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Carabineros y Piñera vs Mon Laferte et al

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ML
Laferte apuntó a Carabineros y las fuerzas armadas como responsables. “Hay muchos casos donde la misma policía y los mismos militares fueron quienes estuvieron incendiando”, sentenció. Foto de archivo de Wikimedia.

Carabineros solicita que interroguen a Mon
Laferte por culparlos de incendiar el Metro

por Jaime – cc Radio San Joaquín en Santiago de Chile

Carabineros anunció este sábado que pedirá al Ministerio Público que la cantante Mon Lafertesea citada a declarar por sus dichos sobre los incendios en el Metro.

La solicitud también apunta a Klaus Dreckmann, abogado que prestaba servicios a la Fiscalía Regional de Valparaíso, quien escribió en Twitter que “no solo participaron (los carabineros) activamente en la quema del metro, han matado, torturado”. Él se defendió que su cuenta fue intervenida.
“Carabineros de Chile ha oficiado al Fiscal Nacional del Ministerio Público, a objeto que ambas personas sean citadas a la brevedad, a prestar declaración ante los fiscales que tramitan los procesos sobre incendios en el Metro de Santiago, con el objeto que aporten todos los antecedentes con que cuentan para formular tales graves imputaciones”, se indicó en un comunicado de la institución:

carabineros

La policía uniformada añadió que la petición se realiza “sin perjuicio de las acciones civiles y penales que ejercerá la institución, respecto de las afirmaciones de Mon Laferte del abogado Klaus A. Dreckmann Kimelman, en los próximos días”.

“Carabineros de Chile como Institución, rechaza categóricamente las graves imputaciones expresadas por las personas ya señaladas, declarando que en todos los casos de esta misma naturaleza, ejercerá las acciones judiciales que le permite el ordenamiento jurídico”, se añadió en la misiva.
Fue en medio de una entrevista con Patricia Janiot cuando la cantante habló sobre los incendios en el Metro.

Laferte apuntó a Carabineros y las fuerzas armadas como responsables. “Hay muchos casos donde la misma policía y los mismos militares fueron quienes estuvieron incendiando”, sentenció.

Actualmente, solo hay tres personas en prisión preventiva por los incendios en estaciones, específicamente por los ataques en Pedrero, Del Sol y La Granja. A ellos se suma un cuarto imputado por destrozos en San Joaquín, en hechos ocurridos antes del estallido social.

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Reich, Fraud in a high place

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Ocean Club
He also cheated Panama on taxes when he had an interest in what was the Trump Ocean Club, the building with the curve here. Photo by Eric Jackson.

A blatant fraudster occupies the highest office in the land

by Robert Reich

Newly released documents reveal major inconsistencies between metrics Trump reported to New York City property tax officials and metrics he reported to lenders who were financing his signature building, Trump Tower in Manhattan. This is the third major Trump property that has reported differing numbers to tax officials versus lenders. In the most recent case at Trump Tower, the occupancy rate was listed as 11, 16, and 16 percentage points higher to a lender over three consecutive years than to New York City tax officials.

So why does this matter? Reporting different occupancy rates makes the property appear more profitable to the lender, and less profitable to city tax officials — i.e., it’s a form of fraud. As described in congressional testimony by Michael Cohen, this follows a pattern in which Trump falsely makes his properties appear more profitable to lenders in order to secure loans, and then makes them appear less so in order to reduce the property taxes he owes. The laundry list of Trump’s illegal and corrupt business practices continues to grow. It is an utter disgrace that a blatant fraudster occupies the highest office in the land.

 

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Make reservations, get tickets for the January 13 – 18 Panama Jazz Festival

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PJF1
Yes, all these wonderful concerts. But these festivals are an educational project. Panama Jazz Festival photo.

Music takes over the capital
on January 13 through 18

If you get your tickets online before this weekend is over — at https://panamajazzfestival.com/ — they will be half price. And if you want to make a difference in the world, perhaps more important would be to get tickets for some kid with few means but desire and perhaps a bit of talent, to attend the music workshops, seminars and auditions that are the heart of the Panama Jazz Festival. Maybe she won’t have it to be the professional performer, but will be the extraordinary sound woman of the future. Maybe he won’t be the superstar, but will be a master of his instrument behind the headliner and make a decent living of it. Maybe the neighbor kid will be no such thing, but learn new tastes and get a glimpse of new horizons.

