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The Culture Wars, on several merging fronts here


On June 2 sex workers and civil liberties activists marched to National Police headquarters, intending to deliver a letter to the chief complaining about abuses against prostitutes. The riot squad moved in and 15 protesters were arrested. After mediation by University of Panama rector Eduardo Flores — some of those detained were students — the 11 women and four men were released without charge. Video by El Kolectivo.

Culture Wars 2017

by Eric Jackson

Should the state be Christian or secular? What should the role of women be in society? Are those with sexual orientations other that heterosexual disgusting perverts who must be suppressed, or citizens whose rights and freedoms should be defended? What, if anything, should the nation’s schools tell kids about such subjects?

These arguments have been going on for a very long time: in society at large, in the learned professions, among and within the religious denominations and increasingly in Panamanian political life. Some were the subjects of civil warfare during the eras when Panama was part of the Spanish Empire, then part of Colombia. Some have been lurking quietly on the margins until relatively recently.

It’s a difficult set of subjects to accurately measure with public opinion polls, but such little polling as has been done suggests that Panama has been very conservative in many ways but is going through some dramatic changes like many other Latin American countries are. An overwhelming majority of Panamanians are nominally Catholic, but the church is slowly evolving on the one hand and losing adherents to those who become less religious or non-religious on the one hand and to other religious denominations — the Evangelicals are the ones who are picking up the most converts — on the other.

What appears to be going on now is a shift and polarization, with secular and libertarian strains informally but effectively merging their movements and efforts. The Catholic Church appears to be mostly withdrawing from these battles and urging tolerance if not full acceptance. A militant religious right centered around Evangelical reverends is preaching intolerance and non-acceptance of homosexuals, women who live or aspire to non-traditional roles, sex education in the schools and the separation of religious and public institutions. In recent days the battles have become pronounced on several fronts.

police symbols
Notice the symbols of the nation’s main law enforcement agencies, and the values that they emphasize. God and Country figure large, although the meaning of each is open to various interpretations. Only the Institutional Protection Service — SPI, the presidential guards and most of what intelligence service we have — promotes just secular values on its shield.

The bust, and the police as religious enforcers

Prostitution is legal in Panama, and long has been. Among richer boys, it’s quite common that a first sexual experience will be with a prostitute. But although it’s an ancient and legal craft, it’s socially denigrated. Our misogynistic former President Ricardo Martinelli felt no inhibition about calling a critic an “hijo de puta” — son of a whore — and only a few Panamanians took him to task for his frequent use of this abusive expression.

Over many decades, public policy was that prostitution, though legal, was so degrading as to be properly reserved for foreign women. There were special visas for this purpose, many obtained by young Colombian and Dominican women with plans for a university education or to start a business or farm. The world, and particularly the US government, began to look askance at human trafficking for such purposes. The practice didn’t particularly stop, but largely went underground. There are lots of foreign prostitutes working in Panama and on the one hand they are hassled by police and on the other enslaved by pimps and madams who will confiscate their passports to keep them from going anywhere. Over recent years the Spaniards who had dominated the brothel scene have largely been muscled out by Russian mobsters.

Come June 2 and it’s International Sex Workers Day, but the foreign women in that line of work here were generally in no position to take part in any public protests. To do so would likely lead to arrest and deportation. However, Panama’s ever stronger feminist movement and a wide array of human rights activists were willing to take a stand for the rights of sex workers, and by and large they did. The focus this year was on police harassment.

Where does this put the police, who are increasingly recruited from the ranks of Evangelicals and who are indoctrinated about a duty to God? They would see themselves as unfairly criticized for doing their job of upholding laws about public morals. They would see themselves as insulted by the suggestion that some in their ranks take advantage of women in dicey legal situations. Some might see themselves as the flaming sword of The Lord. In any case they did not allow protesters to deliver a complaint about police abuses of sex workers to National Police Director Omar Pinzón.

According to the protesters the cops were not all that fundamentalist about it in a Ten Commandments sense — they say that they were not blocking ingress and egress to the police headquarters, but protesting near the bus stop, when the riot squad pushed them against the gate and then arrested several of their number. The proffered excuse? The protesters were blocking the gate. And this little stricture about not bearing false witness? Its violation is a problem in police forces in many places, and also in the religious right of many nations and faiths. This is not to say that everyone who criticizes the police, or the religious right, has inerrant truth on his or her side.

Same-sex marriage

Many a country thought be unalterably conservative about this issue have made rapid changes. Ireland may be the most salient example, but it’s a phenomenon throughout much of the world. And now the subject has been presented to the Panamanian courts. Two cases, one of a British subject and a Panamanian married in a British diplomatic mission, and the other of two Panamanians married in the US state of Illinois, have been filed in the Panamanian courts. Both gay male couples argue that Article 26 of the Family Code, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, violates several articles of Panama’s Constitution and also some international human rights treaties to which Panama is a party. The cases have been filed by the prominent law firm of Morgan & Morgan, for which one of the four plaintiffs works.

