A full mailbox this time

Blades takes issue

1. In answer to your writings June 7 - July 17, 2007, I will point out to you that IPAT doesn't have jurisdiction over whether or not to give permits for closing or opening the Avenida Central Peatonal. Your comments are absurd, unjustified and, apparently ill-intentioned, when you attempt to equate me to public servants who don't do their jobs. It is unjust to attempt qualify my motives in working for my country, while pointing out that I am brilliant as an artist. As for the results of my efforts, I would recommend that you try to be objective and before you issue your opinion get rid of the venom inside you. Educate yourself about the work that I have done during these almost three years of service to the country.

2. You are not the only one that writes on the Internet. I imagine that you consider yourself the most important and maybe that's why you assume that what I wrote in relation about the irresponsibility of the report about visas and vaccinations was about yourself. Read what Noriegaville wrote so you understand that to which I was referring. That report was ill-intended, insulting, inexact, and harmful to the country.

If you desire to talk in person, and set forth your questions with responsibility, all you have to do is set a meeting with me at IPAT.

I am not going to start a dialogue by e-mail, with people that I don't even know if they even exist, who they work for, who pays them, or why. On this occasion, I fulfill the need to respond to your writing, as it corresponds to me under the circumstances.

Rubén Blades

IPAT director

Editor's note: If one reads carefully, one will notice that I never wrote that Blades or IPAT had anything to do with the Peatonal decision, which seems in any case to be in the process of being corrected. What I did say is that in an important matter related to tourism, the shortening of tourist visas to 30 days (which can be renewed) from 90 days (which could be renewed), neither he nor IPAT participated in the legislative discussion and that's an example of a job that should have been done not having been done. The Panama News has covered the work that Blades has done at IPAT, most prominently by reporting on what he has had to say at the AMCHAM tourism forums, so of course I wouldn't call him one of Panama's time-dishonored "botella" phantom government employees, but I will call it as I see it when a public official or institution is absent when she, he or it should not be.

The statement with which I took issue did not mention Noriegaville. It denounced plural "unscrupulous people" for spreading "irresponsible information currently circulating through the Internet indicating that the total amount of days tourists can stay in Panama had decreased." But the length of tourist visa stays had decreased, and The Panama News reported the story as such. The tourism minister would do well to dispense with the scattergun attacks, and the unfortunate denials.


"Hector Gallego, Church and Community" column

To: Hector Endara Hill

I think your remarks about the Church hierarchy's lack of concern about so many social issues is way overblown. I live here in Panama with my ear to the ground listening to the voice of our pastor/shepherds denouncing every form of social injustice...specifically addressing each and every one of the points in which you accuse them of silence! Perhaps you have an axe to grind about the Church. I don't know; but you best find some other issues to gripe about because regarding the topic at hand you are dead wrong. The purpose of the Church, and nothing else, is to save souls. Read on . . .

On May 11, 2007 the Holy Father said that the church of Latin America is one with many desafios... and that the need for a new evangelization is paramount. Parallel with that challenge is the Church's fundamental option for the poor. "These are fundamental realities: they speak of instructing people in the faith and in Christian morality, and of celebrating the sacraments. Wherever God and his will are unknown, wherever faith in Jesus Christ and in his sacramental presence is lacking, the essential element for the solution of pressing social and political problems is also missing.

Fidelity to the primacy of God and of his will, known and lived in communion with Jesus Christ, is the essential gift that we Bishops and priests must offer to our people (cf. Populorum Progressio, 21)."

Rev. James Overend, CMF




As I read the last issue in which you wrote that you expect that at some point US political discourse is going to center on whether top Bush administration officials should be tried for war crimes under US law or handed to an international tribunal, I was SHOCKED.

I was SHOCKED because I felt no emotion to what you had said. No anger, no revulsion. I realized that liberal “slobber” is so rampant now days that it is no longer shocking. In the past, every word that came out of a liberal’s mouth was outrageous and ridiculous, now they are just boring and routine and “shockless.” Now, instead of eliciting some sort of response, normal people just mutter something obscene about liberals and go one with their daily, non-communist life, no more shock. More like pity that someone could be so consumed with hatred that they lose any resemblance of unbiased thought.