Yes, it’s valid to think of getting tickets for you and somebody special to see a great show. But depending on how connected and concerned you are, it’s also an opportunity to change a young person’s life for the better.

beat
A physical expression of math. PJF photo.

The classes and workshops are in pink. And who knows where they might lead?

 

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¿Wappin? Sounds for rainy season’s end / Sonidos para el último del invierno

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she
Fer Casillas, cover art for her Sanar album.
Fer Casillas, portada de su álbum Sanar.

Música para un día gris
Gray day music

Annie Lennox – Requiem for a Private War
https://youtu.be/isnh8uXx_kU

Carlos Garnett – Wise Old Man
https://youtu.be/joVtuCNzytc

Fer Casillas Cuando Volvamos al Mar
https://youtu.be/BQFK0K5Rv9Y

Cardi B – Press
https://youtu.be/cJc7xWJbwJw

#ElParoSuena – Nos Movemos
https://youtu.be/zZJ0qv-5DpA

Elton John – Sacrifice
https://youtu.be/NrLkTZrPZA4

Enrique Bunbury – Parecemos Tontos
https://youtu.be/R59REuaYfpE

Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive
https://youtu.be/ARt9HV9T0w8

Burning Spear – Old Marcus Garvey
https://youtu.be/AHbvg8xhJkk

El Shirota – Más de una Vez
https://youtu.be/xjMfCFHYUBs

Robbie Robertson & Playing for Change – The Weight
https://youtu.be/ph1GU1qQ1zQ

Big Mama Thornton – Everything Gonna Be Alright
https://youtu.be/5alA8gpxQmE

Phil Collins & Eric Clapton – I Wish It Would Rain Down
https://youtu.be/0Y20lBp4rE8

Mon Laferte – Por Qué Me Fui A Enamorar De Ti
https://youtu.be/vKYbA5KHdEY

Barrios, Cano, Rodríguez, Aizprua & Castillo – Décima Panameña
https://youtu.be/83HT-n9qKSM

 

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MEF, Nuestro nuevo capítulo

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MEF on OECD

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Beluche, La independencia de 1821

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cabildo
Casa del Cabildo Abierto, el edificio en la Plaza Catedral desde el que se proclamó la independencia de España el 28 de noviembre de 1821.

La independencia de Panamá de 1821

por Olmedo Beluche

El Istmo de Panamá se sumó tarde al movimiento de Independencia de Hispanoamérica. Aquí no hubo rastros de un movimiento autonomista sino hasta 1820, y la primera declaratoria de independencia no llegó sino hasta noviembre de 1821, cuando ya el proceso estaba consolidado en esta parte del continente. Las razones del independentismo tardío panameño son varias y pueden ser encontradas en la obra Apuntamientos Históricos (1801 – 1840), de Mariano Arosemena.

La familia Arosemena pertenecía a la élite criolla del Istmo de Panamá, dedicada al comercio. Mariano jugó un papel primordial, como editor del primer periódico local, de inclinaciones liberales, fue uno de los actores clave de la proclama del 28 de Noviembre de 1821, pagando a las tropas españolas para que se retiraran hasta La Habana.

¿Por qué el Istmo fue una de las últimas regiones en sumarse al proceso independentista?

Por varios factores: crisis demográfica en el Istmo, de la cual se deduce la ausencia de producción agrícola o artesanal, con la consecuente debilidad de los actores sociales que fueron decisivos en otras regiones (artesanos, esclavos y masas de campesinos indígenas); su situación geopolítica que la convirtió en fortín español; y un criollismo dedicado al comercio, con la capacidad de adaptación oportunista que es característica de esta clase social.

