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The charges against Assange

code pink
Code Pink, an antiwar women’s group in the United States, sides with Assange.

Explainer: what charges does Julian Assange face, and what’s likely to happen next?

by Holly Cullen, University of Western Australia

Julian Assange, the Australian cofounder of Wikileaks, was arrested on April 11 by British police at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had been claiming political asylum for almost seven years.

He has faced a range of criminal charges and extradition orders, and several crucial aspects of his situation remain to be resolved.

What are the British charges against Assange, and what sentence could be imposed?

Assange moved into the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June 2012 after losing the final appeal against his transfer to Sweden on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW). He was then charged with failing to surrender to the court.

While in the embassy, Assange could not be arrested because of the international legal protection of diplomatic premises, which meant police could not enter without Ecuador’s consent. On April 11, British police were invited into the embassy and made the arrest. On the same day, Assange was found guilty, and awaits sentencing. The charge of failing to surrender to the court carries a jail term of up to 12 months.

What are the US charges against Assange?

Also on April 11, the United States government unsealed an indictment made in March 2018, charging Assange with a conspiracy to help whistleblower Chelsea Manning crack a password which enabled her to pass on classified documents that were then published by WikiLeaks. The US has requested that the UK extradite Assange to face these charges before a US court.

What were the Swedish charges, and could they be revived?

In 2010, a Swedish prosecutor issued the EAW requesting Assange’s transfer to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations, which he denies. In 2016, Assange was questioned by Swedish authorities by video link while he remained in the Ecuadorian embassy. In 2017, they closed their investigation.

After Assange was arrested and removed from the embassy, the lawyer for one of the complainants indicated she would ask the prosecutor to reopen the case, as the statute of limitations on the alleged offense does not expire until 2020. As of April 12, Sweden’s Prosecution Authority is formally reviewing the case and could renew its request for extradition.

What are Britain’s legal obligations to extradite to Sweden or the US?

The UK, as a member of the European Union (for now!), is obliged to execute an EAW. The law on EAWs is similar to extradition treaties. However, the law also says it is up to the UK to decide whether to act first on the EAW from Sweden or the US extradition request.

Bilateral extradition treaties are usually based on identical reciprocal obligations. But the current UK-US extradition treaty, agreed in 2003, has been criticized for allowing the UK to extradite a person to the US solely on the basis of an allegation and an arrest warrant, without any evidence being produced, despite the fact that “probable cause” is required for extradition the other way.

The relative ease of extradition from the UK to the US has long been one of the concerns of Assange’s legal team. The treaty does not include a list of extraditable offenses but allows for extradition for any non-political offense for which both states have criminalized the behavior, which carries a sentence of at least one year in prison.

Espionage and treason are considered core “political offenses”, which is why the US request is limited to the charge of computer fraud. Conspiracy to commit an extraditable offense is covered in the US-UK treaty, as it is in the EAW (and in the US-Australia extradition treaty).

Assange may legally challenge his extradition either to the US or to Sweden (as he previously did). Such challenges could take months or even years, particularly if Assange applies to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that an extradition request involved a human rights violation.

Given Assange’s previous conduct, and the likelihood that he will be sentenced to prison for failure to surrender to court, he will probably remain in a UK prison until all legal avenues are exhausted.

What are Australia’s obligations to Assange?

As an Australian citizen, Assange is entitled to consular protection by the Australian government, which means staff from the Australian High Commission in London will provide support for him in the legal process. The extent of that support is not set in stone, however, and both Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have declined to provide detail on the basis that the matter is before the courts.

One possibility is that Assange will serve his sentence for failing to surrender to the court, after which the UK will deport him to Australia. At that point, it is possible the US could request extradition from Australia, and the US-Australian extradition treaty would apply. The US charges would most likely be covered although not specifically mentioned in the treaty.

As with the UK-US treaty, political offenses are excluded, and an extradited person can only be tried for the offense in the extradition request or a related offense, and in any event not for an offense not covered by the treaty. In addition, the treaty specifies that neither Australia nor the US is obliged to extradite its own nationals, but may do so. The fact that Australia has the option to refuse extradition purely on the ground of Assange’s nationality could lead to intense pressure on the government to do just that.The Conversation

Holly Cullen, Adjunct professor, University of Western Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.



