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….
La batalla del puente de Calidonia
por Olmedo Beluche
En julio se conmemoran 115 años de la histórica Batalla del Puente de Calidonia, en que los liberales panameño-colombianos fueron masacrados en la Guerra de los Mil Días.
Quisiera aportar a la reflexión sobre la famosa batalla del Puente de Calidonia, ocurrida el 26 de julio de 1900, en la que fueron aniquiladas las fuerzas liberales a las puertas de la ciudad de Panamá.
Cabe preguntarse: ¿Por qué, después de los contundentes éxitos de las tropas liberales en el interior, el general Emiliano Herrera se lanzó a un ataque suicida, enviando a sus tropas a través del puente desguarnecido frente a los parapetos de ametralladoras de los conservadores, ubicadas en las proximidades de lo que hoy es la Plaza 5 de Mayo?
La respuesta la encuentro en el papel activo que tuvieron los cónsules de las potencias representadas en Panamá: Francia, Inglaterra y muy especialemente el de Estados Unidos. Según se desprende del libro “El Panamá Colombiano”, de Araúz y Pizzurno, estos cónsules exigieron tanto a conservadores como liberales que no fueran afectados por el combate, ni la ciudad, ni el ferrocarril. Por supuesto, la amenaza subyacente era la intervención militar extranjera contra quien pusiera en peligro esos intereses extranjeros, apelando a la manera como EEUU entendía el Tratado Mallarino-Bidlack.
El 21 de julio forzaron al general Albán, conservador, a presentar batalla en Corozal, donde fue derrotado por Herrera. Teniendo que retirarse el primero a la ciudad de Panamá donde montó sus barricadas.
Con la complicidad de la Compañía del Ferrocarril, y de su gerente, el coronel Shaller, que jugaría un papel central en la Separación de 1903, se trasladan tropas conservadores desde Colón para reforzar a Albán. La Compañía y el cónsul norteamericano, lejos de ser neutrales como pretendían, jugaron un papel activo apoyando a los conservadores.
Previo al asalto liberal de la ciudad, el cónsul norteamericano se reunió en Perrys Hill (Perejil) con Emiliano Herrera, reiterándole la exigencia de no afectar la ciudad.
A mi juicio son estas presiones del cónsul norteamericano las que llevan a Herrera a presentar el nefasto esquema de ataque, que en pocas horas aniquiló a las huestes liberales (200 bajas entre muertos y heridos).
Esta me parece es la razón por la que, en 1901-1902, cuando las tropas liberales se recuperaron, gracias al papel de Victoriano Lorenzo, que transformó la guerra política en guerra social, campesino-indígena, llevando a los liberals a controlar todas las provincias del Istmo, menos la capital, tampoco intentaron nunca tomar la ciudad de Panamá.
El problema para la cabal comprensión de este acontecimiento es que la historia oficial panameña deja por fuera el papel jugado por las potencias imperialistas y reduce toda la explicación a una simplista contradicción entre “panameños’ y “colombianos”.
No hay duda de que hubo una lucha por el mando liberal entre Belisario Porrras y Emiliano Herrera, y posteriormente, Benjamín Herrera. Pero en este caso el factor determinante es la intervención norteamericana en toda la Guerra de los Mil Días.
New Panama paintings by George Scribner
The soccer world is close to unanimous that the American referee’s penalty kick and red card calls — which swung the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal game in which Panama had dominated to Mexico — were completely outrageous.
Penedo and Tejada suspended for two games each, Panama’s soccer federation and Mexico’s coach fined — but the popular opinion here is that it’s one more case of the soccer establishment’s corruption
Mexico 2, Panama 1 on worse than bad calls
by Eric Jackson
A Gold Cup run in which Panama beat nobody in regulation time but in which nobody could beat Panama ended in a July 22 semifinal game against Mexico in the Georgia Dome. But the widespread opinion of the soccer world is that Mexico didn’t beat Panama either, but rather that American referee Mark Geiger gave the game to Mexico.
In the 24th minute Panamanian striker Luis Tejada was sent off with a red card for elbowing Mexican defender Paul Aguilar. Whether or not there was actually any elbow contact is debatable, but its treatment as an intentional foul was called by sportswriter Simon Rice of the British daily The Independent a reaction to “arguably the most ridiculous dive of all time.”
Short-handed, Román Torres headed a corner kick into the net at the 56th minute, putting Panama ahead. The Mexican fans showered the Panamanian team with beer as the scenes on and off the field became increasingly chaotic, with both Mexican and Panamanian fans throwing things onto the field.
