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A blast from the past — and when you think about it, perhaps a predicate act for a RICO case

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Volume 13, Number 16
August 19 – September 8, 2007

business & economy

Months ago, they said that full financing was lined up and almost all of the units were pre-sold…

Trump Tower project tries to sell bonds

by Eric Jackson

The most heralded symbol of Panama City’s upscale construction boom, the Trump Ocean Club, International Hotel & Tower Panama, appears to be in serious trouble. The $404 million project, which bears Trump’s name but whose main promoter is Colombian developer Roger Khafif, was according to rosy press releases issued last year fully financed and almost entirely pre-sold. Now the Newland International Properties Corporation, the consortium created for the project, has applied to Panama’s Comision Nacional de Valores (National Securities Commission) for permission to sell $220 million in private bonds to complete the sail-shaped luxury condo and hotel tower.

When the project was first announced, $220 million was the cost figure that Khafif and Trump first cited. That figure has in less than two years risen to $404, which can’t be entirely explained by rising materials and labor costs. Pre-construction buyers of units in the project had to put 20 percent of the price down, with further payments coming due well before the properties they bought are ever ready for occupancy. Notwithstanding that, a lot of the units have been “flipped” by speculators for even higher prices than would be owed to the developers. Work began on the project in May but is not at a very advanced stage.

That Khafif and Trump have had to go the private bond issue route is an indication that the promoters can’t get ordinary bank financing. Speculation among people in the real estate and construction industries is that with the US housing market in trouble and thus the anticipated trend of baby boomers exchanging their homes in the states for new places in Panama likely to slow as a result, and with the collapse of several other high-profile construction projects, it’s going to be hard to sell those bonds to private investors as well.

However, another current of murmurs from among a section of the real estate industry and its acolytes has it that if the Trump project collapses it will take the rest of Panama City’s upscale housing construction boom with it, and thus everyone who has Panama’s best interests in mind will support whatever it takes to rescue the development. It can be reasonably anticipated that, with the privatizations of several public pension funds, these murmurs may mutate into an insistence that public employees’ retirement funds or the Social Security Fund buy these bonds. In the latter case the 2005 privatization law requires that bonds be rated at least AA for Seguro Social to buy them and in any case that would put Colombian and American interests in competition with Panama’s oligarchy for control of a major portion of the country’s retirement savings. There will be no public bailout of the Khafif/Trump project without a huge controversy that will not only reignite the 2005 brawl over pension fund privatizations but most likely also divide the nation’s business sectors.

A real estate analyst for the Dallas Morning News concluded that “It’s hard to find evidence that white-haired North Americans from Florida, California, New York, Texas and Canada are mounting an invasion of retirees, and you can almost hear the air escaping from this bubble.” One of the local developers who has long been skeptical of the speculation in high-end real estate in Panama City added that “They certainly will have difficulties selling the bonds and yes it shows that Khafif was full of BS when he said all financing was lined up.”

 

“Patriot” militia radio personality to expat investment hustler

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“Patriot” militia radio personality to offshore investment hustler

Note that the guy charged the author with criminal defamation and lost. This article was erased when The Panama News website was destroyed by hackers in 2013-2015, and later the copy was wiped from the Wayback Machine Internet Archive. But this was retrieved from a friend whose site was used as a “mirror” so that the public record could not be erased.

Changes name, still a scamster

by Eric Jackson

Remember the US “patriot” militia movement from which Oklahoma City federal building bomber Timothy McVeigh came? That confluence of racist, neo-fascist, survivalist, tax resistance, weapons obsessed, “Christian identity” and apocalyptic strains was shoved farther out into the margins of the political wilderness when McVeigh lived out one of their favorite fantasies and then the Bush administration carried out some of their other ones.
But for the most part, the people involved didn’t just go away. Some of them are grabbing headlines today in the guise of anti-immigrant militias.

However, for some people the patriot movement was good business. Take one Mark Boswell, for example. A law school dropout, he formed the “American Law Club” and hosted Denver meetings at which followers of the right-wing militia movement were instructed that they could become rich by filing “non-commercial judicial liens” against their least-favorite prosecutors, judges, elected officials or companies. In addition to a series of pricey “law seminars,” Boswell would sell his “Civil Rights Task Force” jackets, deliberately made to look like the FBI and ATF apparel, and genuine-looking fake law enforcement badges. Boswell urged his customers to buy the things, wear them to court when their favorite tax resister or weapons law violator was in the defendant’s dock, and warn judges and prosecutors that they were being watched.

Boswell’s legal expertise only went so far. In 1995 he was one of the stars — along with other militia types and a couple of far-right Colorado Republican legislators — at a Canon City, Colorado “common law grand jury.” (This was not a judicial entity but rather a political gathering convened to discuss such theories as how the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t really have any legal basis for its existence.) When the assembly broke for lunch, police arrested Boswell on a fugitive warrant stemming from charges that he used fake ID when stopped for a traffic violation and that he used a bogus money order to buy a Mercedes. Colorado State Senator Charles Duke (R-Monument) lauded Boswell as a political prisoner.

The patriot movement paraphernalia and seminar business was greatly assisted by Boswell’s weekly talk show on KHNC radio, a Denver station that was rebroadcast in other US locales and by shortwave all around the world.

But then on April 19, 1995 one Timothy McVeigh, a messed up former soldier with a reputation for killing surrendering Iraqi soldiers during the first Gulf War but who left the US Army after washing out in his attempt to join the Delta Force, lived out a neo-Nazi fantasy woven in a novel that was popular in right-wing militia circles and blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City.

Ten days after the deadly blast Boswell went on the air with the tale of how a former CIA guy and another “witness” had heard and obtained affidavits from — the latter conveniently not produced — two unspecified Justice Department officials that a shadowy “Committee of 10” involving the Clinton White House, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the Secret Service (the latter both part of the Treasury Department rather than the Justice Department) were actually the ones who did the deed.

The general outlines and most salient details of the truth about the Oklahoma City bombing did, however, come to public attention. It was a big disaster for Mark Boswell’s radio career and patriot paraphernalia business. So what’s a more patriotic than thou American huckster to do after an embarrassment like that?

First, Mark Boswell assumed the name “Rex Freeman.” Then, as he described it on Roger Gallo’s Escape Artist website, he

…left the USA probably for many of the same reasons most do; the erosion of rights, the lawlessness of the courts, the intrusions of privacy, the omnipresence of big brother and the general mental decay of society. What once made America great, is now gone, or at best is quickly disappearing and I’d had enough. It was time to go.

My wife and I packed our things, put our little dog under the seat of the plane and headed south. Not being too sure of where we’d end up, our original idea was Panama. However, we made a stop over along the way in Costa Rica five years ago, and have never gone any further.

We are not wealthy retirees. I’m 46 and she’s, well, she still won’t say, but we had a very limited nestegg and the clock was ticking for us to find something to do to support ourselves. Neither of us spoke any Spanish (still don’t very well) and we’ve been living on tourist visas for 5 years. Not a very stable situation.

I have always been enamored by the idea of living the ‘PT’ lifestyle (Permanent Tourist – Previous Taxpayer – Perpetual Traveler) and now was my chance. It was very clear under this philosophy, that in order to sustain this without a substantial trust fund, that you must have a ‘portable business’ which allows you to operate from anywhere in the world.