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Los debates presidenciales formales

El candidato del PRD, Nito Cortizo, y el candidato independiente, Ricardo Lombana.

Los debates

videos por otros con una nota por el editor

Esta recolección de videos largos es un registro de archivo, que a la mayoría de ustedes no les importará ver en su totalidad. Es un servicio tanto para los votantes panameños como para los estudiosos serios.

No es decir que haya habido mucha discurso serio y reflexivo en la campaña de este año en Panamá. Los medios rabiblancos encuentran que la situación política actual es vergonzosa para sus intereses como oligarcas, pero en realidad sus dueñnos no desean plantear cuestiones fundamentales sobre los problemas económicos y políticos de Panamá, de los que generalmente se beneficia la parte rica de la sociedad. Mientras, muchos panameños comunes que no comparten esos intereses están horriblemente educados. Un buen profesor de educación cívica repasaría fragmentos de estos debates como puntos de partida para discusiones serias sobre propaganda y las promesas de los políticos, pero en este país la educación cívica se enseña generalmente, cuando se enseña, en un clima de temor que limita su efectividad.

“¿Quién ganó el debate?” Generalmente se responde en términos de a quién apoya una persona. Esto es así, tanto en un evento de debate formal como a lo largo de una campaña.

Muchos panameños toman sus decisiones sobre los candidatos en la última semana antes de los comicios. Pero las tendencias actuales sugieren que Nito Cortizo es el favorito y el candidato que se está levantando para darle un desafío serio es Ricardo Lombana. Junto con lo bueno, hay cosas malas que puede decir acerca de estos dos hombres, y cosas buenas y malas que puede decir sobre todos los otros candidatos. Pero ahí lo tienes. No solo corras con la masa. Infórmese y elija sabiamente.



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Editorial, Why was this man let into Panama?

short eyes
Robert Ryan Friedler a/k/a Ryan Smith, now a temporary resident of the David Jail.

How was he let in? Why was he let in? 

Robert Ryan Friedler, a convicted felon from Fort Myers, Florida, relocated to the Boquete area. He had done years in prison for the aggravated battery of a woman with whom he had been living, wherein he left her with multiple broken bones in her face, broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Let out after two years, he immediately violated the “stay away” order and was promptly sent back to prison. He got out and came here.

Now Mr. Friedler, who used the alias Ryan Smith while here, is accused of sexually abusing at least eight boys, aged between seven and 12 years.

The US-inspired religious hate groups are in the comment sections below newspaper articles screaming for homosexual blood, blaming such folks as Taylor Swift for Mr. Friedler’s alleged crimes because the singer believes that gay people have rights. They attack the straw man “Gender Ideology” that their US mentors coined, and they use that to oppose sex education in the Panamanian schools so that the predatory men among them can go after little girls.

The vile xenophobes and racists are working in the same places, arguing that the problem is gringos, that all of the thousands of US citizens and Panamanian or dual citizens of that ethnicity are like that. Will candidates soon join into that chorus in search of  votes?

It’s a dangerous social situation for more than one community, due to the acts of one man. But he’s not the first. The sex offenders draw the most notice. We get the occasional North American murderer on the lam. Right-wing extremists often come in hiding behind religion. By number the biggest problem is the fraud artists, whose intended targets are generally foreign residents of the isthmus.

In the latter case, the predation is undertaken with the expectation that Panamanian police and prosecutors find it a laughing matter if a foreigner is defrauded.

In the former case, often the chosen victims are indigenous and they are always poor, such that their protection is likely to be a low priority for authorities in high places. The problem for such pedophiles, however, is that many police officers come from humble origins and ignored ethnic groups. Mostly these officers have neither forgotten nor come to hate their roots. Pick on a marginalized kid and you may run into a cop ready to stand up for one of his or her own.

But wait a second. How did this man get into Panama in the first place?

Didn’t they check his passport, his name and a fingerprint against the FBI’s LEIN criminal justice database? Shouldn’t they have found out that this was a dangerous violent criminal and denied him entry into the country?

It might be interesting to see the circular finger pointing around the Panamanian government and perhaps involving the American Embassy.

