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Today’s “other” holiday — It’s the Bomberos’ 133rd birthday

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bomberos

Older than the Republic of Panama, the
best liked of this country’s institutions

by Eric Jackson (except as noted, photos by the Benmérito Cuerpo de Bomberos de la República de Panamá)

On November 28, 1887, Panamanians both prominent and humble met to found something we really needed, a fire department. There have been many changes since then, but the part-volunteer, part full-time professional organization still upholds the values of honor, discipline and abnegation,

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Muster at the Balboa fire station.

 

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A baby delivered in an ambulance in Arraijan.

 

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Assisting at the scene of a multi-car crash in Aguadulce.

 

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Cleaning up flood damage in Chiriqui.

 

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Responding to a fire call in Colon.

 

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2020 has not be a year for the usual cool parades.
Archive photo by Eric Jackson.

 

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Building inspection after a landslide in Macaracas.

 

 

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Fundacion Libertad: Debt, austerity and arrogant spending

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AR
Like many US Republicans, the folks at the Fundacion Libertad revere the memory of the Russian-American prophet of selfishness, who was in welfare in New York when she died. Graphic by the Fundacion Libertad.

Liberal perspective:

Austerity and coherence in public administration

by the Fundacion Libertad

Only in 2020, Panama has withstood the onslaught of a global pandemic, the consequences of the shutdown of the economy and the collateral effects of two hurricanes. This series of unfortunate events has required a severe restructuring of the state budget and brought with it an unprecedented indebtedness in order to finance the social aid and economic relief plans implemented by the government.

Proof of this is that more than $718 million have been spent to address the pandemic, of which a little more than 50% has been allocated just for food vouchers and $100 million have been approved for the care of the victims of recent hurricanes.

All this redistribution of resources calls for austerity and fiscal responsibility. However, the severity of these circumstances seems to be alien to our legislators, who, far from acting as responsible custodians of the treasury, are celebrating with the resources of the taxpayers of a vile and shameless way.

While we have Panamanians depending on state aid and businessmen large and small are struggling to keep their businesses afloat, from the state superfluous expenses continue in remodeling, glass polishing, unjustified payroll and vehicle rentals that we still do not understand. To put salt on the wound, we have legislators who impudently declare that they will continue to give away “with their money and that of the government,” as if that would make them some sort of a Creole Robin Hood.

From a liberal perspective, we demand greater transparency and prudence in the management of the funds of all Panamanians, as well as responsible debt management and austerity in payroll spending and state operations. We need a responsible and coherent state that watches over the best interests of its people.

If we do not take control today, Panama has an arduous road ahead in efforts for economic recovery and real and sustainable prosperity for the benefit of all.

 

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Bernal, “Dialogue”

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Tierras Altas
The talks were postponed for a few days due to these terrible Acts of God – to which the negligent people who run the government should have been better prepared to respond, except they follow the most retrograde denial coming from the USA instead of what the world of scientists has been saying for years. The victims will be blamed – they built in dangerous places, with such materials as they could scrounge. But of course that was what they could afford. SINAPROC photo, searching for bodies in Tierras Altas.

Dialogue: for what, for whom?

by Miguel Antonio Bernal

“Modern despotism proposes not so much to violate men as to disarm them, not so much to combat their political passions as to erase them, less to combat their instincts than to circumvent them, not simply to proscribe their ideas but to disrupt them, to appropriate them”

Maurice Joly, Dialogue in the inferno between Machiavelli and Montesquieu

The political cynicism prevailing in our distorted democracy does not run out of inefficient demagoguery or tacky neo-populism.

Wrapping up in the blanket of Covid19 and its pandemic, in order to hide their mediocrity and inefficiency in the management of public affairs, the governing authorities now resort, with the help of the advertising-propagandist mechanisms of their anti-democratic machinery, to the so-called “National Dialogue for the Closing Gaps Bicentennial Pact.”

