News | Economy | Culture | Opinion | Lifestyle | Nature
Noticias
| Opiniones | Archive | Unclassified Ads | Home

Volume 16, Number 9
September 8, 2010


news

Also in the news section:
Genaro López steps down as SUNTRACS chief to concentrate on politics
Police raid international surf tournament
Strip mining dispute coming to center stage here
Ferrufino claims that he has been absolved in scandals
Government shuts down Bocas water taxis
The strange case of Valentí­n Palacio
Toned down PANAMAX 2010 war games
Panamanian-style gun control politics and how the Americans here react
Ana Matilde Gómez convicted
International Indigenous Peoples Day in Panama City
Low intensity power struggle over Law 30

Many things that used to be in a Panama News Briefs feature of the website have now migrated to our constantly updated Facebook page

Mulino and his Bogota counterpart vow to fight the FARC guerrillas "with all severity"
Martinelli takes Panama
into Colombia's war

by Eric Jackson

The Martinelli administration has formally, albeit unconstitutionally, declared war on Colombia's leftist FARC guerrillas. In a joint Colombian-Panamanian declaration on September 7, Panamanian Minister of Security José Raúl Mulino and his Colombian counterpart, Rodrigo Rivera, declared that both Panama and Colombia will fight the rebels "with all severity."

The move follows a series of warlike moves by the Martinelli administration. These include a National Frontier Service (SENAFRONT) ambush that killed two FARC rebels who were traveling on a cayuco on a river in Darien, and the military mobilization and travel bans following the wounding of two Panamanian cops by a land mine on a beach near Jaque which the Martinelli administration accused FARC of planting.

Constitutionally, Panama has no military forces. The Panamanian constitution also reserves the power to declare war for the National Assembly. However, under the Martinelli administration the constitution is a dead letter.

However, the declaration of war drew criticism from across the Panamanian political spectrum.

Former Vice President Guillermo Ford, a liberal (in the rightist Panamanian sense of the word) whose political alignments have historically been close to those of Mulino, told La Estrella that the declaration puts the nation's security at risk. Ricardo Alberto Arias, who served as foreign minister in the Moscoso administration, told that same daily that it's unwise for Panama to become involved in Colombian internal conflict that for years the government of that country has been unable to control. El Panama America, generally the most conservative of Panama's broadsheet dailies, editorially complained that "Such a declations seems so dangerous and really foolhardy, coming from the spokesman of a country that, according to its constitution, has no army." La Estrella, whose publisher Ebrahim Asvat is a former Christian Democrat director of the National Police, called Mulino's declaration "an irresponsible act" and asked "When did Panamanian society authorize Minister Mulino to declare war on FARC?"

On the left end of Panamanian politics, FRENADESO was a bit more vehement and far-reaching in its criticism:

Mulino, one of the most discredited ministers in the current government and whose firing has been demanded by broad sectors of the Panamanian public after the Bocas del Toro massacre, has made an announcement that involved Panama in the armed conflict in Colombia without making any sort of consultation with the active forces in this country.

Mulino's announcement comes at a moment when different online media are publishing the news about the ties between the president's brother, Guido Martinelli Berrocal, and businessman Mario Guardia Durfee, in arms trafficking.

Panama's historic policy since its separation from Colombia in 1903 has been official non-involvement in Colombia's internal strife. For only a few of those 107 years has Colombia lived without a rebel army of some sort or another bearing arms against the Bogota government. At the time that it became independent of Colombia, Panama was recovering from the effects of Colombia's devastating 1000 Day War, in which rural Cocle province saw more than 80 percent of its rural buildings, farm animals and crops under cultivation destroyed, and in which Conservative-held Panama City was besieged by Liberal forces and suffered mass starvation. Although historians generally attribute Panama's separation from Colombia to foreign political and economic machinations, or to the desires of Panama's elite families to advance their fortunes, the November 1903 coup won widespread public acceptance because people on the isthmus were alienated by Colombian violence.

During this and the previous two administrations, this stated policy has, however, been frequently breached in action while it was continued in public declarations. The Moscoso administration's tilt toward the right-wing AUC paramilitary was so pronounced that in one invasion of Panama by the Bogota and Washington allied organization a man who escaped and ran ahead to warn a neighboring village of the impending attack was jailed on presidential orders. The Moscoso administration also collaborated with Colombian, Nicaraguan and US authorities to send a huge shipment of automatic rifles to the AUC through the Caribbean port of Turbo on a ship then called the Otterloo. During the Torrijos administration those Colombians fleeing from FARC offensives were grudgingly given refuge in Panama, while those fleeing AUC attacks were turned over to Colombian authorities, often after questioning by US authorities.

Eventually the AUC's admissions of drug funding and long chain of massacres led the United States to list the organization as a terrorist group and the Uribe administration in Colombia to distance itself. A number of former top AUC leaders were extradited from Colombia to the United States.

However, while allied with the governments in Bogota and Washington the paramilitary gained control over the drug business in areas recovered from FARC and this situation continues in many areas under new paramilitary outfits descended from the AUC. In one of the areas, the southwestern department of Putumayo, an obscure and humble merchant named David Murcia Guzmán moved in at the time that the AUC was taking control of territory and the area's lucrative drug business from FARC. The AUC and its Valle del Norte Cartel business allies made a fortune off of this conquest, much of which they laundered through Murcia. In Bogota, Murcia Guzmán showered largesse on right-wing politicians and entered into some business partnerships with the two sons of then President Uribe. In Panama, Murcia Guzmán gave money and in-kind assistance to PRD candidates and, in the form of purported purchases of Super 99 gift certificates through now Tourism Minister Salomón Shamah, gave $800,000 to Ricardo Martinelli.

(In Panama's "investigations" of the PRD donations, the in-kind part was never pursued and the best physical evidence of the cash donations, hotel videos that would have confirmed or refuted two witnesses' claims of a candidate arriving at Murcia's suite and leaving with a suitcase full of cash, "went missing." As to Martinelli, Panamanian prosecutors found that it was perfectly acceptable for him to have taken $800,000 from a Colombian gangster. But meanwhile, Murcia Guzmán is in US custody and appears to have turned state's evidence there.)




Also in the news section:
Genaro López steps down as SUNTRACS chief to concentrate on politics
Police raid international surf tournament
Strip mining dispute coming to center stage here
Ferrufino claims that he has been absolved in scandals
Government shuts down Bocas water taxis
The strange case of Valentí­n Palacio
Toned down PANAMAX 2010 war games
Panamanian-style gun control politics and how the Americans here react
Ana Matilde Gómez convicted
International Indigenous Peoples Day in Panama City
Low intensity power struggle over Law 30




News | Economy | Culture | Opinion | Lifestyle | Nature
Noticias
| Opiniones | Archive | Unclassified Ads | Home




Panama Vacations
Tankless Water Heaters --- http://www.eztankless.com/
Panama Hotel: Luxury apartment rentals in Casco Viejo, Panama City
Panama Real Estate: Original travel and investment articles on The Panama Report
Make the Executive Hotel your headquarters in Panama City
Find the boat of your dreams through Evermarine





© 2010 by Eric Jackson
All Rights Reserved - Todos Derechos Reservados
Individual contributors retain the rights to their articles or photos

email: editor@thepanamanews.com or

e_l_jackson_malo@yahoo.com

Cell phone: (507) 6-632-6343

Mailing address:
Eric Jackson
att'n The Panama News
Apartado 0831-00927 Estafeta Paitilla
Panamá, República de Panamá