The Attorney General and the Administrative Prosecutor, Kenia Porcell and Rigoberto González respectively, take opposing sides on the question.

Porcell opposes same-sex marriage, citing Article 15 of the Constitution, which holds that citizens and foreigners have the same rights and arguing that foreign marriages should not be given more rights than those registered in Panama. But of course, the plaintiffs seek a sweeping ruling that would legalize same sex marriages for Panamanians under this country’s laws.

González argues that the ban on same-sex marriages is a species of sex discrimination that’s prohibited by the Constitution. In the scheme of things his rank is the same as Porcell’s and often the courts pay attention to the stands taking by these top officials.

Whether the Supreme Court will take the cases and what they will do remains to be seen. The institution is widely despised by Panamanians so doing something bold and decisive — whichever way — might be a useful distraction. But either way, a lot of people will still dislike the high court.

Gay Pride

When Juan Carlos Varela became president, gay leaders were quite pessimistic. The man was a member of the right-wing Catholic organization Opus Dei and they expected the worst.

But a new pope, a more tolerant and progressive man, came to lead the Catholic Church. Plus Varela, notwithstanding all stalls, cover-ups and opacity, is likely touched by the Odebrecht bribery scandal and widely perceived to be. He appears to be, unlike his predecessor, cultivating a nice guy image rather than playing tough. It fits the president’s tolerant image for him to accept that Panama has a gay community of worthy men and women. It fits the scientifically sophisticated aura the industrial engineer turned politician would exude to understand that there are transgendered persons and to seek honorable and productive places for them in society. And then there’s the first lady, former television reporter Lorena Castillo de Varela. She will be carrying the rainbow flag in the July 1 Pride March.

Pride has come a long way from being ridiculed as a freak show to being honored as a civil rights march. There are people who will be appalled, but the religious right will probably not stage any counter-demonstration because the way that Panamanian public opinion appears to be evolving, they would be the ones to look ridiculous.


This last legislative session, as the one before, saw sex education in the schools proposed and fought for. Despite polls showing a large majority of Panamanians in favor of this and despite the Catholic resistance softening, the Evangelicals put up a raucous fight and the proposal failed again.

Now Panama’s first and most noteworthy gay rights organization, the Association of New Men and Women of Panama (AHMNP), is for the third straight year proposing legislation to bar discrimination against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and the transgendered. The last two times it didn’t even get to a committee vote. Perhaps it will fare better this time, but with some honorable exceptions like the Balboa Union Church and Rabbi Gustavo Kraselnik few religious leaders or organizations seem ready to take a public stand in favor of the proposition that gay people have any rights. Those who will mobilize their congregations to affirm that the LGBT communities have no right are the minority among Panama’s peoples of faith, but the odds are that the legislators will listen to them.


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Trump’s upscale Panama clients…

take him away
The Trump Ocean Club in Panama City adds another footnote to its underworld ties. The fugitive ex-governor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, Roberto Borge, stayed there for 11 days before his arrest yesterday at Tocumen Airport. Photos from the Trump Ocean Club’s Facebook page and the Policia Nacional.


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Reynolds, Time for GOP senators to be climate heroes again



With Paris pullout, time for GOP senators
to be climate champs once again

by Mark Reynolds — Climate Change Lobby

President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement is the biggest failure of leadership in American history. But there are Republicans in Congress who previously demonstrated their willingness to lead on climate change, and the moment has arrived for them to step up again.

Last month, three GOP senators committed an act of political courage by putting environmental stewardship above partisan politics.

In the waning days of the Obama administration, the President’s team issued a rule to limit the amount of methane released during oil and gas operations on federal land. Methane is a greenhouse gas with heat-trapping properties at least 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, and so the rule had the effect of mitigating climate change.

The House of Representatives had already repealed the methane rule. Swift repeal was anticipated in the Senate. What was not anticipated was the integrity of three senators who had previously taken action in the hope of preserving a stable climate.

Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, and John McCain of Arizona cast the deciding votes that prevented the repeal measure from moving forward. The turn of events caught both industry and environmental advocates by surprise, but this is not the first time these Republicans have stepped up where climate change is concerned.

In 2009, Lindsey Graham committed what many believed was political suicide when he collaborated with then-senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman to draft a Senate version of the cap-and-trade bill that had narrowly passed the House. He came under relentless attack back home in South Carolina and spent the next four years beating back challengers to retain his seat.