Un cúmulo de circunstancias convencieron a los criollos panameños de pasarse al bando de la Independencia: el 28 de enero Maracaibo proclamó su independencia; el 6 de mayo, se crea la Gran Colombia; en julio, Sucre lucha victoriosamente por la liberación del Ecuador; ese mismo mes, San Martín concreta la independencia de Chile; el 6 de agosto se produjo la batalla de Carabobo, que selló la independencia de Venezuela; el 15 de septiembre Guatemala se declara independiente; el 27 de septiembre la ciudad de México cae en manos de Iturbide; Cartagena fue liberada el 1 de octubre.

Como consecuencia de la lógica militar, ya Simón Bolívar había ordenado que se preparara una fuerza invasora sobre el Istmo panameño organizada desde Cartagena, con 5,000 hombres y un centenar de buques que debía caer sobre Portobelo.

Al respecto dice Mariano Arosemena (“Apuntamientos históricos”): “… por manera que si no nos hubiésemos lanzado audaces los istmeños a los peligros inherentes a la proclamación de la independencia por nosotros mismos, esa gloria que supimos ganar no fuera hoi el laurel honroso que nos ennoblece”.

Para completar la dicha de nuestros comerciantes, evitándoles algún sacrificio, el virrey Sámano muere en Panamá el 3 de agosto; y el 22 de octubre, el general Murgeon se vio obligado a zarpar con el grueso de sus tropas para combatir en Ecuador, dejando el mando militar en manos del general José de Fábrega, realista, panameño y uno de los mayores terratenientes de la provincia de Veraguas, quien antes había combatido contra los patriotas de la Nueva Granda y que acabaría como “prócer” de la Independencia panameña.

Pese a todas esas buenas noticias, la élite criolla istmeña, asumía la siguiente actitud: “Sin embargo, encubríamos nuestras aspiraciones cordiales para que el capitán general (Murgeon) continuara iluso en su pretensión de que fuéramos súbditos de la monarquía, ya regenerada”.

A esas alturas (octubre) la prudencia seguía siendo la norma política: “Sobre todo, no era prudente exponer a un fracaso nuestro plan de libertad… Era el cuidado de los corifeos de la independencia istmeña prevenir todo acto inconsulto i precipitado. Teníanse, pues, reuniones secretas, dirijidas a ir madurando el gran proyecto de salvación”.

La Villa de Los Santos obligó a los comerciantes a decidirse por la independencia

Hasta que un levantamiento popular en la Villa de Los Santos, compuesta por pequeños campesinos, vino a acabar con tanta prudencia, y el 10 de noviembre de 1821, es la primera población panameña que tuvo el valor de proclamarse independiente de España.

Décadas después, cuando Mariano escribe sus Apuntamientos, todavía conserva una crítica contra los “novicios” santeños, que realizaron un movimiento revolucionario “irregular i deficiente”, según él, puesto que se contentaron simplemente con proclamarse “independientes”, sin definir qué tipo de gobierno se daban, “ni cosa alguna sobre los negocios de la transformación política”.

Pero los criollos del Cabildo de Panamá prefirieron optar por “medidas suaves”, y no se suman a la proclama. Los comerciantes panameños no estaban dispuestos a arriesgar sus vidas, así que se decidieron por el plan más incruento: sobornar poco a poco a la tropa realista para que desertara.

En una fecha entre el 10 y el 28 de noviembre, Mariano Arosemena hace alusión, por primera vez, a otros actores sociales distintos a la élite criolla. Según él, se crean dos o tres sociedades patrióticas conformadas por “maestros de arte (artesanos) de más influjo en el pueblo, a saber: Basilio Roa, Felipe Delgado, Abad Montecer, Juan Antonio Noriega, Manuel Luna, Fernando Guillén, Bruno Agüero, Juan Berroa, Manuel Aranzasugoitía, Salvador Berrío, José María Rodríguez, Alejandro Méndez, Guillermo Brinios, Manuel Llorent, José Manuel Escartin: estos incorporaron a las sociedades mencionadas a los discípulos suyo de confianza”.

Levantamos la hipótesis altamente probable de que este sector popular fue el que aportó el brío del que carecían los comerciantes criollos, acabando con las dudas y las prudencias.