Both of Mexico’s goals came on penalty kicks, the first in the 89th minute for Panamanian defender allegedly handling the ball (which does not show up as such on video replays) as he fell after being fouled (which clearly does show.) That gave Mexico the tying goal against a short-handed Panama. After the game Mexican coach Miguel Herrera opined that this “was not a penalty” and that his team didn’t deserve to win but took advantage of referee mistakes.
As the match ended on a Mexican penalty kick in overtime — this time it was a pretty clear penalty, after other clear penalties that just as well could have been called to give Panama a penalty shot were not — there were rowdy confrontations between the teams and Geiger had to be escorted off of the field by CONCACAF bodyguards.
Panama issued its protests about Geiger, and CONCACAF issued its penalties: for Tejada, in addition to the one-game suspension on the red card, another game for not leaving the field promptly. For goalie Jaime Penedo, the heart and soul of Panama’s Gold Cup run, a two-game suspension for physical contact with an assistant referee after the game. A fine for Panama’s FEPAFUT soccer federation. A fine for Mexico’s coach for criticizing Geiger’s performance after the game.
Panama plays the United States for third place on Saturday the 25th at 3 p.m. Panama time in Philadelphia.
FEPAFUT president Pedro Chaluja told reporters that the semifinal game had been fixed. With two former CONCACAF presidents facing US bribery charges and a clear financial incentive for CONCACAF to prefer Mexico and its large television market over Panama’s much smaller audience in the final, a lot of Panamanians believe Chaluja.
Sequel to Martinelli’s and Robinson’s failed bid to take over the National Assembly (2)
Robinson gets no committee chairs
by Eric Jackson
The fallout continues from the failed July 1 bid for control of the National Assembly by PRD and CD party bosses Benicio Robinson and Ricardo Martinelli respectively. Robiinson still commands the loyalty of 20 members of his party’s 26 deputies, but on the Cambio Democratico side 13 of the party’s 25 deputies defied Martinelli’s orders to vote in a bloc with Robinson.
In the wake of it Robinson was able to retain a plurality of the PRD directorate and put off internal party elections until October of 2016, and on the strength of that he demanded party unity under his guidance but was ignored by the rebellious legislators. By Robinson’s math, as head of the National Assembly’s largest party caucus he was entitled to retain his position as the chair of the largest and most important of committees, the Budget Committee. Any substantial government spending has to pass through that committee and control over it gives leverage to demand jobs or government contracts to be passed out to loyal supporters. That sort of patronage to use in a prolonged battle for control of the Democratic Revolutionary Party is the last thing that the six dissident legislators want to give Robinson. Nor do any of the elements of the odd coalition that took over the legislature — the Panameñista Party, 12 CD deputies, the six PRD dissidents, the small MOLIRENA and Partido Popular contingents and the assembly’s lone independent — care to keep any of Robinson’s loyalists in political sinecures with the legislature itself. No replacement for the notorious former PRD legislator Franz Wever as the assembly’s secretary general has yet been announced, but surely that move is in the works.
Robinson used various parliamentary tricks to delay committee chair selections for three weeks but in the end he didn’t have the votes. He wll be replaced as chair of the Budget Committee by Jorge Alberto Rosas, a Panameñista from eastern Chiriqui province. The other committee chairs are:
Credentials: Jorge Ivan Arrocha (Panameñista)
Economy & Finance: Miguel Salas (Panameñista)
Commerce: Quibian Panay (PRD)
Infrastructure: Juan Carlos Arango (Partido Popular)
Education: Juan Moya (Panameñista)
Labor & Health: José Luis Castillo (Panameñista)
Communication & Transportation: Héctor Carrasquilla (CD)
Foreign Relations: Dana Castañeda (CD)
Population, Environment & Development: Luis Barría (Panameñista)
Indigenous Affairs: Absalón Herrera (CD)
Agriculture: Juan Miguel Ríos (Panameñista)
Government: Pedro Miguel González (PRD)
Women’s Affairs: Marylin Vallarino (CD)
Municipal Affairs: Javier Ortega (PRD)
Sequel to Martinelli’s and Robinson’s failed bid to take over the National Assembly (1)
Statute of limitations for corrupt pols raised, time limits on investigations challenged
by Eric Jackson
On July 23 the National Assembly passed Bill 149, an amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure that repealed Ricardo Martinelli’s 2013 law that halved the time for the statute of limitations to run for theft of public funds, unjustifiable enrichment while holding public office and diversion of public assets to private uses. As with most crimes — the main exception being murder and offenses deemed crimes against humanity under international law for which there is no statute of limitations — the period in which charges had to be brought for these crimes commonly committed by public officials was (and will again be) twice as long as the maximmum penalty for the offense. The law restoring the old statute of limitations is likely to be signed by President Varela.
