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PanCanal unions, an offer to talk about safety and due process

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unions to acp
 

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The Panama News blog links, February 10, 2020

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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, Ships using Panama Canal must report calls at coronavirus countries

TVN, ACP tomará correctivos por incidente con dos pasajeras en buque de turismo

Canada Transport & Infrastructure, Canada – Panama aviation agreement

Seafood Source, Marpesca tuna fleet cited for sustainability improvements

Mongabay, Tuna supply chains under scrutiny as Bumble Bee brand changes hands

Sports / Deportes

Boxing Scene, Concepción KOs Barrera in 11 to take WBA flyweight belt

Boxing Scene, Arboleda takes split decision in WBA featherweight elimination

Economy / Economía

La Estrella, Fitch baja la perspectiva de Panamá

GCR, Korean companies beat legal challenge to $2.5bn Panama Metro win

TVN, Solo el 10% de la producción nacional se mantiene asegurada

Excelencias Panamá, Grupo Carso de Carlos Slim adquiere Ideal Panamá

Prensa Latina, Logran en Panamá paliar sequía en la ganadería

Baker, We can develop new drugs without patent monopolies

BBC, What ancient Rome may teach on post-Brexit tourism

Science & Technology / Ciencia & Tecnología

STRI, From aquarist to star inventor

Science Blog, Collapse of the white-lipped peccary

Chellany, Preventing the death of the world’s rivers

PBS, Unique Illinois privacy law leads to $550M Facebook deal

Nevada Independent, Nevada Dems show volunteers new iPad-based ‘tool’

The New York Times, He combs the web for Russian bots

News / Noticias

La Prensa, El TE todavía no sabe cuál será su rol en la votación de la playa

El Siglo, Tres tenientes involucradas en la fuga de Ventura Ceballos

Foco, La historia de Gilberto Ventura Ceballos

El Heraldo, Capturan a sospechoso de asalto al embajador de Colombia en Panamá

El País, Bukele se enfrenta al Parlamento de El Salvador y genera una crisis constitucional

The Guardian, Brazilian judge dismisses charges against Glenn Greenwald

AFP, Irish election – a Mary Lou monsoon

Politico, An unsettling new theory: there is no swing voter

WSJ, First US conviction on Panama Papers revelations

Opinion / Opiniones

Certo, There is no Great American Comeback

Power, Palast wins transparency lawsuit over Georgia voter purge

Solomon, Why the Buttigieg campaign tried to have me arrested

Weisbrot, What does the future hold for US-Bolivia ties?

Jillson, The anti-Sandinista youth of Nicaragua

Rosas, Who will lead the OAS?

Bernal, La muerte de las abejas

Video, El agua de la playa de Tanque de Gas

Barsallo: Panama turns towards transparency, but will it go far enough?

Sagel, Prejuicio y desinformación

Culture / Cultura

La Estrella, Empieza la renovación del antiguo edificio de la Sociedad Española

Esquire, The story of Huey Lewis is not a tragedy

Rebel Díaz, I’m an Alien

 

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¿Wappin? This Friday’s catch / La pesca de este viernes

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catch
The catch in San Carlos. Archive photo by Eric Jackson

And it’s not even Lent yet
Ni siquiera es Cuaresma

Kafu Banton – Cuando se viene de abajo
https://youtu.be/o6VGdIU8FfI

Gil Scott-Heron – Home Is Where the Hatred Is
https://youtu.be/nSpBs1ghyoo

Kany García – La Libreta
https://youtu.be/hi43pbAoYzQ

ELO – Poor Boy
https://youtu.be/Kgqw9FXBmvY

Cultura Profética – No Eleva
https://youtu.be/SAZQYCjvBhw

Hello Seahorse! – Incendio
https://youtu.be/V6YSMXcn7DA

Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower
https://youtu.be/TLV4_xaYynY

Natalie Merchant – I’m Not the Man
https://youtu.be/5YUg1QZ3sWY

The Be Good Tanyas – Waiting Around to Die
https://youtu.be/-0SmXVrLlZ4

Leonard Cohen – Moving On
https://youtu.be/2EkydhgKUPA

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
https://youtu.be/DPL_SV3n7IU

Chrissy Hynde – Creep
https://youtu.be/lML2N4xB9GU

Tracy Chapman & Luciano Pavarotti – Baby Can I Hold You Tonight
https://youtu.be/qQdnl0_IuRg

Adan Jodorowsky & León Larregui – Vagabundos de otro mundo
https://youtu.be/odOJXfFcIaA

Miles Davis – Time After Time
https://youtu.be/FpZHjvFXprk

 

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Dinero

Mirones and Romero out after dangerous inmate bribes his way out of prison

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papers in order
Are your papers in order? They don’t want Mr. Ventura to escape the country on a yacht.

