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Volume 17, Number 11
October 08, 2011
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editorial

Also in this section:
Editorials: Who will sell the constitution to Martinelli? and With a collapsed economy...
Sirias, The general's country retreat
Dees, What sort of values?
Worley, Small is sexy
Jackson, Would the US legal system improve Panama?
Paverman, China's looking for fuel and Venezuela puts out the welcome mat
Thurston, Steve Jobs and greatness
Amnesty International, Afghanistan 10 years on (PDF)
Reporters Without Borders, Chile would criminalize protests, turn journalists into cops
Avnery, The acts of perfidious traitors throughout Jewish history
LaMon, Brazil's distorted economy and fractured morals
Birns & Sami, US Cuba policy staggers from the inept to the pedestrian
US Office on Colombia, The FTA's effects on Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities
Avendaño, Exile between threats for Colombian journalists
Wing Solís, The Panama climate change talks
Aguilar, China-Brazil relations: disputes with regional implications
Harrington, Our foreign minister and the Palestine question
MPU, Harrassment of teacher union leaders
Bernal, Archbishop Mario Alberto Molina
Letters to the editor

Who are the turncoats who, looking for personal gain, will humor Martinelli by helping him change the constitution?
"Notable" for what?

The bottom line on any constitutional change coming out of Martinelli's cabinet or the legislature that he controls is that he gets to run for another term in office. Something less that a quarter of the Panamanian electorate thinks that would be a good idea, and the people who think it's a terrible idea haven't started to campaign. If the president puts it to a referendum vote in any straightforward fashion, he gets crushed at the polls.

He might, however, put something more innocuous on the ballot, get it passed, then have the Supreme Court rule that since the whole constitution is now different, the ban on re-election does not apply to Martinelli because he was elected under an old order. It's law school flunkout reasoning, but other Latin American caudillos have sold it to lapdog courts and Martinelli is anything but an original thinker. However, enough people know that game so that whatever demagogic constitutional proposal Martinelli might put on the ballot --- guarantee yourself free money in some form or fashion was the gist of the original ideas --- the opposition can still argue that this is Martinelli seeking to suit himself, and would still defeat the president in a referendum battle.

And then there is the possibility of convening a constituent assembly according to the 2004 "Pacto MaMi" deal between Mireya Moscoso and Martín Torrijos. That process was designed to be rather completely controlled by the political party leaderships. Meanwhile, Martinelli has removed some of the smaller parties from the scene (and the courts will decide whether he has done the same with MOLIRENA) and is using early 1960s Selma, Alabama county courthouse tactics to keep any leftist party or independent candidacy to get ballot status. A Pacto MaMi process would have Cambio Democratico, the PRD, the Panameñistas, the Partido Popular and possibly MOLIRENA running slates of candidates for delegates, then a convention among these delegates to work out some sort of deal, the result of which would be submitted to the voters.

In any process, Martinelli might prevail by election fraud. He and his supporters have engineered these in the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca in the October 2010 voting for delegates to the officially recognized but popularly rejected Ngabe-Bugle General Congress, in the country's main bar assocition the Colegio de Abogados, and in the Panamanian Business Executives Association. The more than doubling of the size of the Cambio Democratico legislative caucus and the Martinelista takeovers of a number of local governments are really just another form of election fraud.

But other than outright fraud --- which people should be prepared to resist in the streets, with all due militance --- Martinelli only prevails in a Pacto MaMi process through a sordid deal with one or more of the existing political parties. The question then becomes which parties, or which individuals, would be the accomplices that the president needs to get what he wants. It is not too soon before the 2014 elections to begin mobilizing the electorate around the simple notion that he or she who switched to the Martinelista camp is a traitor who should never again hold a political office, get or retain a goverment job, be trusted in any sort of private business transaction or be considered fit company for socializing. To call such a person a "sapo" would be an insult to our friend the toads. But Martinelli doesn't change the constitution without those sorts of people as accomplices, and notice should be served from the outset that accepting the president's offer or caving to his blackmail will irreparably harm a person's or a political party's reputation and prospects.



With a collapsed economy...

The sweet pretty things are in bed now of course
The city fathers they're trying to endorse
The reincarnation of Paul Revere's horse
But the town has no need to be nervous
Bob Dylan, Tombstone Blues

In September in the United States, a net 103,000 jobs were created --- fewer than the 150,000 or so young people coming into the job market. The euro zone teetered on the brink of a disaster that would drag the US economy down with it. There was talk of whether China, Brazil and the other emerging economies might bail out the industrialized former colonial powers, but surely that would not be done in such a way to restore any semblance of the US dominance of the Cold War era, or even to sustain the current US standard of living.

So might Congress debate things like whether the United States can afford to be a nation engaged in multiple wars with no foreseeable end point? Might the representatives want to take stock of decades of bipartisan posturing that had the government passing more laws criminalizing more things and increasing penalties for existing crimes, such that it has swollen the prison populations in ways that don't protect members of the general public but do add up to an aggravated assault on the public treasury? Might they be figuring out ways to raise more money to meet the expenses of government? Might they be hammering out a deal that gets some of the long-term unemployed back to work?

No way. Under John Boehner's leadership, the House of Representatives is considering this century's version of The Smith Act --- House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith's proposal to criminalize the commission of, or conspiracy to commit, any act that would violated the Controlled Substances Act if committed in the United States. As in, for example, a borderline diabetic who has a US passport asking a family member to pick up the monthly refill of over-the-counter metformin hydrochloride tablets at the pharmacy in El Rey, without showing a piece of paper from the physician who prescribed this medication some time ago. Under the new Smith Act, John Boehner would have the DEA grab all parties to this highly animalistic crime and have them doing hard time at US taxpayers' expense.

The real threat to America is not so much that this law would be enforced. It's that this is the frivolity to which Boehner and his gang of fanatics have sunk, dragging US public discourse with them at a time when there is an economic crisis and much work must be done.

Also, Americans need to be concerned about reciprocity. In Austria, Brazil or China someone might read about what John Boehner and his Republicans are doing, and die laughing. Then those countries might want to extend their jurisdiction into the United States to apprehend the offenders.



Bear in mind...

National liberation is necessarily an act of culture.
Amilcar Cabral

When you go to jail you finally feel that you are being stripped of whatever you have. You look on as the police empty your handbag. You start right out being humiliated by having so much in your handbag.
Dorothy Day

If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man, he would have made me so in the first place.
Sitting Bull







Also in this section:
Editorials: Who will sell the constitution to Martinelli? and With a collapsed economy...
Sirias, The general's country retreat
Dees, What sort of values?
Worley, Small is sexy
Jackson, Would the US legal system improve Panama?
Paverman, China's looking for fuel and Venezuela puts out the welcome mat
Thurston, Steve Jobs and greatness
Amnesty International, Afghanistan 10 years on (PDF)
Reporters Without Borders, Chile would criminalize protests, turn journalists into cops
Avnery, The acts of perfidious traitors throughout Jewish history
LaMon, Brazil's distorted economy and fractured morals
Birns & Sami, US Cuba policy staggers from the inept to the pedestrian
US Office on Colombia, The FTA's effects on Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities
Avendaño, Exile between threats for Colombian journalists
Wing Solís, The Panama climate change talks
Aguilar, China-Brazil relations: disputes with regional implications
Harrington, Our foreign minister and the Palestine question
MPU, Harrassment of teacher union leaders
Bernal, Archbishop Mario Alberto Molina
Letters to the editor


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