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Barro Blanco impasse deteriorates on at least two levels

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July 25 confrontation in which 20 people were briefly detained for blocking the Pan-American Highway near Tole. Several people were injured and along with the National Police riot squad there were members of the militarized SENAFRONT border force. Photo by Oscar Sogandares
July 25 confrontation in which 20 people were briefly detained for blocking the Pan-American Highway near Tole. Several people were injured and along with the National Police riot squad there were members of the militarized SENAFRONT border force. Photo by Oscar Sogandares

Government adamant about an agreement to dam the Tabasara River that no credible indigneous representative would countenance, rival Ngabe factions spar over how best to resist the company and authorities

Varela can’t get Ngabe acceptance of GENISA’s European-financed fraud

by Eric Jackson

The cancellation of the work is not an option.
Chamber of Commerce

We will not move from here until the president of the republic, Juan Carlos  Varela, comes to this place.
Clementina Pérez Jaramillo
Mama Tata leader and deputy regional cacique

The Honduran-owned GENISA company that’s building the Barro Blanco Dam? Their permits were obtained by fraud, and a member of their board of directors is in prison in Honduras for another fraud. The Dutch and German banks that backed GENISA? They didn’t do their due diligence, which would have exposed the fraudulent misrepresentation by the company and its Panamanian lawyers that no cultural sites were affected, when in fact the plan to flood the Tabasara River would destroy ancient petroglyphs that are protected by UN conventions and considered holy by the 60,000-member Mama Tata denomination that accounts for about one-third of the Ngabe indigenous nation.

The Varela administration is offering jobs and development projects, but the destruction or removal of the petroglyphs is a nonstarter for anyone who wants to endure in the fractious world of Ngabe politics. A coup d’etat to replace the current general cacique of the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca, Silvia Carrera, who insists on the dam project’s cancellation and demolition? The company already tried that once. But Carrera and her allies in the April 10th Movement (M-10) do have ever stronger competition from the September 22 Movement (M-22) — which should be no comfort to those who want the dam project to proceed.

So are Dutch and German bankers, and Panama’s Chamber of Commerce, insistent? None of them live in the area to be affected by the dam. None of them are indigenous, speak Ngabere or stand to be directly affected by a religious conflict that would be sparked if Carrera signed off on a deal to destroy a place that’s sacred to a large part of her constituency. Ever the defender of its members’ property rights, the chamber routinely supports the dispossession of impoverished rural communities. The fraud artists — those who commissioned, concocted and filed the dishonest environmental impact statements — are letting other people do their bidding and have not been called in to be interrogated by prosecutors. Polls show that by about a two-to-one margin Panamanian believe that they know exactly what is going on and support the indigenous side in the dispute.

That leaves the GENISA supporters with the usual rabiblanco divide and rule tactics in the face of a strong majority. Might there be major national power outages for which Silvia Carrera is blamed? The Martinelli administration already played that card. But the main problem is that the division which is there to play is between rival factions that claim to be more militantly opposed to the dam than the other.

In the last elections for the Ngabe-Bugle General Congress, the Electoral Tribunal took a census in a season when migrant farm workers were away picking crops and eliminated much of the electorate from the poll list. Ricardo Martinelli’s people poured significant government resources into the campaigns of those with whom they intended to take over the comarca’s government — and lost to the PRD, with many people who were not on the poll lists boycotting. Martnielli then bribed enough of the PRD-aligned delegates who were elected go get one of his followers elected as president of the congress — but nobody respected that man and the notion that he and those who voted for him would choose a general cacique was a nonstarter. Instead they called an election for general cacique. The Electoral Tribunal restored the voting rights of most of those who had been disenfranchised in the previous voting, but there was also a widespread boycott of that election. Lo and behold, farmer and craftswoman Silvia Carrera, an activist in the movements against dams and strip mines in the comarca, walked from village to village and won the election.

