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MAP, No a la presencia militar estadounidiense en Panamá

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drone warfare
Un dron Predator estadounidense dispara un misil Hellfire. Foto por la USAF.

El MAP condena presencia militar de EEUU en Panamá

por el Movimiento Alternativa Popular (MAP)

El Movimiento Alternativa Popular (MAP), condena los ejercicios militares norteamericanos sobre suelo panameño. Desde el 2 enero de 2018, están desembarcando tropas en Panamá, en diferentes provincias. Es un claro mensaje del imperio de Washington contra cualquier política panameña, que no se subordine a los intereses de ese país. Además, coloca al gobierno panameño en el centro de los planes imperiales de invadir militarmente al país hermano de Venezuela. Esta semana pasada, el Secretario de Estado norteamericano, Rex Tillerson, realizó una gira por cuatro países latinoamericanos, para preparar el ataque contra el pueblo hermano de Venezuela. La presencia militar de ese país en Panamá, es un mensaje de sus verdaderas intenciones.

El periodista Eliécer Navarro, del diario Crítica, de la capital panameña, informó que el “gobierno panameño permitirá que hasta 415 miembros de la Fuerza Aérea de EEUU ocupen territorio nacional durante la primera mitad de 2018 vistiendo uniforme militar y portando armas”. El acuerdo es parte de los ejercicios llamados “Nuevos Horizontes”.

Estas condiciones fueron solicitadas por la Embajada de EEUU, el 11 de diciembre de 2017. La nota respuesta aceptando la ocupación militar fue trasmitida el 4 de enero de 2018. Las tropas norteamericanas entraron a Panamá, el 2 de enero, dos días antes de la nota de la Cancillería. Aparentemente, EEUU tenía previsto ocupar el territorio panameño, con o sin la autorización del gobierno. Los ejercicios Nuevos Horizontes se realizarán en las provincias de Darién, Veraguas, Coclé y “cualquier otro lugar aprobado por el gobierno de Panamá y la Embajada”, según el acuerdo. No se mencionan las provincias de Panamá y Colón, donde se encuentra el Canal de Panamá.

Las tropas norteamericanas tendrán una “condición equivalente a la que se otorga al personal técnico y administrativo (diplomática) de una Embajada”. En otro punto, según el periodista Navarro, “el Gobierno panameño acepta asumir responsabilidad y eximir al Gobierno de EEUU de “cualquier demanda que se entable (contra) personal de EEUU con relación a su misión en Panamá”. En caso de demandas de terceros por muertes no relacionadas al combate del personal militar, EEUU pagará de conformidad a las leyes estadounidenses.

Hace pocos años un soldado asesinó a una joven panameña. El militar fue sacado del país por la embajada de EEUU y posteriormente juzgado en ese país. Los familiares aún piden justicia, sin que el gobierno panameño asuma sus responsabilidades en este caso.

En su gira, el ministro norteamericano le recordó a las cancillerías latinoamericanas que “América Latina no necesita de nuevos poderes imperiales que solo miran por su interés “. Mensaje que los panameños podemos traducir como una amenaza frente a los acuerdos del presidente Varela con la República Popular China.

El Movimiento Alternativa Popular, MAP, rechaza categóricamente ” Nuevos Horizontes”, porque los mismos violan la Constitución Política de Panamá, ya que los acuerdos que permiten la ejecución de esas maniobras, debieron ser aprobados por la Asamblea y no por simple acuerdo de ambos gobiernos, además recordemos que el art. 310, señala claramente que Panamá no tendrá ejército, por lo que no se justifica tropas extranjeras en nuestro territorio y menos, del país que nos invadió en 1989.

Dichas maniobras violan el Tratado de Neutralidad, ya que Panamá permite la presencia de fuerzas armadas de otro país, con lo cual se parcializa a favor de EEUU en detrimento del resto del mundo.

Pero lo más grave, es que coloca a Panamá, como objetivo militar de las fuerzas y grupos adversarios a EEUU, No olvidemos que Panamá, es el único país de América Latina, que forma parte de la Coalición Internacional contra el Estado Islámico.

El MAP, responsabiliza al gobierno panameño por los daños que se le causan y se le puedan causar al pueblo panameño y exige al gobierno del Señor Varela, una postura firme y patriótica, rechazando esas maniobras, que además de ilegales, ponen en peligro la seguridad de quienes vivimos en este territorio y mancillan la dignidad nacional.

 

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Antillean Fair, this Carnival Saturday and Sunday at ATLAPA

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Yes, it’s about traditions, with senior citizens doing the quadrille. But it’s also about younger folks, many sorts of music and dance and the most gorgeous young queens in Panama City’s Carnival festivities.