Susan Collins worked with Washington state Democrat Maria Cantwell to introduce the Carbon Limits and Energy for American Renewal (CLEAR) Act in December of 2009. The CLEAR Act was a simplified version of cap-and-trade with most of the revenue returned to households, an approach that came to be known as cap-and-dividend. Like the Kerry-Lieberman bill, the CLEAR Act languished and died in the 111th Congress. Despite her leadership with the CLEAR Act, Collins received little acknowledgment or appreciation back home and has since refrained from any major initiatives on climate change.

And John McCain? He teamed up with Lieberman to introduce the Climate Stewardship Act in 2003, but his bill was defeated 55-43. Undaunted, he tweaked the bill and reintroduced it in 2005, though it fared no better. Any other politician would have cut his losses at this point, but McCain tried once more in 2007. It never got to the floor. Since then, McCain, like Graham and Collins, hasn’t touched any significant legislation to deal with carbon emissions.

But with their vote to block repeal of the methane rule, Graham, Collins and McCain have stirred the embers of their once-burning passion to preserve a world that is hospitable to future generations. That is the legacy these three hoped to achieve years ago, a legacy that is still within their reach.

Support is growing within conservative circles for a simple, market-based approach to reducing carbon pollution, one that would make regulatory solutions unnecessary. It’s called carbon fee and dividend, and it works like this:

Apply a fee to fuels based on the amount of carbon dioxide they will emit when burned. Increase the fee over time, thereby creating the price signal to transition to cleaner sources and uses of energy and to increase energy efficiency. To shield families from the economic impact of rising energy costs, return all the revenue from the carbon fee to every household as equal shares. To maintain a level playing field for American businesses — and to encourage other nations to follow our lead — apply an adjustment fee on imports coming from nations that do not have an equivalent carbon price.

Earlier this year, a similar policy was proposed by a group of conservatives under the Climate Leadership Council. The authors included former Secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker, as well as former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, pretty good company for any Republican.

Graham, Collins, and McCain were once champions on climate change. With Trump’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris accord, it’s time for them to reassert their leadership on this issue by introducing and fighting for a revenue-neutral fee on carbon. They were ahead of their time years ago, but it appears their time has come.

Mark Reynolds is executive director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a non-partisan advocacy organization working to preserve a stable climate.


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Background links: Trump, Putin, hackers and the Russian mob

A Russian hacker at his moment of arrest. Photo by the Czech Police.

Background links: Trump, Putin, hackers and the Russian mob

compiled by Eric Jackson

The editor can be a hardcore doofus, one of the least computer-literate website guys there is. He learns about things the hard way. Like by having an email box shut down by a concentrated denial of service attack, with bundles of up to 2,000 emails, many of them in the Cyrillic alphabet, overwhelming it. Like by a bot coming to The Panama News from China, without registering a visit with the web host, and running up so much bandwidth that the site was shut down. Like a series of hacker attacks which inconspicuously crippled and then closed The Panama News website in 2014 and 2015.

(Who did it? There are short lists of suspects but no proofs. The China incident, however, came not long after a little story on the local Falun Gong group in Panama City went — unbeknownst to the editor until years later — viral via connections through London and Prague. What surely happened was that the story made its way through the Chinese Internet firewall by a circuitous route and then some Chinese citizen who thought it patriotic or the Chinese government itself retaliated.)

In the controversy that now besets the United States there is a set of mysteries to investigate. Other things are known. There are also widely held false notions swirling around the scandals involving Donald Trump and his family, party and entourage, Vladimir Putin and his power base, “The Russians” and the world of hacking and cybercrime. Let us, before we get to the reading list below and listen to what comes out of the Comey testimony and other hearings, be clear about a few points:

