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More than your ordinary drug bust

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Hidalgo Gentil Jaramillo, honorable representante from Santa Isabel’s Viento Frio corregimiento in Colon province, at the canal expansion inauguration before his recent promotion to the board of bustees.

Not your ordinary coke bust in Colon

by Eric Jackson

The US addiction problem is as bad as it ever was, although Panama’s market share is probably down as cocaine smuggled through here from South America is less popular up there as the demand for opioids — mostly synthesized in the USA — explodes. But the “War on Drugs” continues and is a great success for those who sell the paraphernalia or find regular employment. We hear about drug seizures in Panama with monotonous frequency. When in the last week of August police seized 305 kilos of cocaine, $129,000 in cash, five vehicles and nine persons (a mix of Panamanians and Colombians) it was a tiny blip in the data stream. But the raids kept coming, in the Colon province neighborhoods of Ciudad del Sol, Margarita, Urbanizacion Praderas in San Isidro, Puerto Pilón and Viento Frío. These raids netted five more people, $2,218, four firearms, three vehicles, and in the house in Viento Frio, that area’s representante on the Santa Isabel city council — Hidalgo Gentil Jaramillo Davis — and a suspected drug trafficker known by the nickname of Chichi Loco. The local politician, a PRD member, made the series of raids noteworthy enough, and then on top of that the Minister of Security revealed that National Aeronaval Service (SENAN) Second Lieutenant Francisco Salazar Flores was also under arrest.

Is that all? Not hardly. The things that were announced without going into detail were and will be a bit more sensational yet. There is a legislator, not named but identified by several media as a PRD member, who is to be charged, along with at least one other law enforcement officer — among four “high level government functionaries” is how it was put. Security Minister said that it had been a seven-month investigation in which eight principal organizers of the racket had been identified but only five of whom have been captured. Everyone involved is identified as either Colombian or Panamanian. The basic racket was drugs by sea from Colombia to and through Guna Yala, then packed onto containers for shipment by a variety of land and sea routes to points north. Among the Panamanian “civilians” charged the names of Damaris Jackson Quiroz, Eduin Eduardo Forbes Menchaca, Luis Alberto Jessie Memcha and Marvin Eduardo Mena Ayarza were revealed. Some of the surnames are also shared with some prominent figures from Colon. (This Colon-born reporter, however, is not related to Ms. Jackson Quiroz.)

President Varela said that more arrests and revelations are coming in the case and called on all political parties to purge the drug traffickers from their ranks. We shall see who falls, but PRD and Cambio Democratico politicians from coastal Colon have been notoriously mobbed up in more or less the racket alleged here for many years. For the public official whose aim in life is to get rich, that area offers few other opportunities.

So is this the golden opportunity for a president who’s down in the polls to show his rectitude and resolution and rebound in public prestige? Probably not. As the names of other public officials come out the same judicial jam-up that has the Martinelli gang running out the calendar with endless motions and claims of immunity will most likely increase public disenchantment with the entire system and with a president who has broken his promise to convene a constitutional convention that might sweep away some of the structural incentives for corruption.

As an elected official Mr. Jaramillo enjoys electoral immunity from investigation and prosecution, which would have to be lifted by the Electoral Tribunal for the case to proceed. But is it already too late? Former electoral magistrate and the PRD candidate for vice president in 2014, now the head of the party’s disciplinary tribunal, Gerardo Solís, has blasted prosecutors, police and the Varela administration for violating Jaramillo’s special politician’s civil rights. But in another ongoing high-profile case against a PRD member, the extortion prosecution of Aldo López Tirone, the Electoral Tribunal just ruled that any electoral immunity he may have had as a candidate for party office is voided because he was caught in the act. So what were the circumstances of that raid in Viento Frio? Were police in hot pursuit of a suspect, or of contraband? Were they looking for someone or something else and did they stumble across Jaramillo? Lawyers may be arguing about the details of the arrest for years. In any case, for the matter to proceed the Electoral Tribunal would probably have to consider whether Jaramillo’s immunity ought to be lifted.

