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¿Wappin? New mix / Mezcla nueva

Grace VanderWaal. Photo by Theresa Sanchez.

Much of this you will not have heard
Mucho de esto no habrás escuchado

Tash Sultana – Can’t Buy Happiness

Aventura – Inmortal

Nubya Garcia – Lost Kingdom

Jimi Hendrix – Hey Joe

Café Tacvba – El Baile y El Salón

Lana Del Rey – Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have

Alvin Lee – The Bluest Blues

Joss Stone & Nneka – Babylon

Luci & the Soul Brokers – Surprise

Steel Pulse – Cry Cry Blood

Nina Simone – Sinner Man

Raging Fyah – Judgment Day

Grace VanderWaal – Stray

Peter Gabriel, Natalie Merchant & Michael Stipe – Red Rain

Denise Gutiérrez – Algo

Lenny Kravitz Live In Lollapalooza Argentina 2019


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Gandasegui, These elections: left vs. right

Got a month to decide. Archive photo from the 2014 election by Eric Jackson.

Left and right in the elections

by Marco Gandásegui, hijo

It’s a month before the Panamanian citizenry goes to the polls to choose a new president and some 850 other elected officials. The campaign season officially opened a month ago and only four of the seven candidates have presented platforms on which they say they would govern.

Only the candidate of the Broad Front for Democracy (FAD), Saúl Méndez, is armed with a plan to confront the social and economic crisis cause by the neoliberal policies of the past 30 years. Ana Matilde Gómez, an independent candidate, has a program that her supporters call minimum. For his part the PRD’s Laurentino Cortizo offers a platform that rests on four pillars without greater pretensions. The candidate of the ruling Panameñnista party, José Blandón, distances himself from the current president but does not define his objectives.

In their propaganda and in the debates they don’t propose structural solutions to poverty, inequality of informal employment. They don’t talk about the creation of jobs in the industrial or agricultural sector by way of an investment plan.

They all say that they want to be part of the plans that China has for Panama. But they forget that they are the ones who have to propose the plans. They all talk about a “bullet train” – which looks like it’s going to be a turtle train – but the candidates don’t know for what it’s supposed to serve.

A century ago the “founding fathers” confessed that they didn’t know what sort of republic they were creating and what the United States intended with its canal construction. They had other priorities. Likewise, 200 years ago those who called Simón Bolívar The Liberator did not know of the Colombian project. Mariano Arosemena and his partners had dreams of a commercial emporium. They were only dreams.

Like the Liberals of the 1950s and 1960s, the rightist candidates promise to resolve the problems of water, of garbage collection, of education, of health and to meet other popular demands. But none of them propose a working plan that would contribute to the solusion of these problems. They are asking for our votes and at the same time saying that we will have five more year of frustration. Corruption and unsafe communities will remain the same.

What the Panamanian feels the most is the lack of job opportunities and of social security. In 2005 they privatized Social Security, creating a mixed public-private system of individual accounts. The workers within a decade began to feel mocked when they didn’t receive their pensions. The candidates talk of more reforms to Seguro Social. What should be proposed is a solidary system that guarantees the payment of pensions when the worker retires.

In the debate a breach has opened up between the so-called political left and its counterpart the political right. We should be clear what these two sides represent. The left is a position that fights to make changes. On the other hand, the right wants to conserve all of the existing values and institutions.

The use of these terms arose in the French Revolution of 1789, when a national assembly was convened to draft a constitution. The partisand of the republic and of the deepening revolutionary process sat on the left. Those who supported the monarchy and the king of that time sat on the right.

Since then, for nearly 250 years, those who fight for change are called leftists. Those who uphold the established order are the right. Nowadays those who defend neoliberal policies that impoverish workers, farmers and indigenous people are the right. Those who want to do away with neoliberal policies and regulate the economy – put it at the service of the public well-being – are the left.

Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? The answer is simple: it depends on which side you are on. If you support the oligarchs of the right, your enemy is the people. If, on the contrary, you support the people who want changes – the left – your foe is the oligarchy.

In this 2019 electoral contest the right – three candidates of neoliberal parties and three independents – propose to resolve our problems without altering the neoliberal economic model. That is, to deregulate the economy so that rentiers and speculators can continue to concentrate their wealth. The left, on the other hand, wants changes, beginning with the economic model and continuing to guarantee the security of the things that most matter to the population.


