Bandera – ¿Qué Pasaría?


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Odebrecht connections are everywhere, but…

enemy propagada
Such an enlightened business outlook! While Marcelo Odebrecht and his executive team have turned state’s evidence in exchange for leniency, in the social pages of Brazil’s newspapers a younger set of Odebrechts glows with “the beautiful people.” There are Odebrecht charities in which they may perhaps serve en route to running the same old scams that Marcelo’s grandpa ran decades ago. But not everybody and everything that Odebrecht has touched is crooked. In the potential to confuse connection with causation there are opportunities for misdirection.

Odebrecht: false alarms?

by Eric Jackson

Modus operandi and misdirection

Odebrecht has played the public corruption game for generations, with increasing complexity but the same basic business model that prevails among construction companies that bid on public works projects in many places. Bidding procedures are rigged to raise the floor under prices, the “losers” get a cut of the action as subcontractors, the public officials who play along get a cut of the action as kickbacks. Odebrecht was the clearinghouse for that game on a Brazilian federal level at least as far back as the 1980s and in 1992 it brought down Brazilian President Fernando Collor de Mello. Norberto Odebrecht vowed to mend his and his company’s ways, and in the years to come his grandson Marcelo Odebrecht took over the company, which went multinational in a big way. But now the revelations of judicial proceedings in many countries show that while the efforts at concealment became far more sophisticated, the basic modus operandi remained the same. It is reasonable to presume that every country and public institution touched by Odebrecht was corrupted. That would include US jurisdictions like the State of Texas, Miami-Dade County and the State of Florida, and some prominent politicians of those places. That would include Panamanian public institutions and public figures.

Presumptions, maybe. But those might be rebutted, or with various combinations of shell games, destruction of evidence and perjury very real corruption will in some cases be impossible to prove.

And then there are misdirection plays. Dan Rather’s career with CBS was ended when right-wing operatives managed to sneak a forged document into his essentially truthful story about George W. Bush’s goldbricking career in the Air National Guard. Panama has seen similar traps set for journalists.

Gustavo Gorriti’s take

Peruvian journalist Gustavo Gorriti, who worked with Panama’s La Prensa for a time, and while here he also fell victim to one of those. Former President Ernesto Pérez Balladares came to office with the help of a donor base that was thuggish in many ways, and Gorriti was investigating that. Some $51,000 in campaign contributions from Cali Cartel drug smuggler José Castrillón Henao had been shown to have made to the Pérez Balladares campaign. The Peruvian was fed a forgery, a purported copy of a check for $5,000 by a company convicted in Italy of money laundering, made out to then Attorney General José Antonio Sossa. Publication of the forgery brought down discredit and prosecution on Gorriti and La Prensa, and effectively ended an investigation into demonstrably corrupt campaign financing.

Gorriti never outed the source from which he got that bogus document. Eventually he put the incident behind him and went back to Peru, where his career included many new masterpieces of good investigative journalism. Toro Pérez Balladares went on his merry way. He has never been convicted of anything but questions about government contracts and the sale of Panamanian visas and passports to Chinese citizens seeking to enter the United States have forever marred a reputation already tainted by the Castrillón Henao connection. It’s one of the big reasons why his political party, the PRD, rejected Toro’s comeback bid in contest for party secretary general last year.

Peru is adjacent to Odebrecht’s home country, Brazil, and was one of the first places where the construction giant went abroad. Now it appears that all Peruvian presidents starting in the 1990s, and many opposition political figures of those times, have taken money from Odebrecht. The United States, in denial about its own Odebrecht scandals in which payoffs to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former Miami-Dade Democratic Party boss Xavier Suarez have been documented, is now harboring one of the high-profile Peruvian suspects, former President Alejandro Toledo.

But Gorriti, whose reports dogged Toledo and dashed any probability of the latter’s establishment of any enduring political party or tradition, sounds a note of caution about the ongoing Odebrecht scandals. In a column published in Spain’s leading newspaper, El Pais, Gorriti recounts the concerns of one of the Brazilian judges most responsible for the Odebrecht revelations, Sergio Mora. The jurist fears a set of presumptions that unfairly tarnishes all Brazilian companies, and the notion that only Brazilians pay kickbacks on public works contracts. The journalist argues that no Brazilian company “seduced” an honest Peruvian public official into becoming corrupt, that attributing the Odebrecht scandal to “Brazilian imperialism” is a broad-brush smear that both misdirects public attention from some of the real problems and the real bad actors and penalizes a lot of good people who work for bad companies. With respect to Odebrecht and its ilk, Gorriti opines:

The method that was used in big corporate corruption cases like those of Siemens and Alstrom should be applied to them. It’s not a matter of shutting down companies, leaving many innocent people as collateral victims, but obliging them to reform and to return everything that they stole.