Serial killer walks out of prison, cabinet ministers lose their jobs

by Eric Jackson, photos taken from Twitter

Gilberto Ventura Ceballos came to Panama from his native Dominican Republic as a prison escapee. He was doing time there for gang membership and kidnapping a businessman of Chinese descent. The escapee made his way to La Chorrera, opened a cell phone business and picked up his criminal career where he left it off in the DR.

By outward appearances a psychopath, Ventura kidnapped five young Panamanians of Chinese ancestry, children of local businesspeople between the ages of 18 and 27, and demanded ransoms. Mostly the ransoms were paid — nearly a quarter-million dollars in all — but those who had been abducted were killed and buried under Mr. Ventura’s house. In at least some of the cases the victim was dead before the ransom demand was made.

Panama’s Chinese community, established here for more than 150 years, still generally clings to some Confucian traditions, one of which includes great deference to authority. But in this crime wave that took place in 2010 and 2011, the families and community believed that not only did the National Police take an unacceptably lax attitude, but also that there were individual officers involved in the crimes themselves. There was a one-day Chinese community business shutdown across much of Panama, and the community held protest marches and vigils in La Chorrera. Such public demonstrations of dissatisfaction with a government’s performance were and are very out of character for Chinese-Panamanians. 

The police steadfastly denied involvement or error of any sort. The National Police director at the time, Gustavo Pérez, said that Ventura definitely had accomplices, whom investigators had identified. In the end, Ventura and one accomplice, fellow Dominican Alcibiades Méndez, were convicted for the abductions and slayings.

In 2016 Ventura escaped from prison and from the country, with the assistance of those guarding him and very likely other authorities, some of whom were detected and brought to justice. Eventually Ventura was found working in a restaurant in Costa Rica and sent back here to serve his 50-year prison term in the highest security unit in the La Joya prison complex.

Then, the presently ongoing escape. For that, Ventura needed to get through five different electronically controlled doors and past dozens of video monitors.

On his approximately nine square meter cell, two bars were found sawed through with marquetry saws — which had to be smuggled into the prison with the negligence and most probably connivance of the police and custodians guarding Ventura. It might have been how he got out of his cell, or a ruse. There were no signs of forced exit at any of the four other barriers, electronically controlled by multiple police officers ranging from sergeants to a commissioner. The prison administrator watching La Joya’s video monitors raised no alarm.

Two days after Ventura’s flight, police officers and at least one dog swarmed the outside of La Joya, saying that they were looking for Ventura’s trail. There was a lot of sarcastic commentary about this in the social media, but it was likely not an exercise that would lead directly to the capture of the long-gone inmate, but a process of elimination in the prosecution of those who helped him escape. The National Police announced that Ventura had not gone over or through the fence, but walked out past the guarded perimeter.

Three police officers have been charged with helping Ventura escape. Their names and ranks have not been disclosed to the public. They are under arrest and facing, apparently prior to ordinary criminal charges before the regular courts, court-martial proceedings before a police tribunal. It appears that the end of the internal proceedings is to strip the accused of their status and special protections as police, so that they might be sent to regular prisons. They would have to be kept in isolation from mainline prison populations to survive that ordeal — perhaps in solitary confinement, perhaps grouped with child molesters and gangsters who have turned state’s evidence and other underclasses of the criminal world. An angry President Cortizo said that the accused had betrayed the police force, their families and their fellow Panamanians. Nito said that there would be others removed from the force as well. 