One is lost in knowing the why? And for whom? The chorizo that contains a pompous name for a monologue, which will serve them to consummate their abduction of historical memory. Thus, deepen the “gaps” – social and economic inequalities that, they, themselves, have been in charge of. It will favor their quotidian corruption and impunity. What they summon will emanate from their offices. They will count upon the active complicity of those who assist them and … those who attend.


With all the local economic indicators falling, increasingly disqualified by the ‘qualifiers’ and with the growth prospects for the Gross Domestic Product very limited, accompanied in addition to a public debt that already almost reaches $36 billion (to which $7.104 billion was added only in this last year), the same ultra-sectarian, indolent folks who govern,place themselves in the position of masters of deception. They distract from and make fun of the serious social situations of the great majority of people in this nation.

The ranks of the so-called informal economy, added to the more than a quarter of a million unemployed, do not deter the chorus of those businessmen who are clamoring for the extended suspension of labor contracts, nor of the banks and finance companies that attack any form of moratorium.

All of the above in a living environment that maintains the climate of fear, restlessness and uncertainty. The cries for help that grow due to individual and social depression do not diminish, they grow. At the same time hopelessness and conflicts blossom in a desert that lacks the necessary assistance from psychologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts.

Such a “dialogue” is prefabricated. It’s endorsed by those who, in the irrational exercise of their political power, seek to buy time. They’re like buzzards circling around, ready to deceive and rob a defenseless population that does not know how to get indignant.

 

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CONUSI, On the “Bicentennial Pact”

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broad masses of workers, peasants and revoutionay intellectuals
Photo taken from the Facebook page of FRENADESO – the National Front for the Defense of Economic and Social Rights – which is an alliance of various groups closely related to the CONUSI labor confederation.

Will the tiger become a vegetarian?

by CONUSI (translated by The Panama News)

The National Confederation of Independent Trade Union Unity (CONUSI) has been invited by the president to participate in the supposed dialogue “Closing Gaps” Bicentennial Pact.

We have requested information in writing on the topics to be discussed, methodology, how decisions will be made, who will participate, the scheduled time, how the meetings will be. Once the questions are clarified, we will proceed to the appropriate internal consultations between our organizations and the rest of the social and union movement and through our democratic mechanisms we will adopt our decision that will be announced to the people in a timely manner.

But we must say that today there are many doubts and uncertainties.

To really talk about “closing the gap” in the sixth most unequal country in the world is to change the economic model that led us to this situation. It is, through other forms of redistribution of wealth, to combat and end hunger, poverty, misery, unemployment in a context that we know are reaching levels never before imagined. In this pandemic, Panama is more unequal than before and this is reflected in the job insecurity that affects more women and young people, the decrease in family income, the deterioration of health and public education, among other factors.

Are the 115 ultra-millionaires in the country, that privileged caste, willing to put an end to this unjust model that has greatly favored them? Will the business associations, rulers and traditional politicians be willing to sacrifice themselves, put an end to business as usual, change regressive tax policies where those who earn the least pay more taxes, eliminate bribes, stop the generalized corruption? In the pandemic they have revealed to us their true face with statements such as “if you want water, look for it in the river,” “you have to bring foreign talent,” “what is a healthy population worth with a bankrupt economy,” “you have to be extremely careful in investing in public education.” If there is no health, there is no economy. Actions in the midst of a great health crisis tell us. We see the enough to know of the government’s phantom payrolls and social service cuts. We are aware of the excessive costs, theft with impunity and colossal indebtedness. What we don’t know are the conditions to be imposed, which may include new taxes as in Costa Rica or so on.

If the moratorium seemed like a “diabolical idea,” what would a change in the economic model look like to them? The apocalypse? Will the model be “virtually” changed? Will the tiger become a vegetarian?

It is evident that a change of this nature must have the people as the protagonist so that they decide democratically and in a participatory way. It is evident that under current conditions this can hardly be done. Will it be a pact between party leaderships? As in the past, another of the many “Yo con Yo” dialogues, to reinforce the neoliberal model?