And when they come for the legislator to be named later? She or he would have electoral immunity and if that’s lifted by the Electoral Tribunal then the Supreme Court rather than the ordinary prosecutors and lower courts would be in charge of the case, including the investigation. Surely the defense would argue that the deputy was improperly investigated without the required supervision of the high court, and surely the accusers would say that there was an ongoing investigation of other people that happened to turn up said deputy. There it would face the stall that has been imposed on the 15 cases against Ricardo Martinelli and most of the other political corruption cases of recent vintage. It’s Exhibit A for a new constitution that makes sweeping and in some cases retroactive changes and that replaces the entire court membership in one fell swoop. (The Colegio Nacional de Abogados is actively campaigning for a constitutional convention, but their proposal has yet to be written and they seem a very long way from having the forces at their disposal to gather the more than a half-million petition signatures needed to force the issue.)

The individual and organizational identities of the Colombians said to be involved have not been revealed, nor has there been any claim or denial of foreign involvement in the investigation. There are all sorts of criminal organizations running drugs through Panama, but the most notable Colombian faction operating along the coasts of Colon in recent years has been the Clan Usuga, a direct lineal descendant from the AUC paramilitary death squads that were informally yet quite closely allied with the United States in the 1990s as part of Plan Colombia.

Never having been admitted, Washington would probably not see fit to deny the Plan Colombia history with the AUC. (They haven’t forthrightly admitted the US roles in creating the Manuel Antonio Noriega and Osama bin Laden monsters either.) But to the extent that this case is about the drug lords’ corruption of SENAN, it would represent another US failure, as more than most Panamanian law enforcement agencies that outfit is funded by and its members vetted by the United States. But of course, American justice also sometimes arrests home-grown crooked cops, customs agents, prosecutors, elected officials or judges in US drug investigations. Especially if US intelligence is part of this drug investigation it could then be spun that rather than corruption in SENAN being part evidence of a drug war failure, the exposure of corrupted Panamanian law enforcement officers is a drug war triumph.

Figure that this case will be the stuff of more spectacular claims and news attention for some time to come.

 

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Barro Blanco, el acuerdo sin acuerdo

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Las munciones que las policás disparan en la Universidad de Panamá, mismas como en Gualaquita. Foto por Radio Temblor Panamá.

Barro Blanco, el acuerdo sin acuerdo

por Pilar Chato — Otramérica

La presa para la hidroeléctrica sobre el Tabasará está casi llena y hay un acuerdo firmado, que no todos respaldan y en el que no todos han participado. Pero el agua que llena la vasija y la tinta de las firmas no borran los desacuerdos, aunque si algunos asentamientos y casas. La presa de Barro Blanco viene fraguándose desde el Gobierno de Martín Torrijos, 10 años de enfrentamientos y reclamos que no impidieron la construcción de la gran represa yel inicio de su llenado hace apenas unos días. Reclamos que terminaron en un acuerdo firmado con el Gobierno y parte de las autoridades Ngäbe el 22 de agosto del que no todos se sienten parte. Las divisiones dentro de los propios dirigentes ngäbe y el paso del tiempo que ha alargado y enquistado un problema que no es nuevo en Panamá -la lucha de los pueblos indígenas contra megaproyectos, especialmente hidroeléctricas que invaden sus ríos- mantiene viva la herida y desemboca en nuevas protestas. Protestas que se han recrudecido en las últimas horas debido a enfrentamientos con la policía que han terminado con varios heridos civiles en la población de Gualaquita (Bocas del Toro). Una comunidad que organizaciones como la Alianza para la Conservación y el Desarrollo (ACD) dicen que está “sitiada” por los agentes, que mantienen a los ngäbe confinados, sin electricidad y sin asistencia médica para los heridos. No ha sido la única represión, varios estudiantes de la UP también han sido heridos en Panama capital tras protestar en Transismica contra la hidrolectrica y lo acontencido en Gualaquita.

Que el acuerdo no era el cierre de la herida lo pusieron de manifiesto las protestas y las piedras lanzadas contra el presidente Juan Carlos Varela el día de la firma con la cacica Silvia Carrera, en Llano Tugrí. Que no se trataba unicamente de un ‘grupo radical minoritario’, como dijo el presidente, lo demuestra que las protestas han continuadoy la tensión y la violencia ha provocado heridos entre la población civil.