What did come to mind is the saying that God looks out for fools, little children and Democrats. This could not be truer. God will continue to protect liberals and continue to provide them with an environment in which they can articulate their often asinine, non-shocking remarks. What liberals never understand is that if they get their way there will be no way for them to spew their venom. I fully support free speech everywhere in world, unconditionally. Eric, I know you also support free speech everywhere in the world, well, except Venezuela where they have this really cool dictator who hates America so they don’t really need it.

By the way, Eric, Where was your outrage when Janet Reno dismissed all 93 United States attorneys when President Bill Clinton took office in 1993? I did a little research and was unable to come up with any articles, by you, claiming the end of civilization. I guess you just had a problem when President Bush exercised his lawful discretion. I’m sure you’ll come up with an excuse for your double standard but the bottom line is, beyond dispute, they are political appointees that serve at the discretion of the President.

G. Johnson

Editor's note: US presidents, through their attorneys general, usually fire all the DAs of a prior administration and generally replace them with men and women of their own political party. To tell you the truth I don't like the political patronage system but that's what they have up there as to these positions, so I was not outraged about that particular action that Janet Reno took. On the other hand, although I thought the Branch Davidians totally obnoxious I was outraged by decisions that Reno took that dovetailed with David Koresh's fanaticism and ultimately led to the needless deaths of a number of people, including children.

But of course, the subject matter to which Mr. Johnson objects is not my take on how Janet Reno behaved in office, but by my failure to condone the systematic use of torture by the Bush administration. It's a crime under both US and international law. It's an offense that, for example, I consider far more serious than false testimony to a grand jury about a sexual act between consenting adults.

If the reader is shocked that someone would advocate accountability for the systematic use of torture, that reader shocks too easily.


Finally, I support free speech in Venezuela too. However, I am also "pro-life" in a way that American conservatives generally can't understand --- I don't believe in abusing one's position as a journalist or the owner of a communications medium in such a way as to get people killed. As principals in the April 2002 Venezuelan coup plot that's exactly what some of the Caracas media barons did --- people were killed in an elaborate set-up whose arrangers included the RCTV management. So while I am not entirely happy with the way that the channel that RCTV had been using ended up as a government frequency, I really don't feel sorry for those in the mass media who think that freedom of expression is a license to kill, act on that arrogant presumption in a way that irreparably cancels the most fundamental right of all by snuffing out lives, and then end up losing their broadcast license over it. Freedom of expression ends well short of killing people. And notice that with the exception of Condoleeza Rice, all other delegates to the recent OAS summit here likewise declined to support the bloodthirsty RCTV management.


So what's the scoop on visiting Panama?

After reading a section of your paper I am getting the feeling that Panama may not be the best vacation destination. Can you tell me otherwise?


Editor's note: Panama is wonderful for all sorts of vacations, and for a lot of people as a place to live. I have dual citizenship and could be living in the USA but prefer to live here.

But people who come down here with a lot of illusions, which various folks try to impart as part of their sales pitches, often leave disillusioned.

Me, I report the news and a lot of stuff that's newsworthy is not particularly pleasant. We have a government that is starting the usual last year in office games a year early, an opposition that's in disarray and disrepute and a solid majority that hates the political class but can't see any viable alternative out there. We have both the national economy and poverty growing. The great majority of Panamanians don't make the $800 a month that triggers income tax reporting and payment, but we have a few dozen families that make frequent pilgrimages to Disney World and buy their kids luxury cars for teenage birthday presents. We have ancient fishing villages being forced out to make room for speculative tourist traps. We have our problems, and as a Panamanian citizen and a journalist I do report them.

But then as an American I have a government that's into torture and other war crimes, also something I think worthy of notice and condemnation. Every country has its problems.

So should you come to Panama to visit? Well, what do you want to do?

Are you a birdwatcher? You won't find a better place for that anywhere else in the world. Are you into catching a fish bigger than you are? You can do that here too. You can lie on a sunny beach unmolested, although you'll get rain for part of the day most days for most of the year. If you are into rainforest science or marine biology, we have the world-renowned Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Are you into a very cosmopolitan city and its attractions? We have that, too, though I wish we'd get a Szechuan restaurant and an Ethiopian one.