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The Deal is… (6): PRD party discipline breaks down

Minister of the Presidency Jorge González just got approved by the legislature, as few of Varela’s other appointees have been. Although Varela appointed three new directors at a time when there was one vacancy and two other directors’ terms were about to expire, apparently not designating which person was to fill which spot, most probably González replaces Marco Ameglio, who resigned from the ACP board in the middle of last year to run for president. Last month the terms of Nicolás Corcione and José A. Sosa also expired. Photo by the Asamblea Nacional.

Most PRD legislators ignore party leaders, approve Varela nominee for ACP board

by Eric Jackson

In a way, Jorge González is the stereotypical guy for the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) board of directors. A graduate of the Tecnologico, he spent eight years managing other people’s businesses, mainly in construction and real estate. Those are the industries that dominate PanCanal policy and have for years.

Then González went into his own private business ventures for a decade, while in his activist life he gained stature as a Panameñista stalwart. With the onset of the Varela administration he come on as Secretary of Goals (as in measuring how well or badly the government was doing at meeting them). Then he stepped up as Vice Minister of Housing, presidential spokesman, and up to the top spot in the cabinet, Minister of the Presidency.

In February President Varela nominated three of his administration’s top insiders — González, Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel de De Saint Malo and Panama’s ambassador to the United States Emanuel González-Revilla — to fill three spots on the ACP board, one to fill a vacancy and two to replace directors whose terms were set to expire in March.

Through the rest of February and all of March the legislature’s Credentials Committee that hears such things sat on these appointments — as they have with most of Varela’s other appointments this year. (The exceptions so far have been the ratifications of Olmedo Arrocha and Abel Zamorano as Supreme Court magistrates.) Credentials Committee president Sergio Gálvez (Cambio Democratico or CD – El Chorrillo) said all along that he would not go out of his way block Varela appointees but that if an appointee had no consensus in support he wouldn’t bring up the nomination for committee consideration.

On March 21 the national executive committee of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) passed a resolution calling on the party’s 26 legislators to vote against all Varela appointees. On the campaign trail, you mostly hear from CD about what a tyrant Juan Carlos Varela is for jailing his predecessor Ricardo Martinelli. When the PRD is attacked by CD presidential hopeful Rómulo Roux and his colleagues it’s generally cast in terms of how they are Varela’s puppets.

So as March became April Gálvez said that there was a consensus for the committee to take up the González appointment. Despite the pleadings of PRD secretary-general Pedro Miguel González for his party’s members to reject the appointment, in the committee on March 3 one PRD member supported Varela’s man, one abstained and only one voted against. The next day, with a bunch of deputies absent or abstaining, all voting CD deputies joined with the Panameñistas and a few PRD deputies to easily ratify Jorge González for a spot on the ACP board. Only six members of the PRD’s 26- strong caucus voted to reject the appointment.

The minister says that he will join the board at earliest opportunity and also stay on as Minister of the Presidency through the end of Varela’s term (June 30). There have been constitutional issues raised about whether a minister other than Minister of Canal Affairs may serve on the ACP board. If there is such a ban it’s implied rather than forthrightly stated. The debate featured some even more dubious constitutional claims, with PRD leader Pedro Miguel González insisting the ACP autonomy means that a president can’t pack its board with political appointees and Panameñista deputy and mayoral candidate Adolfo “Beby” Valderrama asserting that the legislature has a constitutional duty to approve the president’s nominees.

What might it all say about the state of Panamanian politics? First, all the no-shows and absences just a month away from an election are common enough, with candidates out seeking votes. But only 50 of the 71 deputies are running again and it does appear that many of the rest have given up hope in the face of a large and growing citizen movement to vote out all incumbents.

There may be other explanations, which the public has not heard. The construction and real estate industries’ money and power cuts across party lines. There is the old maxim that if you are going to oppose a politician you need to defeat that person, or be at risk for some payback down the road — so better not vote against the inevitable. Perhaps most of the PRD deputies just like Jorge González. Perhaps he holds some levers of influence about which anyone who knows would rather not say.

Bottom line reality to take away, however, is whichever polls you might believe the PRD’s Nito Cortizo is the presidential front runner, but his party’s discipline has just crumbled.