ACD, que ha pedido la intervención de la Defensoría del Pueblo, asegura que la Policía Nacional no solo ha ocupado la comunidad Ngäbe de Gualaquita, sino que los enfrentamientos con la población civil han terminado con varios heridos graves. La asociación cita a media docena de ellos (Gilma Selles, Eliseo Selles, Felicia Miranda, Felipe Miranda, Elicia López y Martín Abrego) y muestra especial preocupación por Adolfo Miranda, “gravemente herido en su rostro incluyendo la posible pérdida de la vista”. ACD denuncia que “los heridos aún no han recibido ninguna atención médica ya que no se atreven a salir a la carretera por miedo a las decenas de Policías que mantienen sitiada a la comunidad”. En conversación telefónica la dirigente Ofelia Carrizo también alertó a la asociación de que había recibido varias amenazas por parte de miembros de la Policía Nacional. En las redes sociales, Carrizo, dirigente Mama Tada (la religión sincrética y propia de los Ngäbe-Buglé), narró como las unidades del Control de Multitudes de la Policía Nacional trataron de despejar la protesta que mantenían utilizando gas pimienta y balas de goma.

ACD también reporta “actos abusivos por parte de la Policía incluyendo vandalismo de tiendas, decomiso de celulares y el rocío indiscriminado de gas a las viviendas, lo que obligó a que las personas salieran de sus casas y huyeran a los montes”. También informan de la interrupción temporal del suministro de energía eléctrica.

La respuesta del Gobierno ha sido alegar que las fotos de indígenas heridos son viejas, de otros incidentes, si bien Ricardo Miranda, presidente del Concejo Nacional de la Juventud Ngäbe responde en twitter con más fotos y acusando de mentir al ministro de Seguridad Alexis Bethancourt.

La narración de los hechos, los escenarios, las consecuencias, recuerdan mucho a otros enfrentamientos entre población indígena y policía que derivaron en heridos y muertos. ACD recuerda actuaciones similares de la Policía Nacional en Charco La Pava (2008) y San San Durui (2009). Pero en las hemerotecas están también los dos muertos y 800 heridos en Bocas del Toro en 2010 o la represión en San Felix y Llano Tugrí en 2012 que se saldó con dos muertos en las protestas contra las hidroeléctricas y la minería en la comarca Ngäbe. Y a eso se suma la pelea de los naso contra la represa de Empresa Públicas de Medellín en Bonyic o Chan 75 en Bocas del Toro, por servir de ejemplo.

Y mientras el agua sigue llenando el vaso de la represa de Barro Blanco. Ricardo Miranda, advierte de que si no se suspende ese llenado las acciones de protesta y cierres de calles se van a extender de forma indefinida en diferentes puntos del país. Asegura que más de 100 familias están afectadas con inundaciones tras el inicio de llenado de otra de las áreas del embalse y han tenido que abandonar sus hogares. Hoy están en la calle, dice, mientras el 15% que será invertido en obras sociales dentro de la comarca, como establece el acuerdo firmado en agosto, tardará 15 años en hacerse efectivo.

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Mientras se recrudecen la protestas ha comenzado el llenado de la represa. Hasta el momento (1 de septiembre) se han inundado tres casas, el cementerio de la comunidad de Quebrada Caña, los petroglifos y vías de acceso hacia la comunidad cultural de Kiad. A ello se suman los bosques de galería y la principal fuente de agua de esta comunidad. Asociaciones y líderes ngäbe reclaman que se frene el llenado para evitar la inundación de las casa ubicadas en el centro de la comunidad de Kiad.

La Red de Derechos de Panamá ha emitido un comunicado en el que pide que se suspenda el llenado del embalse hasta que se aclare y se atienda a las comunidades directamente afectadas; que el Gobierno atienda los reclamos de los afectados y busque formas de diálogo y que se investigue la acción policial en Gualaquita y la situación de los heridos.