So does this aggravate the potential legal woes for Ricardo Martinelli and his minions, or would it just apply to future crooks in high places? If there is to be any retroactive effect, it will not apply to cases already decided, nor those cases that are now in the processes of investigation or trial. But what about a theft of public assets that happened in 2013 which has yet to be formally investigated? Lawyers will surely argue about that one. In the Anglo-American Common Law system there is a fairly clear line about ex post facto laws: procedural laws can be retroactive, but substantive laws can’t be. The norm in that system is that statutes of limitation are substantive and can’t be changed retroactively to the detriment of the accused. But the Civil Code family of legal systems, of which Panama is a part, does not make this distinction between procedural and substantive. Already Ricardo Martinelli’s lawyers have been skirmishing in the Supreme Court over whether the new accusatory system of criminal procedure or the old inquisitory system will apply in his cases. Those issues have yet to be decided.
Meanwhile another of Martinelli’s impunity for politicians laws is under constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court. That 2012 law provides that when legislators — or in Martinelli’s case, members of the Central American Parliament — face trial before the Supreme Court, the investigation must be concluded within two months of the appointment of an investigating magistrate. For anyone else accused of a crime and facing ordinary criminal processes, that period is ordinarily one year. Supreme Court magistrate Oydén Ortega, who has been assigned the prosecutor role in the case of no-bid contracts with kickbaks in the purchase of dehydrated foods for school lunch programs, moved on July 2 for the assigned judge, Jerónimo Mejía, to grant him a 30-day extension of the time to finish his investigation and at the same time interposed a constitutional challenge to the shorter time given for investigating legislators. The case is on hold while the high court decides if the 2012 law is constitutional.
On the campaign trail
Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley
at the Netroots Nation conference
At the town hall — Bernie, Martin and the hecklers:
Sanders speaks in Phoenix later that night:
Panama advances to the Gold Cup semi-finals, 6-5 over Trinidad-Tobago on penalty kicks
Mechanical failure? Terrorism? Friendly fire? Meteorite? Seventeen years after the tragic incident, investigators have dredged up everything but the truth.
Flight from the truth: the enigmatic TWA 800 disaster investigation
by W. E. Gutman
On page 16, in its Sunday, October 18, 1998 editorial section, The New York Times ran a full page ad urging government agencies in bold banner headlines to “END THE COVER-UP” and asserting that “Two Missiles Brought Down TWA Flight 800.” The ad was sponsored by the Associated Retired Aviation Professionals, a group headed by Admiral Thomas H. Moorer (retired), Rear Admiral Mark Hill (retired), USAF Brigadier General Ben Partin (retired), USN Commander William Donaldson (retired) and three veteran military and civilian aviators, including the flight engineer who had flown on the inbound leg of TWA 800’s flight from Athens the day before the plane went down off the coast of Long Island on July 17, 1996 as it proceeded toward Paris and killing 230 people on board.
The ad further affirmed that the FBI had interviewed 115 “credible eyewitnesses” who claimed to have seen an object believed to be a missile streak upwards toward the airliner and explode.
From the start, FBI investigators suspected it was foul play but refused to release eyewitness statements; and the National Transportation Safety Board refused to let a single eyewitness appear at the highly publicized final hearing on the cause of the tragedy. So why the secrecy? And why did the mainstream media go sheepishly along with this devious suppression of eyewitness testimony?
On the eve of the Atlanta Olympic Games, such revelations would have dampened the spirit of the event and severely impacted commercial interests. Looming presidential elections and a diplomatic deadlock in the Middle East further dictated that early conclusions by federal sleuths be modulated to resemble nebulous speculation. With mounting evidence all but eliminating mechanical failure as the cause of the crash, and no compelling incentive to divulge the facts, investigators may have opted to withhold their findings as long as possible or, if need be, to shelve the awful truth in the “national interest.”
The ill-fated TWA Boeing 747 was the 153rd aircraft to roll out of the production line in 1971. It had since crisscrossed the globe without serious incident. A tire blew up on takeoff in 1987. An oil leak forced an engine shutdown in 1988. Both flights reached their destinations uneventfully.