We also have our justified misgivings. The immediate precedent of this dialogue were the business-labor talks over the minimum wage, where the demands and proposals of the workers were given no attention, and in the end the impasse was used to impose decrees and laws in favor of the interests of the business sector. These are still in force and our organization has sued in the Supreme Court because they violate the sacred rights of workers and the people.

What dialogue can we talk about when there are still almost 200,000 workers with suspended contracts who barely survive on $100 per month — for those who receive it — while the resources obtained from bond issues are used to inject money into the banks and favor big business? The suspended contracts are, according to the Minister of Labor, intended to be extended, further loading the crisis onto the workers’ backs.

• When the number of unemployed and informal workers grows, maternity leave is violated, there are massive dismissals, “mutual agreements” are imposed, support is denied to small farmers, wages are reduced, other more aggressive forms of exploitation such as telework are emphasized and there are new decrees and reforms to the Labor Code in favor of the employers…

• When 300,000 students have been left out of the educational system and the number of deaths from and infections with COVID-19 grows dramatically…

• When more than 100,000 Panamanians have been arrested for curfew violations and – for those of humble means – onerous fines have been imposed, just like the poor popular candidates in the last elections were senselessly fined $3,000. (An amnesty for all such harsh fines would be fair.)…

Can we speak of dialogue and a social pact under these conditions?

CONUSI can rest assured assure that from now on we will not lend ourselves to sow false illusions among the workers and the people, nor to freeze the social struggles. We will be consistent with the people, especially with those who suffer the most, suffer from hunger, trauma and great needs, and who face threat of dispossession by bankers or usurers of goods and property that they have earned with much effort. We continue to insist on a bonus of $500 for workers with suspended contracts, the unemployed, the self-employed and retirees on meager incomes. We demand unemployment insurance, basic income for workers without income, a real moratorium that includes interest, utility services guaranteed basic during the pandemic and a special tax on large fortunes. We subscribe to the “Christmas without Hunger” campaign of FRENADESO.

Apart from the dialogue proposed by the government, it is up to the patriotic, popular and truly democratic forces to develop their own initiatives, and combine efforts in pursuit of common objectives. This would let us create the conditions and levels of mobilization, organization, awareness and struggle to convene, in a sovereign way, an Originating Constitutional Convention with full powers — the only real way to make the transformations that our society urgently requires.

Fighting for our true and definitive independence is the task of the moment, if we really want to honor the feat of the bicentennial of the independence of Panama from Spain and the dreams of the Liberator and our true heroes. Otherwise, we will condemn ourselves to another century of inequality, oligarchic rule, backwardness and dependence.

 

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¿Wappin? Afro show / Espectáculo afro

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The Honorable
Call Ms. Bush, the nurse and human rights activist, “the Honorable Representative from Missouri” now. Wikimedia photo.

“Black Friday”

The Chambers Brothers – Time Has Come Today
https://youtu.be/hIqwzQ7g-Cc

The Motown Invasion (2009) BBC Documentary
https://youtu.be/W_8bHh93yUc

Valerie Wellington – Bad Avenue
https://youtu.be/xu79m18hUS4

Jazz Divas: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Mildred Bailey
https://youtu.be/woLOqU-KJ4g

Tracy Chapman — Tell It like It Is
https://youtu.be/6ImmhkRMWN4

Bob Marley – No Woman No Cry
https://youtu.be/55_eCsTAo5Q

Mad Professor (Mandis Megamix)
https://youtu.be/Y_-DRRrFilc

Babatunde Olatunji – Jin-Go-Lo-Ba (Drums of Passion)
https://youtu.be/69wwc9q-pig

Sech – Unplugged with Mario Spinali & Jhon El Divertido
https://youtu.be/ar1rtzH-CqM

Kafu Banton – Vivo En El Ghetto
https://youtu.be/bzscZXZRtRI

 