No es la primera vez que esta red alerta de la situación que está generando la represa de Barro Blanco. En junio visitaron las comunidades afectadas y se pronunció sobre los “daños ambientales irreversibles y las graves violaciones a los derechos humanos de que están siendo víctimas las comunidades indígenas y campesinas, cercanas a la hidroeléctrica”

 

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Pizzigati, An EpiPen for THAT could save us all

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Pharmaceutical execs are getting incredibly rich making life-saving medications incredibly expensive. Photo by Greg Friese.

The cure for a taxing allergy

by Sam Pizzigati — OtherWords

Millions of families live in constant dread of what an unexpected encounter — with a bee or a food additive or even a dye — could bring. One slip, and breathing could quickly become difficult, or a heartbeat dangerously low.

Severe allergies, untreated, can kill.

But nobody has to die from an allergic reaction in our modern world. We have medical devices that can keep children and adults alike safe.

The most familiar of these — the EpiPen — works as an auto-injection. By jamming a “pen” into their thigh, sufferers can dispense an exact dosage of epinephrine, a cheap generic drug that can relieve extreme discomfort and severe symptoms.

Medical authorities now recommend that folks with severe allergies have two EpiPen devices available at all times. That used to be a relatively affordable proposition. Not anymore.

In the United States, the EpiPen wholesale price for a two-pen set has jumped from under $100 in 2007 to over $600 this past May. One Virginia mom recently tried to fill a prescription for two EpiPen two-packs and the cost totaled $1,212. Her health insurance, with a $4,000 deductible, wouldn’t have paid a cent of that.

Outside the USA, EpiPens remain readily affordable. In France last year, two EpiPens cost allergy sufferers about $85.

So what’s driving up the EpiPen cost in America? Corporate greed.

This latest greed grab began in 2007 when the drug company Mylan bought the EpiPen franchise and started raising the price amid a huge new marketing campaign. The profit margin on EpiPens soared. Revenue from EpiPen sales soared, too, from $200 million to over $1 billion.

Also skyrocketing: the compensation of Mylan’s top five executives. Over the past four years, they’ve pocketed a combined $247.2 million. Last year alone, Mylan executive chair Robert Coury pulled down $17.7 million, CEO Heather Bresch $18.9 million, and president Rajiv Malik $19.9 million.

In effect, Mylan execs have been emptying the pockets of allergy sufferers to make themselves considerably richer.

We treat muggers who empty people’s pockets as criminals. Maybe we need to think of Mylan’s top execs as criminals, too. The first step in a criminal investigation: identify motive and opportunity.

The Mylan execs certainly have opportunity. We’ve allowed the drug industry to become a playground for corporate quasi-monopolies, enabling them to essentially charge whatever they want. They also have motive. The more they gouge consumers, the greater their personal windfalls.

Drug company executives didn’t have that same powerful motive in 1977, the year the EpiPen first appeared. Back then, corporate executives paid 70 percent of their income over $200,000 — that’s about $800,000 in today’s dollars — in federal tax.

Tax rates that high dampened the incentive for price gouging and other outrageous CEO behaviors. With the IRS standing in the wings, ever ready to tax away ill-gotten gains, corporate execs spent more time doing their jobs and less time conspiring to become incredibly rich.

Today, corporate officials pay taxes at less than half the rate they paid in the 1950s. Our political system seems to have developed an allergy to taxing high incomes at high rates.

An EpiPen for that could save us all from a dangerous reaction.

Sam Pizzigati, an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow, co-edits Inequality.org. His latest book is The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970. Follow him on Twitter @Too_Much_Online. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

 

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Editorials: How much hypocrisy will the market bear?, and Cuban migrants

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As sacred to their faith as the Sistine Chapel is to the faith of others. Photo by Oscar Sogandares.

How much hypocrisy will the market bear?

These days the superstition of market worship is the de facto religion of most developed countries, one that they preach and enforce around the world. Panama has joined the ranks of countries that embrace it. So is it time that someone nails 95 theses on the door of the Presidencia, if not the White House?

