A small protest against corruption and impunity gathers Martinelli’s victims
photos by Eric Jackson except as noted
The March 1 demonstration called by Miguel Antonio Bernal and others didn’t attract a lot of people and at first glance the mix might have seemed surprising. As expected, communist factions that don’t participate in anything that they don’t control were not there. And what do La Prensa founder Bobby Eisenmann, PRD legislator Zulay Rodríguez, struggling little labor unions, the people who have led the defense of the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca against strip mining and hydroelectric dam land and water grabs and those who organized the protests against Ricardo Martinelli’s attempt to force the sale of the Colon Free Zone’s land all have in common? Ricardo Martinelli had their phones and computers tapped and turned into bugging devices, or sent tax auditors after them over bogus claims, or sent police to arrest them or beat them up or shoot them, or recorded their most intimate conversations and made crass YouTube attack videos out of them. A high percentage of the 150 people known to have had their electronic conversations monitored by Ricardo Martinelli showed up at the protest.
Th small crowd was easily 10 times the size of those that Martinelli supporters have mustered to object to his multiple prosecutions. But if the truth is to be told, most Panamanians are annoyed by the impunity enjoyed by the political caste but don’t think that they can do much about it and are far more concerned about whether there will be clean water coming out of their tap on any given day. According to the Dichter & Neira polling firm, the backdrop for this protest was a decline in President Varela’s support that for the first time shows more Panamanians disapproving than approving of the job that he’s doing. Nobody is in a mood to riot in the streets about it, but on a number of fronts the public’s patience is starting to wear thin.
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