The Antillean Fair: people with a history and a future throw a family-oriented party

photos by Eric Jackson and from history

African people were brought here as slaves starting in the 16th century. The ones who stayed to do the building and the heavy lifting are hardly ever recognized. You don’t see markers on Panama’s oldest building saying that “This was built by slaves,” although invariably that is the case. Those who ran off to the jungle found Cimarron villages on a West African model are a bit better remembered in our culture. Their masks, congo dancing traditions and way of life as distinctive icons of Panama.

The West Indians, however, are a different community, one that began to arrive in the middle of the 19th century with the building of the Panama Railroad. In both the French and American canal construction efforts, they provided the bulk of the work force, and to the west in Bocas and Chiriqui formed much of the crews who creaated the banana plantations. They came here mostly poor, but not as slaves and not for the most part, as some might suppose, uneducated or unskilled. Some stayed to work for the canal or the US military bases, some scattered about the planet. In Brooklyn, in London, in Kingston, in Bridgetown, in Bluefields and wherever the US Army is stationed, you can run into people who trace West Indian roots back through Panama. And over the generations people have come and gone, such that thsoe who talk about an “expat community” — meaning mostly white people from North America often living in upscale gated communities — generally won’t recognize that there are plenty of American citizens in Rio Abajo, too.

Every year on Carnival Saturday and Sunday — this year from noon to 8 p.m. each day — the community gets together to celebrate. People come from abroad, some of them old folks with their grandchildren in tow to show them something of their roots, for the party.

Drunken vulgarity? You can do that for Carnival, too. But the Antillean Fair is something else.

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Where has the community been? Many through a segregated Canal Zone, in which at one time black West Indians were paid in silver and white Americans in gold, and they had to shop in different parts of the commissaries. The discrimination and separation never completely ended but it did ease, mostly because of the community’s insistence but also because there were some key friends along the way — people like Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was stationed here as a US Army officer after World War I, got to know and like the Canal Zone’s Antillean community and agreed to end some of the more egregious discrimination when he became president. People like Judge Guthrie Crowe, who tried to bring a greater measure of justice into a Canal Zone system where the US Constitution did not necessarily apply.
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Is it a terribly racist thing to opine that generally the Carnival queens at the Antillean Fair are more beautiful than the city’s other queens? When you consider that beauty is a social construct, and that for a long time a rabiblanco ad cartel has impressed the message upon Panama’s girls that “White is beautiful and you’re not, so you’re not,” the argument to the contrary can be made. Yet black people greatly outnumber white people here. To people with concepts of beauty that are not warped by race, the pool of gorgeous potential Carnival queens among the city’s black population is a lot bigger than the pool of young white women who have more or less comparable qualifications.
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It’s about the scholarly tradition of waves of migrants to Panama who in general were more literate the population of the isthmus to which they came, and in which to this day parents tend to insist that their kids study hard and learn in school. This is an English-language school in San Miguel, circa 1935.
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It’s about living history, living scholarship, torches being passed on — for example by these and other books that will be on sale at the fair. Melva Lowe de Gooden, the author of the history shown in English and Spanish versions here? She was the head of the English department at the University of Panama.
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Once upon a time, black canal workers and their families were treated in a different part of what was Colon Hospital than were white canal workers and dependents. That sort of segregation changed,, and out of the community were raised many fine physicians both in Panama and in the United States.
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Are you one of these folks underwhelmed by the blandness of most Panamanian food? The West Indians spice it up, in their classical way, and you can get the good stuff to do that at the fair, along with a sampling of things cooked that way.
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The French surnames have dropped out of usage over the generations, but a lot of the women brought in to do the laundry and clean the hospital wards were from the French Caribbean, places like Martinique and Guadeloupe.
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The fair is a benefit for the Museo Afroantillano, which is being renovated. They have a display of construction era women’s fashions at the museum, but at the fair you will find more recent fashion trends.
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These were hard and dangerous jobs, especially working at the bottom of Culebra Cut, where landslides could and occasionally did bury people alive in an instant. The men working down at the bottom were not all West Indian blacks. There were also some white folks and Asians from Caribbean lands, and many Spaniards, Italians and Greeks on the silver payroll.
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A West Indian gathering in Panama without Jamaican-style buns? Unthinkable!
diggers
You dig? they did.
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This being a US election year, and quite a few US citizens — mostly dual US and Panamanian citizens — attending the Antillean Fair, there will again be voter registration information and help for folks eligible to register and vote. Generally it’s by absentee ballot in the last place in the USA where one lived, or if one has never lived there but has an American passport by virtue of parentage, by where an American parent last lived. Such voting assistance will be by local Democrats but is available to anyone regardless of political views or affiliations.