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The Panama News blog links, April 3, 2019


The Panama News blog links

a Panama-centric selection of other people’s work
una selección Panamá-céntrica de las obras de otras personas

Canal, Maritime & Transportation / Canal, Marítima & Transporte

Seatrade, Severe dry season sees fifth draft reduction for Panama Canal new locks 

Splash, Bunge and Cargill seek lower PanCanal rates for grains

Seatrade, NYC Maritime Hackathon reveals frustrations of dealing with the industry’s data


Sports / Deportes

Felder, Baseball’s biggest problem isn’t pace of play – it’s teams tanking

La Estrella, Panamá duda de participar en Serie del Caribe de 2020 por elevados costos


Economy / Economía

La Estrella, SIECA advierte que desaceleración económica se mantendrá en 2019 

NDTV, Tax take from Panama Papers exceeds $1.2 billion

Rogoff, Modern Monetary Nonsense

NBC, Student debt: what the politicians are saying

Stiglitz, Market concentration is threatening the US economy

Xinhua, IMF warns against market power concentration

Kramer, Regulations needed after cryptocurrency CEO takes passwords to his grave


Science & Technology / Ciencia & Tecnología

STRI, Microbes may fight the epidemic driving some frog species to extinction

Video, Romeo y Julieta: el primer encuentro de una pareja de ranas en peligro de extinción

BBC, Climate change: Energy companies’ ‘Magic bullet’ carbon solution

E360, 80 percent of new Arctic sea ice melts before leaving Russian coast


News / Noticias

Mongabay: Guna, Embera and Wounaan act to protect Darien forest from loggers

La Prensa, Los grandes donantes de los candidatos presidenciales

EFE: #NoALaReelección, la campaña que alborota a votantes y partidos políticos

WOLA, Attacks on ethnic leaders and human rights activists continue in Colombia

CLAE, Destituyó al ministro de Defensa y al comandante en jefe del Ejército uruguayo

Weiss, The Central American aid paradox


Opinion / Opiniones

Dayen, How to think about breaking up big tech

ALAI, Proposed WTO digital trade rules are contrary to development needs

Hightower, Supervillain economics

Remezcla, What activists think about Julián Castro’s immigration platform

The Baltimore Sun, Yulín: “It hurts being a colony”

Korn, Apagones: Venezuela sin electricidad, comunicaciones… ni ideas

Bigio, ¿Puede en Venezuela repetirse una invasión como la de Panamá?

Galindo, El control constitucional de los tratados internacionales

Yao, ¿Debate presidencial en Marte?

Sagel, Recuperando la autoestima


Culture / Cultura

Remezcla, Aventura is releasing new music for the first time in 10 years

George, Celebrating 100 years with Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Pocho.com, ¡Mira! These are the Pocho Ocho Most Mexican Countries

The Guardian, How Brexit will hurt British music


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The Deal is… (5): Next legislator from Chame / San Carlos?

Does #NoALaReelección apply to the same old individuals or families as forever? Arturo Araúz had the job from 1999 to 2004, and is now running as an independent to get it back. Photo from his campaign.

Same old in Chame and San Carlos?

by Eric Jackson

Change? In legislative circuit 8-3, which encompasses Chame and San Carlos districts, you generally get that. This time will be no exception, as the current deputy, the Partido Popular’s Juan Carlos Arango Reese, is one of the nearly one-third of the National Assembly to be calling it quits this year. He sees the handwriting that may shock some or most of his 50 colleagues seeking another term.

So who might the folks in the beach communities — and stretching inland — get this time?

First of all, the Electoral Tribunal isn’t really so eager to tell you. If you dig hard enough they will tell you who SOME of the candidates, the party nominees but not the independents, happen to be. Then you have to dig more to find who’s running as an independent. You find this stuff in the dysfunctionally indexed Boletin Tribunal Electoral.

There is the guy who was defeated trying to buy re-election last time, Junior Herrera, running on the Cambio Democrático ticket again. Not sure that he gets to use the corregiduría in Las Uvas as a center from which he sends out campaign workers with bags of groceries to those on the list this time. And this year’s billboards as composed to those he had all over the place in 2014? It’s early yet and there are an awful lot of empty billboards, but his face is less often and less prominently depicted along the roads, and when you do see it his face suggests that he has had a stroke.