In any case, three things to remember:

  • Innocent until proven guilty. Let the man have his fair day in court.
  • A man may have committed a crime, not a community. Not gay people, not gringos. One person. Or perhaps with one or more accomplices, but not a whole community.
  • Assignment of  blame other than to the perpetrator is only useful for knowing where the holes that need to be patched are. The important thing is that every foreigner who comes into Panama for any purpose under any sort of visa should have to pass a screen against the applicable criminal database from whence she or he came. It is in the interests of these other countries to fully cooperate in this matter. 


Irish martyr

Bear in mind…

The choice between law and justice is an easy one for courageous minds.
Rebecca West

The transformation of forests into deserts, fertile earth into sunbaked concrete, and running rivers into silted floodwaters show that only through care for the environment can the livelihoods of those most dependent on it be sustained. We cannot allow economic and environmental concerns to be played off against each other.
Petra Kelly

If Hitler invaded Hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.
Winston Churchill

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Kermit’s birds / Las aves de Kermit

The female / La hembra

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak / El Picogrueso Pechirrosado

photos / fotos © Kermit Nourse

The Rose – breasted Grosbeak ~ El Picogrueso Pechirrosado
Scientific name: Pheucticus ludovicianus
Parque Natural Metropolitano, Panama

This species, although a transient in Panama ,is often seen in the parks and gardens of central and eastern north America. Born in North America, they winter between Mexico and northern South America. They are also year round residents of western Washington state and British Columbia. Historically they tended to be on the isthmus – almost all over Panama, including the Perlas Archipelago but not going up to the very top of the Chiriqui Highlands – between October and early April. Were these two, seen separately in the same tree but a week apart, headed north?

el macho
The male / El macho

El Picogrueso Pechirrosado ~ The Rose – breasted Grosbeak
Nombre científico: Pheucticus ludovicianus
Parque Natural Metropolitano, Panamá

Esta especie, aunque transitoria en Panamá, se ve a menudo en los parques y jardines del centro y este de los Estados Unidos y Canadá. Nacidos en Norteamérica, invernan entre México y el norte de Sudamérica. También son residentes todo el año en el occidente del estado de Washington y de Columbia Británica. Históricamente, están en casi todo el istmo de Panamá, incluido el archipiélago de Perlas, pero sin llegar a la cima de las Tierras Altas de Chiriquí, entre octubre y los principios de abril. ¿Fueron estos dos, vistos por separado en el mismo árbol pero con una semana de diferencia, viajando al norte?


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Campaign season, by the signs of it

most popular sign
By far the most common sign — “For Sale” — but even the candidates who surely are do not run on this.

New rules, different election, but
the signs and flags do say things

by Eric Jackson

It was an ordinary run into Coronado from Juan Diaz de Anton and back, with little detours in Coronado, San Carlos and Anton and a rubber neck on the bus — checking out the political sign wars. It’s something that this reporter has done in every Panamanian general election since 1994. It’s nothing like good tracking polls but it does say some things about the campaigns’ money, the number and enthusiasm of their volunteers and door-to-door ground games. 

The first thing to notice that there were fewer signs and flags. That’s because the Electoral Tribunal has strictly prohibited campaign messages on public property where they have been plastered in campaigns past.

The second thing to notice were the flags that people were carrying, in little group campaign swings through neighborhoods. On the way in, I saw maybe a dozen people and a decorated pickup in the entrance to the town of San Carlos, touting Cambio Democratico’s Rómulo Roux. They were not quietly fanning out to talk to people one-on-one, but shouting their slogans on a bullhorn. The suggestion was a timid campaign by people sticking together out of fear of rejection. On the way back people with PRD flags were jumping off of a PRD pickup — specifically a Melchior Herrera for legislator vehicle — joining others to make a little crowd comparable to Roux’s in parking lot near the bus stop. But the pickup dropped off the volunteers and headed west, while the people with the flags headed down residential streets for some more personal and more interactive political conversations.

The billboard wars? Roux may be winning those, but just barely. The ones with the PRD’s Nito Cortizo are likely to feature him with some local candidate. The Panameñista mix has few Blandón signs but once crossed into Cocle an awful lot for Ricardo Solís, who is running against Melchior Herrera, the mayor of Anton, for a legislative seat left open by the decision of CD incumbent Raúl Hernández not to seek re-election. So far, no outdoor advertising sign of the CD candidate in that race. In Coronado, I saw my first Ricardo Lombana billboard.