Panama’s most important day-to-day headlines, particularly those that are about our laws and the institutions in charge of carrying them out, are dominated by hypocrisy at the moment. We have a dictatorship’s constitution which, as a product of General Torrijos’s Revolutionary Process, provides that there shall be no privileges or discrimination based on social class. In practice we see constant assertions of statutory immunity by the political caste and phalanxes of lawyers interposing obstacles that grant impunity to those of the social class who can afford that sort of thing. Then there are all these treaties that were sold as guarantees of property rights and “an even playing field for all.” But what consideration has been given for the property rights of the people of Kiad, who have been evicted without compensation for the Barro Blanco Dam? How even has been the field of their dealings with Honduran thugs and their array of European and Panamanian partners, backers and employees?

Barro Blanco’s promoters filed an environmental impact statement that was replete with the most egregious misrepresentations, and it was accepted by government officials without questions until much later. It set off social conflicts in which the entire Panamanian economy suffered millions of dollars of losses, blood was shed and people were dispossessed. Perhaps the worst of all in the long run, ancient petroglyphs thought to be holy by a religion that much of the Ngabe nation embraces are being destroyed. Those evicted from Kiad were held prisoner without charges in a Catholic Church facility. The seeds of religious conflict have thus been sown by the government. But the lawyer who filed that bogus environmental statement still has a license to practice law. Neither those who filed nor those who accepted the misrepresentations on the government’s behalf have been called upon to personally account for their actions. Why? Because President Varela says that he must uphold international treaties — but not the ones that protect indigenous sites. He cites conventions that protect the banks, even though those don’t actually protect institutions which invest in frauds that they should have discovered.

It’s not the rule of law, let alone of God’s law. It’s the worship of money, and a matter of how much hypocrisy the market will bear.

 

Replace the Cuban Adjustment Act

The foreign ministers of Panama and eight other Latin American countries have asked for a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the annoying effects of a 1966 US law, the Cuban Adjustment Act, on much of the Western Hemisphere. It’s hard to imagine that in an election season much will change in Washington, but this policy needs to change.

The Cuban Adjustment Act provides that Cubans — and Cubans alone — who manage to set foot on US soil without proper permission can’t be summarily sent back to their country of origin like citizens of other countries. US immigration law isn’t quite that simple, for Cubans or anyone else, but the rule of thumb and the commonly held belief in Cuba is that once in the USA, a Cuban is there to stay for the rest of his or her days.

It’s an outdated bit of Cold War legislation. These days the Republican Party, in whose ranks most of the Cuban-American exile leadership has operated for many years, has turned against Cubans along with all other Latin Americans. One might think that with the thaw in US-Cuban relations this bit of legislation would be vulnerable to repeal. The case for ending the double standard gains force when one considers the problems that it creates for countries along the circuitous routes by which undocumented Cubans seek to sneak into the United States.

Other Latino groups in the United States would have reason to let the Cuban-Americans swim alone against anti-immigrant tides and the currents of history. The policy makes unfair and unreasonable distinctions. The Cuban government is not a democracy and the Cuban people are not prosperous, but Cuba does not have the death squad terror that stalks places like Mexico and Honduras and the government in Havana isn’t notably more corrupt than those of many other Latin American neighbors. Poverty is the lot of many Latin Americans, not just Cubans. Any notion that Cubans are inherently better people than other Latin Americans would be ridiculous, although the fact that Cubans tend to be better educated than their Latin American counterparts would be relevant for US immigration policy — or for Panama’s thinking on the subject, were it rational.

However, there are reasons for the United States to give would-be Cuban immigrants a special break. For starters, the Cuban-American community is the oldest US Hispanic community. St. Augustine, Florida, was a Spanish-speaking town before any English settler arrived in North America and Florida was incorporated into the United States before the annexation of Texas or the Mexican Cession brought many Mexican-Americans into the USA by conquest. The long-established Cuban-American community is willing and able to take in new arrivals and has done so with great success for a long time.

The United States needs a new immigration law anyway, and it’s reasonable to take historic relationships into account in the drafting of such legislation. Panama also has special ties with the United States that ought to be taken into consideration.

There are things short of controversial legislation that the United States can immediately do to deal with the present problem of massive uncontrolled Cuban migration. This is not the first inconvenient Cuban exodus toward the USA, and let us recall measures that were taken in the past.