NO, Francis Franco is not an apparition of the long-departed Spanish dictator. He’s the MOLIRENA candidate, also running on the PRD ticket. This is an area where the Torrijistas have their pockets of support, but generally get trounced in the two-municipality legislative circuit. (The PRD is stronger in San Carlos than in Chame.) What usually happens, and what happened this time, is that there is no PRD primary in circuit 8-3 but rather the party holds this open for a small party that allies with it. This time, quite incongruously in terms of the new junior partner’s history, that ally is the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement (MOLIRENA). This is not the same Franco who held the seat from 1994 to 1999. Does this reporter flunk the most important of all sciences for the people who run this country, rabiblanco genealogy, for not immediately knowing what if any relationship he may have to Joaquín Franco? (But Ricky Martinelli’s people know — their database includes all such information, directly or indirectly stolen from the Electoral Tribunal during the 2009-2014 regime.) 

What? This time we don’t get the perennial PRD candidate in the circuit, former boxer Enrique “Kike” Florez? Not to worry. The last time the Panameñistas won the circuit their man was Junior Herrera, and he promptly jumped ship to Martinelli’s party. This time they WON’T be burned this way. They made Florez, who never did get elected to the legislature, THEIR candidate this time. He went out and got the most signatures to run as an independent, but then the Panameñistas put him on their ticket. (That means only two independents running instead of three by this year’s rules.) And for Florez’s running mate? The would-be suplente is the in-and-out of jail and hiding and the court system former long-time mayor of Chame, Euclides “SiSiSi” Mayorga, whose daughter is the current mayor. Mayorga the elder has also switched parties a few times.

One of the two indies who made it through is journalist Manolo Álvarez Cedeño.  A middle aged face, but a new one for this circuit. He’s calling for a “positive transformation” that includes replacing the Seguro Social policlínica in San Carlos with a full-blown hospital, improving the local IDAAN water system, promoting tourism and building a national sports museum. He’s for a parallel constituent assembly. His suplente is San Carlos Lions Club leader Leyda Delacruz.

The other familiar face in the race is independent Arturo Araúz. On his shift he did some noteworthy things, for better or worse. A boon to journalists and ordinary citizens, he sponsored legislation that eliminated the power of mayors and other public officials to fine or jail people for something that they wrote or said just because in his or her officious judgment said utterance was disrespectful. He doesn’t speak good English, but he was a big promoter of it. His notion of making English a second official national language did not get off the ground. His proposal of making English a mandatory subject of study in the schools did pass, and others interpreted and enforced it such that a brilliant student in everything but English can’t get a university education in Panama. His proposal to start teaching Mandarin in the schools did not get far, but perhaps its time is coming. He spent some of his legislative circuit fund on the annual New Years muñeco competition, breathing new life into that old cultural manifestation. He wasn’t known to be corrupt.

You foreign expats in the beach communities don’t get to vote your choice on this. Whom the voters decide upon may affect your life in some way.


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Los fósiles de percebes de ballena

fossil 1
Percebes de ballena modernos se adhieren a la piel de una ballena jorobada. Foto por Aleria Jensen.

Aventones a cirrípidos: Dispositivos rastreadores de tiempo profundo

por Sonia Tejada – STRI

Las ballenas grandes comúnmente migran largas distancias, pero ¿cuándo en su pasado evolutivo comenzaron a migrar y por qué? Los fósiles de percebes de ballena podrían tener las respuestas.

Muchas ballenas realizan largos viajes cada año. Pasan sus veranos alimentándose en las aguas frías y luego migran hacia las cálidas aguas tropicales para reproducirse. Una teoría sugiere que estas largas migraciones se originaron hace unos 5 millones de años, cuando la productividad del océano se hizo cada vez más irregular. Pero los patrones de las antiguas migraciones de ballenas han sido, hasta hace poco, un misterio. Científicos del Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales (STRI) y de la Universidad de California, Berkeley abordaron esta inquietud con una técnica ingeniosa: los percebes.

“En lugar de buscar pistas sobre los patrones de migración en los huesos de ballena, utilizamos percebes de ballena”, dijo Larry Taylor, científico visitante de STRI y estudiante de doctorado en la Universidad de California en Berkeley, quien dirigió el estudio.

Los percebes son crustáceos (como los cangrejos, langostas o camarones) que viven en un solo lugar, dentro de una concha dura. La mayoría se adhieren a rocas, pero los percebes de ballena succionan la piel de las ballenas y se adhieren a ella.