 

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George Scribner is teaching a painting seminar in March

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The Panama News blog links, February 6, 2018

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Otis Taylor, who will be playing at this year’s Boquete Jazz and Blues Festival

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, Container volume at Panama ports up 10.1% in 2017

Ship & Bunker, Panama bunker oil sales up 15.6% in 2017

Seatrade, Panama and Chile team up over cruise routes

gCaptain, Pirates release RP-flag ship and its Indian crew in Gulf of Guinea

The Conversation, The Sanchi disaster: how accidents can make ships safer

The Intercept: Shipping business tied to McConnell and Chao shrouded offshore

Xinhua, China and Panama meet over proposed railroad project

Metro Libre, Aeropuerto Tocumen espera salida de 35.000 pasajeros en Carnaval

La Prensa, Panamá lanza licitación para optimizar el espacio aéreo

La Estrella, Panamá será sede de laAero Expo Panamá

Barbados Today, New Panama – Barbados air service coming in July

Sports / Deportes

PGATour.com, Langley wins Panama Championship

FEPAFUT, Suiza será rival de Panamá en partid preparatorio para el Mundial

Economy / Economía

Q24N, Panama car sales down 13.8% in 2017

La Prensa, Bolsa de Valores de Panamá negoció 27,8% menos en 2017

ABC, Swiss sanction Gazprombank in wake of Panama Papers revelations

Stiglitz, Post-Davos depression

The Atlantic, The perils of privatizing Puerto Rico’s PREPA power company

Eyes on Trade, US trade deficit up 5% in Trump’s first year

NPR, Taking the pulse of the US economy

Bloomberg, Wells Fargo hit with unusual ban on growth in Yellen’s final act

Science & Technology / Ciencia & Tecnología

STRI, New fractal-like soft coral species discovered in Panama and Costa Rica

Mongabay, New dog-faced bats found in Panama and Ecuador

The New York Times, Lasers reveal a dense Maya civilization

Newsweek, Is China secretly building a hypersonic rail gun?

Univision, Reportan el descubrimiento de planetas fuera de nuestra galaxia

News / Noticias

La Estrella, Diputados pelean por control de la Comisión de Credenciales

Newsroom Panama, UN informed of Panama justice crisis

Telemetro, Panamá negó 40.7% de visas para extranjeros casados a nacionales

Ciudad de Saber: Panama parks, botannical gardens and related areas gathering

La Estrella, Mimito Arias dejará a Cambio Democrático

EFE, Piden investigar a Uribe por presuntos vínculos con masacres paramilitares

AFP, Anti-gay pastor vs. former labor minister in Costa Rica presidential runoff

E&N, América Latina: de la teología de la liberación a la teología de la prosperidad

Al Jazeera, Protests in Tegucigalpa during presidential inauguration

The Guardian, Ecuador limits presidential terms in blow to Correa

BBC, Peru’s Fujimori family feud deepens

WOLA, Inter-American Human Rights Court to consider Fujimori pardon

BBC, Mexico’s war on drugs: arrests fail to drive down violence

The Guardian, Trinidad’s jihadis

Reuters, FEMA contractor did not deliver Puerto Rico meals: lawmakers

Wired, Mueller’s investigation is larger – and further along – than you think

Time, Carter Page touted Kremlin contacts in 2013 letter

The Hill, Supreme Court rejects GOP move on Pennsylvania gerrymandering

The Intercept: Citing US prison conditions, UK court rejects extradition

Opinion / Opiniones

Countryman, Farewell address by a diplomat whom Trump fired

Facebook thread, Murrow and the present moment

Mother Jones, The creeping authoritarianism of Trumpocracy

Southern Poverty Law Center, US education on American slavery is lacking

Tyson & Mendonca, A People’s Democracy in America

Pierce, Where do Republicans go from here?

Weld, DACA: the agony of an uncertain path forward

OXFAM: Reward work, not wealth

Human Rights Watch, Latin America could lead the way for LGBT rights in 2018

Boff: No es ser petista, es ser justo y defender la democracia

Boeglin, Costa Rica – Nicaragua: La delimitación por la Corte Mundial

Cascante, Homofobia ganó el primer round electoral en Costa Rica

Beluche, El magnacidio de Remón

Yao: ¡Neutralidad, SÍ, maniobras militares NO!