“Reform” to Gorriti includes getting rid of those who personally approved or performed the illicit acts, and to him proper restitution is not figured as the amount of the bribe but a multiple of that to account for the proceeds of crooked transaction and the profits from the investment of those proceeds. But he’s into leaving innocent people alone, and letting them go about their work despite an association with crooks.

Odebrecht, Panamanian secrecy and the Mottas

One of the things that trapped Gorriti when he was working for La Prensa was Panamanian secrecy. To be sure, there were the laws about banking, corporate and campaign contribution secrecy in his way. The culture of secrecy is perhaps more debilitating to journalism than the laws. In any case, Gorriti had no ready way of verifying that bogus check. He relied on an informant, and that informant may have been an honest person who in turn had fallen for a deception spun by a third person. “Usually reliable sources” can have their disastrous anomalies.

And what are the sources for the Panama incarnations of the Odebrecht scandals? The complaint recently filed by Minister of Security Alexis Bethancourt relies upon data developed by Swiss prosecutors, particularly about the alleged money laundering activities of former President Ricardo Martinelli’s two sons. Attorney General Kenia Porcell went to Brasilia to meet with counterparts from 13 different countries, and they agreed to share information. Marcelo Odebrecht and his erstwhile top corporate entourage are singing to Brazilian authorities to reduce their jail time. Prosecutors in other countries, most notably for Panama in neighboring Colombia, are working the leads at their ends. In Panama there is very little independent work to show — a lot of posturing, a lot of excuses about why the law does not allow the enforcement of the law, a lot of sneering obstruction in the legislative and judicial branches and an executive who pleads that he can’t interfere, even to clean his own governmental and party houses.

And so it is that we learn from Colombia about how Odebrecht, as in Brazil and other places, bankrolled presidential campaigns by way of donations that were often in kind and always hidden behind multiple fronts. As in, say several Colombian periodicals, a scheme revealed to prosecutors by their country’s former vice minister of transportation, Gabriel García Morales, wherein in exchange for a lucrative highway contract Odebrecht moved some $6.5 million into the 2014 campaign of President Juan Manuel Santos. (The Brazilian company, so it is alleged by various sources, covered all bets by also covertly donating to the candidate whom Santos defeated, Óscar Iván Zuluaga. It also paid off the FARC rebels, for whom Santos was their great nemesis when he was defense minister.) The funding for Colombia’s presidential race, it is reported, was laundered through various intermediaries and fronts, some of them Panamanian.

Of particular note on the Santos side, it is alleged by the Colombian weekly Semana that a Panamanian publicity firm, Impressa Group Corp, was indirectly hired with Odebrecht money to produce campaign signs and posters for the Colombian president. The Santos campaign also received Odebrecht money for polling which came, it is alleged, through a Panamanian company called Paddington and then a Colombian PR firm called Sancho BBDO.

But between Odebrecht and these poster and polling donations there was a reported maze of at least eight companies through which money passed. Figuring in this alleged operation was the Colombian businessman Enrique Ghisays, who had a company called Encla SA, which in turn did nearly $1 million in transactions with Colon Free Zone giant Motta Internacional, flagship of Panama’s biggest economic combine that includes Copa Airlines, the TVN television network and many other businesses. The money, it is alleged, flowed through Encla to another company called De Lurion Trading, and then the money trail went eventually into the Santos campaign.

So have the Mottas been corrupted by Odebrecht? They are quite emphatic — as in full-page newspaper ads — that this is not the case. Ghisays, they say, was a client between 2010 and 2013, to whom they sold some $931,000 worth of household appliances. It was nothing more than that and they have all the documents to prove it.

Of course, money laundering through the Colon Free Zone has often involved overstated or otherwise false invoices. The paper trail in itself is unlikely to resolve any questions.

Then you can get into the calculus of means, motives and opportunities and ask questions not only about Motta Internacional and those in and around it. One should also inquire about people with business or political reasons to denigrate the Mottas.