I threw up a website and started offering financial privacy consulting services helping other ‘escapees’ protect their financial affairs….

Freeman (Boswell) wove a web of offshore Internet businesses, which, unfortunately for Panama, did get farther than Costa Rica. These include:

InterGlobal Finance SA, which is registered in Panama but lists its “administrative office” in Costa Rica, and whose website contains a revealing detail for a Panamanian company owned by an American citizen that operates out of Costa Rica: it says that it doesn’t serve clients in Costa Rica, Panama or the USA.

A “business club” known as the Venture Resources Group, which held a seminar this past May at the Playa Bonita Beach Resort, and whose website includes banking as one of the services it offers and lists InterGlobal Finance as the page’s copyright holder;

PCI Investment Club, another business registered in Panama but apparently operated out of Costa Rica; and

Gold Palace, an online gambling operation that apparently went under in 2004. The www.sportsbookreview.com website has issued a “scam alert” for this company and warns that Freeman may have reopened it under the name WinBig.Biz.

One of the salient features of the InterGlobal Finance website, and a common theme in most of Freeman’s promotions, is name dropping. Listed as “partners” are the Panamanian law firm Cajigas & Co., Credicorp Bank, Banco Cuscatlan, JPMorganChase in New York and UBS in Switzerland. For the Play Bonita “Power PT” seminar, Venture Resources Group and InterGlobal Finance named attorney Enrique Cajigas as a panelist and dropped the names of The Financial Times, BBC, Fox News, Canadian Broadcasting Company, Reuters, Asahi Shimbun, UBS, Jyske Bank (Denmark), Harvard University, the University of Houston Law School, the European Tax Institute, Deloitte & Touche, Costa Rica’s Bolsa de Commercio commodities exchange, Denver University and the Colorado Supreme Court.

When contacted by The Panama News, Enrique Cajigas told us that “I did not know of this conference or that my name appeared.” He said that he did incorporate some companies for Freeman but knew nothing of his alter ego Mark Boswell or his militia past, and knew nothing about Venture Resources Group.

So what do you get when you buy into the Rex Freeman network?

For a modest $15,000 “one time investment” in Venture Resources Group, you will be promised a half-dozen “profit centers.” “The beef,” as the website puts it, is “an entry level to Privacy Club Internacional (PCI). PCI has the Prime Rib and choice cut Tenderloin.” As in “having active, operating, foreign companies or trusts working in low tax environments to manage business, investments and other revenue enhancing activity.”

As in:

As a Managing Director in PCI your bonuses in the one level pay plan will be $750, $750 and $1000 on each of three different products which all your members will participate in. That’s $2,500 per member and with our ‘viral marketing ‘2 Up’ system, you can start multiplying those figures times 10, X 20? X 50? Work out your own figures !! Are you prepared to make $250,000 this year?

This describes what in some jurisdictions is considered an illegal pyramid sales scheme, but which might more charitably be compared to an Amway pitch. At least Amway sells soap and stuff with their greed and right-wing ideology. The Venture Resources Group sells deceptively promoted seminars and cranky literature along with their greed and right-wing ideology.

For example, PCI members get the WG Hill Privacy and PT book collection on CD. The titles include

  • “The ‘PT’ (Perpetual Traveler, Previous Taxpayer, Permanent Tourist)”
  • “How to Become an Honorary Consul”
  • “The Passport Report”
  • “Portable Trades & Occupations” and
  • “The Invisible Investor”

The latter work has been hawked in Panama before, by its co-author and publisher, one Marc M. Harris, now and for the next several years a resident of a US federal prison. Harris, the so-called “offshore asset protection guru,” also started out in right-wing US political circles — he was the Florida manager of Alexander Haig’s ill-fated primary campaign for the 1988 GOP presidential nomination. But then Harris got his Florida CPA license yanked for doing an audit of a company he owned without disclosing the conflict of interest and subsequently fled to Panama. Here he put a Che Guevara poster on his wall and affected a revolutionary posture, attracted such admirers in the PRD as now Housing Minister Balbina Herrera, obtained the protection of the thuggish former Attorney General José Antonio Sossa, tooled around town in a Jaguar and had a great time until the pyramid collapsed and the Comision Nacional de Valores held that his operations were unlicensed and thus illegal securities businesses. A flight from creditors to Nicaragua was cut short when Harris was arrested and handed over to American law enforcement, who wanted him for money laundering.

All of the foregoing raised many questions in this reporter’s mind, these of which were put to Freeman (Boswell) by email:

Is Venture Resources Group registered with Panama’s Comision Nacional de Valores or its Superintendencia de Bancos?

Is InterGlobal Finance registered with Panama’s Comision Nacional de Valores or its Superintendencia de Bancos?

In your Escape Artist article you said that you were headed to Panama but stopped in Costa Rica along the way and decided to stay. Have you decided to move to Panama?

At www.privacyclub.org/short_tour/benefits_main.htm you promote a book, “How to Become an Honorary Consul,” and allege a 100 percent success rate. How many honorary consuls in Panama have become such due to information you have provided?

Why should people not presume, on the face of it from your own promotions, that Venture Resources Group is a pyramid scheme?

Two of the emails provided on Freeman’s websites didn’t work — one was apparently lapsed and the other had this “spam protection” feature that wouldn’t let this reporter’s queries through. The third address was the charm, and within a few hours it elicited the following response:

Re: Your Questions
From: “Strategic Management” <businessfinance@hushmail.com>
Date: Wed, August 2, 2006 6:01 pm
To: editor@thepanamanews.com
Hi Eric,

I’m in receipt of your email and your questions.

By the slant of your questioning, it appears to me that you are not looking to write an objective article based on the facts.

Rather than ask about our legal registration with regulatory authorities, why don’t you ask about the nature of our activities to understand us enough in order to know if that is even appropriate? Maybe you don’t care about that.

Rather than ask if we are an (illegal) pyramid ‘scheme’ why don’t you define that for us first with specificity as the law defines it and then compare the actual characteristics of our program to such a scheme? Maybe you don’t care about those facts.

Rather than create an adversarial environment with pointed questions coming from ‘left field’ and without introduction or establishing any premise for a dialog, why don’t you ask for an interview with full disclosure of your purposes and intentions from the beginning? Maybe that’s not important to your ‘objective’.

It is clear to me that with your clumsy and unprofessional approach that you are not interested in the facts, but rather are looking for justification to go on a witch hunt.

I have plenty of experience with editors like you and under those circumstances you will write what you like to suit your agenda, regardless of the facts.

Therefore, there is no need for any interaction with me.

If you wish to have a meaningful and honest dialog and operate in good faith with clean hands, I am happy to accommodate. That’s the only way I operate.

However, that is not what I see from you so far and thus, I’m not interested in what The Panama News has to say. Our market is not in Panama.

Be careful to stand on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Your activities are very public and anything less than the truth always causes problems.
Best Wishes,

Rex

Now, now. Just because this reporter who did graduate from law school and pass the bar just had a few questions and didn’t care to argue the intricacies of law with the champion of a third-hand hearsay fantasy about how the feds set off the Oklahoma City explosion….