The party flags on private property, or occasionally and illegally on a public utility pole? The PRD wins that war. If you count the banners of, their old enemies and minor party coalition partners MOLIRENA, one might take that as a sure sign that Nito Cortizo is stomping all over all comers. Perhaps. But in this reporter’s neighborhood there may be another explanation. The PRD is not all that far ahead of the Panameñistas in party flags on private property. I only saw on place flying the CD flag.

These parts of Panama Oeste and Cocle have their pockets of PRD support, but historically this is not Torrijista turf. They are looking for breakthroughs in legislative and local races. Both the flags and the signs on people’s property appear to reflect party activists driven not so much presidential politics but by furious down-ticket races. 

In Coronado, which is in Chame district, Nieves Mayorga seeks re-election on the Panameñista ticket. That job has been in the family for years, but in Coronado she’s losing the sign wars to independents by a large margin. Probably not an accident that the first Lombana billboard I saw was in Coronado, as independents have been congregating and campaigning in the area, persuading people to put signs on their homes and businesses.


Ricardo Lombana and would-be indie deputy
Raúl Fernández campaign in Panama Oeste

In San Carlos, PRD primary voters threw out the long-time mayor, Victor López, in favor of Natividad Cruz. She went out and did the work within the party faithful context last year to win that one and you see her signs out now. But you see as many for independents. A week or so ago they were mostly for Martinelista independent Javier Quiróz, who is being hyped on Ricardo Martinelli’s NexTV and in the jailed ex-president’s sex-and-death tabloid La Critica. But this week both Cruz and Quiróz find themselves eclipsed in the sign wars by another independent, Omaira Singh Castillo. She owns Carlito’s pizza, pasta and empanada restaurant and a few years back found that land grabbers had stolen title to her property, then found out that she wasn’t the only one. She fought back and last year the former representante was sent to prison about it. The signs you see are evidence of people having been visited and convinced.

Restaurateur Omaira Singh makes the rounds in San Carlos.

Heading west through San Carlos district past Las Uvas the farms become more numerous and the beach developments less so. There are plenty of empty towers in the district. What you often find is that fishing villagers who were expelled by those who grabbed the beaches now live on the inland side of the road. You just don’t see signs of many people looking to the political parties that have overseen this dispossession over the past four administrations for salvation.

Nor, perhaps tellingly, do you see many of the farmers expressing their enthusiasm for Nito Cortizo, one of whose main selling points is that he resigned as Martín Torrijos’s agriculture minister over that administration’s embrace of a free trade pact with the United States. He said that it would devastate Panamanian agriculture and it has. Perhaps it’s because, now more than a decade later, people who were working the land or raising cattle on it are now out of business or so discouraged that they would get out the moment they got a reasonable offer for their farms. Perhaps elsewhere there may be a great farm rebellion, but not along this stretch of the highway.

Get past La Ermita and you cross into Cocle province. The Arias Madrid brothers, Harmodio and Arnulfo, were from Penonomé. It’s the traditional Panameñista hearland. If the party founded by Arnulfo Arias doesn’t win Cocle, they’re screwed. And here you see many more of their yellow, purple and red flags

But you know what? It’s about a furious race down the ticket. Panameñista candidate Ricardo Solís is taking on the PRD mayor of Anton for a seat in the legislature being vacated by CD’s Raúl Hernández.

Would you say “the popular mayor of Anton?” You’d have to stretch. It’s a vast district with many corregimientos that have lost their attributes of local government as Melchior Herrera has left justice of the peace appointments vacant and corregidurías abandoned. The roads and drains are unkempt. Land grabbers prowl. The Panamanian flag doesn’t fly at municipal buildings. To get all those symbols and institutions you have to go into town.

And in town? That’s by all signs Solís turf by a wide margin. It could be that the mayor has a different style of campaigning. More likely it’s that the national trend toward opposing all re-election is taken to include a stand against promoting incumbents to higher offices.