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Dinero

The Panama News blog links, November 25, 2020

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The Panama News blog links

a Panama-centric selection of other people’s work
una selección Panamá-céntrica de las obras de otras personas

Canal, Maritime & Transportation / Canal, Marítima & Transporte

Seatrade, Panama Canal expects shifts in global trade patterns
gCaptain, Russia to build Far East metal plant to supply Arctic shipbuilding

Economy / Economía

Latin Finance, Panama sovereign credit rating cut to BBB by S&P Global
The Asset, Hitachi and Mitsubishi sign deal for Panama City metro line
La Estrella, Panamá avanza hacía salir de la lista gris del Gafi

Science & Technology / Ciencia & Tecnología

Wired, The AstraZeneca COVID vaccine data isn’t up to snuff
The Intercept, Remote learning and the digital divide
Whitworth, Lessons from fighting COVID’s second wave

News / Noticias

Prensa Latina, Panama negotiates anti-COVID vaccines with three companies
FOCO, Niegan entrada al Defensor del Pueblo a Plaza Ágora
La Estrella, Feministas en Panamá protestan contra la violencia hacia la mujer
EFE, Enfermeras de Panamá retoman la calle por su precariedad ante la pandemia
La Estrella, Oposición desconfía del Pacto del Bicentenario
ECSAHARAUI, Recibimiento en Panamá al embajador de la Republica Saharaui
BBC, John Kerry named climate envoy
Radio Temblor, Resumen de la dictadura de Giammattei en Guatemala

Opinion / Opiniones

Blackman, Clean up efforts won’t solve marine plastic pollution
Mora y Araujo, Maradona: the achingly human superstar who embodied Argentina
WOLA, Mexico’s anti-corruption and justice reform efforts tested
Panetta, Biden team ditches Trump-style nationalism
Maloney, The United Sates must end anonymous shell companies
Whitehouse, America’s captured courts
Blades, Diario de la Peste
Sagel, Hacía el Bicentenario

Culture / Cultura

La Estrella, Chemito: El boxeo en Panamá actualmente está en crisis
Bob Marley, Give Thanks and Praises

 

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Gush Shalom, The righteous Mordechai Vanunu

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VNUNU
Mordechai Vanunu, 11 years ago. Wikimedia photo.

The United States released Pollard – now Israel should release Mordechai Vanunu

by Gush Shalom

Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc, calls upon the Government of Israel to emulate the United States, which removed the limitation placed upon Jonathan Pollard, and remove the limitations which it itself placed on Mordechai Vanunu. Jonathan Pollard and Mordechai Vanunu were both arrested in 1986, in the United States and Israel respectively. Both were charged with espionage, though on very different grounds. Pollard had passed on to an Israeli agent classified information to which he had access due to his work in the US Naval Intelligence. Vanunu had provided to the London Sunday Times information about the production of nuclear arms at the Dimona Nclear Pile, which he gained while working there as a technician. Both were duly convicted of espionage. In the case of Vanunu the question arose whether passing classified information to a newspaper counts as “espionage”. The judges ruled that it does, since “publishing in the newspaper is tantamount to giving it to all enemy agents at once”.

The US Government and large parts of the American public opinion denounced Pollard as “a traitor”. The same – even more vociferously – was how the Israeli Government and much of public opinion treated Vanunu. Nevertheless, both of them gained groups of devoted supporters and adherents – on very divergent grounds. Peace activists and opponents of nuclear arms worldwide – and some also in Israel – warmly took up the case of Mordecahi Vanunu, hailing him as a heroic whistleblower. Vanunu was several times put up as candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, and he did win the Right Livelihood Award (“The Alternative Nobel Prize”) and various other awards and honors.

Jonathan Pollard gained support in an entirely different quarter, mainly from right wing Nationalist Israelis, who regarded him as a Jewish Zionist hero and even as an Israeli Patriot. Under intensive lobbying from this direction, the government of Israel granted Israeli citizenship to Pollard, still held in the American prison.