And hey, now’s the time to buy! If the president, first lady and agriculture minister can get on the Internet to pump mafia-linked teak swindles, and the vice president and the administrator of the Panama Canal Authority can meet with the likes of jailed political fixer Tongsun Park, everything’s for sale in Panama. That includes the venture that Freeman a/k/a Boswell promotes as follows:

At this stage of the game, we have developed the perfect’PT’ business. We generate significant profits from our computer using online, internet based trading platforms in the Fx markets. We can also trade stocks, precious metals, indexes and commodities if we like and we do play with that to a limited degree.

I can do this anywhere! The Fx markets trade 24 hours a day, 5 days a week. We recently took a trip to Europe. I could hook up my laptop in the hotel room to a broadband connection which is now readily available in most’name’ hotels. No matter the time of day, or wherever I am, I can make money in the market. I was conducting my business in between tours in Paris, Vienna, Zurich, Lucern, Copenhagen and London !

What freedom! Being able to enjoy the best that the world has to offer, and my trading along the way paid for the trip, and then some!! How else can you do that?

In our training and development stages in the Fx markets we sorted through the bad and kept the good and have put all of this together now, into a complete training and support system for the benefit of others. We now wish to share the best of what we have learned and help others take shortcuts that we did not have available other than through our own trial and error. Through all of this experience we have developed a winning system and portfolio of resources that allows us to generate profits from our computer, from anywhere in the world, anytime of the day! I believe now, I am a true’PT’!

We have now put together a private investment club with an internet delivery system which allows access to the training and support materials we feel are needed for success. So, for those who seek the types of results in their lives that we have shared here, we are pleased to help and get you on the right track.

It was written as such on EscapeArtist.com, so it has to be true. Doesn’t it?

 

 

blast from the past: a charming extortion note

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letters

A charming extortion note from Tom McMurrain…

I hope you wake up one day

You met me and my wife at the Bristol. In the beginning we tried to prevent from laughing until we learned that you were actually somewhat human, so we thought. After all, you come to a five star hotel in the equivalent of a Mickey Mouse t-shirt. You were sincere in your conversation in that you are willing to look seriously at the real facts of San Cristobal, BUT you failed to make any effort! You are obviously one of the yellow journalists of Panama and I am going to put you in jail because you are a liar hiding behind a self-proclaimed disease and corrupt business practices. (Any reporter or editor that does not check his facts is not a real editor) What is wrong Eric; did your dad not respect you, did your mother touch you the wrong way? Is that why you try and tear down people who are doing good for Panama? I create jobs and you hide like a rat. Show up for court you coward. You are a city RAT just like Okke — What is your address?

You printed false information about my company and you stand by it and that’s why you are sucking wind and begging for money (The law of retribution). You have NO morals! Instead of making a living being an editor of a reputable business you beg! You are not a journalist. You are an Internet beggar! That is why you and Okke are butt buddies I guess. He is broke too by the way, (have you seen the shack he houses his wife and child in, it is depressing — but he is your friend) oh yea so is your convicted buddy Michele Lescure. Are you sleeping on her floor like you do your sisters? What’s wrong; did the lack of your anti-depression medicine set in? You have got to be the biggest loser I have ever met in my life because you are a paid liar and I have no respect for you. Are you being paid? Is Okke subsidizing your medication? Wake up and smell the coffee and realize that I am generating foreign direct investment for Panama and creating jobs that’s why people like me and not you.

You have chosen the low road and you have attempted to drag me into your miserable gutter. Guess what Eric? It won’t work because I am focused on bringing wealth to people through the incredible timing of this beautiful country. It is not my fault that people don’t take you seriously — you are negatively focused — you are a self-proclaimed begga… I AM GLAD I AM NOT YOU! You have had a chance to do good for this country and you have been nothing but a road block in its forward movement. You criticize Mireya…. Let us look at the facts; in the last five years she has dealt with 9/11, a 90% drop in foreign direct investment, a global recession, 7,000 properties coming up for sale and she lost 10% of her country’s revenue — but I am sure you can do a better job… (in your Mickey mouse t-shirt) you are nothing but a depressed fat loser hiding behind a keyboard and a computer screen. I hope this great country sticks it to you; you deserve it!

You are nothing better than a street-internet beggar and you do nothing good for Panama. I hope Sossa puts your life in a vise. God knows he has a tough job to do Öbut I am sure you can do it better, what an ego you have to be critical. (Can you even pay your water bill?) You can’t even support yourself you loser (I would vote for you to run a country… loser HAHAHAHA). You are doing nothing positive for Panama but tearing it down. If you don’t like Panama why don’t you leave? Crawl back under a rock… nobody will miss you not even Okke! (He has his own newspaper if you haven’t heard.)

If you need money for a plane ticket and the money to pay Sossa for your overdue debt to Social Seguro I will gladly pay it if you check into a place where you can get the necessary treatment you need. If it is any consolation I will be glad to buy you sorry website for $10K. Consider this firm offer until March 24th! After the 24th you are screwed!

 

Best Regards,

Tom McMurrain
Managing Director
tom@sancristobalsa.net

Editor’s note: I would NEVER wear Mickey Mouse, to a five-star hotel or anywhere else. It was Charlie the Tuna.

~~

Update: Tom (and his lawyer Michael Pierce) desisted in these efforts when Tom was arrested, extradited, tried, convicted and imprisoned in the USA for one of the scams that was accurately described in The Panama News. Panamanian justice never prosecuted his string of frauds here. Now out of prison, McMurrain styles himself as the Dalitomma, as in a minor league guru of greed. I stand by what I published.

Meanwhile, a series of hacker attacks that probably began in 2013 and peaked in 2015 has largely scattered The Panama News archives, which can largely be rescued from other places — cached online archives, old discs and so on. But it would take a monumental amount of labor to fully restore the archives. This bit of them we have recovered.

 

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Archives, Terror’s uncertain aftermath

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oldie headline

Two trials in Argentina, one just concluded and one just beginning, deal with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. That act may be linked to Panama’s deadliest bombing, which took place the day after the Buenos Aires blast.

Similarities and possible connections with attacks in Argentina, Colombia and the United States may shed light on Panamas most notorious unsolved crime, the July 19, 1994 bombing of an Alas Chiricanas commuter flight from Colon to Panama, which killed all 21 persons aboard. However, it seems unlikely that Panamas authorities, who face little pressure to solve the crime, will resume the investigation in any serious way.

The commuter plane went down on Santa Rita Ridge when a Motorola radio packed with semtex plastic explosives went off in a briefcase held in the hands of a Mr. Jafar, according to airport security and immigration records a Colombian citizen of Lebanese origin. Upon further investigation, it was established that Jafar’s was an invented identity. No family reclaimed the remains, and no friends eulogized his memory.

Shortly after the bombing, however, a mysterious group calling itself Ansar Allah (Gods Helpers in Arabic) sent a communique to Middle Eastern press agencies, praising but not specifically claiming responsibility for the ALAS bombing and for a July 18 truck bombing at the Asociacion Mutua Israelita Argentina (AMIA) Jewish community center in Bueno Aires, Argentina.
There were 85 people killed in the AMIA attack, which is now the subject of a controversial trial in Argentina.

The AMIA event is, in the minds of many investigators, closely connected with another bombing in Argentina, the March 17, 1992 suicide bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aries. That attack killed 29 people.