Which political fact also plays on the Panameñista campaign. Solís signs have only a tiny cryptic reference to his party’s candidate for president, José Isabel Blandón, a stylized little “B” with the party colors. Blandón, for his part, is distancing himself from President Varela. As the incumbent mayor of Panama City and a former legislator, Blandón also bears the taint of connections that make the #NoALaReelección crowd turn away.

Most of the homes in the town of Anton with Panameñista signs and flags are more humble than this one.

Go west from the town of Anton, then turn north off the highway into Juan Diaz, and you see a ferocious local war between nominal allies. The representante is PRD and he has pretty much abandoned El Bajito, where this reporter lives. When we had an eight-month water outage a few years back he didn’t show his face. Yet he does have his followers. Many of the same households that sported PRD symbols in 2014 are doing so again. Actually, many of the Carlos Fernández signs now posted are old, as the man runs for a third term.

But a lot of the traditional PRD households are sporting the yellow and red MOLIRENA versions of the Nito Cortizo signs. There are all of these MOLIRENA flags. Places that were Cambio Democratico last time around now sport the MOLIRENA colors. What’s happening is that if the PRD and MOLIRENA are allies at the presidential and legislative levels, they have rival candidates in this corregimiento. A lot of people are annoyed by Fernández for various reasons — his dismissive gestures big and small over the years have him pegged as a cut or two below the stereotypical politician, and this is not going to be a good year for incumbents anyway. Leave it to the  MOLIRENA candidate, Edith Martínez, to be the instrument of the incumbent’s exit from public office? By the signs and flags that appears to be what a number of the neighbors have in mind.

The PRD and MOLIRENA: their alliance doesn’t extend to every race.

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World Health Statistics Report 2019

Gender norms associating smoking with women’s freedom and liberation are being targeted to young women by the tobacco industry. Tobacco use remains a leading cause of premature death. Pixabay photo.

Uneven access to health services drives life expectancy gaps

by the World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Where women can access health services, maternal deaths decrease, lengthening women’s life expectancy.
  • In many circumstances, men access health care less than women.
  • Men are much more likely to die from preventable and treatable noncommunicable diseases and road traffic accidents.
  • 18.1-year gap in life expectancy between poorest and richest countries.

Women outlive men everywhere in the world – particularly in wealthy countries. The World Health Statistics 2019 – disaggregated by sex for the first time – explains why.

“Breaking down data by age, sex and income group is vital for understanding who is being left behind and why,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Behind every number in the World Health Statistics is a person, a family, a community or a nation. Our task is to use these data to make evidence-based policy decisions that move us closer to a healthier, safer, fairer world for everyone.”

The gap between men’s and women’s life expectancy is narrowest where women lack access to health services. In low-income countries, where services are scarcer, 1 in 41 women dies from a maternal cause, compared with 1 in 3300 in high-income countries. In more than 90 per cent of low-income countries, there are fewer than 4 nursing and midwifery personnel per 1000 people.

Attitudes to healthcare differ. Where men and women face the same disease, men often seek health care less than women. In countries with generalized HIV epidemics, for example, men are less likely than women to take an HIV test, less likely to access antiretroviral therapy and more likely to die of AIDS-related illnesses than women. Similarly, male TB patients appear to be less likely to seek care than female TB patients.

The report also highlights the difference in causes of death between men and women – some biological, some influenced by environmental and societal factors, and some impacted by availability of and uptake of health services.

Of the 40 leading causes of death, 33 causes contribute more to reduced life expectancy in men than in women. In 2016, the probability of a 30-year-old dying from a noncommunicable disease before 70 years of age was 44% higher in men than women.

Global suicide mortality rates were 75% higher in men than in women in 2016. Death rates from road injury are more than twice as high in men than in women from age 15, and mortality rates due to homicide are four times higher in men than in women.

Published to coincide with World Health Day on 7 April, which this year focuses on primary health care as the foundation of universal health coverage, the new WHO statistics highlight the need to improve access to primary health care worldwide and to increase uptake.

“One of WHO’s triple billion goals is for 1 billion more people to have universal health coverage by 2023,” said Dr. Tedros. “This means improving access to services, especially at community level, and making sure those services are accessible, affordable, and effective for everyone – regardless of their gender.”