On top of that one must be on the lookout for criminals looking to distract attention from themselves. If resentments against the rich — or anti-Semitism — make it easier for someone to believe in a fabricated cloud of suspicion, so much the better for those who would distract. Playing to base prejudices in such situations is as common as white petty criminals in the USA trying to pin their offenses on blacks and as historic as kings, dictators and other political figures playing ethnic hatred cards.

Were Panama in a position to call in all of the organizations and the individuals responsible for them, and look at all of their banking and corporate records, then get into phone calls, emails and other communications that leave traces, there would be a good chance that the whole matter would be cleared up. On paper prosecutors do have such powers, but they are generally unexercised.

Still, Odebrecht secured a lot of public works contracts in Panama, has a worldwide modus operandi and should be suspected of having made plenty of payoffs to public officials here, laundering the money through both legitimate and shell private businesses.

But it’s a large company, with many operations, which felt the need to compartmentalize its corruption in a special bribe department — the “Structured Operations Division” — in part to keep most of its own employees from knowing and telling the score. That sort of secrecy could help guilty parties to point fingers in other directions, and where authorities are not particularly eager to get to the bottom of the story that might suffice.

With respect to Panama, Motta Internacional and many individuals the scandal is at the point where questions are being raised and investigations demanded. But it’s far from the point where we have solid and complete answers to questions that have been raised.


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Stuff to do / Cosas para hacer


Guangdong acrobats


• Metropolitan opera live and HD. Theater of the Miraflores Visitor Center. March 11, from 11 am. Broadcast HD live from the New York Metropolitan Opera. Tickets on sale at Desarrollo Golf Coronado.
• “The adventures of the pirate Sinbad in the seven seas”, through March 26. Saturdays 5:00 pm Sundays at 11:30 am / 2:00 pm / 4:00 pm in “Bambalinas at Teatro La Estación. Reservations at 203-6662 or teatroestacion@gmail.com Discount for ACP employees.

• Night of Music and Memories – rock night with the hits of the national rock group Ocean. Thursday, March 16, Teatro La Plaza, Obarrio, tickets for sale at Panatickets.

• Biomuseo
* Activities for children from four to 12 years. For more information write to ventas@biomuseopanama.org
* Entrance to the galleries will be free on Sundays April 2, May 7, June 4, July 2, August 6, September 3, October 1, November 5, and December 3, from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon for Panamanians and residents who show their identification. Tickets can be used all day until closing time at 5:00 pm.
• Summer season at the UP – until March 24. 8:00 pm (Tuesday to Saturday) and 4:00 pm (Sunday), at the University of Panama. There will be workshops of plastic arts, mixed volleyball, classical dance, folkloric, modern fusion and hip-hop, among others. There are also scheduled shows such as the choreography presentation of the Coraza Group and the musical concert of the UP Philharmonic Orchestra. For more information call 523-5000.
• Kite Festival, March 12, Panama Pacific Complex, former Howard base. 11am – 6pm. Festival of Chinese culture with kites, traditional tambourines. Event organized by Aprochipa, www.Aprochipa.org
• V Career Walk Down Panama – March 26, 6:30 am, Coastal Band, MOP Parking, organizes Panama Runners, tel. 6619-2803

• Miraflores Visitor Center – open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm – Tel: 276-8617 and 276-8427.
• Agua Clara Visitor Center – Gatun – open every day from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm Tel: 443-5727.
• Interoceanic Canal Museum – open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm – Tel: 211-1649 / 211-1650.
• Museum of Biodiversity – Amateur. Monday 10:00 am-4pm- Wednesday and Thursday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Tuesday Closed.
• El Níspero- Zoo in El Valle de Antón – open every day from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm.
• Metropolitan Natural Park – Open daily from 6:00 am to 5:00 pm – Tels: 232-5552 / 5516.
• Archaeological Park El Caño – Tuesday to Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.- Monday and public holidays: closed.
• Church of Natá- visit with specialized guide of the INAC- Tuesday to Saturday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.
• Explora Museum – interactive museum for children – Condado del Rey.
• Anthropological and Ethnographic Museum Dr. Roberto de la Guardia – located at the Félix Olivares School in David – open to the public from Monday to Friday – from 9:00 am to 12 noon and from 1:00 to 3:00 pm – guided tours – Information: 775-2854.