We don’t know the conversations between Cortizo and his now former Security Minister Rolando Mirones. A lawyer by profession, Mirones has had a bad run. He got mixed reviews for his opposition to the years-long moratorium on the importation of guns for and issuance of gun permits to civilians, but the Cortizo administration did led the moratorium lapse early this year. Persistent violence against women and some insensitive statements by subordinates made Mirones the target of feminist criticism. And then a gang war broke out in December, doubling the national homicide rate for that month and January as compared to a year before.

The most spectacular event was a December 17 prison riot involving AK-47 assault rifles and 9mm pistols that the now split Bagdad gang had stashed in a little cave under their cell block in La Joyita. That contraband and its hiding place may have been there since before Cortizo and Mirones took office.  It certainly came into the prison with the connivance of authorities. The warden, a guard in that cell block and the national prisons director all lost their jobs, but nobody has been charged with the crime of smuggling that ordnance into the penitentiary. The death toll was 13, with 14 injuries. More than a dozen gangsters face trial for that.

The violence in the Bagdad split likely started a few days before the massacre at La Joyita with shootings in Panama City. After the prison meltdown the violence swept across the metro area on both sides of the canal, most prominently in Arraijan. Two notable incidents stand out:

  • A double murder by an illiterate Guna teenager and his subsequent release by a judge because he was questioned without a lawyer or notification of his family. Mirones criticized that decision, and in turn drew criticism as an executive branch official meddling in judiciary affairs; and
  • A late night massacre of a family of three, including a two-month-old baby, by four men armed with assault rifles. The suspects are known, with wanted posters and rewards out, but only one has been captured.

Particularly in Ricardo Martinelli’s sensationalist media but also from a much broader section of the population, a lot of blame for the violence had been assigned to Mirones. Then came the Ventura escape and with it evidence of a pervasive, sneering corruption in the police force command structure.

So Mirones resigned as security minister. Whether this was his personal  choice or at the president’s request has not been made clear. In accepting Mirones’s resignation Cortizo opined that the outgoing minister had done nothing wrong and was confronted with serious and deeply rooted problems that will take time to resolve.

In Mirones’s place Cortizo appointed Juan Pino, a career naval officer who had been commander of SENAN, the National Aeronaval Service. Since the 1989 US invasion it has always been controversial to put a uniformed officer in a cabinet post in charge of the police forces, so Pino’s elevation to security minister has drawn criticism on that basis.

Cortizo also dismissed Minister of Government Carlos Romero, whose ministry includes control over the civilian prison bureaucracy. A replacement for Romero was not immediately named, as there are apparent political complications. Cortizo’s Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) has as a junior government coalition partner the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement (MOLIRENA) and Romero was one of the latter. It seems by the inter-party pact MOLIRENA is owed a cabinet post, perhaps not this one if other shifts might be made in the Cortizo team.

Will National Police director Jorge Miranda also go? There has been speculation about that. And what about all the police corruption? The Cortizo administration has moved to set aside Varela administration law enforcement promotions made outside of the established chains of command and promotion schedules. One of Cortizo’s predecessor’s favorite games was to create some task force with badass uniforms and commanded by people selected without respect for seniority or ability. Now, after the dissolution of these units into the regular force, there are legal questions about their officers’ rights to rank and pay.

Although the recordings have not been released to the public, the charges against the three cops charged so far with helping Ventura escape are based on things recorded prison surveillance cameras. Miranda said that Ventura’s escape from his cell took place at 10:23 p.m. on Monday, February 3 and that he was seen on camera with police officers at another part of the prison at 10:30. It is reported that a civilian guard on the next shift found Ventura missing from his cell at 5:45 the next morning. The police dragnet along the roads and at likely points of exit from the country went up two hours later. Most likely the hours of head start that Ventura got also implicate people on the police force that guards ingress and egress at the prisons and from the civilian force that runs the prisons.

Perhaps a footnote to this story is the January 30 home invasion murder of a National Police second corporal at his home in Chepo. It was reported as a robbery attempt, but not an ordinary one. The intruders demanded something specific of the officer, who had been working in Colon, and when this was not forthcoming they shot him five times and fled. There has not been the usual ceremony, but rather statements from Miranda that the investigation about exactly what happened and why is ongoing.

