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opinion

Also in this section:
Bernal, The canal and freedom of expression
Sirias, Working on a book about Panama's saint

Lettieri, Ecuador breaks with the USA over Oxy

Birns, Neoliberalism approaching its Waterloo?

Avnery, Palestinian political prisoners show a way out

Greenpeace, No US victory in WTO ruling on genetically engineered crops
Silié, Transnationality: a new phase in migration

Council on Hemispheric Affairs, State Department cruising for a bruising

Human Rights Watch, United States fails to observe torture ban

Reporters Without Borders, Human rights scandal at the UN

Leis, Canal expansion and migration

Jackson, The ACP's Disney World pitch

Now's the time to buy!!! It's like magic!!! It's a money machine!!! You don't need to read the fine print!!!

If you think that Disney World is the pinnacle of gringo culture...
by Eric Jackson

How can people be swayed by such cretinous appeals?

Well, after all, this is a country where a candidate was elected president by a landslide by running on the meaningless "Sí se puede" (Yes you can) slogan. This is a culture so enamored of gadgetry, where anything electrical is considered superior to anything mechanical to the point that it seemed like a good idea at the time to wire up the swimming pool at Mariano Rivera's house to keep the dogs out of it. The ruling elitists here consider a pilgimage to Disney World a necessary part of every well bred child's upbringing.

But still....

A flashy PowerPoint display that proclaims itself a "complete" summary of the canal expansion costs, which however doesn't provide for the costs of fixing the roads bound to be crumbled under heavy construction equipment?

Ah, but they said it with computerized graphics that move, so obviously we ought to be impressed, regardless of what they actually said.

A Panama Canal Authority claim that its method of calculating risk is superior to traditional risk assessment models, which is tantamount to an admission that the canal expansion project can't pass muster according to standard business analysis techniques?

Ah, but the people who used that different method of calculations were in place when the canal stopped being a break-even foreign colonial possession and started generating money for Panama, so obviously they're management geniuses who shouldn't be questioned.

An economic package predicated on an indefinite long-term continuation of the recent growth rate of Chinese exports to the East Coast of the United States, even as economists warn that the imbalance in trade with China, financed by American borrowing, is unsustainable?

Ah, but such considerations are a manifestation of long-term planning, which is so passé in these days when neoliberalism is obviously the only way to think.

About the projections of permanent US import growth, I must say that it's but another manifestation of a malady that Panamanians really need to get over.

I have a white beard, am overweight and carry stuff in a Panamanian-woven chacara rather than an Asian-made nylon knapsack, so I sometimes get accused of being Santa Claus by kids on the streets. It could be worse.

Far too many grown men and women in this country confuse Uncle Sam with Santa Claus, and naively look to the Americans to solve all of Panama's problems. This servile attitude is undignified and most unbecoming of citizens of a sovereign nation. It prevents Panama from doing what it must do for itself.

Yet there you have it: the Torrijos administration and the Panama Canal Authority are using public funds for a slick publicity campaign that's utterly divorced from reality, an appeal that presupposes a groveling dependence upon our rich and powerful neighbors to the north. As a Panamanian citizen with the same one vote that Martín Torrijos or Alberto Alemán Zubieta will each cast, it makes me sick to my stomach.

Ah, they might object, Eric Jackson isn't a "real Panamanian." He's a gringo who took the decolonization deal that General Omar Torrijos made to the Americans born here, and cedula number 3-721-1318 doesn't change that.

Well, yes, I am a dual citizen, and culturally a gringo in many respects. And as an American let me warn about the difference between friends and sycophants. Time and again the United States has thrown its lot in with the most fawning and slippery people in Latin America's political and economic elites, and time and again Americans have been burned.

What can you expect from leaders who flagrantly mislead and cheat their own constituents? Do you think that they'll be honest with foreigners? Is that what the powers that be in Washington thought about Manuel Antonio Noriega when they supported his theft of the 1984 presidential elections? Is that why the Clinton administration was so enthusiastic about Ernesto Pérez Balladares and his privatization policies, only to be "shocked" to find him involved in the trafficking of illegal Chinese migrants into the United States?

So are US-based multinational corporations now looking forward to shaking hands on canal expansion business deals with people who are so blatant in their deceptions?

Do they trust a president who has used his public office to sell the mafia-connected Prime Forestry teak plantation fraud, and to plug a gold mining scheme promoted by a guy with embezzlement charges pending against him? Do they believe an ACP board of directors headed by a guy who broke the government's promise not to privatize the Social Security Fund? Don't they see any warning flags in all the information control games, which start with an opaque ACP, proceed to the massive bribery of the mainstream press, continue through corny publicity stunts and specious pretensions of managerial genius and end up with the purge of worthy journalists like Maribel Cuervo de Paredes? When they hear pitches like "It's a money machine," do they feel a compulsion to buy?

What fools American investors and policy makers are taken to be.

Not, however, original fools. You might want to brush up on your history and recall all the investors who got conned by Ferdinand de Lesseps and lost big in the disastrous French Canal project. In France the scam is still so notorious that a French expression for a boondoggle translates to "What a Panama!"

Me, I'm a man who saw too much domestic violence as a kid, and any shrink will tell you that one of the lasting injuries from that sort of thing is a dysfunctional sense of whom to trust. So over the years I have come to compensate by way of a mechanistic set of rules that usually work. One of the top rules is not to depend on any person who talks obvious trash. And that's what the ACP's high pressure sales pitch has been so far.

 

Also in this section:
Bernal, The canal and freedom of expression
Sirias, Working on a book about Panama's saint

Lettieri, Ecuador breaks with the USA over Oxy

Birns, Neoliberalism approaching its Waterloo?

Avnery, Palestinian political prisoners show a way out

Greenpeace, No US victory in WTO ruling on genetically engineered crops
Silié, Transnationality: a new phase in migration

Council on Hemispheric Affairs, State Department cruising for a bruising

Human Rights Watch, United States fails to observe torture ban

Reporters Without Borders, Human rights scandal at the UN

Leis, Canal expansion and migration

Jackson, The ACP's Disney World pitch

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