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Volume 16, Number 13
December 1, 2010


editorial

Also in this section:
Editorials: Political prosecutions; RSN on Wikileaks; and Banking secrecy
Sirias, Books that affected me
Inter American Press Association, Freedom of the press in Panama
Mining Watch Canada, On the Panama-Canada Free Trade Agreement (PDF)
Reporters Without Borders, Panama grants asylum to María del Pilar Hurtado
Bernal, Precautions?
Leis, Zero intolerance
Jackson, Bigotry and language
Article XIX and CIHRS, A problematic proposal to ban the vilification of religions (PDF)
Greenpeace, Suing US corporate spies
Amnesty International, Nicaragua must put an end to rape and sexual abuse of girls
Weisbrot, Economic integration and conflict resolution in South America (PDF)
Rafferty, Tax havens stunt Latin American development
McCartney, Dumbed-down nation
Steel, Bring back American manufacturing
Hightower, Simmering water war
Nasser, Peace held hostage to rotating US and Israeli elections
Avnery, "Islam is the solution"
Cristo, An encounter with the stars
Stimson, What America needs to learn from China
Letters to the editor

Not since Noriega times

We see the qualities of President Martinelli and his obedient acting attorney general Giuseppe Bonissi ever so clearly in the "investigation" of the mass poisoning by way of diethylene glycol (DEG) in government-distributed cough syrup case. Yes, we could get sidetracked onto a "which administration was worse" argument in which neither Martinelli's nor Bonissi's predecessors look good. But let's look at what has just happened, the selective removal of three members of the Social Security Fund (CSS) board of directors.

The three board members removed by the prosecutor's order, Guillermo Puga, Manuel Tajú and Lastenia Canto, are not the only ones on the board who served as the tragic chain of negligence and reckless cover-ups was underway. They are, however, the labor unions' and retirees' representatives. They were removed not because they were guiltier than those not charged, but to get them out of the way for a right-wing president to jam anti-labor and anti-retiree measures through a board that would otherwise not accept them.

Torrijos and Gómez sabotaged the investigation to protect many of the guilty, and scapegoated the medicine lab director whose repeated warnings and requests for funds went unheeded until tragedy struck. The owners of the company that supplied the mislabeled DEG have gone unidentified and unscathed, and the circumstances of how they got the CSS chemical supply contract have gone uninvestigated. The deadly cover-up of a problem that health care professionals told management existed in late July but upon which the government did not act upon until early October has never been investigated. The concealment of the true scope of the tragedy by failure to promptly provide funds for toxicology tests and by the anti-scientific determination that if the remains of a person who was poisoned to death were not tested in time to certainly locate the DEG residues the poisoning never happened has never been the subject of a criminal investigation. All inquiries into the probable death toll from the former president and former first lady passing out medicines at "Vote Yes on the Canal Expansion" rallies in remote indigenous communities have been considered taboo. Torrijos, Gómez and a number of other officials of the previous administration, and of the CSS and Ministry of health to this day, do need to be held accountable.

However, the selective criminal prosecution of people who had no administrative functions and no direct role in the poisoning scandal, just to get them out of the way for other political purposes --- that's a perversion of the rule of law that Panama hasn't seen since the days of the military dictatorship. It makes all international agreements with Panama suspect, because it renders all treaties, constitutional provisions, laws and executive undertakings into mere scraps of paper without the credibility that only the systematic rule of law can confer.


Special guest editorial, by Reader Supported News:

Editorial decisions about WikiLeaks

Reader Supported News has observed and chronicled the WikiLeaks information phenomenon virtually from the day we began publishing. We have done so fully informed of all available facts and with careful consideration at each step.

By its very nature, WikiLeaks's extraordinary information procurement and dissemination process demands of the international journalistic community an abrupt abandonment of status quo. There is reporting before WikiLeaks, and reporting after WikiLeaks. The two are mutually exclusive.