La noche del 27 de noviembre hubo una deserción masiva de soldados que constituían “casi todas” las fuerzas militares que quedaban en la ciudad. De manera que, el 28 de noviembre, “el vecindario pidió que se reuniera el Cabildo… y se reúnen en la casa consistorial… Un inmenso gentío se apoderó de la barra, mientras que la plaza de la Catedral estaba llena de habitantes de las dos parroquias… La primera proposición, sometida al debate, fue si se proclamaría la independencia de este Istmo del Gobierno de España”.

Siempre precavidos los comerciantes, dejaron en boca del presbítero Martínez hacer la propuesta de votar por la afirmativa ante la primera proposición, pero “a reserva de lo que resolvieran las Cortes del reino”.

Por suerte, cundió la razón y fue rechazada la consideración del presbítero, y entonces fue que, con once años de retraso: “Panamá, espontáneamente, i conforme al voto general de los pueblos de su comprensión. Se declara libre e independiente del Gobierno español”.

Acta

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CELAG, Informe de la OEA sobre Bolivia sin auditoria

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fascist pigs
Golpe de Estado en Bolivia: represión a cortejo fúnebre en La Paz.

La OEA reconoce que no tiene la auditoría definitiva sobre las elecciones de Bolivia

por el Centro Estratégico Latinoamericano de Geopolítica (CELAG)

Así lo admite en una carta enviada al Centro Estratégico Latinoamericano de Geopolítica CELAG.

La Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA) aún no dispone de la auditoría definitiva sobre las elecciones presidenciales de Bolivia celebradas el pasado 20 de octubre. Así lo admite en una carta enviada al Centro Estratégico Latinoamericano de Geopolítica CELAG, remitida tras la petición del Centro de recabar información sobre dicha auditoría.

En la misiva, con fecha de 25 de noviembre, la OEA señala que “una vez finalizado el informe definitivo” será “de consulta pública”, sin anunciar cuándo concluirá dicho trabajo. La carta está firmada por Gerardo de Icaza, director del Departamento para la Cooperación y Observación Electoral de la OEA. Este comunicado de prensa adjunta el citado escrito.

Tras más de un mes de la celebración de unas elecciones que la OEA calificó como fraudulentas, por el momento el único documento que ha presentado la organización panamericana es un informe preliminar. Este informe, que admite que sus hallazgos son “preliminares”, fue la base para establecer el supuesto fraude. El propio documento reconocía que el equipo de auditoría “continúa en este momento recibiendo y procesando gran cantidad de información”, evidenciando así su carácter transitorio.

Un análisis realizado por CELAG detectó graves inconsistencias en el informe preliminar . Ante estas irregularidades, CELAG solicitó hasta por dos veces información a la OEA sobre la metodología seguida, así como la entrega de la auditoría definitiva o bien la fecha de su publicación. Hasta el momento, ninguna de las peticiones ha sido satisfecha.

OAS letter

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Pizzigati, A would-be price tag on the USA?

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thinker?
America’s wealthiest billionaires buy a national election at $100 a vote — and still make money. Cartoon by Khalid Bendib – OtherWords.

What would it cost to buy the 2020 election?

by Sam Pizzigati – OtherWords

Gracie Mansion, the official residence of New York’s mayors since 1942, hosted billionaire Michael Bloomberg for three terms.

The first of these terms began after Bloomberg, then the Republican candidate for mayor, spent an incredible $74 million to get himself elected in 2001. He spent, in effect, $99 for every vote he received.

Four years later, Bloomberg — who made his fortune selling high-tech information systems to Wall Street — had to spend even more to get himself re-elected. His 2005 campaign bill came to $85 million, about $112 per vote.

In 2009, he had the toughest sledding yet. Bloomberg first had to maneuver his way around term limits, then convince a distinctly unenthusiastic electorate to give him a majority. Against a lackluster Democratic Party candidate, Bloomberg won that majority — but just barely, with 51 percent of the vote.

That majority cost Bloomberg $102 million, or $174 a vote.

Now Bloomberg has announced he’s running for president as a Democrat, arguing he has the best chance of unseating President Trump, whom he describes as an “existential threat.” Could he replicate his lavish New York City campaign spending at the national level? Could he possibly afford to shell $174 a vote nationwide — or even just $99 a vote?