  • Vladimir Putin’s claim that the Russian government does not hack is probably a lie and any claim that that the US government doesn’t is certainly a lie.
  • Putin’s allowance that private Russian citizens may be into political hacking is very probably true, but also likely a misdirection. Moreover, it’s another indication to US investigators that any line between considering public and private sector behavior in an investigation of “Trump and the Russians” is probably an impediment to getting at the truth.
  • The Russian oligarchs are for the most part very rich because they looted the assets of the former Soviet Union. Putin came to power on the shoulders of such people and by and large dispossessed or exiled those oligarchs who opposed him.
  • There is no singular Russian Mob. There are various Russian mafia groups, of which all members are not necessarily ethnic Russians nor citizens of the Russian Federation. These criminal organizations, which have spread around the world, are into many rackets and almost always thrive with the knowledge that law enforcement has been bribed to look the other way. Many of these organizations are deadly bitter rivals. Both Vladimir Putin (going back to his KGB days) and Donald Trump (in has adventures as a real estate mogul) have Russian mob links that go back many years.
  • It is one of the classic fallacies of paranoiac ideation — bread and butter for the likes of Alex Jones — to presume that association equals causation. Just because a person has associated with a gangster does not mean that the two are partners in crime. However, such links do give rise to some reasonable questions, which may or may not lead somewhere.
  • The security of US voting systems, particularly in states where vote counting is computerized with no paper trail, is reasonably in doubt. However, there has been no credible evidence that Russians or anybody else hacked into the 2016 general election vote counting process. That many Democrats believe that this was done is a mass delusion comparable to that of Republicans who believe in the birther conspiracy.
  • The Trump campaign’s use of strange email lists for fundraising and of bits of computer code for social media manipulation suggest dealings with criminals, of the sort among whom Russian organizations are prominent. If the possibility of a mobbed-up campaign is short of newsworthy for want of secrets being sold to a foreign power, that in itself is a noteworthy indication of how US democracy and public discourse have deteriorated.
  • This is not a treason case under US law. The US Constitution narrowly defines that crime as an American making war against the United States or in a time of declared war adhering to declared US enemies and giving them material assistance. But not all disloyalty is treason — coordinating a US presidential campaign with the actions of a foreign government may not even be a crime, but most Americans would think it totally unacceptable.

Reuters, Putin says patriotic Russians may have staged cyber-attacks

Mashable, Trump just added 4 million bots to his Twitter army

Salon, Watch Dutch film on Trump’s Russian mob ties

Just Security, Political microtargeting and the Russia investigation

Spamhaus, The world’s worst spammers

Daily Dot, The 2007 cyber-attack on Estonia

The Atlantic, Trump has talked about his business interests in Russia for 30 years

USA Today, Trump’s past ties to Russian mobsters

Greenwald, Key Democrats warn not to expect evidence of Trump/Russia collusion

The Daily Beast, Russian mob connections in the Panama Papers

WhoWhatWhy, Why the FBI can’t tell all on Trump and Russia

Russia Behind the Headlines, Arrests shock Russia’s cyber community

The Panama News, Trump’s questionable Latin American crowd

CNN, Pentagon data breach shows growing sophistication of phishing attacks

Miami New Times, From running Porky’s in Miami to a Panamanian jail

ZDNet, Cybercrime and the Russian mob

CNet, Russian mob aided cyber-attacks on Georgia

UPDATE: Report of Russian GRU attempt to hack US election officials

Just a few hours after this story was uploaded, Intercept published this story, about a Russian intelligence effort to infiltrate US electronic vote counting systems. It’s based on what is described as a leaked NSA secret report. The story expands, so it may seem at first glance.

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What Democrats are saying: the VA & NJ primary debates

VA primary
One of these two Democrats is likely to become the governor of Virginian and a national political figure.

VA Dems pick their candidate on June 13


Virginia gubernatorial primary debate


New Jersey gubernatorial primary debate


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Bernal, Pro Odebrecht Beneficio

Offering a variety of excuses about why the investigations of the Odebrecht scandal show little progress, at her May 31 press conference Attorney General Kenia Porcell declined to say whether the office of the Presidencia figures in the probes and later said that she would make no further public statements about the matter. Photo by the Public Ministry.

Pro Odebrecht Beneficio

by Miguel Antonio Bernal

The dimensions of the cultural, psychological, economic, moral-ethical and social damage caused by Odebrecht and its local accomplices are impossible to measure.

Today Panama, with its fragile institutions, remains hijacked and subjected to the will of the Brazilian mega-conglomerate, the owner and lord of our public officials’ actions — who along with those who it bribed are taking our country onto the beachheads of criminal conspiracy.

The Attorney General’s latest press conference show again left in evidence the degree of selective justice and the absolute lack of independence of the Public Ministry’s actions. The ministry collides head-on with the civic repudiation of the rot that has set in on our body politic in general but with even greater intensity among our national provincial, municipal and other officials.

The horror of what has been done, by action or omission, to “assist” Odebrecht in its programmed assault on the property of the Panamanian people, has severely hit broad sectors of the citizenry, who have thus decided to participate in the fight against this situation It is inadmissible that the Office of the Attorney General overlook the revelations of Fernando Migliaccio y Rabello about the role of the presidency of Panama in the cover-up of the giving and taking of bribes.

The absolute absence of tangible and concrete initiatives on the part of the Panamanian Public Ministry has become a real obstruction to national and international investigations and has served to lend legal and logistical support ot corruption with impunity.

The so-called rewarded testimony has in effect become a delay, so that the desired result is that nothing happens. Rabello’s pressure on the president of Panama has been apparently been effective, since the Panamanian government does not cooperate by providing the information required that other jurisdictions require, nor is it interested in Panamanians knowing into which hands the more than $3 billion in bribes distributed here since 2006 have passed.