President Cortizo is facing a long-running and deeply rooted law enforcement scandal that is not of his making. We shall see what he and Security Minister Pino will be able to do about it.

reten
The Ventura escape is not just a police matter. It’s a continuing annoyance to drivers, as checkpoints are still up all around the county. It has also been the bane of people with outstanding arrest warrants, more than 100 of whom have been arrested by cops looking for Ventura, and of a few other people found carrying illegal drugs or weapons.

Correction: In an earlier version of this story it was reported that no accomplice in the La Chorrera kidnappings and murders was brought to justice, when actually accomplice Alcibíades Méndez was arrested before Ventura and was convicted.

 

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State of the Union and reactions

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demo
Protest outside on Capitol Hill. Photo from Twitter @HistoryGirlDC.

Trump’s State Of The Union speech
and the other side’s reactions

 


 


 


 

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Editorials: Nito should veto just part of Law 91; and US citizens register to vote

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Cortizo
What will, and what should, President Cortizo sign? Photo by the Presidencia.

Nito should sign one part of
Law 91 and veto another

Under Panama’s constitution presidents have partial veto powers. That’s a good feature that should be kept in any new constitution. But although it discourages many sorts of toxic amendment games in the legislature other games can still be played.

We can look at Law 91 as an indicator of San Miguelito’s political malaise. The place has little in the way of a productive economy it can call its own. Is started way back when as a shanty town where the road out to a then new Tocumen Airport intersected the Trans-Isthmian Highway, and is now a sprawling urban district. It has a commercial life and public services of its own but is still largely a bedroom community for people who work for the canal or in the capital city. Criminal gangs exercise inordinate power there, including within the PRD. So from time to time the PRD gets thrown out of office there, usually to be replaced by equally sordid politicians.

Were San Miguelito’s legislators to be elected from single-member circuits, the city’s delegation in the National Assembly would look much different. That is not the case, but voters tired of the corruption and demagoguery threw out a bunch of incumbents there last year and an independent was San Miguelito’s top vote-getter. Now one of the recurring themes in the assembly is the PRD trying to discredit the independents.

So Gabriel Silva, an independent, proposed a law to lengthen, and in the most severe cases to remove, statutes of limitation in cases of sex offenses against minors. It also contained harsher penalties for many of these offenses.

The politics of longer prison terms under harsher conditions as a one size fits all solution to the various problems is an ugly and expensive notion that also does little to reduce crime. It might be politically unpopular to veto that part of the law, but harsher penalties are disposable and in light of budget limitations a veto might be defended.

However, in sex offenses against minors quite often an offender who is in some position of authority or apparent authority in the eyes of a child will intimidate the victim into silence. The elimination of statutes of limitation in such cases reduces the effect of such intimidation and gives the violated child a greater chance in his or her life to see justice done.

Such were the considerations of the law as originally proposed. But then three San Miguelito deputies, Leandro Ávila and Zulay Rodríguez of the PRD and Corina Cano of the PRD-allied MOLIRENA, added a last-minute amendment. Their change was a revision of Article 65 of the Penal Code, which is about criminal sentencing. The deputies from San Miguelito would require community service instead of prison in all sentences for first-time offenders of five years or less. As a practical matter it would mean that most “white collar criminals” would be immune from prison. For example, if ever the legislators who stole from the Panama Sports Institute are brought to justice. It would be a get out of jail card for most of the very few money launderers ever held to account. The same with public officials who take bribes. The whole PRD and MOLIRENA caucus went along with the amendment, with vocal opposition from the independent and Panameñista caucuses and silent appreciation from the Martinelli gang.

From the hard left to the Chamber of Commerce, there is a great public hue and cry against the PRD caucus’s amendment, calling for the president to use his partial veto power to strike out that provision that would change Article 65.

Nito cryptically said “I’m not going to sign any law that benefits any type of crime.” Still the protests and petitions go on, because nobody is completely sure of what he means.

The president SHOULD sign that part of Law 91 that eliminates or extends statutes of limitations for sex offenses against kids. He should veto the San Miguelito deputies’ amendment, and perhaps other parts of that law as well.

 

US citizens living abroad: register and vote this year

US citizens 18 and old can generally vote from abroad, by absentee ballot in the last place in the USA when they lived. Federal law creates this right. One of the federal provisions is that you must request your absentee ballot — in effect re-register — every election year.

