Bernal, A crisis of values

Dr. Bernal and his supporters, when the corrupt “Rector Magnifico” tried to kick him out of his teaching position at the University of Panama law school. Archive photo by José F. Ponce.

A crisis of values

by Miguel Antonio Bernal V.

Since the military dictatorship’s sinking, Panama has lived in a prolonged crisis of values. This keeps us from determining which are the most important values that we should institutionalize.

“Panama’s fundamental problem,” as the economist Rubén Lachman well recalled recently, “is of a political nature.” The successive governments that have gone in and out of power these past 27 years, in their zeal to achieve “the normal and routine” functioning of the government, have venerated the Political Constitution of 1972, the symbol of authoritarianism and totalitarianism, which people fought with cries for “Democracy, Justice and Freedom.”

On the bottom line, what happens to us is that we have been blocked — by different mechanisms — from institutionalizing political freedom. We are taking about the need to institute a real, effective and transparent political freedom that eliminates the endless quantity of obstacles that exist in our midst which impede citizens from acting according to their responsible will.

Let me clarify. I identify with Fernando Savater when he teaches us that: “In speaking of freedom I mean nothing particularly mystical, but the autonomy of individuals in the community to establish and revoke laws, elect and depose rulers, enjoy legal safeguards and have the possibility to explore by whatever means that do not harm others the fullness of their individuality.”

We should consolidate the steps, mechanisms and procedures favorable to political freedoms. We are called today more than ever to emancipate ourselves from misery, the tyranny of structural poverty, of inequality, of ignorance. We cannot allow these to continue reducing the roles of public institutions and public services to the defense and protection of the privileged ones and their privileges.

In the coming days and months the crisis of values will no doubt become more accentuated, and this will increase the peril to our political liberties. We ought to renounce the role of financial shelter and rescue our trampled national dignity.


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