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Avnery, Greetings for Diana Buttu

Diana Buttu, from her Twitter feed.

Greetings for Diana Buttu

by Uri Avnery

A few days ago, a not so well-known Palestinian woman received an unusual honor. An article of hers was published on top of the first page of the most respected newspaper on earth: New York Times.

The editors defined the writer, Diana Buttu, as: “a lawyer and a former adviser to the negotiating team of the Palestine Liberation Organization.”

I knew Diana Buttu when she first appeared on the Palestinian scene, in 2000, at the beginning of the second intifada. She was born in Canada, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants who tried hard to assimilate in their new homeland, and received a good Canadian education.

When the struggle in the occupied territories intensified, she returned to her parents’ homeland. The Palestinian participants of the negotiations with Israel, which started after the Oslo agreement, were impressed by the young lawyer who spoke excellent English — something rare — and asked her to join the national endeavor.

When the negotiations died clinically, Diana Buttu disappeared from my eyes. Until her dramatic reappearance last week.

The location and the headline of the article demonstrate the importance which the American editors saw in her argument. The headline was “Do we need a Palestinian Authority?” and further on, in another headline, “Shutter the Palestinian Authority.”

The argument of Diana Buttu seduces by its simplicity: the usefulness of the Palestinian Authority has passed. It should be liquidated. Now.

The Palestinian Authority, she says, was set up for a specific purpose: to negotiate with Israel for the end of the occupation and the creation of the hoped-for Palestinian state. By its very nature, that was a task limited in time.

According to the Oslo agreement, the negotiations for ending the occupation should have reached their goal in 1999. Since then, 18 years have passed without any movement towards a solution. The only thing that has moved was the settlement movement, which has reached by now monstrous dimensions.

In these circumstances, says Buttu, the Palestinian Authority has become a “subcontractor” of the occupation. The Authority helps Israel to oppress the Palestinians. True, it employs a large number of educational and medical personnel, but more than a third of its budget — some 4 billion dollars — go the “security.” The Palestinian security forces maintain a close cooperation with their Israeli colleagues. Meaning, they cooperate in upholding the occupation.

Also, Buttu complains about the lack of democracy. For 12 years now, no elections have taken place. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu-Mazen) rules in contravention of the Palestinian Basic Law.

Her solution is simple: “it’s time for the authority to go.” To abolish the authority, to return the responsibility for the occupied Palestinian population to the Israeli occupier and adopt a “new Palestinian strategy.”

What strategy, exactly?

Up to this point, Buttu’s arguments were lucid an logical. But from here on they become unclear and nebulous.

Before going on, I have to make some personal remarks.

I am an Israeli. I define myself as an Israeli patriot. As a son of the occupying nation I don’t think that I have the right to give advice to the occupied nation.

True, I have devoted the last 79 years of my life to the achievement of peace between the two nations — a peace that, I believe, is an existential necessity for both. Since the end of the 1948 war I preach the establishment of an independent State of Palestinian side by side with the State of Israel. Some of my enemies in the extreme Israeli Right even accuse me of having invented the “Two-State Solution” (thus deserving the title of “traitor.”)

In spite of all this, I have always abstained from giving the Palestinians advice. Even when Yasser Arafat declared several times publicly that I am his “friend,” I did not see myself as an adviser. I have expressed my views and voiced them many times in the presence of Palestinians, but from that point to giving advice, the distance is great.

Now, too, I am not ready to give advice to the Palestinians in general, and to Diana Buttu in particular. But I take the liberty to to make some remarks about her revolutionary proposal.

Reading her article for the second and third time, I gain the impression that it contains a disproportion between the diagnosis and the medicine.

What does she propose that the Palestinians do?

The first step is clear: break up the Palestinian Authority and return all the organs of Palestinian self-government to the Israeli military governor.

That is simple. But what next?

Diana Buttu voices several general proposals. “Non-violent mass protests,” “boycott, divestment and sanctions,” “addressing the rights of Palestinian refugees” (from the 1948 war) and the “Palestinian citizens of Israel.” She mentions approvingly that already more than a third of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories support a single-state solution — meaning a bi-national state.

With due respect, will these remedies — all together and each one separately — liberate the Palestinian people?

There is no proof that it will.

Experience shows the it is easy for the occupation authorities to turn a “non-violent mass protest” into a very violent one. That happened in both intifadas, and especially in the second. It started with non-violent actions, and then the occupation authorities called in snipers. Within a few days the intifada became violent.

The use of boycotts? There is now in the world a large movement of BDS against Israel. The Israeli government is afraid of it and fights against it with all means, including ridiculous ones. But this fear does not spring from the economic damages this movement can cause, but from the damage it may cause to Israel’s image. Such image may hurt, but it does not kill.

