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Volume 15, Number 7
April 7, 2009

opinion

Also in this section:
Editorials: Presidential options, and Dr. Mengele and Mr. Bush
Jackson, The trouble with Bosco Vallarino
Bernal, City government and crime
Briger & Wilson, A Panamanian election tainted by scandals
Holland, Panama must go beyond "Swiss cheese"
Hutchison, Approve the free trade agreements
Leis, The Clara González Report on the Status of Panamanian Women
International Committee of the Red Cross, Report on CIA torture
Global Unions, Labor's declaration to the G20
Isacson, Uribe and freedom of expression (video)
Rodriguez, Common sense legislation to reduce gang violence
Birns & Ramirez, Time for a real debate about the failed War on Drugs
Felson, Pan-Caribbeanist Errol Walton Barrow
Bruneau, Canada and Mexico's drug wars
Reporters Without Borders, TV reporter and videographer gunned down in Guatemala
Briger, The G20 and Latin America
Hauck, Four wheels and a deck
Sirias, An unseen earthly connection
Letters to the editor

An intellectual heavyweight?
by Eric Jackson

On one of Telemetro's talk shows, somebody quoted me as a source alleging that Bosco Vallarino got his US citizenship for being a CIA agent. Well, I asked some rude questions but I never did say that. Vallarino would have been an "asset" in the US destabilization and invasion of Panama in the late 1980s, but I seriously doubt that he was a CIA "agent" in the company's strict usage of the word.

And why the rude question? Because according to the time lines of Bosco Vallarino's own story, he never resided in the United States for five years. You generally need to do that to become a naturalized citizen. Exceptions are made for foreigners who serve in the US military, by rare acts of Congress, and for those who get citizenship as a reward for services to the United States, generally to covert operations. Plus, we do know from the published account of Kurt Muse that the clandestine radio station that Bosco Vallarino says he headed was CIA-funded.

People who lost relatives in El Chorrillo would have reason to question both the details of Vallarino's naturalization as a US citizen and his activities in the late 1980s. But to me --- a Panagringo by birth who believes that people in Vallarino's situation ought to enjoy full political rights in Panama --- the man's citizenship problems are merely Exhibit A about the mental powers he brought to the mayoral race.

I was once a politician whose formal educational status was as a high school dropout. Afterwards I went on to get more schooling, but let me not be an academic snob here. The problem with Vallarino is not his lack of diplomas. It's that he exhibits the mind of a relatively bright... block of granite.

(Yes, I know. The Bernal people protest the simile. "Granite's useful," somebody in that camp complained.)

But consider, in addition to both the citizenship problem that Vallarino should have foreseen and his multiple ridiculous responses once nabbed ("Wait until my daddy comes home" was my favorite), his behavior throughout his campaign:

  • Look at all the unsupported claims. In his initial attempt to change the subject from his citizenship woes, Bosco vowed to eliminate all the botellas in city government. Well, fine. Except that in the classic Panamanian Spanish usage, a botella is a phantom employee who draws a paycheck that's diverted to the politician who hires him or her. Has the Panameñista candidate ever specifically identified any individual as one of these? He's made the charge enough times that he really should have shown some proof by now. And if he's using the term in its far looser sense of a political appointee, is he promising that he's not only going to get rid of the people who got hack jobs from Navarro, but that he's also going to abandon the political patronage system altogether? I haven't heard that one from Vallarino.

  • Understand who's who to properly analyze the context of Vallarino's television performances. He was anointed as a mayoral candidate by Juan Carlos Varela, a member of the right-wing Catholic organization Opus Dei. When in trouble, Vallarino has been given ample time and puffball questions on the morning television show of Lucy Molinar, also a member of Opus Dei. And even in these carefully arranged settings, Vallarino has said ridiculous things that hurt him. When the citizenship question came up, he went on Molinar's show and made claims that were legally unsustainable. Before that, when people questioned Bosco Vallarino's ties with Brazilian real estate hustler Alex Ventura, Lucy obliged him by setting up a straw man to kill, producing a photo montage of Vallarino and Colombian hustler David Murcia Guzmán to deny. But Bosco had to go beyond that choreographed nonsense and use the occasion to pose as an alternative to solid waste recycling the construction of a waste to energy incinerator, which is an environmentally and economically irresponsible proposal.

  • Notice that the country and city are, like the rest of the world, feeling a tightening economic squeeze. Consider in that light the implications of Vallarino's vow to break the city's contract with a Spanish company to set up a recycling operation on Cerro Patacon. Consider the diplomatic implications as well. Vallarino acts as if the city can just walk away from that contract without paying damages. He doesn't seem to understand that the government of Spain is one of Panama's biggest foreign aid donors. Yes, the Panamanian Constitution provides that the government can break contracts that are against the public interest, but there are also treaties and political realities that come into play that would impose some serious financial consequences for cavalierly shafting a Spanish corporation to make some ill-advised political point.

  • Think about the constitutional realities underlying the would-be mayor's stated position on crime. He promises tougher laws and more police. But the municipal police are just for guarding city buildings, guarding the mayor and performing security at the local government's events. The criminal laws and their enforcement are, under the Panamanian Constitution, matters for the national government. The mayor's office has nothing to do with these things.

  • Then there are all of the round numbers that Bosco Vallarino cites. The city needs 100 new garbage trucks, 25 of these, 1,000 of those and so on. How is it that our city's needs come to such neat solutions? They don't. Vallarino hasn't studied the needs of the various city departments and figured out specific responses. He just pulls round numbers out of the air and figures that nobody will notice.

It is true that Panama's educational system is awful, but it's a great stretch to proceed from that observation to the conclusion that the poorly educated masses are stupid. By and large, they are not.

The Panamanian people are one thing. But Bosco Vallarino? He's thick as a brick, denser than a jungle, dumb as a stone. He was thought to be a useful fool to be inserted into a key position by party bosses who wanted to control Panama City's resources. That, and not his gringo identity, is the real problem.



Also in this section:
Editorials: Presidential options, and Dr. Mengele and Mr. Bush
Jackson, The trouble with Bosco Vallarino
Bernal, City government and crime
Briger & Wilson, A Panamanian election tainted by scandals
Holland, Panama must go beyond "Swiss cheese"
Hutchison, Approve the free trade agreements
Leis, The Clara González Report on the Status of Panamanian Women
International Committee of the Red Cross, Report on CIA torture
Global Unions, Labor's declaration to the G20
Isacson, Uribe and freedom of expression (video)
Rodriguez, Common sense legislation to reduce gang violence
Birns & Ramirez, Time for a real debate about the failed War on Drugs
Felson, Pan-Caribbeanist Errol Walton Barrow
Bruneau, Canada and Mexico's drug wars
Reporters Without Borders, TV reporter and videographer gunned down in Guatemala
Briger, The G20 and Latin America
Hauck, Four wheels and a deck
Sirias, An unseen earthly connection
Letters to the editor

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