“These statistics underscore the need to prioritize primary health care urgently to effectively manage noncommunicable diseases, and to curb risk factors.” said Dr. Samira Asma, WHO Assistant Director General for Data, Analytics and Delivery. “For example, something as simple as controlling blood pressure is just not happening on the scale needed and tobacco use remains a leading cause of premature death.”

Life expectancy has improved since 2000

Between 2000 and 2016, global life-expectancy at birth increased by 5.5 years, from 66.5 to 72.0 years. Healthy life expectancy at birth – the number of years one can expect to live in full health- increased from 58.5 years in 2000 to 63.3 years in 2016.

Life expectancy remains strongly affected by income. In low-income countries, life expectancy is 18.1 years lower than in high-income countries. One child in every 14 born in a low-income country will die before their fifth birthday.

For the first time, this year, WHO’s Global Health Statistics have been disaggregated by sex. This new analysis has provided insights into the health and needs of people around the world. But many countries still struggle to provide gender disaggregated information.

“Closing data gaps will accelerate and is important to closing the gender gap,” said Dr. Richard Cibulskis, the report’s main author. “Collecting, analyzing, and using good quality, disaggregated data is central to improving people’s health and wellbeing. Health policy and practice must be underpinned by robust and reliable data, generated in countries.”

The 28-page World Health Overview can be found in PDF format here.

The Health Statistics by country can be found in PDF format here. 


Death rates from road injury are more than twice as high in men than in women from age 15. Photo by the Benmérito Cuerpo de Bomberos de Panamá.

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¿Wappin? New mix / Mezcla nueva

Grace VanderWaal. Photo by Theresa Sanchez.

Much of this you will not have heard
Mucho de esto no habrás escuchado

Tash Sultana – Can’t Buy Happiness

Aventura – Inmortal

Nubya Garcia – Lost Kingdom

Jimi Hendrix – Hey Joe

Café Tacvba – El Baile y El Salón

Lana Del Rey – Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have

Alvin Lee – The Bluest Blues

Joss Stone & Nneka – Babylon

Luci & the Soul Brokers – Surprise

Steel Pulse – Cry Cry Blood

Nina Simone – Sinner Man

Raging Fyah – Judgment Day

Grace VanderWaal – Stray

Peter Gabriel, Natalie Merchant & Michael Stipe – Red Rain

Denise Gutiérrez – Algo

Lenny Kravitz Live In Lollapalooza Argentina 2019


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Gandasegui, These elections: left vs. right

Got a month to decide. Archive photo from the 2014 election by Eric Jackson.

Left and right in the elections

by Marco Gandásegui, hijo

It’s a month before the Panamanian citizenry goes to the polls to choose a new president and some 850 other elected officials. The campaign season officially opened a month ago and only four of the seven candidates have presented platforms on which they say they would govern.

Only the candidate of the Broad Front for Democracy (FAD), Saúl Méndez, is armed with a plan to confront the social and economic crisis cause by the neoliberal policies of the past 30 years. Ana Matilde Gómez, an independent candidate, has a program that her supporters call minimum. For his part the PRD’s Laurentino Cortizo offers a platform that rests on four pillars without greater pretensions. The candidate of the ruling Panameñnista party, José Blandón, distances himself from the current president but does not define his objectives.

In their propaganda and in the debates they don’t propose structural solutions to poverty, inequality of informal employment. They don’t talk about the creation of jobs in the industrial or agricultural sector by way of an investment plan.

They all say that they want to be part of the plans that China has for Panama. But they forget that they are the ones who have to propose the plans. They all talk about a “bullet train” – which looks like it’s going to be a turtle train – but the candidates don’t know for what it’s supposed to serve.

A century ago the “founding fathers” confessed that they didn’t know what sort of republic they were creating and what the United States intended with its canal construction. They had other priorities. Likewise, 200 years ago those who called Simón Bolívar The Liberator did not know of the Colombian project. Mariano Arosemena and his partners had dreams of a commercial emporium. They were only dreams.

Like the Liberals of the 1950s and 1960s, the rightist candidates promise to resolve the problems of water, of garbage collection, of education, of health and to meet other popular demands. But none of them propose a working plan that would contribute to the solusion of these problems. They are asking for our votes and at the same time saying that we will have five more year of frustration. Corruption and unsafe communities will remain the same.