La Estrella, La Doctrina Tillerson

López, Los panameñistas siguen los mismos métodos del PRD y el CD

Blades, Apuntes desde la esquina

Culture / Cultura

La Estrella, La comunidad China lista para celebrar ‘el año del Perro de Tierra’

Morenas de España, How to celebrate Black History wherever you are

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Facing the justice crisis: proposals, bluffs and maneuvers

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Arango
Juan Carlos Arango shows us a book, but not his constitutional proposal. Photo by the Asamblea Nacional.

“There ought to be a law!”

by Eric Jackson

The National Assembly’s 52-18 rejection of Juan Carlos Varela’s nominees for the high court was not a sudden shock. That only one deputy who had been elected on the Cambio Democratico ticket broke away to vote with the president — and that guy had already left to form his own breakaway party — was perhaps the biggest surprise. With Martinelli and so many of his people being investigated or prosecuted, figure that a vote to put the anti-corruption prosecutor on the high court would be much more than a tacit break with Martinelli’s party, even if he has been stripped of the CD presidency. But when the December 15 announcement of Varela’s appointments was greeted with near-unanimous public rejection, and then the special legislative session meant to approve these nominations came and went without even a committee vote, it was pretty well shown that the president didn’t have the votes.

To write “crisis” in bold letters amidst that debacle, we had a judge “lose the file” in perhaps the most far-reaching and emblematic of the Martinelli corruption cases, that part of the Financial Pacific affair related to international insider trading on the Petaquilla Gold pump and dump scheme. Although the regular courts have no jurisdiction over Martinelli — only the Supreme Court does — cases of others involved might make people turn state’s evidence and that could be most important because this is probably a murder case. Securities Markets Superintendency senior analyst Vernon Ramos was investigating this matter when he suddenly disappeared in November of 2012.

After “losing the file” — which was recovered by a citizen alongside the Ensanche in Arraijan and turned over to prosecutors — Judge Felipe Fuentes blew the whistle on time for investigation, with several of the principals in hiding and most likely abroad. That ruling is under appeal and Fuentes is under criminal investigation, but the basic structure of the Code of Criminal Procedure says that criminals get to flee until statutes of limitations expire and then come back without any worry of prosecution. Even when they don’t flee, if they have the money they can send in waves of lawyers to file endless motions that tie up the courts until time runs out. Panama has no tolling statute to discount time in hiding, in flight abroad or in defense-caused delays from the time running toward the limit.

New revelations of widespread public corruption, new excuses why the public has no right to know the extent of it and a high court now largely run by alternates and temporary holdovers aggravate long-standing public dissatisfaction with Panamanian justice. President Varela’s rejection of any sort of public consultation before his next choices for Supreme Court magistrates makes it considerably worse.

So what are the alternatives? Various individuals and parties are beginning to broach the subject of a way out, a few more seriously than the rest.

Varela’s people

From the president’s team come three probable nonstarters.

Prior to the vote against Varela’s nominees, Vice Minister of the Presidency said that discussions have been underway about constitutional reforms, including about a possible constitutional convention. The president can convene an election of delegates to such a convention, but with a cloud of scandal over his acceptance of millions of dollars from Odebrecht — he calls the money “donations” rather than “bribes,” which would still violate election laws — the chances of a slate of his choice winning such an election seem remote. Patches to the constitution would require this legislature and the one elected in 2019 to approve them, which first of all likely lets most of the corruption that has been revealed go unpunished and also presumes that there will be substantial continuity from this legislature to the next, which looks like a long shot bet.

Then there is Panameñista deputy Luis Eduardo Quirós, who suggests that what will really fix things is the elimination of all public hearings with respect to Varela’s next batch of high court nominees. Between the four Panameñistas and one ex-CD on the nine-member Credentials Committee, that procedural change could actually happen. But 16 members of that party plus two allies can’t sway a 72-member National Assembly plenum and that sort of procedure would likely inflame both the opposition deputies and the public.

The Varela coalition’s junior partner, the one deputy from the Partido Popular, says he has another idea — sort of. Juan Carlos Arango Reese, from the cicruit that includes the Chame and San Carlos districts, says that he has put together a team of experts who have written a proposal for constitutional reform, He mentions judicial reform and the promotion of tourism and agriculture. (No need to rebuild the circuit’s traditional industry, the coastal fishery, nor improve the wretched state of public education in his circuit, apparently.) He made his announcement with book in hand, but didn’t actually reveal what he proposes. Instead he offered that if more experts join with his experts, there would be a better proposal. Arango appears to suggest new patches to the constitution, but of course he comes from a circuit that notoriously doesn’t re-elect its legislators. However, if what Arango has or means to have is a draft of a new constitution, perhaps his small party could go into an election for delegate a convention with that draft to run on.