Carrera had the support of a lot of the teachers, who are mostly members of the Veraguas Educators Association (AEVE), a militant union whose leaders are aligned with Juan Jované’s faction of the left. But the election she won was boycotted by traditional leaders who object to any role for such outsiders as the Electoral Tribunal in indigenous self-government and by those aligned with Genaro López’s faction of the left. Among the most insistent opponents of elections run by non-indigenous authorities were the members of the Mama Tata denomination, a syncretist religion with both Christian and traditional indigenous roots that was preached by their late prophet Mama Atencio in the 1960s. The traditionalists called a Traditional Ngabe-Bugle General Congress to conflict with the government-sponsored elections and chose its own general cacique and officers who claim to be the legitimate authorities in the comarca. The local Buko Day police force takes directions from Carrera rather than the traditionalists or Martinelli’s discredited congress. Carrera avoided a major power struggle with the traditionalists and soundly thrashed the Martinelli people when they tried to remove her.

But as the impasse over the Barro Blanco Dam has dragged on, a new alliance that includes the Mama Tata faith, the Traditional Ngabe-Bugle General Congress and FRENADESO supporters has been camped out near the dam construction site, carrying out protests and participating in the talks with the government as the September 22nd Movement. While M-10 and M-22 trade insults and pursue separate tactics, there is no division between the about whether to accept the dam.

The resumption of work on the dam was accompanied by police moving into the M-22 campsite. The talks dragged on with neither side budging and new leadership emerging in Silvia Carrera’s part of the indigenous side, with Rolando Carpintero, the mayor of the Muna district of the comarca of which the places to be flooded are a part, taking a high profile. On the M-22 side Mama Tata leader Clementina Pérez Jaramillo has emerged as the principal spokeswoman.

On July 25 a small group of M-10 supporters blocked the Pan-American Highway near Tole and the police moved in to clear the road. There were 20 arrests and some rough play that caused some injuries that were not life threatening. Although those who were arrested were quickly released M-10 has taken the occasion to withdraw from the talks and La Prensa reports that people have been walking down from the largely roadless hills of the comarca to reinforce the protesters near Tole. M-22 has not formally withdrawn from the talks, remains encamped near the dam and has filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Human Rights Court to enjoin further work on the dam.

The government and M-10 have called for United Nations mediation. During the Martinelli administration there had been UN mediation but when the mediators found justice in the indigenous cause the government just ignored them.

The impasse continues, but the situation is far from static.

Bendib, The post-subtlety GOP

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Trump
Not so subtle anymore…

MOVADUP, ¡El pueblo panameño recuperará su universidad!

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MOVADUP“Realizaremos todos los esfuerzos que la Constitución y las leyes nos permiten para lograr la renuncia o salida anticipada del profesor Gustavo García de Paredes…”

Declaración de Santiago

por el Movimiento de Adecentamiento de la Universidad de Panamá (MOVADUP)

Nosotros, los delegados del Movimiento de Adecentamiento de la Universidad de Panamá, provenientes de las provincias de Chiriquí, Colón, Herrera, Los Santos, Veraguas y Panamá, hemos deliberado ampliamente sobre la desastrosa realidad que padece la institución bajo sus actuales administradores, realidad que refleja una política conscientemente orientada hacia el deterioro de la educación superior pública con el fin de favorecer un proyecto de deseducación que abandona la integralidad académica y la integridad administrativa, desconoce la educación superior como un derecho y estimula su privatización al mismo tiempo que favorece a una burocracia cuya corrupción es imposible de ocultar, perjudica los intereses de la academia y hace grave daño a los estudiantes, siembra el terror entre los profesores y administrativos y deprime, de forma sistemática y dolosa, la presencia y proyección de la Universidad de Panamá en la vida nacional.

Tras haber concluido las deliberaciones, hemos resuelto firmemente no cejar en nuestros esfuerzos para revertir esta aciaga situación, totalmente injusta e inmerecida para la Universidad de Panamá. Por lo tanto, declaramos solemnemente lo siguiente:

1. Fomentaremos la conciencia ciudadana en el sentido de que esta reivindique, como natural, su derecho soberano, supremo e indiscutible a participar en los procesos de la Universidad de Panamá.

