The rector’s would-be no-bid purchase of gullied land without irrigation water for the agricultural faculty’s experimental rice farm was not approved by the Presidential Goals Secretariat and his underpriced sale of the old experimental farm to the national government, which in turn intended to turn it over to Martinelli’s hustler friends, is under increasing scrutiny
Suppose they gave a student demonstration and nobody came?
by Eric Jackson
Faced with this situation, we call on university students to close ranks on the national level to defend the integrity of this institution.
Communique from the University of Panama administration
What’s happening to the students now is the product of the current university administration’s irresponsibility.
And this is the writing that was written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.
Officially, there is still more than a year left of University of Panama rector Gustavo García de Paredes’s current term in office. There is much shouting and pleading to come, and there will be elections that are successfully or unsuccessfully rigged. But the events of the past week and processes that are unfolding pretty clearly indicate that it’s all over for the self-proclaimed Rector Magnifico.
Back in April of 2012, the University of Panama sold its experimental farm near Tocumen Airport to the national government’s Tocumen Airport Authority for $109.8 million. The 285-hectare parcel, with an appraised value of about $600 million, had been used for experiments in rice cultivation, cattle husbandry and irrigation engineering. But was this for the airport expansion for which the Motta family — principal owners of Copa Airlines — had been pressing for years? Apparently it wasn’t.
At the time that the university sold the land to the Martinelli administration, some person or group hiding behind Panama’s corporate secrecy laws was publicizing a project they called Panatropolis overlapping that same site. Panatropolis, so the hype went, would “supply all the needs of international companies, corporations and traveling business men in one living entity; from state of the art convention and exhibition centers to first class hotels and casino, from high end offices complex to wide range of residential opportunities, from luxury retail malls and fine restaurants and cafes on the main boulevard to huge logistic and industrial parks.”
Upscale housing with airport noise? It all seemed unrealistic at the time. Perhaps it was a pitch to extract the riches of Venezuelans with more money than brains. The usual presumption about upscale projects of these sorts is that if they are not outright frauds they are money laundering vehicles. In any case, too many Venes had already paid top dollar for substandard buildings at Costa del Este to find many so clueless as to buy into a fanciful scheme by people with neither identities nor accomplishments as developers to show. The world of wealthy Venezuelan fools is finite. Probably the world’s supply of ill-gotten cash to be laundered also is, but it seems not to be. In any case, the Panatropolis scheme is still promoted online, but if one calls the phone numbers listed they are used for other projects.
The university’s agonomists abandoned the experimental farm with no place to go in 2013 and any deal that may have been pending with the Martinelli administration’s configuration of the Tocumen Airport Authority surely came to a screeching halt as the results of the May 2014 elections were announced. University reform activist say that on top of the agro faculty’s homelessness, not all of the proceeds of the experimental farm’s sale were deposited in accounts that can be linked to the University of Panama. That’s one of the reasons behind a demand for a Comptroller General audit of the university’s finances and land dealings, a probe that’s underway against resistance from the self-proclaimed Rector Magnifico.
Had the land in Tocumen been sold for anything like its estimated value, a suitable new farm could be had for that price. But after a couple of years’ delay and with the rector’s behavior in office under question from several directions, the university declared an emergency to get around the law’s usual public purchasing requirements. The given excuse was that if the purchase went out for bids, the university might have to buy land in Bocas del Toro or some other remote place. (That, by the way, is ridiculous — proximity to the central University of Panama campus could be written into bid specifications.) But the rector found a deal with the Ferrabone family, which is well connected in Ricardo Martinelli’s circles. It was a 250-hectare parcel in Chepo district, a real steal at $5 million — except that the land is mostly hills and ravines and has no source of irrigation water for the dry season.
For some reason the Varela administration’s Ministry of Agricultural Development signed off on the purchase but the Ministry of the Presidency’s Goals Secretariat would not. So the word came down from the university administration and the rector’s astroturf student movement sprang into action on August 25, with a dozen or perhaps a few more students blocking the Transistmica in front of the university. The riot squad moved in and made arrests. The rector left those detained to their own devices, but closed the university’s central campus for the rest of the week and issued a communique calling on students to “close ranks” with more demonstrations “to defend the integrity of this institution.”
Attorney and student defender Anayansi Turner, whom the rector has been trying to eliminate from campus, saw to it that the arrested students were represented. After a brief stay behind bars they were released.
La Estrella and La Prensa ran scathing articles about the nature of the land that the rector sought to buy for the new experimental farm. The University of Panama Cleanup Movement (MOVADUP) issued a scornful dismissal of the administration’s position in leaflets passed out when classes resumed on August 31.
On September 1 the Ferrabone family withdrew its offer to sell. The agriculture students still don’t have a place to practice. And the Rector Magnifico? The remaining gleam on his pharaonic magnificence seems to have gone away.
Yes, the Panama Canal Authority and persons who are or were acting on its behalf need to be called to account, but this is about way more than a bad concrete job
The specific problem will be fixed but there’s a general framework that should be replaced
With much dismay, we see a concrete sill at the new Cocoli Locks that won’t hold water. In the larger scheme of things the slightly belated Panama Canal Authority (ACP) announcement that they don’t know what the problem is but that the already delayed April 2016 opening of the new locks won’t be again postponed ought to be of much greater concern to Panamanians — even if the prediction turns out to be accurate.
