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How are they going to spin
it in the US Congress?
So now Panama's Minister of Government and Justice, Daniel Delgado Diamante, is out of office while facing murder allegations. The record and essential facts are there for all to see --- Delgado, then on the lower rungs of a climb through the ranks that ended with him on General Noriega's general staff, burst into a corporal's home and, in front of the latter's wife, shot and killed the man. The Guardia's incident report noted that a search of the house yielded an unloaded pistol. The dictatorship covered the matter in-house, without involving courts or prosecutors. Now there's a demand for an end to impunity.
So who takes over? Why, General Noriega's adjutant, former Major Severino Mejía.
Meanwhile, President Torrijos and the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party's 2009 standard bearer, Balbina Herrera, profess their support for Delgado. Of course they do. They have consistently opposed any investigation or even any discussion of the crimes committed by the dictatorship, particularly during the years when the president's father was in charge of it.
Meanwhile, Balbina presented her team to the nation. In her innermost inner circle, there is one Héctor Alemán, her campaign manager, the president's 2004 campaign manager and a partner in the Isla Viveros development project --- the one headed by a Colombian who made death threats against the SUNTRACS construction workers in the pages of La Prensa and who was promptly assisted by the National Police, who shot down a union member who was armed with only a piece of paper, a "stop work" order from the mayor. In the next ring there's Minister of Public Works Benjamín Colamarco, the commander of Noriega's Dignity Battalions. Herrera herself was part of that outfit when she was mayor of San Miguelito in Noriega times, and in that capacity issued death threats against Civilistas in her own right, and the local branch of the Dignity Battalions actually did kill people.
So is there going to be a lame duck push for Congress to ratify the proposed US-Panama free trade pact?
Will there be some pathetic Democrats playing identity politics in support of this proposition, pointing to Balbina and making some version of the "vote for the sister" argument? If she's your sister, a lot of Panamanians of all colors and genders have a family feud with you.
Will senators and representatives from both sides of the aisle talk about labor and environmental guarantees? Then those of us who know about Panama will be justified in insisting that the War on Drugs open new fronts in the House and Senate, by requiring urine tests of all who can't distinguish those dope fantasies from the realities of the isthmus.
One such reality is that the notorious Pedro Miguel González is far from the only Panamanian politician at whom the US Congress ought to look askance. Complicating this are signs that the scales are being "adjusted" to rig next year's elections in favor of the ruling party.
That proposed treaty is a bad deal for Panama and a bad deal for the USA. It should be allowed to die, and new negotiations for a better bilateral trade arrangement ought to begin again sometime in the middle of next year --- if they begin at all --- after we have new administrations in both the United States and Panama. Of course the bilateral ties should continue, but whether or not Panama has a government of thugs ought to affect the nature of all relations --- economic, diplomatic, cultural and political --- between the countries.
It's not a matter of the United States claiming or attempting to exercise any right to control Panama's destiny. After all, we have a lame duck US president who's a notorious war criminal, yet no Latin American country or group of such nations proposed sanctions for that reason. But the warmth of friendship or chill of alienation does and naturally should color normal relations.
And the very last thing that ought to happen is the inappropriate superimposition of a lens of American identity politics between Washington's eyes and what's happening down here.
The zealots offer no solution
It makes a certain amount of ideological sense to claim, in the name of religion and traditional values, that the formation of sexual values is a family affair, and thus to oppose sex education in the schools. The matter becomes more urgent for Catholics who uphold their faith's teaching about contraceptives when that sex education would include instruction about condoms; and for many faiths that consider homosexuality an abomination when that sex education would mention homosexuality without tone of condemnation.
But the fact remains that we have a high rate of teenage pregnancy that aggravates poverty in this country and impedes the education of many young women, thus reducing the skills of our work force and retarding our national economy. The fact remains that we have a serious AIDS epidemic here, in both rural and urban areas.
Were the families and churches effectively doing the jobs that the protesting religious denominations want to prevent the public schools from doing, Panama's sexual and reproductive health problems would not be so serious. But the zealots' theoretical plan has not worked and we have some serious public health problems that our public officials really should address.
The National Assembly should pass the proposed sexual and reproductive health law, and its successes and failures should be closely monitored so that adjustments can be made where necessary. The alternative, doing nothing at all as various religious factions advocate, is not only no solution, it's an aggravation of a serious problem that's easy for all to see.
Bear in mind...
We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.
It is so difficult to draw a clear line of separation between the abuse and the wholesome use of the press, that as yet we have found it better to trust the public judgment, rather than the magistrate, with the discrimination between truth and falsehood. And hitherto the public judgment has performed that office with wonderful correctness.
The people have made their decision --- the bastards!
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2008 by Eric Jackson
email: email@example.com or
phone: (507) 6-632-6343