2. Realizaremos todos los esfuerzos que la Constitución y las leyes nos permiten para lograr la renuncia o salida anticipada del profesor Gustavo García de Paredes del cargo de rector de la Universidad de Panamá, no solo por su responsabilidad en la triste situación que se ha descrito, sino porque su permanencia en el cargo ha demostrado ser perjudicial para las investigaciones que se adelantan contra la corrupción campante en esta institución.

3. No claudicaremos en el impulso y seguimiento, por todos los medios a nuestro alcance, de los evidentes casos de corrupción en los que está involucrada la actual administración de la Universidad de Panamá.

4. Apoyaremos, con todas nuestras fuerzas, a los miembros del MOVADUP que son víctimas de los atropellos de la administración universitaria actual, especialmente a quienes adelantan casos en los tribunales contra los abusos perpetrados por ella.

5. Acogeremos y ayudaremos, con todos los recursos legales y políticos de que disponemos, a quienes recurran al MOVADUP por estar siendo acosados, perseguidos y vejados por orden de las autoridades de la Universidad de Panamá.

6. Nos esforzaremos al máximo para lograr el sufragio efectivo y que sea aprobada la ley que reinstaura la NO REELECCIÓN del rector, decanos y directores de Centros Regionales, pues más de veinte años de asociación de los mismos individuos han creado un impresionante edificio de corrupción que da primacía a intereses particulares y promueve un sistema delincuencial que se ha adueñado de la Universidad de Panamá.

7. Procuraremos alcanzar que, mediante ley, se disminuyan los poderes casi omnímodos de los que goza el rector, que lo convierten en juez y parte en los órganos de cogobierno y han propiciado que deje impunes a personas que han cometido delitos en la Universidad de Panamá mientras castiga a los que denuncian las irregularidades, manipule el otorgamiento de descargas horarias y de cátedras incluso sin concurso, insulte sin consecuencias para él a los estudiantes, desacate órdenes judiciales, negocie opinión favorable a instituciones de educación superior privada que no soportan acreditación y un largo etcétera.

8. Lograremos que se reforme el sistema de ponderación electoral de manera que ningún estamento alcance, por sí solo, una mayoría absoluta y concluyente, dado que el desequilibrio del sistema actual promueve el comercio abierto y encubierto de las conciencias y es el origen estructural del clientelismo. Esta reforma deberá incluir el voto de los egresados de la Universidad de Panamá, puesto que su capacidad académica es indiscutible y son el vínculo natural e inmediato de esta institución con la comunidad que la sostiene.

9. Aseguraremos que el Organismo Electoral Universitario sea independiente, que sus miembros no se deban al influjo pernicioso del rector de turno para ocupar sus puestos y que el trabajo de este organismo sea debidamente supervisado por el Tribunal Electoral de la República.

10. Propondremos elevar rigurosamente, mediante ley, el perfil académico y personal de cualesquiera aspirantes a los cargos de rector, decanos y directores de centros regionales, de forma que sean elegidos a estos puestos panameños con realizaciones académicas de la más alta calidad y de integridad fuera de toda duda.

11. Efectuaremos todos los esfuerzos posibles para lograr la descentralización de la Universidad de Panamá, dado que su actual administración desatiende dolosamente las necesidades de las regiones, les impide su crecimiento y el desarrollo de su oferta académica y favorece de este modo que la educación universitaria privada se expanda a costa del estudiantado, sobre todo del más humilde, que debe realizar un esfuerzo económico tremendo si desea estudiar una carrera que, debido a lo antedicho, no ofrece la Universidad de Panamá.

12. Apoyaremos decididamente la creación, mediante ley, de una Universidad Pedagógica sobre la base del Instituto Pedagógico Juan Demóstenes Arosemena, que funciona en la Escuela Normal Juan Demóstenes Arosemena, proyecto que fue truncado por la mezquindad y compromisos políticos espurios de la administración de la Universidad de Panamá en contubernio con el gobierno corrupto de Ricardo Martinelli y su ministra de Educación, Lucy Molinar.

13. Nos constituiremos en plataforma permanente que sirva a la ciudadanía como observatorio y punto de apoyo de sus iniciativas respecto de la Universidad de Panamá que promuevan una educación superior popular, de alta calidad y de elevada conciencia social y solidaria.