What the announcement means is that after all the scandals revolving around former Minister of Canal Affairs Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal that have come to the public’s attention, with yet another disaster flowing from acceptance of a lowball bid from a consortium that included a company owned by relatives of then ACP administrator Alberto Alemán Zubieta (a company of which that same man had been CEO), in the wake of a scandal swept under the rug wherein current Minister of Canal Affairs Roberto Roy with his Secretary of the Metro hat on accepted a bidding process in which an undisclosed former consultant for the corruption-tainted Odebrecht set up an arcane set of “technical qualifications” that steered the Metro Line 2 contract to Odebrecht — after all of that the ACP continues to act as if it were a private family company rather than a public institution in a democratic society. No doubt nobody at the ACP ever figured that an announcement such as this would be seen for the sneering and opaque informaton control game that it is. But although they seem not to be used to such ideas in the Administration Building, such information belongs in its entirety in the public domain.
The information control games that began when Martinelli was Minister of Canal Affairs must end now. The ACP board of directors that is in no way representative of the Panamanian people needs to be replaced en masse, and not according to the political patronage demands of the parties in the legislature. There needs to be a full and frank public inquiry about the entire Panama Canal expansion project, even as the thing is completed and its flaws repaired.
The goal should not be the apportionment of blame, nor the accumulation of political points. Notwithstanding all of the publicity, the Panama Canal is not as well governed as it ought to be. Proper adjustments should be included in any constitutional revision process.
Her problem is not what Republicans are slinging at her
Hillary’s faults and fortune
The latest Des Moines Register – Bloomberg poll shows that Bernie Sanders has narrowed the gap between himself and Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses to single digits, and that Mrs. Clinton has lost about one-third of the support that she had in May. The Sanders surge, the Clinton collapse and the weaknesses of the Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb campaigns have worried corporate centrists urging Joe Biden to come into the race, and if not him there will probably be someone else.
Is Hillary’s problem a vast right-wing conspiracy? Actually, it isn’t. Yes, the rightist memes on the Internet are accusing her of treason — again. Under the US Constitution treason is when a US citizen makes war against the United States or in a time of war adheres to the enemies of the United States and gives them material assistance. It requires two eyewitnesses or a confession in open court to be proven. Clinton did not commit treason with respect to the Benghazi tragedy, nor did she do so with respect to her emails and private server. If she gets through the primaries and caucuses to win the Democratic nomination, the outlandish accusations would hurt her Republican opponent far more than they hurt her.
Clinton’s problems are at the moment with Democrats, although her intra-party critics will find plenty of independents and some Republicans who share their qualms. It is not that she’s disloyal to the United States, it’s that she’s loyal to a multinational oligarchy of millionaires and billionaires that over several decades has appropriated most of the wealth of the American people and is demanding more. It’s not that she sold out to America’s enemies as Secretary of State, but that along with a bunch of neoconservative aides and a president who has often lacked a good sense of the limits of US power in the world she did foolish things that made bad situations worse. It’s not that her private emails were criminal, but that they were careless, and that when criticized about them her response was far less than transparent. Does her husband’s old campaign adage — “It’s the economy, stupid” — apply this year? It certainly does, and Clinton seems quite tone-deaf to the cries of people who once thought themselves middle class.
Yes, Wall Street and the private prisons industry and the defense contractors — et al — love the woman and have been counting on her to keep the gravy train running on time. But that’s not most Americans, and much less so is it most Democrats.
Bear in mind…
No society that feeds its children on tales of successful violence can expect them not to believe that violence in the end is rewarded.
Language is the laughter of the soul.
I must try and break through the cliches about Latin America. Superpowers and other outsiders have fought over us for centuries in ways that have nothing to do with our problems. In reality we are all alone.
What the Democratic presidential candidates had to say at the Summer Democratic National Committee meeting
The Dems in Minneapolis
Jim Webb declined to address the DNC, stating that its intention to rig the nominating process in favor of Hillary Clinton is so blatant that it would be a waste of his time. DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz reacted angrily to the claims of Martin O’Malley at the gathering, which concurred with Webb’s opinion and those of much of the party’s rank-and-file. “I have more class than that,” she said.
These videos feature some of the musicians who will be playing and teaching at the next Panama Jazz Festival. For those of you in latitudes that will be cold by then — and yes, even you Chileans and Argentines who will be into summer at the time — mark your calendars and make your flight and lodging reservations for January 11-16, 2016. Not all the artists will be playing with the same groups shown in the videos — alas, the festival’s classical component will be without the Sinfonica Nacional de la Republica Dominicana, and Danny Rivera will be performing with Danilo Pérez instead — but these selections ought to give you an idea of the sorts of sounds that will be coming our way.
Opening night at the Central American Percussion Festival
photos and notes by Vic Brown
The Beachers are used to performing for a livelier audience. They feed off of their audiences’ feedback. While their performance was energetic as always, the audience feedback wasn’t always there — at least not at the level that they’re used to, for example at the Afro-Antillean Fair.
The Transistmico Project
Transistmico Project was filled with an interesting fusion of some classics from different genres thanks to producer Billy Herron.