The PRD

Having lost two straight presidential elections and having been split during most of this legislature’s term, the Democratic Revolutionary Party is itching to come back to power, and to exercise the power that voters gave it in the legislature in 2014. This creature of the 21-year military dictatorship is still Panama’s largest political party. Between now and that happening, however, they would have to fight over the party’s soul and direction. Will they become an immigrant bashing party on the Donald Trump model, which is where legislator Zulay Rodríguez would lead it? Will they go back toward the social democratic part of their tradition under the leadership of Nito Cortizo, who resigned as Martín Torrijos’s agriculture minister because he opposed “free trade” policies? Will they continue on as a neoliberal party under a suitably aristocratic leader? Will they just be a political patronage outfit, with a charismatic enough boss to get elected and then to distribute the goodies to enough of the base to keep them happy?

In any case, for the moment the PRD is united about not accepting impositions by Varela, especially of high court nominees but increasingly about anything else. Party leader and legislator Pedro Miguel González is hoping for some sort of unity within the Cambio Democratico caucus that allows it and his party to form a veto-proof alliance in the National Assenbly. Then Varela would have to deal with the legislature from a position of weakness and the new majority legislative coalition’s deputies could go into the May 2019 elections having passed a few things to impress the voters.

An immediate priority for the PRD is the reconfiguration of the Credentials Committee. Under the vague constitutional guidelines, the Panameñistas should have only two of its nine members, not four. Any move to impeach Varela — a possibility to which González alludes in passing — or to remove corrupt high court magistrates, must go through that committee.

So what about constitutional changes? González warns of some system-rigging proposal being jammed through by Varela, leading to an electoral process like the one that Honduras just saw. There seem to be no specific constitutional proposals coming out of the PRD, which might well tear itself apart argung about what should or should not be changed. The constitution is, after all, a product of the same dictatorship that produced the PRD.

The civil society groups

The nation’s principal bar association, the Colegio Nacional de Abogados, wants well qualified, independent professionals to fill those spots on the high court, and they want their own and the general public’s input on who those might be to form part of the process of their selection. Panamanian society is fairly united about the proposition, but also so jaded that few expect that such a thing could happen. Plus the arguments among the non-politicians are still mostly about the process of changing the constitution, rather than any specific changes to be made or rejected.

Cambio Democratico

We shall see what new party leader Rómulo Roux might cojure up. He’s the only major party leader who is not under investigation, facing specific charges or an obvious target for prosecution. Despite being the vice presiedential candidate on her husband’s proxy slate in 2014 — a campaign supported by lots of money of criminal provenance — former first lady Marta Linares de Martinelli has received the customary hands-off treatment afforded to crooked politicians’ families here, so she heads the list of the latter. In any case, CD is on the defensive and not making any serious proposals lately.

The lone independent

Former Attorney General Ana Matilde Gómez is out collecting signatures to run for president as an independent. She was the top vote-getter in the 2014 legislative races and the National Assembly’s only independent deputy. The persistent rumor or accusation is that if on the ballot for president she would have the Motta family, for whom she once worked, backing her bid.

She voted against Varela’s nominees, citing the process and citing Varela more than any objections to the nominees themselves.

Gómez’s proposal about the justice crisis, Bill 155, is statutory rather than constitutional and would necessarily be prospective. It would not help to bring the Martinelli gang to justice. But it strikes the raw nerve of the moment and unlike PRD, Panameñista, Partido Popular or civic group offerings, you can read what the proposal is. Simply put, she would have fugitives tried in absentia. From CD and a few lawyers there are protests that this would be unconstitutional, that it would end the rule of law. But then, nobody wants to hear objections from the Martinelistas, the political caste in general or particularly from a legal profession that has treated the nation to displays of obstruction and delay. A lawyer-skeptical lawyer? That could be Ana Matilde’s ticket to the Palacio de las Garzas next year.

 

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A new political trapeze act

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Count these two nominations out — and most probably the lame duck period as having started. Photo by the Asamblea Nacional.

A new political trapeze act

by Mariela Sagel

Our country’s National Assembly never ceases to surprise us, just like the discredited courts, not to mention the presidency that believes itself to be a monarchy. This past week the tale is of the end of a tortuous road that the president’s two appointees of last December 15 had to run. Wasted — as have been public funds in all of his endeavors — were a valuable month and a half. The final result was that they were rejected in an unprecedented vote, with obvious political tinges that took into account neither the urgency of putting justice back on track nor speeding up government functions.