“Los percebes de ballena generalmente son específicos de cada especie, una especie de percebe para un tipo de ballena”, dijo Aaron O’Dea, científico permanente de STRI y co-autor del estudio. “Esto le da al percebe varias ventajas: una superficie segura para vivir, un viaje gratuito a algunas de las aguas más ricas del mundo y la oportunidad de encontrarse con otros percebes cuando las ballenas se juntan para aparearse”.

A medida que crecen los percebes de ballena, sus conchas registran las condiciones ambientales al absorber los isótopos de oxígeno del agua. Analizando cuidadosamente el registro de isótopos que queda en las conchas, los percebes pueden revelar los cuerpos de agua por los que pasaron, ayudando a reconstruir los movimientos de la ballena a lo largo del tiempo.

El estudio, publicado en la revista científica Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analizó varios percebes de ballena fósiles y modernos, de la costa del Pacífico de Panamá y California.

“Las señales que encontramos en los percebes fósiles nos mostraron claramente que las antiguas ballenas jorobadas y grises emprendían viajes muy similares a los que hacen estas ballenas hoy en día”, dijo Taylor. “Parece que las migraciones para reproducirse en verano y para alimentarse en invierno han sido parte integral de la forma de vida de estas ballenas durante cientos de miles de años”.

“Queremos llevar la técnica más atrás en el tiempo y a diferentes poblaciones de ballenas”, dijo Seth Finnegan, co-autor de UC Berkeley. “Encontrar percebes de ballena fósiles es más fácil que encontrar ballenas, y proporcionan una gran cantidad de información que está esperando a ser descubierta”.

Fósil de percebe de ballena en la península de Burica en el Pacífico panameño. Foto por Larry Taylor.

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Editorials: Gangster hits in Panamanian politics; and US political deflation

the late
Campaign sign for the late Fidel Álvarez, vandalized in stereotypical fashion.

Gangsterism mixed with politics, again

In the 2014 cycle, it was warfare among drug gangs aligned with PRD factions in San Miguelito that made the campaign deadly.  More recently, it was an alleged confluence among PRD politics in Los Santos, a cockfighting establishment and international drug smuggling, a judge having been so very considerate to put the trial off until after the election. Over in Colon now, Cambio Democratico candidate for legislator Samuel Bennett is under investigation by the anti-drug prosecutor on suspicions of money laundering. Bennett is the suplente for deadly hit-and-run driver deputy Maro Lazarus.

Should we be surprised at the latest? Martinelista independent candidate for representante of the Panama City corregimiento of Pedregal Fidel Álvarez was standing in the shade of a tree near a soccer field talking with several people when a stolen white car drove up, three gunmen emerged and shot three of the people under the tree, two of them fatally. The first to die was Álvarez. The hit men got back in the stolen car, drove a short distance, then waded across a river to make their getaway. Charges or wanted posters have not been issued, but it seems that the operating presumption is the sicarios were members of a local gang known to police.

Stay tuned for further details. Whatever the particulars, we are once again reminded that construction executives who pay kickbacks on public works contracts are not the only hoodlums who have infiltrated political life in the Republic of Panama.


A scurrilous and mostly untrue meme that was circulated all over Facebook right after Bernie Sanders unexpectedly beat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 New Hampshire primary. A lot of the postings of this were not directly by people but through bots. We are seeing a lot of scurrilous attacks against all Democratic hopefuls this time, even though Facebook and Twitter have removed many of the bots that were being used on their systems.

US political manners: first you deflate the opponent

Joe Biden’s manners with women and girls becomes an issue before he even declares his candidacy. Actually, it long has been.

The woman who raises her objections to Biden and her personal story about one of the reasons why she speaks out now is a former candidate and was a Bernie Sanders supporter in 2016. Surely there will be a vilification campaign against her. You already see it on social media. But she does not accuse Biden of sexual assault and she is frankly political about her reasons for coming forward. The Democrats, she says, have a large field with many good candidates this year, but from her experience she says that Joe Biden isn’t one of them

EVERY Democratic presidential hopeful who has gained national attention has had unflattering personal accounts, questionable political stands taken or denigrating matters of ideology or identity raised. It’s all part of the usual thing, but there are more participants due to the social media and some of these are malicious false personas.