Those were temporary and partial measures, though. What’s needed is a more comprehensive US immigration reform that among other things replaces the Cuban Adjustment Act.

 

Bear in mind…

 

Choose your friends carefully. Your enemies will choose you.

Yasser Arafat

 

The public does not like you to mislead or represent yourself to be something you’re not. And the other thing that the public really does like is the self-examination to say ‘You know, I’m not perfect. I’m just like you.’ They don’t ask their public officials to be perfect. They just ask them to be smart, truthful, honest, and show a modicum of good sense.
Ann Richards

 

What is man’s chief enemy? Each man is his own.
Anacharsis Cloots

 

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¿Wappin? Maybe you can relate

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Sia
Sia Furler. Photo by Kris Krug.

Can you relate?

Warren Zevon — Veracruz
https://youtu.be/HcFlFLbYo8c

The Corrs – Little Wing
https://youtu.be/ytrPcztllzo

Café Tacvba – Eres
https://youtu.be/0AtsoFxe96M

Rita Coolidge – We’re All Alone
https://youtu.be/SZ-oJl48iYw

Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah
https://youtu.be/bFIPlUQDPzo

Elton John – Sacrifice
https://youtu.be/6EljX5-Wgbo

Carlos Vives – La Gota Fria
https://youtu.be/ucDzRYejL60

Joan Osborne – What Becomes of the Broken Hearted
https://youtu.be/kC24fdGFpfI

Sin Bandera – Maldita Suerte
https://youtu.be/S4BMU9bZFoo

WAR – The World is a Ghetto
https://youtu.be/fLIaUdMzBtM

Zoé – Labios Rotos
https://youtu.be/qG_hTK8Pw0k

Ben E. King – Stand By Me
https://youtu.be/CPYQEJFLhLU

Tracy Chapman & Luciano Pavarotti – Baby Can I Hold You
https://youtu.be/HvRpsckX7qE

Sia – Alive
https://youtu.be/D9bmyrT_sxs

Sly & Robbie meet Nils Petter Molvaer – Warsaw Summer Jazz Days 2015
https://youtu.be/f702zmB5en4

 

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The Panama News blog links, August 27, 2016

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The Panama News blog links

Reuters, Big oil tankers need retrofits to use the new locks

Marine Link, Extreme boat lifts installed in the Panama Canal

NPR, A luxury cruise sets sail through the Northwest Passage

KTUU, Military conducts cruise ship rescue training exercise in Arctic waters

Spash 24/7, Iran keen to participate in Nicaragua Canal project

Bloomberg, Panama Papers spark race for tax haven dollars before crackdown

El Confidencial, Dueña del Canal en Iberoamérica es una empresa offshore

Nikkei, Mega Financial hit by US fine

ANP, Para que se equiparen los salarios entre hombres y mujeres

TVN, Contraloría lleva bonificaciones de la UP ante la Corte Suprema

Hoy, Imputaron a dos empresarios por presuntas coimas a funcionarios de Panamá

La Estrella, Préstamos nuevos disminuyeron 3.7%

Epstien & Montecino, Overcharged: the high cost of high finance

Scientific American, What vampire bats can teach us about friendship

PR, Newly discovered multicomponent virus is the first of its kind to infect animals

Mongabay, Dams inevitably result in species decline and losses on reservoir islands

Intercontinental Cry, Varela destroys indigenous communities and claims success

Mongabay, Panama revives stalled dam over strong indigenous opposition

La Estrella, Varela dice que no permitirán que se falte el respeto a las autoridades

Telemetro, Ocho heridos por enfrentamientos tras protestas contra Barro Blanco

TVN, Ana Matilde Gómez busca despenalizar el abandono de bebés

DW, Rousseff impeachment trial resumes after courtroom chaos

The Guardian, Bolivia’s deputy interior minister beaten to death

BBC, GOP governor calls blacks and Latinos enemies to be shot

AP, Trump’s staff talks racism and religious war online

BuzzFeed, Why Europe can’t find the jihadis in its midst

Simpson, Adivinanza

Gandásegui, La corrupción sin control genera más corrupción

Transparency International, Let’s pick up the slow pace of reform in Panama

OFRANEH, La farsa del “acuerdo” de Barro Blanco

Bagama, Fuera Martín Santiago de Panamá

La Estrella, Ministro de Seguridad niega que fotos de Frenadeso sean de Gualaquita