¡El pueblo panameño recuperará su universidad!

¡Por la excelencia académica, adecentamiento universitario!

Santiago de Veraguas, 25 de julio de 2015.

Obama names Feeley as the next US ambassador to Panama

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John D. Feeley testifying before the US House of Representatives Western Hemisphere Subcommittee in defense of US policies in Mexico. Photo by the US House of Rerpresentatives
John D. Feeley testifying at a May 2013 hearing of the US House of Representatives Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, for the most part in defense of US drug war policies in Mexico. Click this link to read the transcript of what he said. Photo by the US House of Rerpresentatives

Panama gets another careeer diplomat as US ambassador at a time when many of the policies he has implemented and defended are increasingly questioned in the hemisphere

Drug War veteran to head the American embassy here

by Eric Jackson

On July 28 US President Barack Obama named John D. Feeley as he next American ambassador in Panama. He will have to be approved by the US Senate to take up the post, and while these days in Washington the Republicans who control the senate would grab at most excuses to block an Obama appointment they would probably have to contrive some excuse if they intend to block Feeley. The man is identified with the “War on Drugs” and free trade on the NAFTA template as the centerpieces of US policy toward Latin America and there are few Republican senators who oppose those basic premises of American foreign policy in the region. US critics of these policies, mostly on the left but also including libertarians like Rand Paul on the right are likely to be less impressed, but those who are not grandstanding will understand that their argument is with presidential policies rather than the diplomats appointed to carry them out.

On the Panamanian left the tendency is to ignore the intricacies and subtleties of US policy and presume that any American ambassador is the representative of a hostile imperial power and any man or woman of this country’s left who meets with such a person is a traitor. Much of the Panamanian left also doesn’t openly question militarized anti-drug policies advocated and financed by Washington. Were Panamanians on that end of the spectrum to pay attention they might find Feeley’s characterization of Mexican concerns about national sovereignty as “tired shibboleths” to be an issue for Panama. But as the US State Department’s luck would have it, such matters tend to be treated as deviations from the more important struggle over which faction is the vanguard of a Panamanian revolution that doesn’t seem to be happening at the moment.

Feeley came to the US Foreign Service after service with the US Marine Corps as a helicopter pilot and graduate of Georgetown University and later — as a diplomat rather than as an active duty military man — of the National War College. He was an aide to Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice. He has served in two assignments in Mexico, one as chargé d’affaires n 2011 and 2012. He has also been posted to Colombia and the Dominican Republic and in Washington has run the El Salvador desk, been Deputy Director of Caribbean Affairs and Director of Central American Affairs and worked with the State Department’s Operations Center. Since 2012 he has been Foggy Bottom’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Feeley is married to another diplomat, Cherie Feeley, with whom he has two sons. We may be getting another power couple at the American Embassy.

Are the diplomatic issues of the day between Panama and the United States readily apparent? Perhaps not. There is discretion in the business and perhaps the most important thing that could be learned from the WikiLeaks cables from Panama was the difference between what was said in public and the actual concerns at the time. For example, at the moment we might surmise that Ricardo Martinelli’s presence in the United States would be an issue, given that the State Department could pull his visa at any moment for just about any reason or for no reason with very little legal recourse — but we don’t know if President Varela has told the Americans that he’s just as soon have Martinelli somewhere other than in Panama. Colombia’s civil conflict and law enforcement concerns with international criminals whose businesses include but go beyond drugs would seem to be parts of the beat to which Feeley is being assigned. Increasingly, American ambassadors are also functional advocates for US-based multinational corporations and there are a number of those with significant operations here.