We went from event to festival, trapeze-style, which by definition undertakes pirouettes of increasing difficulty above the trapeze while it is swinging. They tried to throw dust in our eyes in December because the Christmas holidays were coming. The lazy deputies ended their deliberations, but about the designation of two attorneys as magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice they put on a circus of opinions and statements about how politically incorrrect the choice of these two ladies was, with the purpose of prolonging the special session. As has been recounted on various occasions, the two may have had their merits but the form and the substance of their appointments was what was questionable. When they appeared before the plenum it was payback time, but this was surely the product of pressures to which the deputies had been subjected from the time that Varela had the ill-advised idea of imposing these women for the Supreme Court.

I am not going to get into that manipulative game that the vice president played by making this a gender issue, that there was such opposition mounted because they were women. There is the touchstone — they were being used and the dignified thing under the circumstances would have been to decline the president’s appointment, which I dare not say was honorable.

The entire country was witness to this manipulation. Instead of a debate about the nomination of two qualified people to try to rectify the Supreme Court that should have prevailed, the Varelistas, commanded by their boss, fell into politicking and dirty laundry. Those who had earlier been French kissing, who brought the current secretary general of the PRD to win that party’s internal elections in October of 2016, fought like muddy laundresses. It was a disgrace. They fell into depths of discredit, diatribe and recriminations like wounded and disgusted lovers.

There is no reason for euphoria or celebration of this sweeping rejection of the caprices of the president and his brother. It is no triumph, notwithstanding that, for the first time, the caucuses were able to unite around criteria and vote in a disciplined manner. We have to see that at the bottom of it we are in the year before an election and that what motivates them is re-election. Just to be aware that one of these individuals will not face justice for having killed a child in a hit-and-run, that another doesn’t know the words to the national anthem (these in the happy world of Colon) and a third, in an attack of sincerity says that he deceived the entire electorate to be elected, ought to lead us to cry out that nobody should be re-elected.

The political trapeze act is very fashionable in other countries and Panama is no exception. The Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman well said that “political parties are taxis in which certain characters are raised for convenience and later abandoned, sometimes being paid and sometimes not.” This thesis properly applies to the trapeze artist legislators — better known as the transfugas –- who consider the parties that clothed and supported them for a time as mere job opportunity franchises. But practical politics require congruity, without which there is no possible moral authority. This has not been learned by those who legislate from the Palacio Justo Arosemena, nor are they interested in learning it. What they see is how dilating processes that some at the moment criticize and collecting unwarranted pay for putting off votes in which they knew that the executive’s will would not be imposed, no matter how great the sums offered to vote in favor.

 

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Avnery, Poles and Jews

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Polish resistance fighters, Warsaw 1944.

“Not Enough!”

by Uri Avnery – Gush Shalom

Many years ago, right after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, I was asked to write a book about the events. Rachel took the photos, I wrote the text. The book, which appeared only in Hebrew, was called “Lenin Does Not Live Here Anymore.

When we visited Warsaw, we were astonished by the many places in the city with metal plates announcing “(Name) was executed by the Germans at this spot. Until then we had no idea that the Polish resistance had opposed the Nazis so fiercely.

After coming home, Rachel happened to enter a clothes shop and hear the female owner talking with a customer in Polish. Still full of her discovery, Rachel asked the owner: “Did you know that the Nazis also killed a million and half non-Jewish Poles?”

The woman answered “Not enough!”

Rachel was amazed. So was I.

We knew, of course, that many Polish Jews did not like the Polish people, but we were not aware of the intensity of this hatred.

This hatred reappeared in full force this week.

The Polish parliament decreed that anyone who uses the words “Polish extermination camps” is committing a crime punishable by three years in prison. The right description, according to the Poles, is “Nazi extermination camps in Poland.

The rectification is quite correct. But in Israel, a storm broke out. What?! The Poles deny the Holocaust? Do they deny that many Poles helped the Nazis to catch and kill the Jews?

That is what many Israelis believe. Quite wrongly, of course. Poland never made peace with the Nazis, unlike several other European countries. The Polish government fled to France and then to Britain, from where they directed the Polish resistance. Actually, there were two Polish underground organizations, a national and a communist one. Both fought the Nazis and paid a heavy price.

If I am not mistaken, it was the Polish government in exile which transmitted to the Zionist leadership the first reliable information about the extermination camps.

Were there Polish collaborators with the Nazis? Of course there were, like in every occupied country. Without making any comparison, there are lots and lots of Palestinian collaborators in today’s occupied territories.

