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Volume 18, Number 3
March 17, 2012

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editorial

Also in this section:
Editorials: Did she really sell out? and Get out of Afghanistan
Grump, Living with Cable & Wireless
CDN Watch, UN's offsetting Barro Blanco project hinders Panama talks
Bernal, Closing ranks
Boff, Confronting the sixth massive extinction
Amnesty International, Landmark ICC conviction for use of child soldiers
Carlsen, When engagement becomes complicity
Brownfield, A more secure Central America
Nadelmann, Drug legalization debate takes off in Latin America
Harrington, To understand Panama's public finances
Thurston, The pros and cons of living in Panama
Obama for President, The Road We've Traveled
Bartels-Kodwo, Correa faces a challenge from "el hermano mayor"
Frente Amplio Colonense, Selling land in the Colon Free Zone
Sanchez & Tu, China battles Taiwan for influence in the Caribbean
RSF, Canadian journalist's home searched and confidentiality of sources threatened
Zuniga Guzman, Latin America and the digital divide
Weisbrot, The Jeffrey Sachs candidacy for World Bank president
Jackson, The constitution that Panama needs
Yan, The carbon bond-backed hydroelectric dam Hall of Shame
Hankins, Religion and secularism in the public square
Letters to the editor

If she were a pushover, it would be over by now

The talks between Ngabe and Bugle leaders and the government reached a partial accord. Didn't everyone know that whatever it was, the government would misrepresent it and give the impression that things left unsettled have been agreed to in favor of the government's position? And didn't we all know that Celio Guerra would accuse Silvia Carrera of selling out, whatever deal she struck? Let's get beyond the corny political games and look at what has been settled and what has not been before judgment is passed.

Agreed, but still to be formally drafted and passed by the legislature, is a new version of Section 5 of the proposed mining law:

  • In keeping with prior promises, and going further than the two epic struggles over Cerro Colorado in the late 1970s - early 1980s and the 1990s, the CODEMIN mining concession for that mountain will be definitively revoked, along with other mining concessions.

  • For future hydroelectric projects in the comarca, the project would have to be approved by the local congress, the Ngabe-Bugle General Congress and ratified in a local referendum. The comarca would receive five percent of gross revenues and at least one-quarter of all non-specialist workers on the project would be local people.

While it is true that the elections to and subsequent actions of the officially recognized General Congress are the products of Ricardo Martinelli's anti-democratic manipulations and that its Cambio Democratico president is a discredited figure with no appreciable base of support in the comarca, that organization's rubber stamp would be insufficient to approve a dam. The dam proponents would also have to win a referendum. The details about the approval of hydroelectric dam projects that get written into the new law are not worked out and they now become very important. The possibilities of rigged refrenda are ever present in a government headed by Ricardo Martinelli, whose word is well proven to be worthless and whose default negotiating style is bad faith.

Specifically left open are the Barro Blanco and Chan 75 hydroelectric dams, for which further fact-finding will be done. The government argues that in the former case almost everything is known and only minor adjustments need to be made, and in the latter there is nothing to investigate. But the indigenous side and environmentalists in Panama and abroad have done their homework, the Panamanian public is disposed to hear their findings, and any government fiction declared to be fact will be seen for what it is. The Barro Blanco promoters and their legal team in particular have been used to dealing with corrupted Panamanian governmental institutions but their extension of the lazy and sleazy style of misrepresentations that may pass muster with ANAM to their dealings with international institutions may lead to the cancellation of European bank loans and UN carbon credits, which would probably kill the project notwithstanding anything that Ricardo Martinelli and his team might do.

Much remains to be done, and Silvia Carrera will well understand the words of Nelson Mandela, spoken years before his long imprisonment:

You can see that there is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow again and again before we reach the mountain tops of our desires.

So talks that began on February 7, about an agreement that Ricardo Martinelli made in 2011 and broke in 2012 and after confrontations that escalated into violence that took several lives, will continue. So should the outpouring of public support that has sustained Silvia Carrera throughout this long and difficult process.