Beer and Coca-Cola workers suspend strike, file for arbitration

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Striking Coca-Cola workers march and with their partners from the beer industry union showed remarkable unity. But SABMiller never responded to the unions' proposals nor submitted any of their own. The South African based multinational's only position was to object to dealing with two unions representing of the company's workers in Panama in one contract. The unions has public support, but neither that nor the strike funds they had were enough to pay their members' rent and electric bills throughout a  prolonged struggle.  Photo from the SITRAFCOREBGASCELIS Facebook page
Striking Coca-Cola workers march and with their partners from the beer industry union showed remarkable unity. However, during a month of negotiations and then n 18-day strike SABMiller never responded to the unions’ proposals nor submitted any of their own. The South African based multinational’s only position was to object to dealing with two unions representing of the company’s workers in Panama in one contract. The unions has public support, but neither that nor the strike funds they had were enough to pay their members’ rent and electric bills throughout a prolonged struggle. Photo from the SITRAFCOREBGASCELIS Facebook page

A setback for Panama’s labor movement, but it may be a matter of intact unions retreating to buy time for their next moves rather than fighting on and suffering a crushing defeat

18-day beer and Coca-Cola strike suspended for arbitration

by Eric Jackson

On July 28 unionized workers at the Cerveceria Nacional and its related FEMSA Coca-Cola company went back to work without a contract after an 18-day strike. The companies, subsidiaries of the South Africa based SABMiller, had met with union representatives some 30 times over more than a month and a half but had never responded to union proposals nor submitted any proposals of their own. By all appearances the global giant — the world’s second-largest beer brewing combine and holder of many countries’ Coca-Cola bottling concessions — seemed intent on destroying the Beer Industry Workers Union (STICP) and the Coca-Cola workers’ union with the long acronym (SITRAFCOREBGASCELIS). However, when the unions filed with he Ministry of Labor Development for arbitration the companies agreed and no reprisals against strikers is ordinarily one of the requirements for such government intervention. The outcome of a government arbitration process, however, won’t be binding on a party that thinks that it has lost.

On the US campaign trail: Six Republican presidential hopefuls, at length

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Republicans
Declared or possible GOP presidential contenders.
You may want to bookmark this and take it in several sittings, as it will take about five hours to get through it all — or you may only be interested in what one or some of the candidates have to say. An extra problem on the GOP side is that there are so many candidates that it is not practical to include even most of them on one page. The editor has his opinion, but The Panama News is going to try very hard to give the primary candidates of both major parties — and along the way the most noteworthy of the minor candidates — time and space to state their cases.

What Republicans are saying

Donald Trump

Jeb Bush

Scott Walker

Marco Rubio

Ted Cruz

Rand Paul

On the US campaign trail: The Democratic presidential hopefuls, at length

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da dems
The five Democratic presdential candidates in Iowa
You may want to bookmark this and take it in several sittings, as it will take about four hours to get through it all — or you may only be interested in what one or some of the candidates have to say. The editor has his opinion, but The Panama News is going to try very hard to give the primary candidates of both major parties — and along the way the most noteworthy of the minor candidates — time and space to state their cases

What Democrats are saying

Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders

Jim Webb

Martin O’Malley

Lincoln Chafee

Cutting child support: beyond the Varela administration’s pale

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Hermes Ortega
Hermes Ortega urinated on one of the third rails of Panamanian politics. Photo by MIDES

Cutting child support is a nonstarter with the Panamanian political party most identified with women’s suffrage, but beyond the merits of the issue, with Juan Carlos Varela perhaps the most mortal sin of all is looking foolish

What was he thinking?

by Eric Jackson

Hermes Ortega is out as secretary general of the Ministry of Social Development. Last January he submitted a proposal to modify Panama’s child support law, which was last changed in 2012. It would cut off child support payments by non-custodial parents in January and February when school is out, and at times when the children are visiting with the parent who does not have custody. On July 27 Minister of Social Development Alcibiades Vásquez fired Ortega specifically because of this proposal, which had languished in the legislative hopper until coming to the attention of the National Assembly’s Children, Women, Youth and Families Committee — now presided over by CD deputy Marilyn Vallarino — and of various women’s groups. Vásquez said that the proposal was made without consulting anyone, does not represent the Varela administration’s thinking and is not in the best interests of children.

Varela’s Panameñista Party was founded by Dr. Arnulfo Arias, under whose administration Panamanian women — at least those not of races whose citizenship he revoked — got the rights to vote and hold public office. Arias’s widow, Mireya Moscoso, was the first and so far has been the only female Panamanian president.

