A beet-red Martinelli throws a
manic fit in his speech to the nation.
Photo by the Presidencia
and his "empresaurios"
Marco A. Gandásegui, hijo
Ricardo Martinelli's speech on January 2, with his accounting ot the
National Assembly of Deputies, caused a commotion within the
Panamanian political class. The president's words were carefully
chosen and had as their objective the creation of a climate
propitious to begin a campaign that will culminate in the May 2014
list of his government's works that he pointed out in his
presentation was overshadowed by his attacks on a fraction of the
business class that has distanced itself from his administration in
recent years. Instead of attacking the opposition parties as has been
done in traditional politics, on this occasion Martinelli pointed his
artillery at the big businessmen who criticize his style of
government. We must make the caveat that the portion of the
entrepreneurial class that harasses Martinelli does it for political
rather than economic reasons.
his attacks, Martinelli privilege the large employers who "stoop"
to evading their taxes. He pointed out the banking sector, the Colon
Free Zone merchants and Panama's only airline. At the same time, he
railed against the communications media that openly criticize alleged
corruption, in arms purchases, free transfers of government land,
sale of immigration visas and so on.
blunt language, Martinelli accused these sectors of being thieves and
crooks. He insisted that the government needs money to develop its
works. "In order to achieve these changes we need cash, silver,
bills, money, fluss, chen-chen. These resources have to be found
somehow. We put our hand in the pocket of the empresaurios.
And for that they don't forgive us."
confrontation that Martinelli provoked has half-truths as its
foundation. In reality, it isn't the large Panamanian business owners
who pay an important part of the resources that the state collects
for its functions. During almost a century of its domination, they
have known how to evade paying their obligations to society. The
government's revenues are, in their great majority, fees that derive
from the management of the Panama Canal and sales taxes.
his speech, President Martinelli also mentioned the popular sectors,
especially the poorest of the poor. As is customary, just like
previous governments, he misrepresented data about unemployment and
poverty. He said that "poverty has diminished ... [thanks to]
the universal scholarship, the increase in the minimum wage, creating
good jobs, Jumbo Fairs, massive land titling...."
also recognized that the "bonanza imposes the responsibility to
be closing the economic and social gap between the rich and poor."
He added that the country "can not continue being a country of
great wealth, with people who created it but don't enjoy it." He
recognized that the government can't continue to be an administrator
of national poverty and unfulfilled collective aspirations, "because
of the egotism of a few." He concluded by emphasizing that "we
took an historic and costly decision: to change the unjust order of
things, to put the public interest first."
policies, however, have been in the opposite direction from his
speech. The breach between rich and poor has continued to widen. He
may recognize that working people create all wealth, but he doesn't
allow them to enjoy it. In his speech Martinelli contradicted himself
and as much as said that he will continue "administering the
national poverty." He listed all the programs focused on
deceiving the people, especially the poorest. In one part of his
presentation, he specified how he will try to "change the unjust
order of things."
political tactic of this speech consisted in distancing himself from
a group that the president called "empresaurios," putting
them in the vanguard of the traditional opposition parties. On the
other hand, he assured that his political campaign will be "with
the people," who will receive the fruits of their labor through
the expansion and extension of targeted official programs such as
universal scholarships and the $100 monthly stipend for those 70 and
over with no pensions or other means of support. That is to say, he
will continue with his political patronage policy until the elections
pulled his "enemies" from his own class, from his own
social bastion, and openly declared war on them, diminishing the role
of the parties. With this tactic he hopes to neutralize his political
mistakes --- which have lowered his popularity --- by provoking constant
skirmishes with his opponents. Everything indicates that in 2012 he
will direct his efforts toward establishing hegemony over the
Panameñista Party by using the Trojan Horse tactic: undermining from
within. In the case of the PRD, he will seek a way to to tear off
pieces of the now divided old Torrijista structure.
this panorama to be expected from President Martinelli, the popular
sectors will be left to resist the growing repression of the new
"security" apparatus, and to confront a dismantling of the
country's productive sector that will create more informal and
precarious employment. At the same time, we must recognize the
rupture within the traditional elite that was announced by the
president and find new tactics that include electoral options, the
formation of alliances and the consolidation of unity in order to
establish an alternative power.