Let’s do the math. Donald Trump won the White House with just under 63 million votes. We can safely assume that Bloomberg would need at least that 63 million. At $100 a vote, a victory in November 2020 would run Bloomberg $6.3 billion.

Bloomberg is currently sitting on a personal fortune worth $52 billion. He could easily afford to invest $6.3 billion in a presidential campaign — or even less on a primary.

Indeed, $6.3 billion might even rate as a fairly sensible business investment. Several of the other presidential candidates are calling for various forms of wealth taxes. If the most rigorous of these were enacted, Bloomberg’s grand fortune would shrink substantially — by more than $3 billion next year, according to one estimate.

In other words, by undercutting wealth tax advocates, Bloomberg would save over $6 billion in taxes in just two years — enough to cover the cost of a $6.3 billion presidential campaign, give or take a couple hundred million.

Bloomberg, remember, wouldn’t have to win the White House to stop a wealth tax. He would just need to run a campaign that successfully paints such a tax as a clear and present danger to prosperity, a claim he has already started making.

Bloomberg wouldn’t even need to spend $6.3 billion to get that deed done. Earlier this year, one of Bloomberg’s top advisers opined that $500 million could take his candidate through the first few months of the primary season.

How would that $500 million compare to the campaign war chests of the two primary candidacies Bloomberg fears most? Bernie Sanders raised $25.3 million in 2019’s third quarter for his campaign, Elizabeth Warren $24.6 million. Both candidates are collecting donations — from small donors — at a $100 million annual pace.

Bloomberg could spend 10 times that amount on a presidential campaign and still, given his normal annual income, end the year worth several billion more than when the year started.

Most Americans don’t yet believe that billionaires shouldn’t exist. But most Americans do believe that America’s super rich shouldn’t be able to buy elections or horribly distort their outcomes.

But unfortunately, they can — or at least, you can be sure they’ll try.

 

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Editorials: National defense in real time

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Watt and Martinelli
Before we get too deep into the partisan and nationalistic stereotypes, let us recall that the 2009 slate of Ricardo Martinelli and Juan Carlos Varela was put together at a meeting in the US Ambassador’s residence, and that the PRD alternative was to a lot of people — most Panamanians and a lot of foreign governments and individuals — far less acceptable. Archive photo of then US Ambassador Linda Watt and then Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, by Eric Jackson. 

Eavesdropping, the alleged China
bribe and constitutional reform

The Varela Leaks are quite alarming, both in their content, which is surely edited, and because the fact that these interceptions were made at all plus other known data suggest that there is a paramilitary right-wing electronic surveillance operation ongoing in Panama right now.

The biggest national security / national sovereignty alarm in the content so far? WhatsApp chatter which indicates that China paid Varela a $143 million bribe to break relations with Taiwan and establish formal ties with the Beijing government.

The intercepted communications with the former American ambassador are other alarms of this sort. The content ougtht to be alarming to patriotic Panamanians. (For other reasons, as a matter of security procedurees, Feeley’s intercepted chats with Varela should be taken as a serious matter among American diplomats.)

On the point of the apparent Chinese bribe, we are bound to hear all manner of “Well, what about…?” stuff. Maybe the current bochinche that Cortizo has vetted his new attorney general pick with the US government will be part of that.

And what, really, of the Odebrecht scandal? Yes, a private Brazilian coporation, but one that was promoted by the Brazilian state. A

And the intercepts themselves, and the prior case ending in Ricardo Martinellis corrupt acquittal? The company that provided that capability arose out of the State of Israel’s security apparatus, its sales have been promoted by the Israeli government and since 2014 it has come under the control of a US-based hedge fund

All of this suggests that those of us seriously interested in a new Panamanian constitution that’s not about keeping the current thuggish gravy train rolling. We need to take up the entire matter of defending national sovereignty. It’s not contemplated in any modern and realistic way in the current constitution.

 

Oh my God -- It's ALIVE!
Some odd and embarrassing technical glitch or is someone saying that with all his self-centered reality show, Trump has lowered America’s defenses?

The White House kamikaze blob

WONDERFFUL stuff for conspiracy theorists!

 

Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fantasies. To teach superstitions as truths is a most terrible thing. The child mind accepts and believes them, and only through great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in after years relieved of them.