Vallarino led the legislative effort for the 2012 changes to strengthen enforcement of child support laws. The modifications eventually passed, but they were weakened in committee on first reading and on the assembly floor on second reading. Non-custodial parents who have been ordered by the family courts to pay child support — in most instances these are men — and who fail to pay the ordered child support can get 30 days in jail for it. Vallarino would have stripped child support deadbeats of their drivers’ licenses, but that provision was taken out of her proposal amid many protests from male colleagues from across the partisan spectrum. The 2012 changes also in certain cases look to grandparents to pay support.

The 2012 modifications were originally proposed in 2011 by the Supreme Court, then presided over by magistrate Harley Mitchell. For the courts child support orders are not only a matter of respect for judicial institutions. Kids who grow up destitute often end up before the courts on criminal matters. But despite the high court’s reasons, for the better part of a year legislative leaders of Vallarino’s Cambio Democratico party buried the proposal in the National Assembly’s agenda to keep it from coming up for votes in the body’s plenary sessions. But as male deputies in their various ways jeered and inserted amendments to weaken the original proposal, women’s groups weighed in and it became apparent to all astute political observers that defense of child support scofflaws is not a winning political platform in this country.

Hermes Ortega apparently didn’t notice.

Harrington, Los suplentes cobrarán “legalmente”

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Asamblea
La Asamblea Nacional. Foto por el Órgano Judicial

Con tales sinverguenzuras, ¡con razón que la OECD nos mantiene en toditas sus listas!

Los suplentes cobrarán “legalmente”

por Kevin Harrington-Shelton

No hay bellaco, donde no hay soquete.

Los padawanes parlamentarios no tienen por qué preocuparse: nuestra Corte Suprema es tan corrupta, que sin bendecirá el pago de sus salarios — “por factores imponderables extra-jurídicos”. Y eso hasta lo consignó –textualmente– como explicación de un fallo irracional sobre otro texto constitucional distinto, que resultaba diáfano para el resto de los mortales (no-interesados) en 1993.

Hoy es similarmente diáfano su artículo 156: “…no podrán ACEPTAR ningún empleo público remunerado”. No dice “COBRAR”. No obstante, un diputado suplente aereó airado un papel que (según él dijera en el Pleno) era un precedente en que la Corte definiría lo que RECIBÍAN en 2011 a título de “gasolina” en la Asamblea no era “salario”, sino “emolumentos”. De ser así, los cínicos de la Corte sin duda aprovecharán para reiterar su propia versión de seguridad jurídica….

Este tipo de bellaquerías propicia la pérdida de confianza en las instituciones.

Recuerda un caso en Inglaterra. A inicios de 2014, la policía anunció que “Se revisan partes noticiosos de cobros ilícitos de prestaciones en la Cámara de los Lores. Podemos confirmar que un varón de 73 años asistió a una convocatoria en una subestación policial del éste de Londres, a ser indagado respecto de una alegación de fraude.” Una presunción de inocencia ausente en los juicios promovidos en los medios –selectivamente– por el presidente Juan Carlos Varela, aunque a ello “obliga” nuestra legislación vigente. El par del reino inglés resultó condenado por algo que, aunque en Panamá no es ilegal, bien podría interesar a nuestros Padres de la Patria. Un tabloide había seguido a Lord Hanningfield, documentando que cobraba las dietas de $500 diariamente, aunque permaneciera pocos minutos en el sitio de trabajo. En Panamá los principales Y los suplentes cobran igual, si se pavean (cosa MUY frecuente).

Nuestra Asamblea tiene un Código de Ética por hacer ver que lo tienen; aunque no compara en lo moral ni en detalle con las 23 páginas digitales del británico, que allá sí se cumple. En poder adquisitivo, allá ganan la tercera parte de lo que perciben los nuestros, no tienen carros exonerados, y su blindaje sólo alcanza lo dicho dentro del Pleno.

Y les podrá interesar, que a los ingleses no los pueden botar jamás, sin la necedad de re-elegirse….