Its penultimate voyage was also problem-free. It landed in Athens on Wednesday, July 17 at 11:32 and took off for New York at 13:25. Data gleaned from black boxes revealed no anomalous conditions prior to the conflagration that felled it later that evening. Crew chatter, mostly routine post-take-off protocol, betrayed no anxiety, no sense of foreboding. Only a brief snapping sound was heard just before the fatal silence. It was the same odd “ping” picked up by the flight data recorders of two commercial aircraft destroyed in mid-flight — Pan Am 103, blown up when a Toshiba portable radio crammed with pentrite exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, killing 270 people; and a DC-10 operated by France’s now defunct feeder airline, UTA, which disintegrated at 33,000 feet over the African desert a year later, killing 171. The culprit: 300 grams of pentrite hidden in the cargo hold.
According to Tom Thurman, the FBI specialist who had investigated Pan Am 103, TWA 800 in all likelihood was also destroyed by an on-board explosive device — “a few hundred grams of pentrite, C4 or Semtex.” Odorless, easy to handle, these “smart” explosives can be triggered by altimetric or 24-hour timing devices. Thurman suspected that an explosive charge placed on the right side of the forward cargo hold, probably in a suitcase, tore the aircraft at the seam where wings join the fuselage.
While it took a scant four days to determine that UTA’s DC-10 had been felled by a bomb, ten months passed before the luggage in which it was concealed was identified. The telltale evidence was less than an inch in size. It took Thurman two years to determine how the booby-trapped Toshiba radio was placed on board Pan Am 103 — and by whom.
How could an explosive device have been spirited on board TWA 800? Speculations were rife:
- A “kamikaze” passenger might have concealed it in carry-on luggage. This hypothesis was quickly dismissed: the explosion did not occur in the passenger cabin.
- The bomb made its way into the cargo hold in Athens and the timing device set to trigger the explosion as the plane made its way to Paris, not New York. Farfetched.
- It was secreted on board in New York, where security had been characterized as “notoriously lax — if not downright inept.” A Varig Airlines (Brazil) executive likened security at JFK airport to Swiss cheese — “full of holes.”
- Baggage handlers could have conspired. French intelligence had apprehended three known Islamic extremists working at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
All airplane sabotage cases were solved — from the 1970 explosion of a Swissair Convair in Zurich, to the Boeing 747 that disintegrated over Lockerbie. Extremist states, in these cases Iran and Libya, were implicated. Preliminary investigations into the TWA 800 disaster did not discount sabotage and pointed to the Middle East where the United States was regarded as Public Enemy Number 1 by Islamic radicals.
The usual suspects
A prime and tempting suspect was Ramzi Youssef. Trained in Afghanistan, Youssef was the mastermind behind the plot to destroy US airliners over the Pacific. The plot was foiled.
Captured in Pakistan in 1995, Ramzi was extradited to the United States. Tried and convicted of engineering the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, he is now serving two life sentences. No evidence of complicity in the TWA 800 crash was ever found.
The United States had also been threatened by the Jamaa Islamya, the group responsible for the New York World Trade Center bombing. Now serving a life sentence at the Springfield, Missouri federal penitentiary, its spiritual leader, Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, the blind cleric who conspired to bomb the UN and flood tunnels connecting New York and New Jersey, had vowed to get even.
Another hot lead — a new and mysterious terrorist cell — is the Islamic Organization for Change. The group is responsible for attacks in Saudi Arabia, the first in Riyadh in 1995 in which five Americans died; the second in Dhahran, in June 1996 in which 19 were killed and hundreds wounded, all GIs. Israeli intelligence claimed the group was run from Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden had been granted asylum. Bin Laden had many friends in Pakistan’s intelligence community. He also had followers from Hamas, the radical Palestinian group that had a score to settle with the United States after it agreed to extradite their chief, Moussa Abu-Marzooq to Israel where he faced a life sentence.
These groups have one common trait. All are ultra-secret and highly fluid organizations with deep worldwide networks that are difficult if not impossible to infiltrate. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are allies. Syria, Iran, Iraq and Libya had all professed a common hatred of the United States and Israel. Stoked by rekindled Islamic fervor and a collective anti-Western agenda, Algerian, Sudanese and Afghan terrorists had long been training in Iran.