A communique in the name of Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for that act, and its claim was verified with convincing videotape evidence.

There are, and were at the time, a number of militant Islamist groups around the world calling themselves Islamic Jihad. Some, like the one in Egypt, are known to be part of Saudi zealot Osama bin Ladens international network. At the time the Islamic Jihad that Argentine authorities identified as the one that carried out the Buenos Aries attack was the Lebanese group, which is associated with Hizballah.

In 1992 and 1994, Israel was occupying part of Lebanon and at war with the Hizballah Lebanese Shiite organization. Hizballah literally means Party of God and is now the dominant Shiite political party in the Lebanese parliament, but it can be misleading to view the organization as either a traditional political party or as a centrally directed militia.

The organization arose during the Lebanese civil war of the 1970s and 1980s, as a militant response to first Palestinian militias and then the Israeli army asserting dominance over Shiite-majority areas and also as a political challenge to the corrupt and ineffectual Amal militia and political organization that had previously represented Shiites. Hizballah, which was inspired by the 1979 Iranian revolution and received financial and political backing from Teheran, attracted dozens of small groups to its umbrella, achieving ever more unity but never establishing a rigid command structure in the nature of those typically found in conventional armies or Marxist-Leninist parties.

If there is a working relationship between Hizballah and bin Ladens network, that has not been documented or publicized in the west. Osama bin Laden is a fanatical exponent of the majority Sunni strain of Islam, with which the minority Shiite strain has been at war off-and-on for many centuries. It was so in the Lebanese civil war, in which the Shiite Amal and Hizballah militias sometimes did battle with the Sunni Morabitoun militia.

It has been so in Afghanistan, where the bin Laden-backed Taliban regime has committed massacres in Shiite communities and gone to the brink of war by killing eight diplomats and a journalist from Iran after finding them in an area it had captured from the Northern Alliance.

The US State Departments Counter-Terrorism Coordinator at the time, Philip C. Wilcox, Jr., called Ansar Allah a clandestine subgroup of Hizballah in testimony to a US House of Representatives committee. He alleged that in the 1994 AMIA attack the evidence points to Hizballah as the bomber. The operation was a virtual duplicate of the 1992 suicide bombing. He said that the evidence suggested a link between the ALAS bombing and the previous days attack in Argentina. He also concluded that it is likely that Iran was aware of and provided support to the two Buenos Aires bombings. He believe that Hizballah has not committed terrorist acts abroad without Iranian consent.

Actually, the historical record (always subject to revision) suggests that if Hizballah was responsible for the attacks in Argentina or Panama, these were its only strikes in the Western Hemisphere, and quite possibly its only attacks that did not at least partially take place in Lebanon or Israel.

One early Hizballah attack that began outside of the group’s usual zone of operations ended in Beirut. On June 14, 1985, a group of Lebanese men allegedly led by one Imad Mugniyah commandeered TWA flight 847, bound from Athens to Rome, and diverted it to Beirut.

In the course of that hijacking, US Navy Diver Robert Stethem was identified as an American serviceman, killed and thrown onto the airfield’s tarmac. When the Bush administration recently unveiled its list of Most Wanted Terrorists, three of the alleged TWA 847 hijackers were included.

Another mysterious communique suggested one more Hizballah tie to an attack far away from the Lebanese militias turf. On June 25, 1996 a gasoline tanker truck with an explosive charge attached parked near the Khobar Towers US military housing area in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and exploded. The blast killed 19 and wounded 386. An unverified claim of responsibility issued forth in the name of the previously unknown Hizballah-Gulf. Based largely on this, some American analysts concluded that this attack, too, was directed from Iran.

The Saudi government, however, did not accept this theory. They alleged that the Khobar Towers bombing was the work of the same group that set off a bomb at a Saudi National Guard training facility in Riyadh several months earlier. After that attack, which killed seven people, including five US military personnel, an obscure Islamic Movement for Change had claimed responsibility. However, the Saudis arrested, tried and executed four men for the Riyadh bombing. Very possibly under the duress of torture, the suspects confessed at their trial, and said that they were followers of Osama bin Laden.

US criminal charges for the Khobar Towers attack were not issued until 2001, and when they were they were not in line with Saudi thinking. The indictment named 13 Saudis and claimed the direction of an Iranian military officer. The FBI alleged that at least some of the attackers, whom it described as members of the pro-Iran Saudi Hizballah, had been trained in Lebanon. When the Bush administration announced the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list, four individuals suspected of a part in the Khobar Towers bombing were named, including Abdel Karim Hussein Mohamed al-Nasser, a Saudi whom the FBI described as the leader of Saudi Hizballah.

Now if Israel may have had reason to quickly and on scant evidence blame one of its principal enemies of the moment, Hizballah, for outrageous attacks, so, too, the Saudis may have had an overpowering reason to vilify their own public enemy number one, Mr. bin Laden. Like the bombings in Argentina and Panama, the Khobar Towers attack remains unsolved, with competing theories of the case having yet to be put to the test in a criminal court.

However, one way to look at string of attacks is by similarities in the methods of operation.

Typically, Hizballah attacks in Lebanon, or at least its actions start or end there. Typically, Hizballah proudly claims credit for attacks that it carries out, and names its suicide bombers, whom it celebrates as martyrs in media directed toward its followers. The AMIA attack and those in Riyadh and Panama did not fit either part of that pattern. The Dhahran attack and the one on the Israeli embassy in Argentina may have fit the pattern as to the claim of responsibility, but both were out of character as to the locus of the crime.

Now, however, let us consider several attacks attributed to Osama bin Ladens network, now known by the name of its Al-Qaeda (The Base, in Arabic) leadership umbrella. In the February 26, 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the August 7, 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Dar-es-Salaam and Nairobi, the October 10, 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, and the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States:

  • There was no claim of responsibility that directly and unequivocally linked the act to a known group that did it; and
  • In those attacks in which one or more of the perpetrators were killed, they were identified by investigating authorities or not at all, but in any case not by the responsible group itself.

The attacks in Panama, Argentina and Saudi Arabia would also fit into this pattern. Furthermore, the AMIA and ALAS bombing would also fit a bin Laden pattern of staging multiple international attacks at more or less the same time, a phenomenon also seen in the American embassy bombings in Africa and in the events of September 11.

However, these circumstances do not lead Panamanian attorney Walyd Sayed to the conclusions that some made, or others might. Jafar wasnt a religious fanatic, Sayed claims. He was a bodyguard.

Sayed, an activist who promotes the cause of Palestinian statehood as well as a lawyer, defended three Arab-Panamanian businessmen from Chiriqui who were arrested just after the ALAS bombing and held for a year and one-half before they were released for lack of evidence. He agrees with the assertion that there has never been a serious investigation of the Alas Chiricanas bombing. We Panamanians have become used to seeing crimes go uninvestigated, he noted.

However, Sayed believes that a thorough investigation of the Alas bombing will lead not to the worlds of Middle Eastern politics or militant Islam, but to the underworld of organized crime. He adds that the only connection that has been credibly shown in the AMIA bombing is to gangsters.