We have sex, drugs and rock and roll like the Boston Combat Zone (if they still have that anymore), plus all these casinos. I go for other things than that, like the Jazz Festival, the Antillean Fair, our boxing that's in a Golden Age and a few other small cultural scenes.

I write this at my mother's house, as she and her husband just moved back for economic reasons after having lived in the USA for more than 30 years. I think that she made a good choice --- but certain parts of the real estate market are ridiculously high-priced because of all the insane speculation.

So why do you want to come to Panama?

Are you thinking about coming here to get rich quick? Best forget that.

But you can have a thousand different reasons that would be good ones to come visit, and you could come for something else and discover something you never thought of and fall in love with the place. Just come with your wits about you, your eyes open and your BS detector turned on, so as to avoid disappointments as best you can.


New visa laws

I have been coming to Panama for four years and bought a house in Bocas a little more than a year ago. I do not qualify for any of the visas offered although I spend plenty of money in the country and also bring more money into Panama through friends and family visiting me. I am against the development boom that is happening and did not buy as an investment. I work in the US four to five months and save about $20,000, which I spend down here in seven to eight months. My mom came from Europe last winter and stayed for three month (spending about $5,000 excluding air) and in September I have friends (three couples) visting from overseas for who never would have chosen Panama as a destination if it was not for me living here. They are all well to do and my estimate on their spending for their three-week stay including hotels is around $12,000. But right now I am holding off on making their hotel bookings for them because at this point I do not know if I will still be here in September with all the hassle of those new laws. The economic loss for Panama just from me leaving is around $40,000 a year. I am assuming there are other people with a similar situation like myself out there, people who are doing nothing but living here part of the year, spend money and do not qualify for any visas. I think a lot of those will take their business elsewhere.


New World Order: theory

The term "New World Order" (Novus Ordo Mundi) has been used to refer to a new period of history evidencing a dramatic change in world political thought and the balance of power.

When we talk about New World Order we can say that everything is about hegemony and dominance of stronger countries over others. If we look back through history we can recount various attempts of several countries to create a New World Order or some sort of dominance among countries. Some of these attempts was led by great warriors such as, Alexander the Great (Macedonian Empire), Julius Caesar (Roman Empire), Genghis Khan (Mongol Empire), Napoleon Bonaparte (French Empire), Adolf Hitler, among others. From this we can see that every attempt to rule the world was needles and devastating.

We heard many theories and conspiracy theories about the New World Order, some of which include the USA and the UK wanting to form the federal world government, or the Illuminati (The People of The Light) believing that they are masterminds behind events that will lead to a New World Order, or that the Freemasons are involved in the conspiracy to create a New World Order, or that international organizations such as the World Bank, IMF, European Union, the United Nations, and NATO are often listed as core NWO organizations, Black helicopters, etc. In my opinion, these theories will never take place because of strong disagreement from Russia, China and Islamic countries.

In regard to the above, in present times, we can see that even more countries are trying to dominate and create some sort of order among themselves by creating Unions and Alliances between them; like European Union, African union, Alliance of the USA, the UK, Australia and Canada, etc.

In the very near future, in order to survive, keep national identity and to maintain economy, costume and culture it is more likely that more Unions and Alliances would be formed to create a New World Order; bigger European Union with new member states such as: Macedonia, Croatia and Turkey. Union of Asian and Eurasian countries Russia, Mongolia, China and India, Union of Islamic countries from Middle East and Central Asia, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, stronger unity of African Union, Union of Central and South America; Panama, Colombia, Cuba and Venezuela, and eventually North American Union; USA, Canada and Mexico. After these Unions, we can expect even bigger ones. My vision is that they are going to look like this.

European Union (EU) led by supreme members Germany and Austria will expand to five more countries Switzerland, Norway, Serbia, Montenegro and Moldova. It is most likely that the EU will have problems with France and Turkey because of the pressure from Muslim countries from the south.

In order to maintain stability in the world, Union of Asia and Eurasia countries (UA) led by Russia, China and India will expand to Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and North Korea. South Korea and Japan will try to stay neutral while on the other side Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan will try to form some sort of Union among themselves because of historic experience and influence from Russia and India. This union will create struggle between Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the UA but eventually will get them back to Russian and Indian embrace.