When Vanunu emerged from sixteen years behind bars, the government promptly imposed severe restrictions on him – the order for these restrictions signed by the Interior Minister, citing Emergency Powers left over from the time of British colonial rule. Vanunu had to report to the police any time he changed address, and was forbidden to leave Israel, to come near to any Embassy and also forbidden to speak to foreigners. In one case, he was detained and charged with having broken the restrictions in having had “a long conversation with a foreigner.” The “foreigner” in question turned out to be Vanunu’s Norwegian girlfriend.

Some years later, Pollard ended his own long prison term in the United States – and the American authorities, too, hastened to impose severe restrictions. Pollard was forbidden to leave the United States and go to Israel, which was what he wanted. In fact, he was restricted to the city of New York and forbidden to outside its boundaries.

This week, the restrictions on Pollard were finally lifted. He is now free, whenever he wants, to board a plane to Israel where he can be sure of welcome. But the Government of Israel, which lobbied the Americans and achieved this gesture for Pollard from the outgoing President Trump, itself has the power to end Vanunu’s restrictions, too. All that is needed is one signature of the Interior Minister on one paper.

This step should be taken with no further delay. Mordechai Vanunu has spent more than half his lifetime paying for an act which broke Israeli law but which he felt was morally justified – a view shared by many others.

Vanunu had asserted many times that he had already disclosed all classified information he ever had to the Sunday Times, and it had already become known to the whole world thirty-five years ago. Even if he does have any more information in his possession, it very obsolete information, decades out of date. There is no reason, except for pure vindictiveness, for forcing Vanunu to go on living in Israel, a country from which he feels alienated. He needs and deserves to be set free, to be allowed to fly off to Norway – a country which already years ago agreed to host him and where he can accept to be welcomed and live the rest of his life among friends.

 

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Bernal, The tyranny of the political patronage system

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Protesters in Lima, the capital of Peru, where the norm is that members of the political caste understand graft as the ordinary thing that they do. Odebrecht finally overflowed the public disgust with that, and calling out the riot squad only made it worse fot the politicians. Wikimedia photo.

Authoritarian patronage

by Miguel Antonio Bernal

Patronage, Rodrigo Borja tells us in his Encyclopedia of Politics: “is a style of doing politics that consists of generating loyalty and gratitude in population groups, in exchange for favors that politicians give or offer them. It is the formation or promotion of these groups to support electoral or government political actions. Some have defined it as the “exchange of votes for goods or services.”

In light of this definition, there is no doubt that in Panama we have an electoral system that is based on and promotes the necessary clientele for the solidity of this practice. But, if we dig around and reflect a little more, we will find that Panama has a political patronage government in its full scope: concept, expression and action.

The Creole Leviathan – in its incessant search for authoritarian solutions — managed with the military coup of 1968, among other things, to disintegrate the municipal system of the time and, by imposing the corregimiento to replace the municipality, established a political patronage system to hijack any democracy that has citizen participation.

The constitution imposed in 1972, with its patching reforms of 1983, endorsed by the party and the plutocracy, imposed an authoritarian constitutionalism which persists to this day. It’scharacterized by the absolute absence of responsibility of the rulers towards the citizen. The ruling elites exercise violence and hide and hide themselves behind their imposed militaristic constitution.

That authoritarian constitutionalism, about which Mark Tushnet tells us, and about which we will return in future writings, has found in the Panamanian population the clients for the political patronage that today stifles the possibilities of a democratic constitutional state of law. That is, patronage denies us the basis to make a qualitative leap as a society, as a country, as a state.

The important work of analyzing and defining the role of political patronage in our Panama should help us to understand, criticize and transform the basis of the irrational exercise of political power. It uses a “liberal democratic constitution” (CB Pedreschi dixit) where authoritarianism is the prevailing rule. It prevents substantial progress towards real and effective citizen participation.