Another suspect with known ties to America’s arch-enemy — Iran — is Hezbollah, the shadowy and homicidal phalanx responsible for multiple suicide bombings in Israel. Hezbollah never forgave the United States for its support of Israel following the Cana massacre in Lebanon in April 1996 in which more than 100 civilians were killed by Israeli artillery. Four years earlier, striking without warning, Hezbollah operatives had pulverized the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 civilians and injuring 242.
It is widely known that Iran trains and subsidizes global terrorist networks. A high-ranking French diplomat stationed in Central America told this writer on condition of anonymity: “I believe that terrorists downed TWA 800.” He rejected mechanical failure as the cause of the crash. “‘Catastrophic failure,’ like so-called ‘acts of God,’ is impossible to define, let alone challenge. It’s an obliging rationalization that serves the political needs of the moment. It will have to do for the time being.” The diplomat did not discount the possibility that that France, not the United States, was the prime target of this latest act of banditry.
“Up, up and away”
Enticing as they were, speculations about the “usual suspects” remained just that — theories without empirical evidence. Chasing after very tenuous leads would have been time consuming and involved lengthy, subtle and complex diplomacy. Americans needed answers, preferably unambiguous and categorical ones. So investigators reluctantly set their sights on a culprit less jarring than terrorism — “catastrophic mechanical failure.”
Asking that his identity be withheld, a veteran American Airlines captain told this writer in Miami that the TWA airliner “would have had to be stressed beyond the designed limits of structural endurance to break up in three pieces without the benefit of some colossal intervening dynamic, namely a detonation of some sort. A structural weakness would have been detected during routine maintenance and promptly repaired.” The pilot declined to speculate on the cause of detonation but suggested that mechanical failure “was psychologically and politically the least disturbing of all possible interpretations — but I don’t buy it.”
What remains is the nagging possibility that a missile, friendly or hostile, as several eyewitnesses reported, felled TWA’s Paris-bound jumbo jet. Fearing nationwide panic, then Secretary of State William Perry predictably dismissed the “theory” as “highly improbable.” Suspicions were never allayed and the “theory” has since taken a life of its own. The deliberate spurning by investigators of witnesses who swore seeing a “flare” or “rocket” light up the night sky seconds after TWA flight 800 exploded, split apart and plunged into the waters of Long Island’s south shore, continues to fuel speculations.
A Continental Airlines pilot interviewed by this writer in Houston in 1999 (I was on my way to Honduras at the time) was convinced that “a stray US Navy Cruise missile blew up the TWA [jet].” Characterizing the FBI, the FAA and the NTSB as “co-conspirators in a monumental cover up,” he alleged that “no serious pilot believes mechanical failure played the slightest role in that disaster.” An SAS pilot interviewed in New York a few weeks later concurred and scoffed at the “vapor-and-spark” hypothesis. “It’s more like smoke and mirrors,” he quipped.
We may never know the truth — not for an absence of evidence but in the name of “national security,” a catch-all alibi used by the United States to tell its biggest lies or shield its most errant deeds from public scrutiny. The inventory of deceit, falsifications and outright evasions from truth foisted by the US government on the American people is broad and tangled:
- Unwitting American civilians and low-ranking military personnel used as guinea pigs in nuclear, biological and chemical warfare experiments;
- Unsuspecting African Americans denied treatment after being infected with syphilis;
- Release by the US Medical Corps of micro-organisms in the New York City subway system to “see how rapidly they would spread”;
- The role of CIA-trained death squads in Latin America;
- The rate and ferocity with which radiation spread across the globe following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster;
- The magnitude of the Three Mile Island meltdown;
- The direct effects and long-term consequences of exposure to “Yellow Rain” and “Agent Orange” during the Vietnam War;
- The extent to which deadly fissionable material spread in the Atlantic in 1986 following the sinking of a Soviet sub 600 miles from Bermuda;
- The lies perpetrated to justify the invasion of Iraq, later of Afghanistan;
- The etiology of the Gulf War syndrome; and
- The recent revelations that Americans have been spied upon for years by their government — to name a few.
Is the case of the ill-fated TWA flight 800 destined to join America’s roster of deceptions? “Practical politics consists in ignoring facts,” said American journalist Henry Adams (1838-1918). Some facts, like meddlesome witnesses or vexing evidence are not only being ignored but continue to be buried in haste.
W. E. Gutman is a veteran journalist, now retired. From 1994 to 2006 he was on assignment in Central America where he covered politics, the military, human rights and other socio-economic themes. He lives with his wife in southern California.