Sayed’s opinion about the Alas bombing is not restricted to a fringe of conspiracy theorists, nor to Arabs or Muslims in denial about the nature of political violence emanating from the Middle East. It is backed by certain bits of evidence, all of it as circumstantial—as circumstantial as that which supports the theories that the crime arose from political or religious passions. There are plenty of Panamanian journalists, lawyers and community leaders who share Sayed’s point of view, or who at least suspect that he may be right. The Public Ministry’s most recent pronouncement on the crime indicates that prosecutors, too, prefer the theory that the bombing was aimed at one passenger rather than at Jews in general.

Two main circumstances support the supposition that the Alas bombing arose from an underworld dispute rather than from politics and religion.

First, though there is the assumption that the Alas commuter flight was bombed due to somebodys enmity toward Jews, only a slight majority of those aboard—12 of 21—were in fact Jewish.

Second, one of the passengers who died, Colon Free Zone businessman Saul Schwartz, had been the subject of an Italian drug money laundering investigation and the target of kidnapping and assassination attempts. Thus there is the possibility that what happened over Santa Rita Ridge was a gangland hit against Schwartz, with the Colombian-style sicarios standard disregard for the lives of innocent bystanders.

Jafar’s role might cast doubt on this theory, because the suicide bomber is a feature of political violence in several parts of the world, but underworld hit men don’t act like that, in Colombia or elsewhere.

However, what if the bomb in Jafar’s briefcase was planted by someone else, without his knowledge and against his will? In that case, there would give the Alas attack some similarity to one of the most notorious of Colombia’s drug-related crimes, the November 27, 1989 bombing of an Avianca passenger jet over Bogota. In a CBS interview, former US ambassador to Colombia Morris Busby blamed the crime on the late Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar: As near as we were ever able to piece together, Busby claimed, it was a bombing to kill one particular individual on the airplane. The attack took the lives of all 107 people on board the plane.

According to Sayed, Saul Schwartz was accompanied by a phalanx of bodyguards wherever he went, with two teams hired through a security agency run by former Israeli Mossad and Shin Bet agents, one stationed in Colon, the other in Panama City.

There has also been speculation over the years that if the Alas bombing was a drug-related hit, Schwartz may not have been the target. Whether and to what extent the reputation is justified, the Colon Free Zone has been considered a hotbed of money laundering, where phony or inflated transactions cover the flow of racketeering proceeds into apparently legitimate businesses. As one Colon shipping industry executive said privately about the luxury homes that are replacing former slums in parts of the city at the canals Atlantic end, its all based on washed money.

That kind of statement will often draw an argument from the Free Zone’s defenders, who typically say that the duty-free import-export zones reputation for drug-related crime is mostly made in Miami. The purported slanderers are either those who want to gain a competitive advantage for Miamis free zone, or anti-Castro activists who object to the Cuban governments ability to shop in Colon for items that they are not allowed to buy from the United States.

However, there are a number of money laundering convictions in Panamanian, US and other nations courts arising from Colon Free Zone transactions, which would tend to negate claims that the bad reputation is a pure fabrication.

In any case, whatever might be true about the underlying realities, the reputation does exist.

Almost all of the passengers aboard the Alas flight, Jews and Gentiles, did business in the Free Zone. A thorough investigation would have to check into the possibility that any one of them, or any combination of them, might have been a participant in a deal gone sour with a shady character.

The posing of such a question can mean disaster for a family business. There need be no fault proven to force ruinous lawyer and CPA bills upon an import-export business being investigated for money laundering.

Moreover, the US Drug Enforcement Agency has a thuggish reputation in Panama. They or people working for them have kidnapped Panamanian citizens, extorted money from the families of suspects, bribed or blackmailed people to be witnesses, and on a number of occasions ruined the lives and fortunes of people who in the end turned out to be innocent.

Thus the survivors of a murder victim might well prefer to see the crime go unpunished if the alternative is a money laundering investigation of the family business.

Thus, in the wake of the Alas bombing, while the Panamanian chapter of Bnai Brith called for a full investigation, other influential voices within Panama’s Jewish community urged the families of the victims to avoid the urge to press for a probe that could bring on even more suffering. The case has remained open for years, with no discernable progress and no clamor for justice. The relatives of the dead do not want to talk about it. The subject is more or less taboo among Colons business community.

Meanwhile in Argentina, the AMIA and Israeli embassy bombing cases remain open and are being actively pursued. However, it is far from certain that they have been solved, or will be soon.

From the start, the Argentine investigations centered on the theory that a Hizballah cell assisted by the government of Iran was responsible for the 1992 and 1994 explosions. Iran and the Hizballah have always steadfastly denied this.

The trail has led investigators into the world of organized crime, and through military and police agencies that have had reputations for hardcore anti-Semitism dating back to the days when Juan Peron gave refuge to many Nazi fugitives. The many-faceted probe has not turned up the specific identities of the actual person or persons who planted and detonated the bombs. It has, however, led to two major trials, one just concluded and one recently begun.

In a trial that ended in September, the Fourth Circuit Court in Buenos Aires heard charges of illicit association and illegal explosives possession against 11 members of a military commando unit or their relatives. The illicit association charge alleged that the object of the conspiracy was to provide the explosives used in the AMIA bombing. All defendants were acquitted of illicit association, but three were convicted of possessing explosives. After the judgement was rendered former Sergeant Jorge Pacífico, one of those cleared of all charges, vowed to the Argentine daily Los Andes that now the other case begins—legal proceedings to punish federal judge Juan José Galeano, the investigating magistrate in the AMIA case. The three who were convicted on explosives charges were sentenced to three years on probation and community service.

On September 24, a few days after the first trial ended, 20 people, including the former chief of the Buenos Aires provincial police and several other ex-cops, began a trial that’s expected to last 10 months and involve more than 1,200 witnesses. These defendants, too, are accused of illicit association in connection with the AMIA bombing. None of them, however, are accused of any direct participation in the attack.

The current case began with a serial number from a piece of the engine of the van that was used in the bombing. The number did not match with other parts, and the confusing trail allegedly led back to a Punta del Este chop shop run by one Carlos Alberto Telleldin, where stolen motor vehicles were dismantled for sale as parts or re-assembly into composite vehicles whose origins would be hard to trace.

Telledin, an Argentine of Arab descent, reportedly has admitted that he was in the stolen car business, but denied that he was part of any bombing conspiracy, maintaining that he gave the van in question to police officers as part of the price of protection for his racket. The line of inquiry led to police chief Juan Jose Ribelli, and further investigation revealed that Ribellis family received $2.5 million the week before the AMIA bombing.

Ribelli says that he got the money from his father, who was retired on a modest pension from a lifetime at a relatively low-paying railroad job.

Not among the defendants are four Iranian diplomats, against whom Judge Galeano had issued arrest warrants that were subsequently quashed by Argentina’s Supreme Court for lack of evidence. Still, in a rare (and some would say improper) interview with the New York Jewish publication Forward, Galeano said that the trial would be just the beginning of the exposure of an Iranian and Hizballah plot. However, in the same interview the judge did not claim infallibility: “Of course I made mistakes, I had no experience in terrorism.”

Meanwhile, the investigation of the 1992 Israeli Embassy bombing continues, and the same Supreme Court that rejected Galeano’s AMIA bombing charges against the Iranian diplomats has issued a warrant for former Hizballah security chief Imad Mugniyeh in that case.