The “Bicentennial Pact,” as they want to call it, is their new channel to direct the citizen clamor for a true transformation of the state. It can be nothing more than a new way to evade the imperative need for a constituent process that leads us to break with political patronage and its constitutionalized authoritarianism.

 

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Editorials: Another misnamed monologue? and Disbar Rudy

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Nito & Genaro
President Cortizo and leaders of the militant CONUSI labor union confederation meet to talk about the possible “Bicentennial Pact.” Photo by the Presidencia. 

Turbulent times

Is some sort of revolutionary millennium at hand across the Americas?

Even if there can be such a thing, demonstrably it’s not scheduled for the day after tomorrow in Panama. However, a lot of incumbent politicians and parties might think that. The world is hurting from a pandemic and associated economic woes. Those leaders so stuck on old priorities and arrangements that they can’t lend a hand to the many who are suffering can play all sorts of finger-pointing and fear games to save themselves, but mostly it doesn’t work. Incumbents are endangered across many a political spectrum. Conditions vary by country, but Latin America in general is unstable.

The combination of corruption and austerity is, as we just saw in Guatemala, an incendiary mix. Governments of leftist, rightist and centrist hues have been offering that up, sometimes along with raw repression. It rarely works.

The problem is that almost every country in the region has gone way into debt and seen its informal and small business sectors devastated. The hardships will last beyond when we can get enough people vaccinated to get COVID-19 under control. The old arrangements and commitments just don’t address the situation. Neoliberal globalization on corporate terms is discredited and moribund, even if people can’t agree on something to replace it. Leaders who inspire us to pull together, share the burdens and benefits and get through these difficult times are the hard to find platinum standard.

Is Nito about to convene a monologue among the usual PRD heavies, business organizations and illustrious families, buy off the rabiblanco press with huge ad buys, and present us with a rise in the retirement age, a write-off of the education of hundreds of thousands of kids and a diminished public health care system? Notwithstanding any and all endorsements, influencers and ad agencies, it’s likely to derail some so far well guarded gravy trains if that’s the “Bicentennial Pact.”

 

Disbar Giuliani

Here in Panama, it all may seem a bit strange. As a practical matter, there is no disbarment of unethical attorneys here.

What’s more, not only are there are judges who will ALLOW an argument against a Panamanian citizen of an ethnicity sought to be defamed to the effect that “he can move to some other country,” there are judges who will ACCEPT such an argument without fear of being removed from the bench for it.

US Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) has filed complaints against Rudy Giuliani in five jurisdictions where the former New York mayor and federal prosecutor is licensed to practice law, citing Giuliani’s presentations of palpable lies in courts as an unethical practice for which he should lose his license to practice law. Pascrell also names 22 other Trump lawyers for similar offenses.

Yes, the ultra-right calls Pascrell “unhinged,” because everyone “knows” that anything goes in US courts. But many state bar associations do try to maintain some ethical standards in the legal profession.

Pascrell’s point is well taken. He calls the campaign of misrepresentations aired in courtrooms “sinister arson [that] is a danger not just to our legal system but is also unprecedented in our national life.” In fact, what Giuliani et al did was a violation of the canons of legal ethics.

As to the argument in Michigan, what Giuliani did is yet more incendiary. He in effect argued for the mass disenfranchisement of black people. He would revive a whole history of racial violence in the state, which decent citizens in both major political parties fervently hope is behind us.

Lawyers should be kicked out for making factually unsupported and unconscionably aimed racist arguments. Wherever that worm raises its head.

  

The company said they were prepared to offer me three million dollars. If they had offered me two Miss Universes, who knows?

Omar Torrijos
on rejecting an offer

Bear in mind…

The wages of sin are death, but by the time taxes are taken out, it’s just sort of a tired feeling.

Paula Poundstone

Prisons are built with stones of Law, brothels with bricks of Religion.

Blake

In Washington, we know that there’s a huge difference between a prostitute and a politician. There are some things a prostitute won’t do.