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Just like Disney World — again?

Few things will infuriate Panama City’s environmentalists — and the neighbors — more than any suggestion that might be construed as a proposal for a theme park atop Ancon Hill.

“Just like Disney World” — again?

by Eric Jackson

The idea of a cable car to the top of Ancon Hill (along with the inevitable facilities for tourists) is back and generating heat again. The Varela administration has issued a decree to study the broad subject about what to do about the forest fragment hill that towers above Panama City, the expected business wonks are talking about tourism opportunities in the expected shallow ways and the usual folks are aghast. But wait, cautions the Ministry of the Environment! It’s just a mandate to set up a committee to study various ideas, without any speficfic thing in mind.

Executive Decree Number 6 was issued on February 13 but did not come to public notice until early March. Buried in a long edition of the Gaceta Oficial, it mandates a committee with representatives of the Ministry of the Environment, the Panama City local government, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Panama Tourism Authority, the non-governmental National Association for the Conservation of Nature (ANCON) and the Quarry Heights Residents Association. The mandate is to come up with a sustainable tourism development plan for the hilltop national park, the limits of which are being surveyed and redefined by the Ministry of the Environment and people from Panama Technological University.

Since late last year cars have been banned from entering the park. The states reason why automobile traffic can go no further than the park entrance gate is that the soil under or along parts of the road is so unstable that there is a landslide risk. Most of the neighbors in Quarry Heights have always disliked the traffic through their streets and up to the park. To go to the top of the hill one must now walk, either from the park entrance just past the residential area of Quarry Heights or by walking up the stairs that start near the back of Mi Pueblito Antillano.

Leave it to a business tycoon — or a scion of one, anyway — to propose the cable car. In this case it was Alfredo Motta. At least he had the sense not to openly propose a hilltop theme park — “just like Disney World” — to be connected to a cruiser port at the end of the Amador Causeway, as happened the last time that cable car idea surfaced. On the previous occasion the mayor of Panama City at the time, Juan Carlos Navarro, refused to issue permits to let the plan proceed and that killed it.

Environmental activists and a faction of the neighbors have been quick to raise the banners of opposition. The Comite Pro-Defensa del Cerro Ancon, a coalition of groups from the last time around, is revived and mobilizing.


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The Panama News blog links, March 10, 2017

Blades is Panamanian but his most famous music draws on Afro-Cuban roots.

The Panama News blog links

a Panama-centric selection of other people’s work
una selección Panamá-céntrica de las obras de otras personas