The Bush administration has also asked the Lebanese government to hand Mugniyeh over, for his alleged role in the 1985 hijacking of TWA 847 and the murder of Robert Stethem. The Beirut authorities have been unwilling or unable to detain and deliver Mugniyeh.

The slow progress of the AMIA and embassy bombing cases, and the alleged involvement of police officers and soldiers in those crimes, have prompted many an allegation of corruption and anti-Semitism against the Argentine government, particularly against the former administration headed by Carlos Menem, who is of Syrian descent. Menem, who is presently bogged down in an arms smuggling scandal that arose during his administration, has always denied wrongdoing and that he harbors any prejudices against Jews.

Here in Panama, not only is there no clamor for justice from the Jewish community as there is from its Argentine counterpart, there are no allegations that anti-Semitism is behind the governments failure to conduct a serious investigation of the ALAS bombing.

One reason for that may be that the ones who might have reason to make that sort of a charge would prefer to avoid re-opening an old wound.

However, another factor surely must be the amiable relationship between Panamas Jewish and Arab communities, within the Colon Free Zone and elsewhere.

Last year, the presidency of the Colon Free Zone Users Association, the group that represents the areas merchants, passed amicably from Nidal Waked to Shlomo Dayan. Jews and Arabs, some of the latter Israeli citizens, have been complementary pillars of the Free Zone establishment since its inception. Arabs and Sephardic Jews share the communal experience of having their Panamanian citizenship taken away during the first Arnulfo Arias administration. Zionism and the cause of Palestinian statehood both have their advocates here, but that has not caused significant tensions between Panamas Jewish and Arab communities.

It has sometimes even been suggested, not totally facetiously, that a good way to resolve the central dispute in the Middle East would be to submit it to the arbitration of the Free Zones Jewish and Arab business leaders.

Beside all of that, the bomb that went off in Mr. Jafar’s hands was not carried by a member of Panama’s Arab community. That package of death may have come from the international drug trafficking underworld, from a Lebanon-based Shiite fringe, or from Osama bin Laden’s Sunni fanatics. All governmental proclamations of Panama’s commitment to the fight against international terrorism notwithstanding, we are unlikely to ever know.

 

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First notes on the UNDP rep / Primeras notas sobre la representante del PNUD

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LM
Linda Maguire, encargada de la “consultación” constitucional.

Presidente Cortizo Cohen escucha a los panameños y decide
ampliar el Diálogo Nacional sobre las reformas constitucional

por la Presidencia

lunes, 23 de diciembre de 2019

El presidente Laurentino Cortizo Cohen firmó hoy un Memorando de Entendimiento con Linda Maguire, representante residente del Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo (PNUD) con el propósito de diseñar una metodología para facilitar y desarrollar un diálogo entre panameños con el fin de lograr un consenso sobre el contenido de la reforma a la Constitución Política de la República de Panamá.

Como paso uno, el presidente Cortizo Cohen dijo que esta tarde se presentará ante el Consejo de Gabinete una propuesta para consideración de los ministros en la que se lo solicitará a la Asamblea Nacional que retire las reformas Constitucionales que se discute en el pleno legislativo. Luego, vía PNUD, se abriría “un amplio diálogo que incluya otros sectores que sea participativo y ordenado”.

“Solamente el proceso de armar un diálogo toma unos cuatro o cinco meses”, explicó el presidente Cortizo Cohen; y añadió que la idea es que, en el 2021, con el bicentenario de la independencia de Panamá de España estén las reformas que se requieren en los tres órganos del Estado: Ejecutivo, Legislativo y Judicial.

El presidente Cortizo Cohen dijo que “lo que se incluya en esa propuesta, dentro de año, año y medio, al final no divida al país porque hay heridas que pueden cerrarse, pero hay heridas que no cicatrizan, y como presidente de la República, eso no lo voy a permitir, así que busquemos la manera de fortalecer”.

El PNUD se propone acompañar al Ministerio de la Presidencia en “el desarrollo de un proceso de diálogo democrático, participativo e inclusivo, basado en su metodología, que concluya en una propuesta de reformas Constitucionales avalada por la mayoría del pueblo panameño”, dice el acuerdo diplomático.

El Gobierno Nacional solicitó el apoyo al PNUD en busca de garantizar la participación ciudadana y fortalecer los mecanismos democráticos de consulta como facilitador en un diálogo que busca una propuesta consensuada.

Participaron como invitados los expresidentes Ernesto Pérez Balladares, Mireya Moscoso y Martín Torrijos; el presidente de la Asamblea Nacional, Marco Castillero, así como presidentes de partidos políticos, miembros de la sociedad civil, directivos de medios de comunicación social y gremios empresariales.

Maguire dijo que las conversaciones comenzarán por mesas locales, provincias y comarcas, con participaron ampliada para conversar sobre las reformas que hacen falta y luego tener una mesa nacional para agregar todas las contribuciones.

“Nuestro rol es solo de facilitar. No somos mediador, no entramos en el contenido ni en la discusión. Para nosotros la imparcialidad y la soberanía son fundamentales. Para los panameños definir el enfoque del diálogo” con “expertos nacionales porque Panamá tiene todo lo que hace falta en términos de derecho y el contenido de la Constitución”, explicó la representante del PNUD.

signing

at https://www.iknowpolitics.org/en/discuss/expert-or-team-member/linda-maguire

Linda Maguire

Ms. Maguire is the Chief of Country Support for Eastern and Southern Africa with UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa. She joined UNDP in 1998 and has worked as UNDP’s chief Electoral Advisor in the Democratic Governance Group from 2003 to 2013, and before that in UNDP’s Evaluation Office on results-based performance assessment. In her current position, she provides support to UNDP country offices on programme and operations, across all the areas in which UNDP works.

Before joining UNDP, she was a Senior Program Officer for West Africa with the National Democratic Institute, where she managed the electoral assistance programs in Côte d’Ivoire and Mali, as well as provided support to legislatures, political parties and civil-society initiatives in the region.

Ms. Maguire holds a Master of Arts from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. She is the author of “Power Ethnicized: The Pursuit of Protection and Participation in Rwanda and Burundi”, Vol. 2 Buffalo Journal of International Law, and author of/contributor to a number of UNDP publications on democratic governance, including the recent UNDP’s Handbook on Working with Political Parties.

LM

De LinkedIn

Linda Maguire
UNDP Resident Representative in Panama at UNDP

Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

Experiencia

UNDP Resident Representative in Panama
UNDP
feb. de 2019 – Actualidad11 meses
Panama City, Panama

UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative in Paraguay
United Nations
mar. de 2018 – feb. de 20191 año
Asuncion, Paraguay

UNDP
19 años 6 meses

Chief of Country Support
mar. de 2013 – mar. de 20185 años 1 mes
Regional Bureau for Africa

Electoral Advisor
ago. de 2003 – mar. de 20139 años 8 meses
HQ and UNDP Mexico

Evaluation Specialist
abr. de 2001 – ago. de 20032 años 5 meses

Governance Specialist
oct. de 1998 – abr. de 20012 años 7 meses

Senior Programme Officer
National Democratic Institute (NDI)
jun. de 1995 – sept. de 1998
3 años 4 meses
DC, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali

Paralegal
New York County District Attorney’s Office
sept. de 1991 – ago. De 1993
2 años
Greater New York City Area
Paralegal in the Appeals Bureau

[Editor’s note: The above two jobs, formally nonpartisan, were with Democratic Party aligned officials or organizations and suggest that she’s a Democrat.]

Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
MALD International Law and Legal Studies
1993 – 1995
Tufts University

Tufts University
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) International Relations and Affairs
1987 – 1991

Idiomas
French
Spanish

De la página de web del PNUD

at https://www.pa.undp.org/content/panama/es/home/presscenter/articles/linda-maguire-nueva-representante-de-pnud-en-panama.html

“Linda Maguire, de nacionalidad estadounidense e irlandesa…

“…se repasaron los logros nacionales en materia de desarrollo humano, resultado de la aplicación de mecanismos de cooperación internacional y el intercambio de buenas prácticas con el apoyo de PNUD. …

from EJ's Twitter

From the UNDP website:

at https://www.pa.undp.org/content/panama/es/home/presscenter/articles/linda-maguire-nueva-representante-de-pnud-en-panama.html

“Linda Maguire, de nacionalidad estadounidense e irlandesa…

“…se repasaron los logros nacionales en materia de desarrollo humano, resultado de la aplicación de mecanismos de cooperación internacional y el intercambio de buenas prácticas con el apoyo de PNUD. …

– –

at https://unfoundation.org/blog/post/americans-in-the-un-election-assistance-around-the-world/

As part of our “Americans in the UN” project to share the stories of Americans who work for the United Nations, we connected with Linda Maguire, who currently serves as the Resident Representative in Panama for the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

In this role, Maguire leads the work of the UN’s main development agency in Panama, which collaborates with national partners to fight poverty, promote good governance, protect the environment, foster resilience to shocks, and promote gender equality. At the time this interview was conducted, Maguire was the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Paraguay.

Originally from Hollis, New Hampshire, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Tufts University.

From your experience, what is an example of how the UN has made a different in someone’s life?

Linda Maguire: I had the fortune of working in technical assistance for elections for 10 years where I worked in places like Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Haiti. In that role, I had the opportunity of working directly with people who were voting for the first time. For the first time, people were choosing their government and elected officials.

Elections are not the be all, end all of democracy, but they are necessary. Necessary, but not sufficient. The credibility that comes from UN technical assistance to hold credible, peaceful elections really does make a difference in peoples’ lives.

What motivates you to work for the UN?

LM: The fact that you’re helping people. That’s a very basic motivation, but more than that, I would say that the UN strikes a very good balance between idealism and pragmatism.

The Charter of the UN and the UN Declaration of Human Rights are based on human rights principles fundamental to every human being’s well-being and ability to lead a life with dignity. At the same time, the UN was born out of World War II and recognizes politics and that member states have political interests.

The organization does try to balance its ideals with real politics at the same time. I think, for that, it has stood the test of time and it has managed to stay relevant since World War II.

How did you first learn about the UN?

LM: My first direct experience with the UN was when I went to Geneva to work with the human rights machinery when I was studying in graduate school at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts). It was a very intellectual connection to the UN because I was working on human rights resolutions and statutes.

Later on, I interacted with the UN when I was working for an American nongovernmental organization in Africa. In that role, my interactions with the UN were more as an outsider looking in and seeing how the UN played a role in peace and security, in development, and in human rights at country level.

[SAY WHAT?!?!? The National Democratic Institute is a congressionally funded international program, unoffically but nevertheless as a matter of reality a project of the Democratic Party. One of those governmental NGOs notwithstanding all denials. As in, during the latter part of the Bill Clinton administration she was a Democratic apparatchik in Africa. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Democratic_Institute .]

Eventually, I came to work directly with the UN in the late 1990s, and so my experience has now been from inside the organization.

What is your message to Americans about the importance of the UN?

LM: I would say fundamentally three key messages. The first would be that it’s our organization. The United States was a pivotal actor behind the creation of the United Nations, and I think it’s very important that we take ownership of the organization and understand what it is about.

I’m often asked when I’m in the United States whether I am a translator because that is sometimes the only thing Americans can associate with the UN – the big meetings of the Security Council or General Assembly that are held in New York, which require a lot of translation.

The second is to inform ourselves. Perhaps the UN could do a better job of communicating its mandate, but what we see sometimes is only the tip of the iceberg.

The United Nations is working in peace and development, and the Security Council is of course important, but the UN is also working in human rights, humanitarian assistance, and development in around 170 countries. That is where the real work is taking place with national governments and partners to lift people out of poverty. So, I would say educate ourselves about what the UN does beyond New York.

The third is that the UN is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing to do. The UN is an ideals-based organization working to ensure that people have the chance to live their lives in peace and security, free of fear, free of hunger, free of want. If the UN can achieve these goals, countries around the world will have access to the same kinds of education, health, and justice – benefits that we’re lucky enough to enjoy in the United States.

What is your favorite part of your job?

LM: My favorite part of my job is the diversity. Working in Paraguay, the panorama and the range of things that I did day in and day out varied considerably.

It was impossible to get bored because one day I would be out in the field talking with local communities about their needs, and the next day I may be talking with the president of the country at a very strategic policy level, and everything in between.

So, the bandwidth of the job is incredible, and I feel very lucky to be able to work at the country level day in and day out with people who are committed to making Paraguay a better place.

Our Revolution on NAFTA renegotiation

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OR

NAFTA has hollowed out the middle class

Thanks to your efforts we helped defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Now we need your help again as the Trump administration seeks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

NAFTA and trade deals like it have been disastrous for workers and the environment. In the last several decades, American manufacturing has plummeted, and good paying jobs have been outsourced. Working families in our trading partners have similarly been displaced and disadvantaged by the same multi national corporations. We need fair trade that works for citizens and the environment!

This Tuesday, I will join other labor, environmental and trade activists as we rally in DC calling for fair renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Deal (NAFTA). Add your name to the petition we will deliver to the US Trade Representative calling for a transparent process that benefits workers, not corporations.

Rather than defending our manufacturing jobs and raising living standards for working families, NAFTA made it easier for large multinational corporations to move jobs out, and avoid regulations that protect workers and the environment.

Our trade deals have favored Wall Street and the largest corporations for far too long. We need a radical reimagining of what our trade policies are set to accomplish, and that begins with NAFTA. Please sign our petition calling for a renegotiation that benefits American workers, not Wall Street and multinational corporations.

Trade deals can be good for our economy, our workers, and the workers in our trading partners. Together, we can fight to make NAFTA the trade deal it should be: one where workers are treated fairly, the environment is treated with respect, and corporations play by our rules, not their own.

Thank you for taking this bold stand for workers everywhere.

In Solidarity,

Larry Cohen
Board Chair
Our Revolution

Democrats: vote at Saturday’s meeting — or by email now — Eric Jackson for chair

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EJ for chair

Eric Jackson for Chair

of Democrats Abroad Panama

you must be a US citizen living in Panama and at least 18 years old to join DA Panama
you must join Democrats Abroad to vote, but you can do so when you vote

 

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For the mailing about the meeting from Democrats Abroad Panama, click here.

 

history
We Democrats have a long history. A history major, Eric Jackson has worked to preserve historical sites and markers in both Panama and the United States. Know and live up to the best of our traditions!