Because of enormous power of other unions, the Union of Islamic Countries will transform itself into a Union of Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and led by Iran and Saudi Arabia will enlarge to whole Middle East (except Cyprus and Israel), North Africa, Sudan and Afghanistan. In these circumstances, Israel will lose support from the USA and the UK. This Union will be one of strongest unions since it would be directed strictly by religion and desire to preserve their customs; also, it will become economically one of the strongest and one of the most influential Union since there is great number of Muslims in the EU and the USA. Turkey, France and Morocco will be the bridges of MENA to set influence on the EU.

The African Union will get weakened when it loses members from the North but eventually she will form new Sub-Saharan Union (SSU) which will become stronger, and finally place Africa on the right way. Because of the events in North Africa and new MENA Union, SSU will prosper with great economic support from the EU, the UA and Great American Union (GAU).

Union of Central and South America will enlarge to the whole continent and they will join North America to create Great American Union (GAU). The USA will have great influence on other members through Mexico. This Union will be led by the USA in the North and Brazil in the South. This union will make the USA to concentrate on the American continent and eventually stop supporting the UK and Israel, which will lead to the UK drawing closer to the EU and Europe; this would push the State of Israel to find a new way out and for the USA to become independent from the two of them.

Countries from Southeast Asia like Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, etc. will become oasis for peace and world's largest tourist destinations. It is most likely that Japan and South Korea will join them.

The dormation of these unions will bring many difficulties and misunderstandings; however, Unions will be formed with an objective; desire to compete, to dominate, to parry, to be biggest and some even to survive, regardless of differences in religion, nationality, color of skin, history, culture, among others.

Bigger unions means bigger desires, desire to be first, to be biggest, to be strongest no matter what. These desires will create disorder among countries, and eventually will create war of the nations, war that will destroy mankind and mark the beginning of a true world order.

Ivan Simic

Belgrade, Serbia


Editor's note: My favorite new world order conspiracy theory is about the Obliterati, an elite faction of the negligentsia that has been running the world for a very long time and spends most of its time being intoxicated, blundering into one great world disaster after another.


Confronting the Ministry of Education's indifference

The Veraguas Educators Association and the Teachers Action front (AEVE and FAM respectively) have moblilized to denounce that, after more than one month has passed since the tragic deaths of colleagues Yamileth Calderón and Doris Gaug Dixon (the latter whose body has never been found) and Gaug Dixon's young son, yet the Ministry of Education, after lamentations and breast beating, has given no concrete responses that might solve the causes from which this tragedy originated.

We have been so beloved and held in such high esteem by Ministry of Education administrations like the one in 1997 that eliminated our special retirements, and have continued ever since attemptiong to degrade teachers' living conditions in order to comply with the requirements of the neo-liberal policies of the Inter-American Development Bank and other foreign "lenders" who are the authors of this country's public debt, along with local business leaders who live off of the debt and partake in this happy carnival.

Day by day, our teacher colleagues who work in this areas of difficult access on the Atlantic side have had to return to their workplaces in the same terrible conditions of personal and job insecurity, which were the source of the tragic deaths of our colleagues, with the same risky conditions continuing for the other teachers in the same places and the ministry having done nothing to solve the problem. They just go on as if nothing had happened, promoting their neo-liberal education agenda with off-the-mark proposals like their "inclusion" idea and a hidden agenda to "reform" the organic law on education so as to degrade public education and worsen our working conditions.

We demand, once again, that the Ministry of Education and its top director, Mr. Minister Exigimos una vez más al MEDUCA, y a su máximo directivo, el Sr. Ministro Miguel Ángel Cañizales, carry out:

·        An increase in the salaries of our colleagues in areas of difficult access, as was agreed in the National Dialogue for Education;

·        The provison of alternatives so that teachers in areas of difficult access have the ability to develo their higher education;

·        The improvement of school infrastructures in areas of difficult access to include teacher housing;

·        Giving better life insurance coverage;

·        Providing transport facilities and improved access to workplaces;

·        The creation of a different school calendar for zones of difficult access that's in accord with the climatic particularities; and

·        The development of school infrastructures consonant with environmental realities and locates in zones that are demographically and geographically appropriate, so as to protect the safety of teachers and students.