What the Panamanian feels the most is the lack of job opportunities and of social security. In 2005 they privatized Social Security, creating a mixed public-private system of individual accounts. The workers within a decade began to feel mocked when they didn’t receive their pensions. The candidates talk of more reforms to Seguro Social. What should be proposed is a solidary system that guarantees the payment of pensions when the worker retires.

In the debate a breach has opened up between the so-called political left and its counterpart the political right. We should be clear what these two sides represent. The left is a position that fights to make changes. On the other hand, the right wants to conserve all of the existing values and institutions.

The use of these terms arose in the French Revolution of 1789, when a national assembly was convened to draft a constitution. The partisand of the republic and of the deepening revolutionary process sat on the left. Those who supported the monarchy and the king of that time sat on the right.

Since then, for nearly 250 years, those who fight for change are called leftists. Those who uphold the established order are the right. Nowadays those who defend neoliberal policies that impoverish workers, farmers and indigenous people are the right. Those who want to do away with neoliberal policies and regulate the economy – put it at the service of the public well-being – are the left.

Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? The answer is simple: it depends on which side you are on. If you support the oligarchs of the right, your enemy is the people. If, on the contrary, you support the people who want changes – the left – your foe is the oligarchy.

In this 2019 electoral contest the right – three candidates of neoliberal parties and three independents – propose to resolve our problems without altering the neoliberal economic model. That is, to deregulate the economy so that rentiers and speculators can continue to concentrate their wealth. The left, on the other hand, wants changes, beginning with the economic model and continuing to guarantee the security of the things that most matter to the population.


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The Deal is… (6): PRD party discipline breaks down

Minister of the Presidency Jorge González just got approved by the legislature, as few of Varela’s other appointees have been. Although Varela appointed three new directors at a time when there was one vacancy and two other directors’ terms were about to expire, apparently not designating which person was to fill which spot, most probably González replaces Marco Ameglio, who resigned from the ACP board in the middle of last year to run for president. Last month the terms of Nicolás Corcione and José A. Sosa also expired. Photo by the Asamblea Nacional.

Most PRD legislators ignore party leaders, approve Varela nominee for ACP board

by Eric Jackson

In a way, Jorge González is the stereotypical guy for the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) board of directors. A graduate of the Tecnologico, he spent eight years managing other people’s businesses, mainly in construction and real estate. Those are the industries that dominate PanCanal policy and have for years.

Then González went into his own private business ventures for a decade, while in his activist life he gained stature as a Panameñista stalwart. With the onset of the Varela administration he come on as Secretary of Goals (as in measuring how well or badly the government was doing at meeting them). Then he stepped up as Vice Minister of Housing, presidential spokesman, and up to the top spot in the cabinet, Minister of the Presidency.

In February President Varela nominated three of his administration’s top insiders — González, Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel de De Saint Malo and Panama’s ambassador to the United States Emanuel González-Revilla — to fill three spots on the ACP board, one to fill a vacancy and two to replace directors whose terms were set to expire in March.

Through the rest of February and all of March the legislature’s Credentials Committee that hears such things sat on these appointments — as they have with most of Varela’s other appointments this year. (The exceptions so far have been the ratifications of Olmedo Arrocha and Abel Zamorano as Supreme Court magistrates.) Credentials Committee president Sergio Gálvez (Cambio Democratico or CD – El Chorrillo) said all along that he would not go out of his way block Varela appointees but that if an appointee had no consensus in support he wouldn’t bring up the nomination for committee consideration.

On March 21 the national executive committee of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) passed a resolution calling on the party’s 26 legislators to vote against all Varela appointees. On the campaign trail, you mostly hear from CD about what a tyrant Juan Carlos Varela is for jailing his predecessor Ricardo Martinelli. When the PRD is attacked by CD presidential hopeful Rómulo Roux and his colleagues it’s generally cast in terms of how they are Varela’s puppets.

So as March became April Gálvez said that there was a consensus for the committee to take up the González appointment. Despite the pleadings of PRD secretary-general Pedro Miguel González for his party’s members to reject the appointment, in the committee on March 3 one PRD member supported Varela’s man, one abstained and only one voted against. The next day, with a bunch of deputies absent or abstaining, all voting CD deputies joined with the Panameñistas and a few PRD deputies to easily ratify Jorge González for a spot on the ACP board. Only six members of the PRD’s 26- strong caucus voted to reject the appointment.