Video, FRENADESO desmiente policía y gobierno

WOLA, Colombia’s 52-year-old conflict with the FARC comes to an end

Perla & Bazak, The Colombia-FARC agreement

Márquez, La mas hermosa de todas las batallas

Ben-Ami, Colombia’s gift to the world

MEV, Manifesto on the Venezuelan situation

Fang, Democratic pundits downplay the Clinton Foundation’s ethical issues

Baker, Fixing Obamacare: the Democrats have to talk about it

Hausmann, Trump’s foreign admirers

América Económica, La herencia de Trump

Digby, The disturbing dawn of the alt-right

Miller, The Great Mexican Wall Deception

Texas Public Radio: “Hands of Stone,” fists of ham

The Undefeated, Usher Raymond IV fighting that good fight

The Tech, Restoration of a tarnished icon

 

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#OurRevolution

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Our Revolution persists

Don’t be discouraged or distracted by the cynics, the trolls and those who think that their nastiness will get them hack jobs in a new administration. It’s a movement that doesn’t go away when set back, but which bounces back up and continues the fight.

 

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El documento de Barro Blanco

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Polo Ciudadano, El “pacto” sobre Barro Blanco

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Rechazamos el traicionero “pacto” de Barro Blanco

por el Polo Ciudadano

Polo Ciudadano rechaza categóricamente la manera espuria como el gobierno panameñista de Juan C. Varela ha impuesto un supuesto “pacto” sobre la cuestiona hidroeléctrica de Barro Blanco con autoridades de la comarca Ngäbe-Buglé cuya legitimidad está en duda.

El acuerdo firmado en Llano Tugri claramente desconoce la demanda sostenida por el pueblo de la comarca desde hace diez años de: ¡No a la hidroeléctrica!

Todo el proceso de imposición del proyecto hidroeléctrico de Barro Blanco ha estado salpicado siempre de mentiras, engaños, arbitrariedades, ilegalidades y represión; desde que, en 2006, la administración de Martín Torrijos (PRD y aliado), lo negociara en secreto con un cacique ilegítimo, incumpliendo con la legislación ambiental vigente y desconociendo a la población directamente afectada.

El gobierno de Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal – CD; no sólo avaló el proyecto, propiedad de capitalistas hondureños, sino que le concedió una ampliación en la capacidad de generación eléctrica de 19 megavatios a 28 megavatios, sin un estudio de impacto ambiental, como lo manda la ley, y sometiendo a una represión policial que dejo heridos y muertos al pueblo Ngäbe-Buglé.

Siguiendo entonces con ese gran mega negociado, el gobierno del partido “Panameñista” de Varela, actuó con dolo y alevosía desde un principio; engañando al pueblo panameño y a los pobladores de la comarca, con una supuesta “negociación”, mientras permitía la continuidad de la construcción de la hidroeléctrica, para llegar a una situación de hechos consumados como la actual.

En ese sentido, consideramos que, en el “acuerdo” de Llano Tugri no sólo se avala la existencia de la hidroeléctrica, sino que también respalda a una empresa extranjera que desde un inicio violó todas las normas y leyes nacionales en esta materia. En dicho “acuerdo”, tampoco se especifica el monto y manera de dar las compensaciones a las familias y comunidades afectadas.

Si bien el acuerdo establece que un porcentaje de “ganancias” que genere la hidroeléctrica irán a inversiones públicas en la comarca, no se establece nada en concreto, pues no se precisa el 15% de ¿cuánto?; tomando en cuenta la deuda con la banca, los gastos operativos de los nuevos administradores “privados”, y las cuantiosas ganancias que ellos mismos se embolsen.

Al igual que al inicio, cuando el proyecto fue impuesto negociando con un cacique de manera ilegítima; ahora nuevamente se repite la ilegitimidad, pues la propia Corte Suprema de Justicia, mediante un fallo ya había desconocido hace meses a las actuales autoridades comarcales.