Like many others, Buttu uses here the example of South Africa. This is an imagined example. The world-wide boycott was indeed impressive, but it did not kill the apartheid regime. This is a western illusion, which reflects contempt for the “natives.”

The racist regime in South Africa was not brought down by foreigner, nice as they were, but by those despised “natives.” The blacks started campaigns of armed struggle (yes, the great Nelson Mandela was a “terrorist”) and mass strikes, which brought down the economy. The international boycott played a welcome supporting role.

Buttu has high hopes for “Palestinian boycotts.” Can they really hurt the Israeli economy? One can always bring in a million Chinese workers.

Buttu also mentions the international court in the Hague. The trouble is that Jewish psychology is hardened against “goyish justice.” Aren’t they all anti-Semites? Israel spits on them, as it spit on the UNO resolution at its time.

What is left? There is only one alternative, the one Buttu wisely refrains from mentioning: terrorism.

Many peoples throughout history started wars of liberation, violent struggles against their oppressors. In Israeli jargon that is called “terror.”

Let’s ignore for a moment the ideological aspect and concentrate on the practical aspect only: does one believe that a “terrorist” campaign by the occupied people against the occupying people can, under existing circumstances, succeed?

I doubt it. I doubt it very much. The Israeli security services have shown, until now, considerable ability in fighting against armed resistance.

If so, what remains for the Palestinians to do? In two words: Hold on.

And here there lies the special talent of Mahmous Abbas. He is a great one for holding on. For leading a people that is passing a terrible ordeal, an ordeal of suffering and humiliation, without giving in. Abbas does not give in. If someone will take his place, somewhere in the future, he will not give in either. Not Marwan Barghouti, for example.

As a young man I was a member of the Irgun, the underground military organization. During Workd War II, my company organized a “trial” for Marshal Phillip Petain, who became head the French government after the French collapse. This “government” was located in Vichy and took orders from the German occupation.

Much against my will, I was appointed counsel for the defense. I took the job seriously, and, to my surprise, discovered that Petain had logic on his side. He saved Paris from destruction and made it possible for most of the French people to survive the occupation. When the Nazi empire broke down, France, under Charles de Gaulle, joined the victors.

Of course, Diana Buttu does not refer to this emotion-laden historic example. But one should remember.

A few days before the publication of Buttu’s article, a leader of the Israeli fascist right, Betsalel Smotrich, a deputy chairman of the Knesset, published an ultimatum to the Palestinians.

Smotrich proposed to put the Palestinian before a choice between three possibilities: to leave the country, to live in the country without citizenship rights or to rise up in arms — and then the Israeli army “would know how to deal with them.”

In simple words: the choice is between (a) the mass expulsion of seven million Palestinians from the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Israel proper and the Gaza Strip, which would amount to Genocide, (b) life as a people of slaves under an Apartheid regime and (c) simple genocide.

The unclear proposal of Buttu constitutes, in practice, the second choice. She mentions that many Palestinians approve of the “one-state solution.” She shies away from a clear-cut statement and hides behind a formula that is becoming fashionable these days: “two-states or one state.” Rather like: “swimming or drowning.”

This is suicide. Dramatic suicide. Glorious suicide. Suicide none the less.

Both Buttu and Smotrich lead to disaster.

After all these years, the only practical solution remains as it was at the beginning: two states for two peoples. Two states that will live side by side in peace, perhaps even in friendship.

There is no other solution.


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Polo Ciudadano, Represión a marcha de las trabajadoras sexuales

Policias reprimen a trabajadores sexuales y sus defensores. Foto por Polo Ciudadano.

Repudiamos represión a marcha
de las trabajadoras sexuales

por Polo Ciudadano

El viernes 2 de junio de 2017, durante la conmemoración del Día de las Trabajadoras Sexuales, un grupo de colectivos panameños marcharon para visibilizar los problemas que padece este sector social, en particular, el acoso y la violencia policial de que son víctimas permanentes.

Al presentarse pacíficamente a la sede de la Policía Nacional en Ancón para entregar una carta al respecto, se les dijo que esperaran en la acera que se les iba a atender. En vez de eso, se les envió un contingente exagerado de antimotines que les golpearon y detuvieron.

Trece personas de diversos colectivos fueron detenidas por varias horas, entre ellas: las compañeras Gladys Murillo y Venus Tejada, dirigentes de Mujeres con Dignidad y Derechos, el conocido dirigente del movimiento LGBT Ricardo Beteta, el compañero Eduardo Gil de Convergencia Sindical, la profesora Juana Camargo, Eusebia Solís y Sharon Pringle de Encuentro de Mujeres, Iris Reyes de la Asociación de Estudiantes de Sociología, las compañeras Irina Ceballos, Isabel Guzmán, Maritza Rodríguez, Ovidio Cárdenas y nuestra compañera Patricia Townsend de Polo Ciudadano.