One of the old-fashioned US campaign maxims is that you deflate your opponent early in the campaign and do what you can to define him or her by your unfavorable narrative. Perhaps the great pre-television era classic of that was Richard Nixon’s 1950 US Senate campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas, wherein Nixon portrayed his at the time House of Representatives colleague as this decadent Hollywood libertine who followed Communist orders. It was a total smear of the liberal Democrat but it worked.

Some of the smears directed against Democratic primary candidates are from other Democrats, or amoral and really apolitical consultants who specialize in this stuff for a fee but present themselves as Democrats. A lot of it is from Republicans. Some of it is from foreign interlopers, and probably not just the Russians.

This sort of thing works better with someone who is not so well known. Joe Biden has been on the national stage for a long time and people know about him, or think that they do. There are positives and negatives in the baggage that he carries.

If Joe Biden wants to jump into the race, he should.  He represents a mostly liberal on the social issues, mostly conservative on the economics issues strain that is part of the Democratic Party. In the total political calculation, he and all other would-be nominees are better judged by Democrats according to standards of ideas and abilities above all of the other considerations.


Bear in mind…


I shall be an autocrat, that’s my trade; and that good Lord will forgive me, that’s his.
Catherine the Great


Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.
John F. Kennedy


It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
Charles Darwin



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Art in the Park 13: Wendy Reaman’s takes from Penonome


This year’s Art in the Park Fair





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Beluche, El gobierno que desea la oligarquía

L@s candidat@s y algún compromiso insípido que los poderes públicos querían que firmaran.

Falsas promesas electorales y verdadero programa de gobierno

por Olmedo Beluche

Una vieja anécdota panameña cuenta que, a inicios de la república, durante una campaña electoral, un candidato presidencial arengaba a la multitud diciendo: “Les prometo que construiré el puente que necesitan”. Y la gente le gritó: “Este pueblo no tiene río”. A lo que, sin sonrojo, el candidato respondió: “También les haré el río”. Mi abuela materna, que gustaba educarnos con parábolas y refranes, concluía este cuento con la siguiente moraleja: “Hay que ser muy pendejo para creerle a los políticos en campaña”.

Tenía razón, los políticos en campaña prometen cualquier cosa que quieras oír, pero cuando ganan y gobiernan es otra cosa. Esta verdad, por más evidente y sabida, sin embargo, no evita que la gente caiga en la trampa y termine votando por el que les prometió hacerles el río.

Para saber cómo será el próximo gobierno tras las elecciones del 5 de mayo, no podemos guiarnos por lo que los candidatos dicen en sus campañas y en los debates televisados. Ahí se siguen prometiendo “puentes” y “ríos”. Para saber qué va a hacer el próximo gobierno hay que saber lo que dicen los voceros del poder económico, nacional e internacional, que son los que mandan, salvo que haya una revolución social.

El verdadero programa de gobierno de la burguesía

En este país, los que mandan están agrupados en la Cámara de Comercio, Industrias y Agricultura de Panamá (CCIAP). Este gremio empresarial ha elaborado un documento denominado “Agenda País 2019-2024”. Ahí está contenido el programa del próximo gobierno, que la burguesía panameña exigirá y fiscalizará que cumpla.

La “Agenda País 2019-2024” es un documento de 37 páginas en que se trazan objetivos de corto y mediano plazo para 4 áreas de trabajo del próximo gobierno: educación, Caja de Seguro Social y salud pública, institucionalidad y crecimiento económico.


La CCIAP parte por la afirmación no probada de que los programas educativos y sus resultados son superiores en la educación privada, y consecuente con ello, proponen que el sistema público emule al privado.

Se propone hacer funcionar el Consejo Permanente Multisectorial para la Implementación del Compromiso Nacional para la Educación (COPEME), en el cual el sector privado tiene un peso específico de supervisión y elaboración de programas. Pero los esfuerzos se centrarán en lo que la exministra Lucy Molinar llamaba “escuelas modelo” y que Juan C. Varela ha centrado en el Instituto Técnico Superior Especializado (ITSE), el cual será coadministrado por la empresa privada a través de un Consejo Directivo.

El interés de la CCIAP es la formación técnica, de la que espera que saldrá la clase obrera futura, dejando de lado resto de la compleja oferta educativa y profesional.

El empresariado también tomaría el control del perfeccionamiento de los educadores, administrativos y directores a través de un Sistema Nacional de Capacitación Profesional Continua Docente. Como una advertencia, que no se sabe si es para los políticos o para los influyentes gremios magisteriales, la Agenda País dice: “La CCIAP se compromete a apoyar los esfuerzos de despolitización del ente ejecutor del sistema educativo…”.