Por lo que, debieron mediar elecciones de autoridades previo a cualquier rúbrica. En ese sentido, está en duda, este “pacto”, pues, la legitimidad la firma de los “caciques” Silvia Carrera, Jeremías Montero y Chito Gallardo, queda en entredicho.

Como Polo Ciudadano, reconociendo el derecho a la lucha por la madre tierra de nuestros pueblos indígenas, exigimos la derogación de este “acuerdo” dudoso, hasta que se establezcan medidas para la consulta real y democrática en el pueblo Ngäbe-Buglé, respecto al proyecto hidroeléctrico de Barro Blanco.

 

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Benjamin, US arms for the Saudi slaughter in Yemen

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Saudi Arabia is using billions in US aid to fund their onslaught against innocent civilians in Yemen, but it’s not too late for Congress to stop this madness. Wikimedia photo of the aftermath of a 2015 Saudi bombing raid on a residential neighborhood in the southern part of Yemen’s capital.

US weapons sales are drenched in Yemeni blood

by Medea Benjamin — OtherWords

When Pope Francis visited the US Congress in September 2015, he boldly posed a moral challenge to his American hosts, asking: “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?”

“Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money,” he solemnly concluded. “Money that is drenched in blood.”

In this case, it’s innocent Yemeni blood.

During his almost eight years in office, President Obama has approved a jaw-dropping, record-breaking $110 billion in weapons sales to the repressive Saudi regime, all with Congressional backing.

“In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and stop the arms trade,” Pope Francis said. Our lawmakers have failed miserably at heeding the Pope’s call.

Manufacturers such as Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and McDonnell Douglas have been pushing these sales to offset military spending cuts in the United States and Europe. These weapons manufacturers spend millions on lobbying, filling the campaign coffers of both Republicans and Democrats.

In addition to that lobbying power, US officials were pressured to placate Saudi Arabia after the Obama administration made a deal with its adversary, Iran. That appeasement came in the form of a level and quality of arms exports that should’ve never been approved for a repressive regime with an atrocious human rights record.

Saudi Arabia is the number one exporter of radical Islamic extremism on the planet. Fifteen of the 19 Sep. 11 hijackers were radicalized Saudi citizens. The regime oppresses religious minorities, women, LGBT people, and dissidents, while dozens of non-violent participants in their own Arab Spring protests face execution, usually by beheading.

The Pentagon says that providing the Saudis with F-15s bombers, Apache helicopters, armored vehicles, missiles, and bombs supports Saudi Arabian defense missions and helps promote stability in the region. But since March 2015, the Saudis have being using these weapons offensively to intervene in neighboring Yemen.

Their relentless onslaught has killed thousands of innocent civilians, decimated Yemen’s infrastructure, and left more than 21 million people — that’s 4 out of 5 Yemenis — desperately in need of humanitarian assistance. The United Nations has said that Saudi air strikes on civilian targets likely constitute war crimes and calls the situation in Yemen a “catastrophe.”

Despite this carnage, the Obama administration just announced an additional $1.15 billion in Saudi weapons sales.

In the week following that announcement, the Saudis bombed a Yemeni potato chip factory, a school, a residential neighborhood, and a Doctors Without Borders-run hospital. Most of the dead and wounded were women and children.

But it’s not too late for Congress to stop this madness.

By law, they have 30 days after arms sales are announced to stop or modify the deals. And despite the overall apathetic response to the crisis in Yemen, not all members of Congress are turning a blind eye to the violence.

California Democratic Congressman Ted Leiu, for example, is ready to take a stand. “When Saudi Arabia continues to kill civilians, and in this case children, enough is enough,” he said.

Senators Chris Murphy and Rand Paul have also come out against the sale. But for the sake of thousands of innocent civilians who could be slaughtered with these weapons, many more members must act quickly.

It’s high time for Congress to answer the Pope’s challenge to stop the arms trade and help prevent more Yemeni bloodshed.

 
Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of the peace group CODEPINK and the author of nine books, including the recently released Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connection. Distributed by OtherWords.

 

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