We in AEVE and FAM will continue our struggle until the Ministry of Education respects the lives of teachers and provides better working conditions for our colleagues in areas of difficult access.

No more dead teachers --- we deman respect for our lives!

We demand better working conditions for our colleagues in remote areas!




Fan mail

Keep Up the good work. I really enjoy the Wappin shows. Keep them coming.

Paul Fairley


Why the US bashing!!!

I am a proud Panamanian and grateful US resident. I understand the sentiment or disagreement over what the US government is going through right now (war in Iraq, immigration, fuel prices, healthcare, taxes, etc), I got my own views pro and con but it seems to me that in every article you write where United States is mentioned, you try to bash your own country and try to put it down. I understand the US has made some mistakes, no only during the bush administration, but during many others in the past, including the democrats. Anyways, I think overall US has done more good than bad in this earth, at least much more good than any other big power in the world. I don’t understand why you want to put your own country to shame in the eyes of the world, is it hatred?

I wonder how US would be if it had a Chávez, a Castro, or a Hussein in power… you probably would be happier… anything better than BUSH ah??

I understand it is your freedom of expression to put whatever you wish in your newspaper but it is also my freedom of reaction to tell you that I think your newspaper would be more successful if you were to be more fair and balanced in your articles.

Eduardo J. Guinard


Editor's note: I think it's bad enough that we have a president who has led the United States to war for a lie and then lost that war, in the process doing immense harm to our armed forces and strengthening the hand of America's enemies, the jihadis led by Osama bin Laden. I think it's bad enough that we have an administration in Washington that has cynically and unlawfully revealed the identity of an undercover CIA agent for the crassest motives of political revenge. I think it's bad enough that America has been progressively isolated in the world as a pariah nation that practices torture. Might Bush supporters want to make the situation even worse by calling everyone who criticizes this situation unpatriotic and by insinuating that such people are for some sort of totalitarian dictatorship, so that nobody dares to speak out about what's going on? No doubt. But if you are living in the USA you must have noticed that these sort of smear tactics did not save the Bush team from a stunning electoral defeat last November. I doubt they will in November of 2008 either.


Wrong municipal gym

I'm writing in regards to the article written about Ana Pascal. Reason is she was my trainer at the gym in Barrasa where she trained and lived until she left for Columbia yet your article says she works in the gym at Curundu. Just wondering where you got this information. As far as I know she still has not returned to Panama.

Anabella Pedersen


Editor's note: Ms. Pedersen is right. I stand corrected for putting Ms. Pascal at the wrong municipal boxing gym.


The Latin Mass

I welcome Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to loosen restrictions on the use of the Latin Mass. Vatican II, in fact, never called for the elimination of Latin. The pope’s decision, therefore, is meant to foster a more comprehensive and profound understanding of the church’s liturgy.

Latin is the official language of the Catholic Church. It is a "dead" language that prevents church liberals from translating words into the vernacular using ambiguous terms that undermine church doctrine such as the use of inclusive language. Perhaps, the greatest advantage of the Latin Mass, then, is that it is not open to the numerous abuses presently experienced on a regular basis with the new Mass.

The universality of Latin makes it conducive to all believers experiencing more fully the mystery of the Mass. It imbues a heightened reverence and sense of the sacred. It compliments well the Latin rites’ traditional Gregorian Chant with its moving meditative cadence that touches the depths of the soul.

The Tridentine Mass is also more uniform and consistently Catholic in its theological and Christian-cultural aspects. The Pope has previously mentioned, for example, how in the new Mass the "turning of the priest toward the people no longer opens out on what lies ahead and above [but] has turned the community into a self-enclosed circle." Both the priest and people should be facing the east.

The Eucharist is the all encompassing source and summit of Christian life. A wider implementation of the Latin Mass will no doubt be an effective means of both preserving the Church’s faith and identity while at the same time allowing her to carry out her mission of evangelization.

I hope the pope’s new directive will encourage bishops to actively and aggressively promote the Latin Mass throughout their dioceses and beyond.

Paul Kokoski

Hamilton, Ontario



Heart attack special?

I will have to say the piva soup is a killer.

Robert Ratliff



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