Caja de Seguro Social y Salud

Haciendo una referencia general a la “Mesa de Diálogo para la Salud”, y su documento conocido como el “Libro Blanco”, propone la CCIAP en concreto:
Crear una Dirección General para el Suministro de Medicamentos, cuyo proyecto de ley se encuentra en la Asamblea Nacional, entidad que le sacaría a la CSS esta responsabilidad.

Dividir la CSS en dos entidades, pasando el programa de salud, maternidad y riesgos profesionales a un Sistema Integrado de Salud dirigidos por el MINSA, dejando la entidad solo con el Programa de Invalidez, Vejez y Muerte.

Luego la CCIAP procede a un diagnóstico falso, que culpa a la “transición demográfica” del déficit actuarial del sistema de Beneficio Definido, cuando en realidad es culpa de la reforma de Martin Torrijos de 2005, que dividió el sistema de jubilaciones pasando a los jóvenes a un sistema mixto.

En Panamá no hay una inversión de la pirámide generacional en que hay más viejos que jóvenes, como pasa en Europa; tampoco es cierto que haya exceso de beneficiarios, pues estos han disminuido en 9% entre 1998 y 2016; ni hay una disminución de cotizantes, pues estos han aumentado 52% entre 1998 y 2016; tampoco hay una disminución de los aportes a las cuotas, las que, por el contrario, aumentaron 72% entre 2007 y 2017.

El problema real es la Ley de la Muerte impuesta por el PRD en 2005, la cual hay que derogar.


Dejando de lado las recomendaciones para que las políticas públicas se enfoquen en base a análisis objetivos y como políticas de largo plazo, en concreto en la página 19 propone la CCIAP: “Seguimiento y monitoreo de los beneficios de los subsidios y/o becas. Se debe eliminar toda ayuda que no responda a necesidades reales y que solo tiene fines partidistas”.

Traducido al lenguaje directo: eliminar todos los programas sociales de ayuda a los más pobres, que ellos llaman “subsidios. Por supuesto, La Cámara de Comercio no menciona los subsidios a los ricos, como las exoneraciones fiscales e incentivos al sector privado que, como veremos en el siguiente punto, más bien sugieren ampliarlos, que son los que hacen un gran déficit en los ingresos del Estado. Tampoco se habla de la corrupción y las licitaciones amañadas.

Otra reforma puntual de la CCIAP, que es antidemocrática, consiste en elevar a 20 años el período de los magistrados de Corte Suprema de Justicia, lo cual implica una voluntad de control del organismo, ya sospechoso de corrupción. De la desprestigiada Asamblea Nacional sólo propone reformas al Reglamento Interno para garantizar la asistencia.

Crecimiento Económico Competitivo

Sobre el agro, reconoce que, pese a la cantidad de tratados de libre comercio firmados, “con las condiciones actuales es difícil competir en dicho mercado”. Por ende, sugiere: Defensa comercial efectiva (¿?), un laboratorio de control de calidad, compromiso de agroindustria para elevar valor agregado.

Sobre turismo, asegurar 20 millones de dólares del estado para el Fondo de Promoción Turística, o sea, subsidios al capital privado.

Sobre industria, que AUPSA y DEPA trabajen coordinadas y exijan a las importaciones los mismos criterios que se exigen a las exportaciones. Aumentar la competitividad “con mejoras de apoyo al sector, como lo son la energía, infraestructura general y de logística, el medio ambiente, etc.”. Además, que PROINVEX les busque mercados externos para exportar y que se impleméntela Ley 25 de 2017 que dicta medidas de fomento a la industria. Traducido, más subsidios de la ciudadanía con fondos estatales para garantizar la “competitividad” y la ganancia del sector privado. O sea, subsidio a los ricos.

Sobre el comercio, propone eliminar la burocracia y regulaciones que afectan al comercio (¿?¡!) y reuniones trimestrales del gobierno con la CCIAP, que demuestren voluntad de fomentar sus negocios.

Sobre el sector logístico, proponen coadministrar con el Ejecutivo a través del “Gabinete Logístico”, haciendo “más eficiente” la Autoridad de Aduanas, AUPSA y Cuarentena Agropecuaria, habitualmente esto significa eliminar restricciones.

