14, Number 7
photo by the US Embassy
Due credit for good works
Remember Jim Abbott, the Major League pitcher without a right hand who played for the Yankees and several other teams in the 90s? Michael Ibarra is a Little League pitcher from Chiriqui who plays in the same fashion --- tucking a glove under his withered left arm, hurling the ball with his right hand, then grabbing the glove in case he has to catch the ball, also with his right hand.
A bunch of people, including the former Major League player Omar Moreno, the US Navy, a team of Panamanian surgeons, the administration at Punta Pacifica Hospital and the American Embassy, have pitched in so that Michael might be able to play ball in a more orthodox fashion.
Well done, folks.
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Our National Assembly is a disgrace by many measures, one of which is a series of petitions pending before the Supreme Court to strip 33 its 78 members of their immunity from investigation and prosecution for crimes. Now La Prensa has done a bit of investigative journalism, checking the academic credentials claimed by the deputies on the legislature's website against reality. Not surprisingly, it was found that a bunch of them have presented their constituents with fake degrees.
I have written unflattering things about some of the following deputies, and may do so again. (In fact, I think one of them belongs in prison.) However, on this occasion I salute Sergio Gálvez, Rubén Darío Beitía, Rogelio Alba, José Muñoz, José Brown, Bernardo Ábrego, Leandro Ávila, Juan Manuel Peralta, Benicio Robinson and Alejandro Vanegas. These deputies have no university educations and frankly say so, and their honesty about that fact should be appreciated.
I am a reporter with a double major bachelor's degree (history and political science) and possessed of two JDs (a doctorate in law and a juvenile delinquent record), but there was a time when I was a high school dropout holding elected public office. I think that there is something positive to be said about formal education, but it isn't and shouldn't be a requirement for most public offices. Abraham Lincoln, for example, never studied at a university.
Politicians who have risen from the ranks of wardheelers or from organized labor or other social movements without benefit of much classroom learning are not for that reason an impediment to our national development. The pervasive culture of academic fraud is.
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If you read Spanish and appreciate good journalism --- and support freedom of the press as an individual right against both the censors from "outside" and the politically connected and economically corrupted media barons --- you will want to take notice of an excellent if horrifying four-part investigative report by Adelita de Coriat.
Señora de Coriat used to work for RCM but after that TV news network was taken over by the PRD she was basically forced out via the creation of a hostile work atmosphere, and now does freelancing like the series whose links follow. This is the tale of a botched --- probably intentionally so --- investigation of the poisoning death of Franklin Brewster, who directed the unit of the old Judicial Technical Police (PTJ) that handled sensitive investigations of big-time racketeers. Adelita didn't neatly solve the mystery, but she pointed out things that need to be on the public record and front and center in national discourse, and for that she deserves prestigious awards and the respect of all her colleagues. See her four-part series at:
(If you vote in Panama City, there is the possibility that Noel Riande, the guy who took over RCM and turned it into less than what it was, will be the PRD candidate for mayor. This would be one of a number of media issues that ought to be considered by sophisticated voters, as there are politicians who pay off journalists to slant coverage, politicians with family or business ties to the ad agency cartel that distorts our news and culture in many ways, and politicians who have consistently supported this country's benighted criminal defamation statute and other "gag" laws that impede both journalism and full discussion of important national issues. Free expression has been on the run in Panama of late, and even if they don't shoot journalists here as in Colombia or jail reporters by the dozen as in Cuba, there are plenty of abuses and they ought to be a campaign issue ahead of the 2009 elections.)
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I see that on Panama's most obnoxious website I am accused of promoting a forgery. A source in Costa Rica sent me this document, which I believe to be genuine because the source has always been reliable and because it jibes with what other sources close to the case have told me. The prosecutors who are listed on the face of this warrant for Mark Boswell alias Rex Freeman's arrest have not reseponded to my queries about this document. "Freeman" more or less admitted on that website that the document is what it purports to be, an order for police to arrest him and bring him before the court so that he may be questioned by prosecutors in a criminal matter. The purveyors of said creepy website, however, jump to the conclusion that I fabricated this, which I did not.
"Rex Freeman" and his supporters manipulate confusion among North American newcomers --- that "expat community" they purport to champion and serve but on which they are essentially predators --- about the differences in criminal procedure that exist in the Anglo-American Common Law system and the Civil Code system that applies in Costa Rica, Panama and the rest of Latin America. They claim that no formal charges have been pressed so somehow my production of this document is fraudulent.