The main non-German helpers in the extermination camps were Ukrainians, whose hatred for Russia led them to sympathize with the Nazis. That and their own deep-seated anti-Semitism, stemming from the time when the Ukraine belonged to Poland and Jews administered the estates for the Polish owners.

The Nazis did not really make a serious effort to gain Polish or Ukrainian cooperation. Hitler’s secret plan was to exterminate or enslave all the Slavs too, right after the Jews, in order to create more Lebensraum for the German nation.

Yet it took less than 10 years from the end of the Holocaust for Israel to sign an agreement with the German state, while the hatred for Poland continues unabated.

Why?

Nobody ever asks the most obvious question: how come so many Jews, millions of them, came to live in Poland in the first place?

Centuries ago, when the Jews were driven out of Germany and other North-European countries, where did they go? Which European countries opened their gates for them?

Well, at the time Poland was the most open, even the most tolerant country in Europe. Fleeing Jews were welcomed and found a new home. The king had a Jewish mistress. An entire Jewish town grew up near Krakow, the center of Polish culture.

Honest disclosure: While my father’s forefathers had come to Germany from the west, my mother’s forebears had come from Krakow. My father, who had enjoyed a classical education, always insisted that our forefathers had come to the Rhineland with Julius Caesar (no evidence available), but my mother had to admit that her grandfather had come from Krakow, which before World War I was a part of Austria.

That Polish-Jewish Spring passed. What remained was the reality of a huge Jewish minority in Poland.

A minority that is radically different from the majority is always a problem. The Jews were different from the Poles in religion and culture, they spoke a different language (Yiddish). And there were lots and lots of them. Many millions.

So it was almost inevitable that between the two groups there sprang up a mutual distaste, which turned into mutual hatred. There were some pogroms. However, it seems that in modern Poland Jews lived in comparative comfort. They were organized politically and set up coalitions with non-Jewish minorities.

Masses of Polish Jews tried to emigrate to Germany. The German Jews, who despised them, put them on ships and sent them to the United States, where they prospered.

The classic German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine wrote a poem that goes like this (my own unauthorized translation): “Krapulinsky and Washlapsky, / Poles from the Polackei / Fought for freedom / Against Muscovite tyranny. // Fought with valor and with luck / finally managed to escape to Paris / Because to live, like to die, / For the Fatherland is sweet.”

And further on, drunk in a Paris bar, one comforts the other: “Not yet is Poland lost, / Our women give birth, / Our virgins do so, too. / They will give us heroes!”

After the advent of Hitler, when German Jews started to arrive in Palestine, they found Polish Jews who had arrived there before, like Dovid Grün (David Ben-Gurion) from Plonsk. The German Jews were received by them with contempt and ridicule.

Polish anti-Semites were seen by the Zionists as natural allies in their effort to push the Jews towards Palestine. One episode, known only to a few: in 1939, a number of leaders of the Irgun underground in Palestine (to which I then belonged) had a brilliant idea: start an armed insurrection against the British rulers and set up the Jewish State.

Looking for assistance, and especially arms, they turned towards the anti-Semitic officers of the Polish army. The Irgun offer was simple: we shall help you to get rid of your Jews. You train them and provide them with arms, we put them on ships to Palestine.

The Polish general staff liked the idea, and training of young Irgun members in Poland actually started. The outbreak of World War II put an end to this adventure.

IT IS this convoluted relationship of many centuries that is now finding its expression in the Polish-Israeli clash of the last few days.

Many Israelis have been taught to believe that the Holocaust was a joint German-Polish enterprise, and that the ovens of Auschwitz were operated by Poles. After all, wasn’t Auschwitz in Poland?

Was it an accident that practically all extermination camps were on Polish soil? (Actually it was an ideal location for the Nazis, especially after their invasion of the USSR. The Jews were there.)

I don’t believe that this exposition of facts will help. The sentiments are too deeply entrenched. But what the hell.

 

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Former CSS medicine lab chief released from sentence, not so her ex-boss

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2006
For nearly a dozen years the survivors and the families of those who didn’t survive have been demanding justice, and they have only seen the tiniest measures of it. Archive photo by Eric Jackson.

Linda Thomas’s sentence voided, but not René Luciani’s

by Eric Jackson

In general, first-time offenders who receive prison sentences of four years or less can buy their way out of prison by way of a $1 a day fine. Thus when Judge Hormilda Miranda declared the 18-month sentence of the woman who headed the now closed Social Security Fund (CSS) medicine lab “extinguished,” there were no walking out of prison scenes. But Linda Thomas will no longer have to report here wheerabouts to the police every 15 days, nor will she be prevented from leaving Panama if she wishes to do so.