The minister says that he will join the board at earliest opportunity and also stay on as Minister of the Presidency through the end of Varela’s term (June 30). There have been constitutional issues raised about whether a minister other than Minister of Canal Affairs may serve on the ACP board. If there is such a ban it’s implied rather than forthrightly stated. The debate featured some even more dubious constitutional claims, with PRD leader Pedro Miguel González insisting the ACP autonomy means that a president can’t pack its board with political appointees and Panameñista deputy and mayoral candidate Adolfo “Beby” Valderrama asserting that the legislature has a constitutional duty to approve the president’s nominees.

What might it all say about the state of Panamanian politics? First, all the no-shows and absences just a month away from an election are common enough, with candidates out seeking votes. But only 50 of the 71 deputies are running again and it does appear that many of the rest have given up hope in the face of a large and growing citizen movement to vote out all incumbents.

There may be other explanations, which the public has not heard. The construction and real estate industries’ money and power cuts across party lines. There is the old maxim that if you are going to oppose a politician you need to defeat that person, or be at risk for some payback down the road — so better not vote against the inevitable. Perhaps most of the PRD deputies just like Jorge González. Perhaps he holds some levers of influence about which anyone who knows would rather not say.

Bottom line reality to take away, however, is whichever polls you might believe the PRD’s Nito Cortizo is the presidential front runner, but his party’s discipline has just crumbled.


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The Panama News blog links, April 3, 2019


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

Seatrade, Severe dry season sees fifth draft reduction for Panama Canal new locks 

Splash, Bunge and Cargill seek lower PanCanal rates for grains

Seatrade, NYC Maritime Hackathon reveals frustrations of dealing with the industry’s data


Sports / Deportes

Felder, Baseball’s biggest problem isn’t pace of play – it’s teams tanking

La Estrella, Panamá duda de participar en Serie del Caribe de 2020 por elevados costos


Economy / Economía

La Estrella, SIECA advierte que desaceleración económica se mantendrá en 2019 

NDTV, Tax take from Panama Papers exceeds $1.2 billion

Rogoff, Modern Monetary Nonsense

NBC, Student debt: what the politicians are saying

Stiglitz, Market concentration is threatening the US economy

Xinhua, IMF warns against market power concentration

Kramer, Regulations needed after cryptocurrency CEO takes passwords to his grave


Science & Technology / Ciencia & Tecnología

STRI, Microbes may fight the epidemic driving some frog species to extinction

Video, Romeo y Julieta: el primer encuentro de una pareja de ranas en peligro de extinción

BBC, Climate change: Energy companies’ ‘Magic bullet’ carbon solution

E360, 80 percent of new Arctic sea ice melts before leaving Russian coast


News / Noticias

Mongabay: Guna, Embera and Wounaan act to protect Darien forest from loggers

La Prensa, Los grandes donantes de los candidatos presidenciales

EFE: #NoALaReelección, la campaña que alborota a votantes y partidos políticos

WOLA, Attacks on ethnic leaders and human rights activists continue in Colombia

CLAE, Destituyó al ministro de Defensa y al comandante en jefe del Ejército uruguayo

Weiss, The Central American aid paradox


Opinion / Opiniones

Dayen, How to think about breaking up big tech

ALAI, Proposed WTO digital trade rules are contrary to development needs

Hightower, Supervillain economics

Remezcla, What activists think about Julián Castro’s immigration platform

The Baltimore Sun, Yulín: “It hurts being a colony”

Korn, Apagones: Venezuela sin electricidad, comunicaciones… ni ideas

Bigio, ¿Puede en Venezuela repetirse una invasión como la de Panamá?

Galindo, El control constitucional de los tratados internacionales

Yao, ¿Debate presidencial en Marte?

Sagel, Recuperando la autoestima


Culture / Cultura

Remezcla, Aventura is releasing new music for the first time in 10 years

George, Celebrating 100 years with Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Pocho.com, ¡Mira! These are the Pocho Ocho Most Mexican Countries

The Guardian, How Brexit will hurt British music


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