Gracias a la mediación del rector del Universidad de Panamá, Eduardo Flores, y de la Defensoría del Pueblo, finalmente fueron liberadas las 15 personas sin cargos.

Este suceso no es un hecho aislado, sino que hace parte de la creciente represión policial que padecemos en Panamá, y que hace pocos días se ensañó contra cientos de humildes familias precaristas en Arraiján y Pedregal. Es parte de un proceso iniciado hace varios años de militarización creciente de los cuerpos policiales panameños, asesorado desde el Comando Sur de los Estados Unidos, pero cuyo objetivo no es el combate a la delincuencia, sino la represión a las crecientes demandas populares.

Pero tanta represión no expresa fortaleza, sino una debilidad por parte del gobierno del presidente Juan C. Varela, comprobadamente incapaz de resolver el flagelo de la pobreza y desigualdad social, la inseguridad, el deterioro de la educación y la salud públicas, un creciente desprestigio por los casos de corrupción rampante que no solo involucran a funcionarios de anteriores gobiernos, sino también del actual.

Desde el Polo Ciudadano de Panamá reiteramos nuestra solidaridad con las trabajadoras sexuales cotidianamente agredidas por la violencia policial, a la vez que exigimos que la respuesta a los problemas sociales del pueblo panameño no sea la represión, sino la solución a los justos reclamos.

A los colectivos y dirigentes injustamente detenidos les exhortamos a sostener la unidad no solo en esta lucha solidaria con las trabajadoras sexuales, sino a construir juntos un gran movimiento nacional que expulse del poder a los corruptos funcionarios que nos gobiernan al servicio de una oligarquía egoísta y un imperialismo yanqui saqueador.

¡No nos callarán!


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Taller Gratuito de Producción Documental en GECU

Productor y director documentalista Hugo Pérez.

Centro de Formación Cinematográfica UP anuncia
Taller Gratuito de Producción Documental

Apostando por la capacitación continua en el sector cinematográfico del país, el Centro de Formación y Capacitación Cinematográfica del GECU de la Universidad de Panamá, en alianza con la Embajada de los EEUU, ofrecerán un Taller de Narrativa Documental que será dictado de forma gratuita por Hugo Pérez y Ava Wiland, cineastas norteamericanos independientes quienes de forma teórico-práctica compartirán con los participantes sus conocimientos acerca del género documental.

Ava Wiland produce series de retratos documentales de artistas contemporáneos, entre ellos New York Close Up. Su trabajo ha sido reconocido en prestigiosos festivales, museos y centros culturales de renombre. Hugo Pérez es productor y director documentalista, su obra ha sido presentado por HBO, Showtime y PBS. Perez fue merecedor del prestigioso Rockefeller Foundation Emerging Artist Fellowship y ganador del HBO Short Film Award.

Con este taller se pretende brindar los conocimientos y herramientas narrativas de la creación documental, proporcionando a los participantes las técnicas necesarias para el desarrollo de una película de cortometraje. Será impartido del lunes 19 al viernes 23 de junio, de 10:00 a.m. a 6:00 p.m., en el Estudio Multiuso del GECU, para mayor información contactar a: formaciongecu@gmail.com / 6806-5419


Fechas: lunes 19 al viernes 23 de Junio 2017.

Horario: 10:00 a.m. a 6:00 p.m.

Donativo: Gratuito


Universidad de Panamá, contiguo al Hospital del Seguro Social, diagonal a facultades de Ciencias Agropecuarias y Odontología.

Teléfonos: 523-5455 / 5458.

Información: formaciongecu@gmail.com / 6806-5419


Aplicaciones: 26 de mayo al 9 de junio 2017

Metodología de participación:


Documento que incluya habilidades y experiencia en el campo cinematográfico.

Portafolio/links de trabajos previos

Presentar ideas/temas de posibles documentales para realizar durante el taller.

La selección se realizará tomando en cuenta los objetivos del programa en conjunto con el análisis de los expedientes recibidos. Resultados de selección: 13 de junio 2017

Roberto Enrique King

Teléfonos (507) 264-4560, 6659-9579

Apartado Postal 0819-08427
Panamá, Panamá

gecu doc


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Negrón & Hargrave, Bots and social justice



Why you should care about bots
if you care about social justice

by Wilneida Negrón and Morgan Hargrave — Equals Change Blog

Activists rely on the Internet as a tool and space to build movements. But increasingly, forces that we can’t see are shaping these spaces — like algorithms that govern what rises to the top of social media feeds, companies that constantly track us in order to tailor advertising, or political operatives looking to manipulate public opinion. The Internet is a crowded place, and often gamed in ways that put those advocating for greater openness and justice at risk.