Hypatia of Alexandria (attributed)

Bear in mind…

Men who never get carried away should be.

Malcolm Forbes

Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation.

Nelson Mandela

Boring people don’t have to stay that way.

Hedy Lamarr

 

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Cortizo nominations would reshape the high court, or at least its membership

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mag1
María Eugenia López Arias is a 29-year veteran of the court system with undergraduate and master’s law degrees from the University of Panama and postgraduate seminars on a wide variety of subjects in Panama, Spain, Mexico and Colombia. Nominated to the Penal Bench, she was a trial court judge in Panama City’s 12th Penal Court, then a criminal appeals court alternate and magistrate. She would replace Jerónimo Mejía, who was appointed as magistrate by a PRD president, Martín Torrijos, and has been holding on after an expired term for want of a ratified replacement.

President nominates one-third of Supreme Court magistrates and two-thirds of the alternates

by Eric Jackson

The first part of the Varela term featured the criminal conviction of one high court magistrate on charges of amassing inexplicable wealth while on the bench and the forced departure of another who was accused of pedophile offenses and other misconduct. The convicted criminal was not replaced with a new nominee but rather his suplente was allowed to step in as acting magistrate without an alternate of his own. By the latter part of the Varela years the legislative and executive branches were at war and presidential appointments usually became dead letters without much chance of being ratified. That applied to both well qualified appointees and embarrassing political or relative of someone nominees.

So earlier this year Nito Cortizo came to the presidency with not only the usual vacancies that would come up as 2019 ends, but a collection of slots that are being filled by holdovers whose would-be replacements did not get ratified and some unfilled spots that have left the court short-handed for momentous and mostly sordid decisions. A series of ugly revelations over many years has mostly not brought any reform to the Panamanian judiciary, but rather even more widespread disrepute than before.

On Monday, November 25, a special legislative session began and Cortizo announced the centerpiece of the business at hand, the nominations of people to fill three of the high court’s nine principal magistrate seats and six of the nine alternate spots. As alternates often take part in the court’s decisions, it means a sudden change of half the faces on the court. That is, if the National Assembly will approve.

mag2
Maribel Cornejo Batista, nominated to the penal bench, has been a defense attorney in private practice for a little more than a decade. Before that she was a prosecutor for 13 years, starting out handing stolen car cases, moving up to bank and credit card fraud offenses and finally rising to senior anti-corruption prosecutor. In the early 90s she clerked for a magistrate on the Supreme Court’s Penal Bench and before that was a penal trial court reporter and a juvenile court secretary. She has her undergraduate degree in law from the University of Panama and masters degrees from that school and from USMA. She has been on various commissions that have shaped some of Panama’s laws on financial crimes. She would replace Harry Díaz, a Ricardo Martinelli appointee if not one to support and excuse the ex-president from the bench, whose term expires at the end of this year.

Looking at the three magistrate appointees and the six people who were nominated to be suplentes, it’s a mostly white or light-skinned cholo crowd, largely people brought up in the Interior and including several whose professional lives have mostly taken place there, all with Spanish surnames on both paternal and maternal sides. In Panama, as in most of Latin America, the question of who is of which race is never so clear-cut and is not one of the questions asked in our national censuses. But that said, there appear to be no Afro-descended, indigenous or Asian nominees. Several of Cortizo’s nominees have government service careers that began under the dictatorship and several were appointed to things by PRD presidents or the long-time and disgraced former PRD rector of the University of Panama. Even with the rise of would-be social cleansers in Cortizo’s party, his slate of nominees would at first glance be hard for any of the PRD caucus to oppose.

The main question for the deputies, however, and by usual practices that one that is unlikely to be directly asked of the nominees, is how indulgent they will be of legislators’ corruption. Will they continue the high court’s historic non-aggression pact in which ordinarily magistrates don’t convict deputies and deputies don’t convict magistrates? Are they blackmailable to go along? Are they known to do the bidding of any of the powerful families behind some of the legislators or their parties? In another country the nominees’ records in offices and life would be gone over with figurative fine tooth combs, but here the tradition is that members of the National Assembly hardly ever do their homework and hire friends and relatives incapable of these sorts of investigations as their aides. The opacity of court and public records hinders journalists from doing that work instead.