Sobre la construcción, proponen modificar los códigos de edificación (Reglamento Estructural-REP 2014, y Reglamento de Seguridad Humano-NFPA) por que consideran que “aumentan los costos de manera injustificada” (OJO con esto). Además, la CCIAP quiere revisar los Parámetros de Densidad y el Plan de Ordenamiento Territorial del municipio de Panamá.

Sobre suministro de agua, se sugiere dividir el IDAAN, creando una Empresa Pública de Saneamiento de Panamá, del área metropolitana, que administraría el servicio como ente autónomo con un nuevo marco tarifario (es decir, aumento de precios).

Sobre electricidad, pese a reconocer que ya existe sobre oferta respecto a la demanda nacional, no se dice cuánto se exporta a Centroamérica, proponen convertir ETESA en sociedad anónima (privatizar) y, pese a que la tercera Línea no está completamente operativa, ya sugieren construir la Cuarta Línea de Transmisión, que nos costará 500 millones de dólares y sólo servirá para que lucren exportando energía los dueños del sector.

Preparémonos para las luchas que se vienen

En vez de depositar falsas esperanzas en las elecciones y expectativas irracionales en el “nuevo” presidente(a), los sectores populares debemos empezar a organizarnos para enfrentar el conjunto de medidas antipopulares planificadas por la Cámara de Comercio, verdadero poder político detrás del Ejecutivo.

Hay que construir la unidad para defender la educación pública, la Caja de Seguro Social, las jubilaciones, los subsidios a los pobres y exigir una verdadera reforma fiscal que la paguen los millonarios. Basta de subsidios al sector privado costa del erario público.

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The Deal Is… (4): Smash and grab season ends soon, plans are short-term

We are into another El Niño year, which affects the water supply and thus not only people’s daily lives but the economy. Cattle are starting to die in the Azuero. The canal is under draft restrictions that limit the cargoes that ships can carry through it. Planning for the long term? That’s a problem. The IDAAN national water and sewer utility is a notorious political patronage dumping ground. Previous irrigation projects featured millions spent and nothing delivered. Politicians have a hard time sending volunteers carrying enough water to impress selected voters. Photo by Eric Jackson, looking into his water tank one day.

Just a bit easier for businesses
to plan than it is for politicians

by Eric Jackson

President Varela, whose party took millions from Odebrecht but who denies responsibility, canal and rail boss Roberto Roy (who has been accused by a purported witness in an Odebrecht bribery scheme via a partner of that Brazilian company but who denies is and isn’t going to be investigated very soon), and Panama – David train coordinator Óscar Ramírez are en route to buy $800 million worth of rails on no-bid contracts, for a train whose route was determined at the outset — although there are studies ongoing at great expense to demonstrate that the original decision was a work of genius. Smash and grab.

The larger banks that will finance all this and feed the vulture funds if anything collapses are in their quiet bankerish ways cheering, but some international financial analysts are concerned about Panama’s national debt. The too small to participate banks that operate here? Moody’s is predicting that soon many will be gone, sold off in a new round to mergers and acquisitions. One of the reasons being hyped at the moment, although it’s not all hype, is cybercrime. As in banking systems being hacked and money extracted, UNLESS, of course, they hire the self-proclaimed experts who are spreading the warnings and selling their services.

The elections are May 5 and the new government gets sworn in on July 1. There is a rush to impress the voters with gifts legal or illegal. There  is a more consequential rush to jam big government contracts through the system, which may or may not be a matter of collecting kickbacks while the getting is good.

It has happened before. Actually, it’s a monotonous cycle. Politicians play like there is no tomorrow because for many of them there is a chance that there won’t be. But businesses also have to plan for when the binge is over. As in, mostly waiting on the big investments to see what the new situation will be. As in, discounting their hopes and plans a bit in light of the uncertainties flowing from the elevated debt. As Moody’s puts it, the Panama banking center’s prospects are “moderate,” which means for its smaller members a good time to think about selling.

What calming news comes from the Palacio de Las Garzas? The Varela administration says it will move to enhance the “legal security” of the copper mine in Donoso. The government also announced that China has issued the paperwork to allow its inspectors to let some Panamanian beef into the Middle Kingdom. In the next month Varela will cut ribbons for the inauguration of some $3.5 billion in public works projects. Leave it to his successor to figure out how to pay.

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