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Volume 18, Number 2
February 20, 2012

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opinion

Also in this section:
Editorials: There really is such a thing as libel; and An offer that she must refuse
Asamblea Ciudadana, Toward the constitutional rule of law
Reporters Without Borders, El Universo verdict sets back freedom of expression
Bernal, About a dams referendum
Fisher, Panama's critical juncture
Tsenliki, Protecting oceans: It's not rocket science
Nauman, Native wisdom guides movement to close Keystone Pipeline route
Estevez, Diary of an arms trade lobbyist
Hightower, The Chief Twinkie goes Ding Dong
McCabe, Unexpected heroes
Thurston, The truth hurts sometimes
Gandásegui, The Ngabe treasure and the Tabasara River
Boff, From internationalized enterprise to biocentric society
Mercy Sisters join Panama justice campaign
Mijares, Ocean front
Worley, The smell test --- passed
Chomsky, "Losing" the World
Harrington, Ngabe awakening
Evans, A different kind of Europe
Council on Hemispheric Affairs, A new Falklands/Malvinas war unlikely
Hidalgo, A democratic crisis close to home
Letters to the editor

Manifesto to the country
by the Asamblea Ciudadana

Stemming from the meeting held this past January 30 with the Panameñista and Democratic Revolutionary parties, which formalized their interest in talking with our organization, the Asamblea Ciudadana, so that we will be able to exchange discernments about the national situation and at which, as political collectives, we recognized actors in Panamanian society who, over the political history of our country, have assumed responsibility for running the government, we gather to sign this manifesto to the country.

The Asamblea Ciudadana, as an open space for dialogue and mobilization in which social actors participate --- even though they defend diverse and different interests --- attempts to articulate fundamental issues for our society, to contribute toward a participatory, inclusive and deliberative democracy that insures sustainable human development for all, and to come to an agreement about formulating some points of action with the conviction that we citizens must demand, sooner rather than later, new ways to regulate and exercise power.

The current global crisis through which we are living demands that we seek new relationships with power. Social inequity keeps a great number of Panamanians living in conditions of poverty or extreme poverty, without access to education, health, potable water, or a dignified job with fair remuneration that creates the capacity to assume the costs of family necessities and moreover guarantees the capacity to save (which is the only path to gain true liberation).

Currently we are confronting the reality of a government that has concentrated nearly absolute control over the powers of state, leaving the citizenry defenseless and without formal recourse to the law to have their civic rights respected. It's enough to mention our ruler's political machinations to impose a Fifth Bench in violation of the legal order. Thus we reiterated our call to fight against the imposition of this Fifth Bench that will give the executive greater control over the courts.

In the face of the recent events in Veraguas and Chiriqui, where our Ngabe brethren saw themselves obliged to interrupt traffic on the Pan-American Highway to make the government respect accords signed a year ago to resolve the conflict over mining and hydroelectric dams in the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca, we have now been shown the government's responsibility for the painful outcome that has again cost human lives, as well as hundreds of injuries and arrests.

We consider that we must demand responsibility of the functionaries who did not deal with the demands with the dignity of public servants and so avoid unjustified bloodshed, for which reason we demand an independent investigation that can define the responsibility of those who gave the orders and those who executed repressive actions against the Ngabe people.

We denounce the use of deadly force in a crowd control action, which resulted in the deaths of at least three people, people disappeared, sexual assaults on women and hundreds of injuries, and we denounce the violation of international treaties that establish that health centers and churches should be respected as sanctuaries of humanitarian protection.

Nor can we overlook the extremely grave violation of freedom of expression, communication and information which, in violation of precepts in the national constitution, the government brought about by suspending, without any legal basis, mobile telephone communications in the area of conflict.

Reconciliation must happen in a way that those responsible assume the consequences for their malfeasance in the protection of order, property and the lives of citizens and foreigners who live in this country, so that we don't promote impunity for authorities who have violated the legal and constitutional order.

This country faces the danger that he who currently leads the government wants to prolong his term for longer than the law and constitution establish, imposing some constitutional reforms that don't respond to citizens' desire for a new social compact, one that guarantees us a democratic, equitable, inclusive and truly participatory constituent assembly process, where all of the country's sectors have their say and are guaranteed that their contributions will form part of a genuine national debate that will help us to deliberate and decide what sort of country we want.

Thus we call upon all professional groups, labor unions, social movements and civil society organizations to hold meeting leading to the formation of a united grand social movement.

We thus urge all of us to take the necessary steps to:

  1. Promote and realize the opening of a democratic, participatory and inclusive constituent process, which through respectful and tolerant dialogue would culminate in a national day to promote a draft call for a National Constituent Assembly.

  2. Make the necessary civic efforts to strengthen participatory democracy throughout the national territory, for the purpose of achieving and defending a constitutional and democratic rule of law.

  3. Call for all citizens to participate in all activities necessary to promote permanent citizen participation in order to achieve a constituent assembly that is the expression of the popular will.

  4. Convene, as soon as possible, a meeting in which other organizations participate with the objective of joining efforts to accomplish the purposes expounded by a citizens' forum.

  5. Absolutely repudiate the Fifth Bench and put out a call to actively oppose it.

As the Asamblea Ciudadana, we exercise our civic role because we recognize that the political class has not been capable of guaranteeing the conditions that would allow all of us Panamanians to be able to count on a dignified standard of living to which we have a right.

A development model that concentrates the product of everybody's effort into a few hands in turn has been used to expropriate the state's assets, which belong to everyone and should serve all Panamanians.

We also believe that only a new social pact that is inclusive, that undertakes great national causes, that is within the framework of an inclusive, participatory and deliberative democratic process, will serve to overcome the threat of a breach of the peace and tranquility in which Panamanians co-exist.

We are convinced that the current rules that govern the country have been shown to be exhausted, and that we require a new general order which can only be had by a constituent assembly, at which true originating power emanating from the Panamanian people is guaranteed.

Panama, February 11, 2012







    

Also in this section:
Editorials: There really is such a thing as libel; and An offer that she must refuse
Asamblea Ciudadana, Toward the constitutional rule of law
Reporters Without Borders, El Universo verdict sets back freedom of expression
Bernal, About a dams referendum
Fisher, Panama's critical juncture
Tsenliki, Protecting oceans: It's not rocket science
Nauman, Native wisdom guides movement to close Keystone Pipeline route
Estevez, Diary of an arms trade lobbyist
Hightower, The Chief Twinkie goes Ding Dong
McCabe, Unexpected heroes
Thurston, The truth hurts sometimes
Gandásegui, The Ngabe treasure and the Tabasara River
Boff, From internationalized enterprise to biocentric society
Mercy Sisters join Panama justice campaign
Mijares, Ocean front
Worley, The smell test --- passed
Chomsky, "Losing" the World
Harrington, Ngabe awakening
Evans, A different kind of Europe
Council on Hemispheric Affairs, A new Falklands/Malvinas war unlikely
Hidalgo, A democratic crisis close to home
Letters to the editor


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