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Volume 17, Number 8
July 13, 2011
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editorial

Also in this section:
Editorials: Paramilitary thugs; Should Martinelli's alliance be saved, and Hugo's illness
Harrington-Shelton, Is our lack of security due to police corruption?
International Freedom of Expression Exchange, Murdoch's phone hacking scandal
Edmonston, The Bible: mysterious truth or dangerous myth?
Sirias, Standing tall at the tee
Human Rights Watch, Venezuelan opposition leader convicted for criticizing the government
CPJ condemns criminal defamation conviction in Peru
Reporters Without Borders, Honduran radio station manager gunned down
Bernal, The parties in their labyrinth
M10, Fake leaders to "negotiate" a project that displaces indigenous communities
Mohabir, Uncharted territory in Guyana's legislative elections
Rust, Brazil's deforestation quagmire
Loyka & Zuniga Guzman, Humala meets Obama
Mackenzie, IWC too busy arguing about not disagreeing to save any whales
Boff, The loss of trust in the present order
COSATU, Happy Birthday Madiba
Jackson, State-funded xenophobia and free trade agreements
Kildee, Include worker protections in free trade agreements
Collins, Enough free trade nonsense
Ross, FTA hat trick
Mack, Quit stalling the free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama
Carlsen, The audacity of free trade agreements
Fletcher, We don't need free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and Korea
Letters to the editor

Paramilitary thugs vs. Gay Pride marchers

In Panama it's a highly illegal act to wear a ski mask, dress up in a paramilitary uniform with bandoliers of ammunition and carry a shotgun, and so equipped, to by force of arms prevent citizens from exercising their right to peacefully assemble in a public park and express their opinions. Even the spokesman for the National Police said it was.

However, the police stood by and let it happen, and it turns out that the masked man was a city official. There appear to be no consequences to be faced for this illegal act, at least not under the Martinelli administration.

There are religious fanatics, and people who are scared and ignorant, who would support the notions that gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people have no rights, and that whatever might be done to oppress such people is acceptable. This is apparently Ricardo Martinelli's view of the world. But Panamanians, despite the prejudices that circulate in our society, are on the whole far more tolerant than that.

The default position is to let that which does not personally affect one's self pass, no matter how terribly or unfairly someone else is treated. That sort of passivity when people's freedom is being trampled upon is corrosive to democratic values. Somewhere between that surrender to barbarism and destructive violent passions there is a spectrum of positive things to do. The bare minimum of good citizenship is to express the opinion that this sort of paramilitarism is unacceptable in Panama.


More important than whether
the alliance can be saved

What we have seen over recent weeks was not high drama. Nor was it comedy of any sort. The president's attempt to bully his supposed allies and the opposition alike into passing a constitutional change designed to help his party only, by an unconstitutional statutory process, was an ugly and pathetic display of weakness. The broken promise of rotation in the leadership of the National Assembly is a manifestation of that short-term thinking that emanates from businessmen whose word can't be trusted --- and in the future, won't be. The phony demagoguery by which real estate investors in the Casco Viejo are being blamed for joblessness in El Chorrillo and people in Santa Ana and El Chorrillo are being urged to support an urban plan that will result in their eviction to the periphery of the metro area looks silly even to the slow-witted elite that imagines Disney World to be the pinnacle of US culture. Nobody believes the denials when it turns out that people in the Martinelli inner circle are behind the grandiose Cinta Costera II / Amador Ciudad Marina boondoggle.

The important question is not whether the Cambio Democratico alliance with the Panameñista Party can be saved, but whether it should be saved.

The government's paranoiac radio ads talk of unspecified plots to remove the "constitutionally elected president." Nobody else is talking about that. Panama's constitution provides no effective way to oust a president, which never stopped the dictators who created that document from doing so when it suited their fancy. However, if the National Police are planning a coup, they haven't told the Panamanian people that they have a problem with Martinelli. None of the president's critics, not even the most militant ones, are contemplating the extra-constitutional overthrow of the government.

However, a large and growing part of the Panamanian public is annoyed by the things that Ricardo Martinelli does and would be quite pleased to see him hobble along without a majority in the National Assembly and unable to go over their heads to increase his powers by other means. Three years of a lame duck administration that can't pass major legislation is never an optimal situation, but that may be the best that Panama can hope to get.


Get well, Hugo

Not because Venezuela can't do without you. It can and someday it will.

Not so that you can rush through every decree and every bit of legislation that crosses your mind before your time runs out. Better to take your time, consider your actions several times before taking them, and get a few things right rather than doing many things poorly.

Get well because you are still fairly young, may have many good years ahead of you, and you can be an example to many others that a cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence.

Get well because even if this is a career-ending illness, you will be able to arrange a peaceful and orderly transition process --- as you should have been doing all along.

Notice from whence most of the morbid speculation based on ideological hatreds comes. You have critics at home and people who don't much like you throughout the region, but by and large they, like most other Latin Americans, tend to be optimistic and forward-looking for the region. After decades of troubles and decades of stagnation, Latin America is moving ahead and dogmatic imperatives from other times and other places that would aggravate the real divisions that we have just aren't helpful. Get better, and prepare for the day when you will pass the baton of leadership on to one of your followers, or to one of your opponents, at the head of a peaceful and prosperous country that's part of Latin America's general progress.


Bear in mind...

A press card does not provide you with an invisible shield. You're flesh and blood.
Jessica Savitch

I resent people who say writers write from experience. Writers don't write from experience, though many are hesitant to admit that they don't. I want to be clear about this. If you wrote from experience, you'd get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy.
Nikki Giovanni

Would those of you in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you'll just rattle your jewelry.
John Lennon






Also in this section:

Editorials: Paramilitary thugs; Should Martinelli's alliance be saved, and Hugo's illness
Harrington-Shelton, Is our lack of security due to police corruption?
International Freedom of Expression Exchange, Murdoch's phone hacking scandal
Edmonston, The Bible: mysterious truth or dangerous myth?
Sirias, Standing tall at the tee
Human Rights Watch, Venezuelan opposition leader convicted for criticizing the government
CPJ condemns criminal defamation conviction in Peru
Reporters Without Borders, Honduran radio station manager gunned down
Bernal, The parties in their labyrinth
M10, Fake leaders to "negotiate" a project that displaces indigenous communities
Mohabir, Uncharted territory in Guyana's legislative elections
Rust, Brazil's deforestation quagmire
Loyka & Zuniga Guzman, Humala meets Obama
Mackenzie, IWC too busy arguing about not disagreeing to save any whales
Boff, The loss of trust in the present order
COSATU, Happy Birthday Madiba
Jackson, State-funded xenophobia and free trade agreements
Kildee, Include worker protections in free trade agreements
Collins, Enough free trade nonsense
Ross, FTA hat trick
Mack, Quit stalling the free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama
Carlsen, The audacity of free trade agreements
Fletcher, We don't need free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and Korea
Letters to the editor


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© 2011 by Eric Jackson
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