Prosecutors say that they will appeal the decision.

More than 400 people died — the true numbers were suppressed by former President Martín Torrijos and top members of his administration — in the 2006 mass poisoning brought about by they mixing of deadly diethylene glycol (DEG) that was mislabeled as glycerin into cough syrup mixed at the old CSS medicine lab, which was adjacent to the Arnulfo Arias Hospital Complex and across the street from the University of Panama. It was a decrepit, underfunded facility and at the time privatization was one of the political mantras of the day, so the lab that made cheap medicines for Panama’s public health systems was closed in favor of importing the same medicines at a higher price. As it was, however, the lab was not a total exercise in socialized medicine. It bought ingredients from a private company that was surely chosen on a political patronage basis, but whose owners have gone unidentified all of these years due to Panama’s corporate secrecy laws. The DEG which that company sold to the CSS as glycerin had been sold via an intercontinental business chain starting in China. The order was for USP grade glycerin, and the Chinese company delivered some of that, and some flasks labeled in Chinese as “substitute glycerin.” The head of the Chinese factory was ultimately executed for the mishandling of the order and resulting deaths in Panama and embarrassment to China. The flasks went to a Spanish wholesaler, which did not test the contents of any of the flasks and moreover changed the labels. They then came to a Panamanian distributor to be sold to the CSS. The distributor here didn’t test the contents either, but did change the labels to back date a fast approaching expiration date.

By law, both the lab and a unit at the University of Panama were supposed to test the raw materials and the resulting medicines. Neither institution had the budget for that. Lab director Linda Thomas had been requesting funds for that basic safety task for years, to no avail.

In the middle of 2006 — while the canal expansion referendum campaign was going full blast — people started to die from taking the medicine. The Torrijos administration suppressed news of this and failed to undertake any investigation, leading to hundreds of more deaths. Eventually the US Centers for Disease Control was called in and within a few days the source of the problem was identified. There ensued a cover-up in which the Torrijos administration blocked funding for the chemical tests of the bodies to readily confirm if someone had died of DEG poisoning. Without such proof — which the government was not allowing — then it was denied that a given person had been poisoned by the government. There were fewer benefits to pay to survivors and a smaller problem to admit to voters in the 2009 election campaign that way. The Torrijos regime’s search for scapegoats got ridiculous, with fingers being pointed at public figures from the previous administration. But Linda Thomas? Neither a member of the powerful rabiblanco clans nor well connected to the political caste was she — just a black professional who has risen through the ranks. That was one Torrijos scapegoat against whom the charges eventually stuck in court.

Ultimately, years after Torrijos left office, Thomas’s boss, former CSS director René Luciani, was like her found guilty of many counts of negligent homicide and sentenced to 18 months in prison as well. The day before Thomas’s sentence was extinguished, Judge Elizabeth Berroa denied his motion to suspend his sentence. Luciani’s lawyers say that they will appeal.

 

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Alianza Proigualdad: La paz, el amor, la convivencia social sana…

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Pride 2018 by Eric Jackson

LGBT

BUC

 

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¿Wappin? Selections by an old buzzard who also listens to new stuff

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DJ EJ
RAAAAWK! In Panama nobody will tell you in English which supermarket has Purina Buzzard Chow!

Old favorites and a few new things

Little Steven & The Disciples Of Soul – Out Of The Darkness
https://youtu.be/VJ2bf3-sG7A

Pussy Riot – Police State
https://youtu.be/oaZl12Z5P7g

The Rolling Stones – Citadel
https://youtu.be/n1UHOC16VCk

Mon Laferte – Antes De Ti
https://youtu.be/fRJ3kh9cnQo

Imagine Dragons – Whatever It Takes
https://youtu.be/gOsM-DYAEhY

Exene Cervenka – Leave Heaven Alone
https://youtu.be/0Ql9afIgxpI

Bob Dylan – Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
https://youtu.be/cJpB_AEZf6U

Beatles – A Day in the Life
https://youtu.be/usNsCeOV4GM

Kafu Banton – Vamos pa la playa
https://youtu.be/JQ0bKNPpu2Y

Peter Tosh – Legalize It
https://youtu.be/ABc8ciT5QLs

Café Tacvba – FUTURO
https://youtu.be/bRiJtAYMkv4

Frank Zappa – What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?
https://youtu.be/N1rwkgCAVsc

Joss Stone – People Get Ready
https://youtu.be/msC8HkU3dpI

Zahara – Rise Again
https://youtu.be/5EQcKEMt6FM

Chambers Brothers – Time Has Come Today
https://youtu.be/_zfgoJzOCgg

 

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