Ultimately the core decisions regarding WikiLeaks's actions are theirs. The subsequent decisions by the publications that report on WikiLeaks's actions are reactive. Our decisions that have led us to participate in the WikiLeaks information community have not been without some reservation. How does a publication, any publication, address the issue of state secrets? What is necessary, and what is excessive? Given the scope, the territory is uncharted. Undoubtedly WikiLeaks's actions create risk: for them, for those who report, and potentially, for those whose identities and actions may be revealed.

If one is to differentiate forest from trees in assessing risk related to reporting on WikiLeaks' releases, the material now presented for public inspection must be viewed against the backdrop of world militarism. If lives are put at risk by WikiLeaks's data-releases --- and it is not clear any are --- how many lives have been risked, lost in vain to wars of dubious origin? If the ramifications of these releases seem daunting, does the harm to social fabric in all lands caused by capricious warfare seem less so?

The safe harbor of state secrecy

Planning is the construct of War. When the dialog and decisions both direct and ancillary of war and peace take place in the safe harbor of state secrecy, all is wagered on the incorruptibility of a precious few actors with great power. If it is true that "the greater the power the greater the corruption," then it might also be said that "the greater the transparency the lesser the risk."

WikiLeaks's loudest critics have two main refrains: "It puts lives at risk," and, "It puts our interests at risk." It is not clear that WikiLeaks' releases have resulted in any deaths at all, and "our interests" is a term that does more to validate WikiLeaks's actions than repudiate them.


The end of Panama's banking and corporate secrecy?

The tax information exchange agreement between Panama and the United States ends banking secrecy just for those US citizens or US resident aliens who are being investigated by the IRS. It does not appear to directly affect those who are parking their money here to cheat ex-spouses out of property settlements, avoid child support payments or evade private creditors. It also does not allow Panamanians who have suffered at the hands of Panamanian shell companies that have no insurance or apparent assets to identify and collect from those individuals who profited at their expense. For example, the owners of the company that sold mislabeled poison that ended up in Panama's medicine supply retain their anonymity.

To the extent that the agreement drives some of the American hustlers who infest this country away to havens that they perceive to be safer, that is a good thing for the American community here. To the extent that the agreement paves the way toward passage of the US-Panama free trade pact, that's a devastating blow to rural Panama that will send new waves of poorly educated migrants to the metro area in search of work, worsening every urban problem that we have; and it's an ill-advised US embrace of a government that is fast eliminating the vestigial remains of the rule of law.

Panama should go all the way and eliminate most banking secrecy and all corporate secrecy. We should change from a system of bank accounts and corporations designed to conceal things to a banking system that serves ordinary Panamanians and makes its money on volume ,and a corporate system that makes it cheap and easy to open a company that actually conducts legitimate business.


Bear in mind...

An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.
Mohandas K. Gandhi

Take chances, make mistakes. That's how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.
Mary Tyler Moore

It's embarrassing --- you try to overthrow the government and you wind up on a Best Sellers List.
Abbie Hoffman



Also in this section:
Editorials: Political prosecutions; RSN on Wikileaks; and Banking secrecy
Sirias, Books that affected me
Inter American Press Association, Freedom of the press in Panama
Mining Watch Canada, On the Panama-Canada Free Trade Agreement (PDF)
Reporters Without Borders, Panama grants asylum to María del Pilar Hurtado
Bernal, Precautions?
Leis, Zero intolerance
Jackson, Bigotry and language
Article XIX and CIHRS, A problematic proposal to ban the vilification of religions (PDF)
Greenpeace, Suing US corporate spies
Amnesty International, Nicaragua must put an end to rape and sexual abuse of girls
Weisbrot, Economic integration and conflict resolution in South America (PDF)
Rafferty, Tax havens stunt Latin American development
McCartney, Dumbed-down nation
Steel, Bring back American manufacturing
Hightower, Simmering water war
Nasser, Peace held hostage to rotating US and Israeli elections
Avnery, "Islam is the solution"
Cristo, An encounter with the stars
Stimson, What America needs to learn from China
Letters to the editor

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