Cortizo took into account the suggestions and criticisms of selected civil society organizations in screening the many applicants for high court posts. He also hired Los Angeles based management consulting firm Korn Ferry to do background checks, psychological testing and other screens on the hopefuls. The screening also looked into the would-be magistrates’ families.

mag3
Carlos Alberto Vásquez Reyes, nominated to replace Abel Zamorano on the Administrative Bench, is the former two-term president of Panama’s principal bar association, the Colegio Nacional de Abogados. Between 2007 and 2010 he worked in the national ombudsman’s office (Defensoria del Pueblo), as secretary general and standing in for the boss. Most of his legal career has been in private practice and academia. He currently teaches law at Panama’s Catholic university, the Universidad Santa María La Antigua (USMA).

Because of the impasse between Juan Carlos Varela and the National Assembly, over the past few years suplentes and magistrates who were holding over from expired terms until replacements were ratified played outsized roles in high-profile cases. The impression left by that period has been of politicized, squabbling, corrupt and ineffective judicial leadership.

Perhaps the worst parts of it were that as the accusatory penal system was put into place the civil service selection process contemplated in the law was ditched in favor of rather crass favoritism, and that as the municipal corregidores were replaced with justices of the peace many of those posts went unfilled. The Supreme Court exercises broad supervisory powers over all lower courts and might, if it sees fit, have a lot of damage to repair. If the judiciary’s staffing messes are to be cleaned up, a lot of that job might be assigned to suplentes.

(Let’s not, however, look at the high-profile corruption cases that have been handled in ways to incite public scorn as generally indicative of the lower courts. For a long time a general rule of thumb is that the lower down the judicial hierarchy, the more honest the judging is. It’s the high court itself that has been the principal emporium for outrageous behavior. Notice that Cortizo’s appointees have largely been from outside of that rarefied and suspect environment.)

Choose your political spin, or mix and match, maybe taking into account what other spinmeisters have to say. The appointment of two-thirds of the suplentes, along with a third of the magistrates in principal, will radically change the face of the court and may isolate the practitioners of the games that so annoy the public at large. But it might also mean just the same, with a more PRD orientation

The suplente (alternate) nominees include:

– Carmen Luz De Gracia Jurado, who got her start in the Public Ministry in Omar Torrijos times, was a civil judge and then a labor court judge in Noriega times, and after the invasion was a penal judge and then an appeals magistrate in Panama City’s Third Circuit. She’s appointed to be the Civil Bench alternate for Angela Russo.

– Juan Francisco Castillo Canto, a 36-year legal system vet, back to the dictatorship days. Educated at the University of Panama and in Spain, he started out as a court reporter and court clerk in Panama City’s juvenile court, then as a municipal judge in Panama City, then in Chitre. For two years he was a suplente on the high court’s civil bench, appointed to that post by Martín Torrijos. He has for the last decade occupied judicial posts and taught law at various places in the Central provinces. He is nominated to be the Penal Bench suplente for María Eugenia López.

– Miguel A. Espino González is from David and got his undergraduate law degree at the University of Panama, then a doctorate in Argentina. A banking law expert, he worked for USAID and the Inter-American Development Bank. He would be the Civil Bench alternate for Olmedo Arrocha.

– Otilda Vergara Cano de Valderrama, a santeña from Paritilla and quite the honor student all of her live, is a 35-year court system veteran, largely as a criminal court and criminal appeals judge in Los Santos and Herrera. While on the bench she has also been a law professor on the side. She is tapped to be the Penal Bench suplente for Maribel Cornejo.

– Rafael Murgas Torraza, from Santiago, has put in 25 years as a University of Panama law prof and is currently a labor tribunal judge. He would be the Administrative Bench stand-in for Cecilio Cedalise.

– José Agustín Delgado Pérez, from Santiago, first began working in the legal system in Omar Torrijos times. He has been a high school teacher and was a member of the committee that wrote Panama’s basic juvenile code. Delgado would be the Administrative Bench suplente for Carlos Vásquez.

 

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