 

español
As communications director of Democrats Abroad Panama, Eric Jackson also reached out to US citizens in Panama who speak Spanish as their first language.

 

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Time spent to campaign — I’m running for chair of Democrats Abroad Panama

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Announcing the candidacy
Click on these graphics to see texts that amplify the discussion in each.

A point of personal privilege: the editor is campaigning this week

Eric Jackson for chair of Democrats Abroad Panama
vote Saturday, April 8 at 1 pm at the Balboa Union church
or send your proxy to thepanamanews@gmail.com

 

Free Okke!
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transparency
Click on the graphic to read the text that goes with it.

 

music that a guy with two JDs likes
To get a start on understanding my cultural horizons, click on the graphic to go to a relevant selection of music. If education is to mean culture, I didn’t graduate from high school but then managed to get a bachelor’s degree with a double major in history and political science and a juris doctor degree in law.

 

the Third World peasant
The political views of an online journalist whose other job is as a Third World peasant — click on the graphic to read the text that goes with it.

 

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Considerations and history from a highly personal viewpoint

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IF you think that I am in rare stark raving mad form today, a bit of background.

I actually voted for Ricky Martinelli in 2009, given that Balbina Herrera was the alternative. Another long set of stories about Balbina if you want to hear any of that tangent. E.g., way back when and not at all the culmination of abuses:

 

 

But before any of that, when Martinelli was Mireya Moscoso’s minister of canal affairs and the ACP – of all institutions! – was running this land titling in the western canal watershed program, I noted Martinelli’s friends and reputedly family ties to land claims there, particularly the Petaquilla gold mine. Via a now deceased friend I got this warning that Martinelli would drag me into court and destroy me and The Panama News if I kept it up. Years later the gold mine swindle and his connections with it came to light via other media.

I expected Martinelli to be an ass, and that if it had been Balbina people would have started to disappear.

I definitively turned against Martinelli with the January 2011 televised burning to death of several boys at the juvenile prison in Tocumen. Only a few weeks before he had signed a law purporting to legalize any act of violence committed by an on-duty cop. As a matter of state policy, the prison was deprived of water for eight straight days, leading to a disturbance. And the boys in the cell set on fire – chosen for the TV cameras to record – had not even participated in the disturbance.

 

 

The wife of a friend was one of Martinelli’s vice ministers at the time, an occasional source of mine and one of the 150 people whose telecommunications were constantly monitored and put into a daily report that went on Martinelli’s desk. All emails between me and her thus got caught in that net.

But far more than that, and a far higher priority for Martinelli, was Miguel Antonio Bernal. I run his columns from time to time in The Panama News. He is my lawyer. He is a frequent source about legal questions in my journalism. I worked on his 2009 mayoral campaign. All of my phone calls and emails with him were in those reports that went onto Martinelli’s desk.

Did you remember a high court magistrate blubbering and the attorney general angrily accusing about fear, oppression and blackmail from the Martinelli camp a few weeks back, such that the Supreme Court would be forced to drop the charges? It was alleged that it’s not about just the files on 150 people found in a police laptop not long after Martinelli left office, but files on some 5,000 people. Northing totally clear, but see http://laestrella.com.pa/panama/nacional/querellantes-contra-martinelli-piden-juez-revele-chantaje-renuncie/24077874

That would square with Martinelli’s threat to what was left of the Cambio Democratico legislative caucus right after the 2014 election, when he said that they had better do what he told them because he had a file on every one of them. But only a few of those people were among the 150.

That also squares with the reputed Cambio Democratico “big data” strategy, in which by all appearances and non-denial denials (they would never directly answer the question but instead said that the data could be purchased anywhere) they took the files from government agencies and crossed indexed them into a political database. Familial ties and voting records from the Tribunal Electoral. Tax records from the DGI. Medical records and pension data from the Social Security Fund, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development. And so on. Their party call centers and grocery bag delivery coordinators had access to this database.

Would they have a database with that information that was available to campaign workers, but apart from that also with eavesdropping data integrated into it? I wonder.

The Panama News website suffered a series of hack attacks beginning in 2013, getting particularly heavy in the week or so before the 2014 election – along with other attacks on every other electronic news medium in Panama that Martinenelli did not control. The difference for me was no computer nerd budget like La Prensa or TVN. From December 2014 to July 2015 our wounded website was shut down, and archives particularly about Martinelli stuff were deleted. Might have just been criminal spam gangsters stripping a clunking website for email addresses.

For immediate release, July 18, 2016 by Democrats Abroad Panama

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Trump, the Chump on the stump, flooded out
The flooding at the opening of the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City, a sure sign that even as an investor Donald J. Trump is incapable of defending his own interests — let alone those of a great nation — against elemental natural forces. Photo by Maydee Romero Sprang from La Prensa.

A Trump presidency: what it would mean for the USA and for Panama, part 1

Climate change

chump tweet

In Cleveland this week, mostly wealthy Republicans will gather for their national convention in air-conditioned splendor while in the poor neighborhoods people will sweat out a severe heat wave. Inside the convention hall a bizarre discourse will unfold, one part of which is an argument promoted by oil and coal companies that climate change is a politically motivated hoax. It’s an argument that permeates US society and the social media and even makes its way into high places in Panamanian public institutions.

Think of the enhanced climate change disaster that a Trump presidency would be for the United States. The national embarrassment of having the only leader of an industrialized country who denies that the climate is changing would be the smaller part of it. The US status as a leading scientific power, nurtured by the polymath geniuses Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson from the time that the republic was founded, developed since 1846 by the Smithsonian Institution, popularized among the middle class by the middle and late 19th century legislation that established free public schools and the land grant universities, mobilized for US industry in times of war and peace, bolstered by generations of noteworthy scientists immigrating from other lands, shared with the rest of the world via the Fulbright grants — all of that would be diminished and endangered. The nation’s public infrastructure defenses against rising seas, devastating storms and severe droughts would be compromised. Weird religion and greedy business practices would appear together in US courts when liability for foreseeable environmental damage that could have been reduced or prevented is attributed to God. All of the social dislocations, wars and mass migrations that climate change is already causing and which will get worse would be explained by crude ethnic and religious stereotypes, and the world would see Washington engaged in immigrant-bashing instead of joining in a well informed and well coordinated international response.

Also, think of what climate change denial in a Republican White House that’s supported by a Republican Congress would mean for Panama. Surely there would be less funding and more political interference for that leading outpost of international academia on the isthmus, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. When people are forced by rising seas to abandon their homes on low-lying islands in Guna Yala or Bocas del Toro, or when traditional agricultural uses of parts of Panama become untenable, or when Panamanian water systems become even more dysfunctional, Panamanians could expect lots of derision rather than much in the way of US technical help. A US government that deserts the front lines of climate change response means US citizens living in Panama being blamed by some of their neighbors for policies coming from Washington.

The American people, including those of us living in Panama, don’t need this nonsense.

 

For more information on Democrats Abroad Panama — the local branch here of the Democratic Party in the USA — including about our stands on issues and our efforts to register and mobilize US citizens (including Panamanian-US dual nationals) to vote in November’s US elections, contact our interim acting chair, Phil Edmonston, by email at lemonaid@earthlink.net.