Voting rights are subject to some states’ rules like ID requirements, bans on voting by convicted felons or those who owe debts to state or local governments and inconvenient demands to send in ballots by snail mail even from countries where it’s impractical. Plus, as we have seen, there are some state or local officials who will flout the law to disenfranchise people however they might do so. But there are also groups like the Brennan Center and the American Civil Liberties Union fighting to defend the voting rights of overseas Americans.

There are two major and up-to-date online services through which you can register to vote and order your ballot from abroad. These will generally help you navigate through the maze of states’ voting rules. Click on one:

Vote From Abroad

Federal Voting Assistance Program

vote esp

 

Sylvia P.

I am going to fight capitalism even if it kills me. It is wrong that people like you should be comfortable and well fed while all around you people are starving.

Sylvia Pankhurst

 

Bear in mind…

 

Everybody is unique. Compare not yourself with anybody else lest you spoil God’s curriculum.

Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov

 

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.

Frank Zappa

 

If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.

Dorothy Parker

 

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Kermit’s birds / Las aves de Kermit

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boid
American pygmy kingfisher ~ Martín pescador pigmeo ~ Chloroceryle aenea. Foto © Kermit Nourse.

American pygmy kingfisher
Martín pescador pigmeo

I was so happy to see this bird again on a beautiful afternoon behind Krispy Creme Donuts in Panama City’s Costa del Este. Unmistakable among kingfishers for their small size, these birds range from southern Mexico to southern Brazil. Along jungle streams and in mangroves are favored habitats. You find them in lowland forests and at the mouths of rivers on both sides of the isthmus, rare in some parts and common in others. They inhabit Coiba, but not the Perlas Islands.

Estaba tan feliz de ver a este pájaro nuevamente en una hermosa tarde atras de Krispy Kreme Donuts en Costa del Este de la capital. Inconfundible entre los martines pescadores por su pequeño tamaño, estas aves van desde el sur de México hasta el sur de Brasil. A lo largo de los arroyos de la selva y en los manglares se prefieren los hábitats. Los encuentras en los bosques de tierras bajas y en las desembocaduras de los ríos en ambas vertientes del istmo, raros en algunas partes y comunes en otras. Habitan en Coiba, pero no en las Islas Perlas.

 


 

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This year’s world music scene / La temporada de música mundial de este año

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World Music
 

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The powers that be respond to a crime wave

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calle 26
Waiting for the forensics team at the scene of a gangland hit in Calidonia.

The blame game? Particularly lame. But that
and the reasons for it are not being ignored.

by Eric Jackson

Zulay Rodríguez shrieking at Security Minister Rolando Mirones in the National Assembly chamber. Yes, well, shrieking fits are what she does. On this day it was actually a video bite punctuation. Her main work at the moment was, along with colleagues Leandro Ávila and Corina Cano, an attempt to amend a law eliminating the statutes of limitation for sex offenses to provide that those convicted of public corruption, money laundering and drug trafficking would not go to prison but rather do community service. Convenient amendment for one who, by all appearances, stole $100,000 from the Panamanian Sports Institute.

Which is not to say that there is nothing seriously alarming underway. There were about 70 homicides in December, and at least 60 in January. A couple of rotting bodies found in an illegal tire dump in Kuna Nega may affect the balance, even if there aren’t any slayings on the last day of January. Medical examiners will have to make their finding about when these two died, with the possibility of further detective work determining exactly when, where and at whose hands. So what’s THAT all about?

In a statement about the notorious killing of a family of three — including a two-month-old baby — in the Arraijan neighborhood of El Chumical, Mirones said that “everything appears to indicate that this act is the product of a struggle among gangs for control of territory.”

The names of the gangs are not specifically known to the public. They were part of one of the two main gangs in Panama, Bagdad, which had a bloody split beginning in December. After some apparent initial skirmishes on the streets of San Felipe, the war flared into a December 17 massacre in which AK-47s, 9mm pistols, machetes and shivs were deployed inside a Bagdad pavillion at La Joyita Penitentiary. Some guards, police and prison administrators lost jobs over that. There may be some cops or prisoncrats becoming themselves inmates for letting the weapons in, but we don’t know exactly when that was.