Canal, Maritime & Transportation / Canal, Marítima & Transporte

MarineLink, New PanCanal daily tonnage record

Splash 24/7, Panama flag faces flak over biohazard ship

Sports / Deportes

LA Times, US soccer team to open Gold Cup against Panama

Horse Racing News, Santana Jr. and Osorio released from hospital after spill

Economy / Economía

La Estrella, Valor de los permisos de construcción baja 25%

Capital Financiero, Industria de seguros es puesta a prueba

CBC, Royal Bank of Canada closes accounts after Panama Papers review

The Brussels Times, Belgians probe Panama Papers lawyers and consultants

La Estrella, Piquete por ahorristas de Coacecss

Feedstuffs, WTO indicator suggests moderate trade momentum

Latin Lawyer, Lava Jato topples Colombian construction deal

Bloomberg, Carlos Slim loses a lot of money but gains popularity

Eyes on Trade, Trump plans to “bring American jobs back” missing from speech

Science & Technology / Ciencia & Tecnología

STRI, Love potion for frogs

EurekAlert!, BioMuseo a favorite attraction for butterflies and moths

Reuters, Ancient human tree cultivation shaped Amazon landscape

ScienceAlert, New record-high temperatures in Antarctica

Mongabay, Climate change drives local extinctions with tropics most at risk

The American Energy News, Solid-state EV battery breakthrough

Inverse, Why floating cities may make sense

News / Noticias

Newsroom Panama, Reward for information to solve American tourist murder case

La Estrella, Ngäbes rechazan acuerdo espurio suscrito con empresas chinas

EFE, Revisan tratado comercial de armas en Panamá

Telemetro, Detienen a exdiputado Osman Gómez con arma sin permiso

TVN, Cruz Roja panameña cumple 100 años

BBC, ICRC: Colombia facing violence despite FARC deal

EFE, ACNUR denuncia desplazamientos masivos en Colombia

CNN, Aleppo report accuses all sides of war crimes

Telemetro, Gigante brasileño Odebrecht pagó “impuesto guerrillero” a FARC

TVN, Odebrecht asumió gastos de campañas de Santos y Zuluaga en 2014

Reuters, Euro lawmakers press EU to impose visas on US citizens

WikiLeaks, Vault7: the CIA papers

DW, Russian hackers use Dutch polls as practice

Opinion / Opiniones

Khrushcheva, Laughing in the dark

Taibbi, Russia story is a minefield for Democrats and the media

Jackson, Ajit Pai wants to shut down the way we communicate and organize

PEN America, Aggressive interrogation of artists and writers at US border

Lewis, US foreign policy harms Latin American women’s reproductive rights

WOLA, The renewed US refugee ban and Central American kids

Gorriti, Satanizaciones

Tinker Salas, Looking for a left turn in Mexico

Bernal, Acuerdos para la impunidad

Gólcher, Las carencias del sistema educativo panameño

Jované, Panamá está al borde de colapsar institucionalmente

Culture / Cultura

AFP, Fashioning a life behind bars in Panama

English website, International Film Festival of Panama

The Collection, 71,000 historical maps online for free downloading


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Advertencia sobre permisos de trabajo de países amigos


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Democrats Live with Tom Perez and Keith Ellison


Democrats Live with Tom Perez and Keith Ellison

They want to hear what Democrats think: click here.


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Interpretation of a regulation shuts down Paso Canoas border runs

A group of 57 Venezuelans were left stranded as the test case, but Migracion is not excluding gringos from its crackdown on permanent tourists. Non-citizens can get a three-month tourist visa, for which there can be a three-month extension. Then they have to go back to their countries of origin rather than hopping across the border to get their passports stamped again. This is a functional interpretation of regulations in two decrees, numbers 590 and 591, that were issued in December to implement the existing immigration law. There have been contradictory statements and inconsistent actions about these, both from the Panamanian government and others.

Warning for permanent tourists

by Eric Jackson

Are you going to take the American Embassy as the authoritative word? Or how about someone on the social media who got the scoop from a Panamanian lawyer who in turn is working the gringo community for new clients? For that matter, even from Panama’s Servicio Nacional de Migracion? Do pay attention to those folks, but also understand that discretion, arbitrary interpretations, shifts with the political winds, slow and garbled transmissions of policy changes down official chains of command and from time to time the grease of bribery may affect the rules applied by a particular public official to a particular person at a particular time. If you can’t understand and adapt to the flexibility then most probably you have not fully adapted to life in Panama.

Migracion has set forth the basic rule that they are enforcing at the moment at Paso Canoa: “Foreigners who leave to Costa Rica to stamp their passports to enter as tourists will not enter Panama.” So do you say that this just means Venes? Whether that is how it may be as a practical matter, Panama’s Minister of Security warns that the law and regulations only allow a six-month continuous stay as a tourist and that “we will continue implementing our policy for the welfare of Panamanians and for persons who want to visit our country.”

There may be any number of reasons, and there is probably a mix of several. There are racist demagogues whipping up xenophobic hysteria. There are slavish imitators who have a national inferiority complex that gives them the compulsion to copy the United States, and they see what Donald Trump is doing. There are Venezuelans and Americans who believe themselves to be sovereign unto themselves and privileged persons who are necessary to the economy of a Panama that they view as hopelessly backward. There is a criminal element of many nationalities coming and going to and from Panama. The economy is slowing down and there are concerns about foreigners taking jobs from Panamanians. This country has one of the world’s worst school systems and those who get foreign educations are frequently raised in a subculture that disdains work, such that there are important jobs in the national economy for which it is hard to find Panamanians to perform.

We might argue the pros and cons of the issue but those who purport to speak for the interests of the American community are for a variety of reasons unable or unwilling to do so in any effective way.

But if you have been living the permanent tourist life, beware.


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International Women’s Day — Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth, born a slave in 1797, escaped with her daughter, took the name Sojourner Truth and joined movements to abolish slavery and emancipate women. She died in 1883, as Jim Crow laws were reimposing badges of slavery and before women got the vote.

Ain’t I a Woman?

Sojourner Truth’s speech to the December 1851 Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man — when I could get it — and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.


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