use of the Pele Police database
The Pele Police are hand-held
communications devices into which a police officer can insert a
person's national ID card and rather quickly know if there is a
warrant for that person's arrest showing in a law enforcement
database. It has its functional similarities to the US Law
Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) and other computerized systems
in other countries.
A judge has ruled that these things
and the government has appealed. In a country with hardly any rule of
law we await a decision about whether these devices are legal, which
a different question than whether they should be legal.
The devices themselves should not be
existence of a computerized law enforcement database should also not
give reasonable people an occasion to disagree. The problem is about
their appropriate use.
The database has many errors and a
information, such that people were being arrested for cases that had
been resolved years earlier, in some cases with them having been
acquitted and in some where they had been convicted then paid their
penalty. There has been an effort made to improve the accuracy of the
information, but there are also circumstances that raise suspicions
that information has been maliciously manipulated to harass people,
The police encircle and search
neighborhoods and check everyone caught in their dragnet against the
database. That's just the use of another technological tool in a
long-standing obnoxious practice that is illegal if the constitution
means anything. Regardless of any argument about legality it's a
matter of lazy and ineffective police work that needlessly alienates
whole communities. The police should be working on specific
information about specific individuals and making intelligent efforts
to detain those people, rather than working from a stereotype that
unfairly treats a much larger group of people as suspects.
The police use the Pele Police as a
repression, to delay and search people who participate in labor
protests or stand in line to register as members of a party that the
police want to keep off of the ballot.
The problem is not the Pele Police,
inappropriate use of the Pele Police. It's abuses that specific
individuals commit, abuses for which those individuals should be
eliminated from the positions that allow them to do these things.
What's particularly dangerous is that
the Pele Police is used as a device for political repression, that
comes right from the top and it's a deliberate crime. There needs to
be a day of reckoning in which those officials who are responsible
are tried and punished for such abuses. But because they been so
obnoxiously abusive, they are likely to do anything to prolong their
tenure in power to avoid having to account for their actions.
The contracting of private businesses
to do work
the government needs to have done, or the establishment of mixed
state and private enterprises for certain real estate developments,
is something that can be reasonably debated on a case-by-case basis.
Ideology, pragmatism, the interests of business, labor and consumers
--- along with concerns about the possibility of corruption --- all
have their proper places in any privatization debate.
However, what the Martinelli
is anything but a series of privatization debates. He's trying to
short-circuit all public discussion and usurp the prerogatives of the
National Assembly by setting up a four-member privatization board:
the president and three presidential appointees (the ministers of the
Presidency and Economy and Finance, and the director of the Banco
Nacional de Panama). Martinelli seeks dictatorial powers to sell or
mortgage everything that belongs to the people, and for terms that
will outlast his elected mandate.
Structurally, no president should be
kind of power. THIS president, who's crudely abusive and has little
respect for the law, and whose administration has left a string of
land theft scandals in its wake, should be trusted even less.
It's sad that the level of Panamanian
low that Mr. Martinelli can make a "heads I win, tails you lose"
proposition of this sort and there is not an immediate and
generalized public reaction. That such a rejection had to come first
from some of Panama's best-educated people, the specialized
physicians at Santo Tomas Hospital, is a mixed blessing: the protest
should have been more widespread, but at least we have this group of
well-educated Panamanians thinking about right and wrong and the
public interest, rather than how they can use their knowledge and
position in society to go on a looting binge just like the
Doctors have a duty of loyalty to
good ones uphold it. Our politicians, on the other hand, boast about
their dishonesty and disloyalty. People ought to recognize that the
most patriotic act of loyalty to Panama that happened during the
first week of November was the doctors' strike, and whatever the
might decide about their job action, we all ought to rally to the
protesting physicians' side against this latest Martinelli power
grab, which is his biggest attempt at self-aggrandizement yet.
I have to
that the traditional
is kind of a myth. I think the traditional Mexican woman is a fierce
hope and faith in the future.
is not a short outburst of emotion, but is the tranquil and steady
dedication of a lifetime.