The never-ending Afghan War, which must end

Half of the American people --- Democrats, Republicans and independents, who will not have a viable presidential candidate to represent their views in November --- want the United States to pull its troops out of Afghanistan. Now we have a new spate of violence, which has led to a call for restrictions on US troop movements by the ultra-corrupt oil exec whom George W. Bush installed as the head of a government of sorts in Kabul and who has maintained himself in office if not in power by way of election fraud.

This latest outburst? In the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, a US Army sergeant went on his private little door-to-door mission and killed 16 people, half of them children aged 12 or under. Before any Afghan authority could demand that he be turned over to face the harsh justice that any citizen of that country would face for such a crime, the US government whisked the guy out of the country and off to Leavenworth and we started hearing pop psychology stuff about how the guy saw his friend horribly wounded the day before and "just snapped." It was just an individual criminal act, by somebody who is possibly crazed, Washington assured the world.

It was the act of a man in a US Army uniform, armed by the government of the United States and protected after his act from local vengeance by the US government. Any and all assurances and explanations do not stop the angry mobs. It's the sort of thing that happens in a war, and the results of previous US prosecutions for comparable atrocities, plus Washington's resistance to the International Criminal Court, make it hard for many Afghans and for people all over the world to confide in any US commitment to suppress war crimes.

Meanwhile, polls show that fewer than one-quarter of Americans believe that US troops should stay in Afghanistan "until the mission is completed." If one were to ask the members of this minority of the US electorate just what that mission is, there would surely be wide variances in their sorts of answers. What else can anyone expect, as the nature of that "mission" as stated by Washington has kept changing over the years?

It's not a safe thing to do in an election year when the president will face either an unbelievable fanatic or an unbelievable opportunist in the general election, but it's probably actually a "popular" thing to do: Obama should cut a deal with the Taliban, wherein US and allied forces will leave Afghanistan in exchange for assurances that the country will not again become a base for attacks on other countries by the likes of the late Osama bin Laden.


Bear in mind...

His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.
Mae West


An editor [should] set his face against the demoralizing practice of feeding the public mind habitually on slander and the depravity of taste which this nauseous aliment induces. Defamation is becoming a necessary of life, insomuch that a dish of tea in the morning or evening cannot be digested without this stimulant. Even those who do not believe these abominations, still read them with complaisance to their auditors, and instead of the abhorrence and indignation which should fill a virtuous mind, betray a secret pleasure in the possibility that some may believe them, though they do not themselves. It seems to escape them, that it is not he who prints, but he who pays for printing a slander, who is its real author.
Thomas Jefferson


Integrity in professional relationships remained the singularly most important attribute of any leader.
General Ronald R. Fogelman






    

Also in this section:
Editorials: Did she really sell out? and Get out of Afghanistan
Grump, Living with Cable & Wireless
CDN Watch, UN's offsetting Barro Blanco project hinders Panama talks
Bernal, Closing ranks
Boff, Confronting the sixth massive extinction
Amnesty International, Landmark ICC conviction for use of child soldiers
Carlsen, When engagement becomes complicity
Brownfield, A more secure Central America
Nadelmann, Drug legalization debate takes off in Latin America
Harrington, To understand Panama's public finances
Thurston, The pros and cons of living in Panama
Obama for President, The Road We've Traveled
Bartels-Kodwo, Correa faces a challenge from "el hermano mayor"
Frente Amplio Colonense, Selling land in the Colon Free Zone
Sanchez & Tu, China battles Taiwan for influence in the Caribbean
RSF, Canadian journalist's home searched and confidentiality of sources threatened
Zuniga Guzman, Latin America and the digital divide
Weisbrot, The Jeffrey Sachs candidacy for World Bank president
Jackson, The constitution that Panama needs
Yan, The carbon bond-backed hydroelectric dam Hall of Shame
Hankins, Religion and secularism in the public square
Letters to the editor


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