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Assembly committee recommends Liborio García's removal
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Panama News Briefs

The real issue is domestic violence, but the legal pretext would be alleged illegal political activity

Assembly committee backs Liborio García's ouster
by Eric Jackson, from other media

An ad hoc legislative committee set up to review the controversial appointment of Liborio García as the nation's Ombudsman (Defensor del Pueblo) has unanimously recommended his removal. The issue will go to the full National Assembly, two-thirds of whose members must vote for García's ouster for him to be removed. Even if that happens, however, the grounds for removal are narrowly specified in the law that created the post and García says he'd interpose a court challenge to any impeachment, arguing that he hasn't done anything that could legally justify his removal.

García turned out to be the anointed one in a prolonged but shallow legislative selection process, but as it became clear that his appointment had the support of the PRD caucus a rival candidate pointed out a 2002 domestic violence complaint that resulted in the Bella Vista corregidora's ordering him out of the marital home. That order was appealed, the case was settled out of court and García was left without a conviction on his record. During the present controversy his wife has denied that there was any violence, contrary to her complaint back then.

However, in the course of the appointment process and shortly afterwards García made a series of statements that infuriated women's groups and a lot of men as well. He called the incident for which he was questioned a private family matter. He complained that authorities too readily side with women in domestic violence case, and alleged that in domestic disputes it's often the woman who's the aggressor. None of this made a dent in the PRD caucus in the National Assembly and García was easily confirmed, but starting with First Lady Vivian de Torrijos an outcry arose from the female half of the party's support base, and from former legislator Teresita de Arias at the head of women in the PRD's junior partner, the Partido Popular. A coalition of more than 50 women's organizations called for García's ouster.

Upon assuming office, García began to make rounds of the nation's prisons and do the normal things that someone in his post would be expected to do, but most reporters didn't want to talk about that and most politicians --- even the ones who elected him --- didn't care to be associated with him. Under pressure from their wives, mothers, daughters, girlfriends and constituents, the PRD's male legislators backed away and an ad-hoc committee was appointed to review the situation.

One politician who didn't back away from García, however, was the notorious Sergio Gálvez. This deputy, whose political career has spanned different political parties, has the worst attendance record in the National Assembly. In the previous legislature, at one of his rare appearances on the assembly floor he was photographed counting cash that came his way in a manila envelope. Rather than doing the usual things that legislators are elected to do, Gálvez holds food fairs where rice and other basic staples are sold at cheaper than market prices, and distributes various items for free in slum neighborhoods like Chorrillo and Hollywood, which are in his circuit.

García put in an appearance at one of Gálvez's giveaways. He may wish he hadn't.

A number of women lawyers who realized that an old case that didn't result in a conviction and obnoxious statements about the serious human rights violations inherent in domestic violence may not provide adequate legal grounds to remove a Defensor del Pueblo seized upon García's appearance with Gálvez and alleged that it was a violation of the ban on partisan political activity by someone in that position. The committee bought the argument and voted 7-0 to recommend García's removal.

If García is removed, it would be an unprecedented display of power by Panama's mainly middle class feminist movement. It would also be an indication that President Torrijos, who hasn't had much to say about the García affair, doesn't care to go into what promises to be a difficult canal expansion referendum campaign with the parties in his ruling coalition fighting a gender war among themselves.

 

Also in this section:
Assembly committee recommends Liborio García's removal
Major international drug raids highlight Panamanian corruption

Dulio Arrocha officially thrown off the bench by high court

Child sex tourism in Costa Rica

Panama News Briefs

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