This document is the Tico equivalent of what we call an "orden de conducción" here, where a person who is the target of a criminal investigation and who has been avoiding questioning by prosecutors is ordered detained and brought before the justice system. Sometimes what follows, especially when it is judged that the person is a flight risk, is an order of preventive detention, that is, that the suspect be held in jail pending trial. The filing of a formal criminal charge comes somewhat later in the process, and is very roughly similar to the point in a US felony prosecution at which a lower court binds a defendant over for trial in a higher court. Despite the existence of said warrant, which I believe to be genuine, and the raid on "Rex Freeman's" offices in Costa Rica, I don't believe that his case has come to the point of filing formal charges. It's still in the formal investigation phase but serious enough to make him run away.The bottom line is that if Mark Boswell alias Rex Freeman passes through the border crossing at Paso Canoa he is very likely to be taken into custody by the Costa Ricans. That's why he looks for suckers from a base of operations in Paitilla now.
I have an August 20 trial date on Boswell alias Freeman's criminal defamation case against me. At the heart of this prosecution there is this thing I wrote, as part of a story about Boswell and his activities:
...police arrested Boswell on a fugitive warrant stemming from charges that he used fake ID when stopped for a traffic violation and used a bogus money order to buy a Mercedes.
In his complaint, Boswell alias Freeman alleged that this is a "false statement."
Actually, I was being nice, and giving the benefit of the doubt I had at the time. He was not only arrested for these things --- as was reported in various Colorado media at the time --- but he was convicted and sentenced to a year and a half in prison. See his Colorado rap sheet. Moreover, the guy brags about it on his website --- Google "Rex Freeman," check out the paid link that comes up and read his preposterous "Ex-pat Warrior" article.
However, because the courts and prosecutors are taking a dive on the requests to get public records from Colorado, I will have to go to the expense of having someone in Colorado get notarized copies of the court files in Mark Boswell's fraud case, paying to have the Great Seal of the state of Colorado affixed to those documents to prove that the notary was a notary, then pay to have each page translated into Spanish by an official court translator here in order to have the documents entered into the court file in my case.
I will have to incur similar expenses with respect to showing Boswell alias Freeman's troubles in Costa Rica. It will also cost me to notarize the many self-incriminating documents that Freeman alias Boswell has published on the Internet and to have them translated by a court translator in to Spanish. The English-language paper trail that I have amassed to prove that "Rex Freeman" is everything that I wrote that he is and worse is vast, but expensive to translate.Enjoy.
Then we have several witnesses in the United States and in Costa Rica whose testimony we will need to take and in most cases translate into Spanish, and that's also expensive.
I am getting a good deal on legal fees from my attorneys, Bernal y Asociados. Although I resolved years ago never to go back into the practice of law, which I hated, I have been doing a lot of the literal and virtual legwork that usually gets assigned to younger attorneys in a law firm myself. But we have these expenses.
I did not do my usual March fundraiser this year, but now I am raising funds not directly for The Panama News, but for my defense and that of this publication. I am asking for donations for the defense fund. If you send any checks (see the mailing address to where they may be sent at the bottom of this page), make them out to "Bernal y Associados" with a note that they are for the defense of The Panama News. You can make donations by PayPal, with the instructions available by clicking on the black ad on this page, and in that case you will be making it into the account of Henry Smith, an advertiser and friend with whom The Panama News has this arrangement to piggyback on his PayPal account. If you contribute to the defense fund that way, also add a note that it is for The Panama News defense.
Of course, calumnia e injuria is actually two crimes, and the truth is not a defense to "injuria." Moreover, the courts here are often vulnerable to bribery or political influence, and even when this is not the case there are some judges to whom the facts and the law have very little bearing on their decisions.
I am not giving up because of these obstacles. I stand by my story and I will defend it in court. I am asking you for your help to do so.
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This issue has taken me to Los Santos for the first time in awhile, to restaurants in Chitre and the capital, to a play and a picnic and a medical lecture, and in front of computer screens that have had me poring over a lot of economic prognoses. I've ridden on a lot of buses to do so.
Meanwhile in the background news, the political sleaze has been so outlandish as to be just a bit funny. If they didn't actually get a degree, they can use public resources to fake it and come up with creative and entertaining responses when caught. If his excellency couldn't get a license to kill from Her Majesty's Secret Service, at least he was able to get a license to steal from the Dominican Republic.
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2008 by Eric Jackson
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