As everyone from advertisers to political adversaries jockey for attention, they are increasingly using automated technologies and processes to raise their own voices or drown out others. In fact, 62 percent of all Internet traffic is made up of programs acting on their own to analyze information, find vulnerabilities, or spread messages. Up to 48 million of Twitter’s 320 million users are bots, or applications that perform automated tasks. Some bots post beautiful art from museum collections, while some spread abuse and misinformation instead. Automation itself isn’t cutting edge, but the prevalence and sophistication of how automated tools interact with users is.

Activists and NGOs, politicians, government agencies, and corporations rely on automated tools to carry out all kinds of tasks and operations: NGOs and activists use bots to automate civic engagement — helping citizens register to vote, contact their elected officials, and elevate marginalized voices and issues — to perform operational tasks like fundraising and developing messaging, and to promote transparency and accountability. But they’re far outshone by the private sector’s use of conversational chatbot interfaces — like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri — that use these technologies to make their platforms easier to use, gather data on customers, and increase profits.

Politicians, governments, and organizations sometimes use bots to provide public services, like this educational tool on pregnancy and newborn milestones. But they also use them to manipulate public opinion and disable activists. For example, in Mexico, Peñabots were used to support President Enrique Peña Nieto and silence protests against corruption and violence. Activists and journalists in Turkey, Russia, and Venezuela have faced similar efforts meant to marginalize dissenting opinions on social media. In the United States, bot-assisted traffic was used to make stories and misinformation go viral by spreading millions of links to articles on conservative news sites like Breitbart News and InfoWars.

In other cases, bots can be grouped together to create botnets that are used to launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks to bring down activist websites and other online communications systems. eQualit.ie, a nonprofit tech organization that protects independent media and human rights organizations from these attacks, documented over 400 recorded DDoS attacks aimed at social justice groups in 2016.

There is a huge opportunity for organizations and activists to use automation in constructive ways that further social justice causes, but doing so is not without risk. What follows is a set of questions aimed at helping advocates better understand the challenges and risks that bots and automated activism present.

Do you rely heavily on social media for your communications, outreach, and engagement work?

If social media is a big part of your organization’s strategy, be vigilant about how automated accounts might disrupt your outreach. At the same time, with the increased presence of bot-generated traffic online, be aware that it will be more and more difficult to tell the difference between engagements with actual constituents, versus bot-generated engagement aimed at confusing or deterring your message and activism.

Is your organization at risk of being targeted due to the nature of your organizing and communications work?

Develop internal policies on how to respond to negative and inflammatory comments online and vigilantly guard your organization’s website and communications. Develop a contingency plan for what to do if your website is hit with a big rush of traffic meant to take it down. Report any attacks to nonprofit tech partners such as eQualit.ie that can track botnet attacks and provide digital security planning recommendations.

What should bots for social justice look like?

There are many ways that bots can promote social justice and lift the voices and work of minorities. To take one example, in situations where releasing critical information to the public might endanger an activist’s life, a bot could be used to release that information instead. Bots could elevate the stories and narratives of groups often marginalized from mainstream public discourse. As automated activism expands and deepens, we need to identify the broader ethical and legal frameworks to guide how automation is integrated into social justice. This means asking questions like: Where do we draw the line between governments’ and politicians’ strategic communications and propaganda? How can we balance the need for security, privacy, freedom of speech, user protections, and preferences in automated online spaces?

How might innovations in automated activism coexist with traditional forms of organizing, messaging, and movement building?

The Internet has already been found to contribute to “slacktivism,” or half-hearted attempts at engagement. If we continue to automate more aspects of our political and civic engagement, we will need more research to determine how automated technology can increase civic engagement, support traditional forms of offline political engagement, and achieve political and social outcomes — rather than commoditizing that work and making some forms of engagement less impactful. Before building the next call-to-action bot, it’s important for technologists to understand what political organizers need to effectively do their work. Social justice advocates and activists should work with well-intentioned technologists and become key partners in identifying and understanding how technology can be useful to building and sustaining movements.

While automation can be used to lower the costs of collective action for social justice activists and organizations, it can also increase risk. It is relatively easy for bots to tear down organizations’ and activists’ discourse, in contrast to the challenges organizations face in defending themselves against those automated attacks. As long as bots continue to participate — at growing rates — in our public sphere without regulation or transparency, they will pose enormous threats to democracy. Every person’s voice — including those expressed online — should count, but that is threatened when automation is used to impersonate a single individual while amplifying his or her voice by the thousands.

Looking critically at your organization’s online strategies will help mitigate and plan for risks. And remembering that automation cannot replace activism, but only complement it, will go a long way toward ensuring the effective use of automated tools as they continue to develop.

(Ford Foundation cc)


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