Claire McCaskill

 

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New trial for Martinelli on reinstated illegal spying charges

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them
Martinelli, who is en route to putting his new RM (Realizando Metas) party on the ballot, reacted on Twitter to the news of the renewed charges by making light of the situation: “Today I knew that I will be the president of Panama in 2024. Without struggles there are no victories.” Photo of the ex-president and entourage from his Twitter feed.

Ricardo Martinelli to be tried again for eavesdropping without a warrant

by Eric Jackson

On November 20, another twist in a long-running case. In a three-hour online hearing a three-member Court of Appeals panel heard arguments from various lawyers, most notably senior organized crime prosecutor Ricaurte González, about whether an August 2019 trial court acquittal of the former president on eavesdropping and theft charges could stand. The 2-1 decision was that the ruling rejecting the spying charges was declared null, while the acquittal on the theft charges was upheld.

There will be a new trial for the warrantless surveillance of some 150 political rivals, purported allies at the time, journalists, attorneys, activists and leaders of non-governmental organizations. Those victims’ names and some of the details of their communications with others were found in a file on a National Security Council laptop that was seized in a raid on a former security director. The surveillance also inherently intercepted the emails and phone calls of others with whom those on the list of those under watch held electronic communications.

The Israeli Pegasus system that Martinelli use also has the capability of turning a laptop or cell phone that to its user is apparently turned off into a live room bug, useful for making video or audio recordings. The most notorious of these surreptitious files was a recording of a domestic argument involving then former judge and now legislator Zulay Rodríguez and her husband at the time, which was published on YouTube. Prosecutors under the Varela and Cortizo administrations have steadfastly blocked access to the invaded third parties in all of the information about themselves and thus blocked and redress for the invasions of OUR privacy. (This reporter had electronic communications with at least two people on the list of 150 surveillance targets.)

The equipment used, which was loaded with the Pegasus software, was last seen by someone who would talk about it in one of Ricardo Martinelli’s business offices. It has never been recovered. Has is been used since his presidency? Did it have anything to do with the intercepted WhatsApp communications of his successor, Juan Carlos Varela? The appeals court didn’t get into those matters, limiting itself to upholding the trial court’s finding that allegations that Martinelli personally stole the items in question wasn’t supported by sufficient proof.

Last year’s “not guilty” verdicts caused a storm of criticism. Since then they have added to the political instability inherent in the widespread belief that the justice system is absolutely corrupted. That popular belief will not dissipate anytime soon, but the trial court acquittal was particularly scurrilous.

In the long and winding procedural route to the trial, the Supreme Court, which had held original jurisdiction and conducted much of the investigation before remanding the case to an ordinary trial court, attached its investigative files as part of the body of evidence. But the trial court threw out all such evidence that the high court sent down with the case, contriving a novel procedural rationale to override a higher court’s order. This was the main fault on which the appeals court based its decision to nullify the acquittal on the eavesdropping charges.

That decision was the subject of two major appeals to higher courts, one set of which was thrown out on procedural ground, the other which went to the Supreme Court’s penal bench, which remanded it to the Court of Appeals. That latter court’s nullification of the acquittal remands the matter to a new trial court, with an order that none of the judges who dealt with the case below may participate in the new trial.

No date has been set for the new trial. It would be unlikely before January. But prosecutors are expected to be in court this week to ask for measures to prevent Martinelli’s flight to avoid prosecution. (He already did that once, which culminated in long extradition proceeding in the United States, where he took up residence in Miami.)

In the now mostly nullified trial that included both warrantless eavesdropping and theft charges, prosecutors had asked for a 21-year prison sentence. Shorn of the theft charges the case still could result in years of imprisonment and enough years of suspended political rights to prevent a 2024 presidential run by the now 68-year-old Martinelli. Depending on what prosecutors request and a judge grants, the former president might be headehttps://www.facebook.com/thepanamanewsd back to jail for preventive detention of may just be barred from leaving the country.

 

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