After the bloodletting at the prison, a much larger war erupted on the streets, with its main but not only epicenter in Arraijan. In one of the many gangland hits, an illiterate Guna teenager ended up charged with two counts of murder. Leave it to Judge Iroko Tinoco to throw the charges out because the boy was questioned without parents, attorney or guardian ad litem present. At that, Mirones was incensed. “It can’t be that people are released in cases where they have committed violent crimes.”

In the National Assembly, Mirones can’t get a consensus for that. PRD deputy Arquesio Arias, you see, isn’t attending legislative sessions. Accused of being a serial rapist, the judge let him out under house arrest as he awaits trial before the Supreme Court on multiple sexual assault charges. His colleagues don’t want his suplente filling in for him. It’s not just his circuit going without a vote, but also a matter of who runs the office budget and controls those political patronage jobs associated with it for the duration. Arias is managing that budget from his home and his fellow deputies seem content with that.

As word of the crime wave gets to social media that the gringo community reads, there are the usual “you need a gun to live in Panama” statements, the hustlers are calling for their emergency meetings with whatever inane offerings to come from them and the more legitimate long-term neighborhood watch groups are calling meetings with police community relations people. The ban on importation of firearms has been allowed to lapse and it is expected that the processing of applications for gun permits will resume. On the other hand, Mirones and National Police director Jorge Miranda put on the first public destruction of illegal guns show in several years on January 30. Some 589 pistols were destroyed.

The family of three that was slaughtered in El Chumical was armed. Little did that help when three or four armed guys came crashing in and shooting in the middle of the night. So if Mirones sometimes spouts US-inspired gun seller pitches, it seems that official policy is not to encourage citizens or resident foreigners to run right out and get a gun.

guns
Miranda, in shades, and Mirones, in protective gear, put a pistol to the torch. Security Ministry photo.
 

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¿Wappin? The TRUTH. Might even be Gospel.

0
MLK
He never expected a fair trial. It didn’t stop him. When he died, the dream lived on. Photo by Charles Moore.

Sometimes the music mean what it says
A veces la música significa lo que dice

Curtis Mayfield – People Get Ready
https://youtu.be/riGGtrYCBvA

Lila Downs & Carla Morrison – Ser Paloma
https://youtu.be/Gi8SoChWWkQ

The Melodions – Rivers of Babylon
https://youtu.be/CDYAqz603TE

Etta James – Gotta Serve Somebody
https://youtu.be/lHV3OjW5gsg

Bruce Springsteen – The Promised Land
https://youtu.be/0U5BmSRikl0

Peter Tosh – Burial
https://youtu.be/eirblXMl30s

Las Tesis – Un Violador En Tu Camino
https://youtu.be/aB7r6hdo3W4

Joshue Ashby C3 Project – Andy Blues
https://youtu.be/E3VRCcW1t9s

Soweto Gospel Choir – Many Rivers to Cross / Swing Low
https://youtu.be/7o34epLoQuk

The Golden Gospel Singers – Oh Freedom!
https://youtu.be/nqPZUnV-vrw

Bob Marley – Music Lesson
https://youtu.be/LWnb_2lRaoo

Chaka Khan – Through the Fire
https://youtu.be/ymuWb8xtCsc

Joan Baez – We Shall Overcome
https://youtu.be/RkNsEH1GD7Q

Joan Osborne – What If God Was One Of Us
https://youtu.be/7Gx1Pv02w3Q

Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Up Above My Head
https://youtu.be/JeaBNAXfHfQ

Chavela Vargas – Preguntitas sobre Dios
https://youtu.be/_mC3iYbTKDQ

Mahalia Jackson – How I Got Over
https://youtu.be/l49N8U3d0Bw

 

Contact us by email at / Contáctanos por correo electrónico a fund4thepanamanews@gmail.com

 

To fend off hackers, organized trolls and other online vandalism, our website comments feature is switched off. Instead, come to our Facebook page to join in the discussion.

Para defendernos de los piratas informáticos, los trolls organizados y otros actos de vandalismo en línea, la función de comentarios de nuestro sitio web está desactivada. En cambio, ven a nuestra página de Facebook para unirte a la discusión.  

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