With friends like this…
by Mariela Sagel — translated from the original in La Estrella by Eric Jackson
Much is spoken of friendship, which should be unconditional and should benefit the welfare of each person. I don’t doubt this, but I am greatly intrigued by certain friendships that have allowed some to go through true calvaries while the others die laughing. In the Book of Proverbs, at 22:24-25, it is written: “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.”
This past week we say the former minister of social development go to an appeals hearing before the Supreme Court for having bought a luxury car. He has been incarcerated for more than a year and a half, without the bail that has been expeditiously conceded to the big bosses who have stolen millions from this country, with which they would have been able to do big projects. He will go to trial in another month. I don’t have any sympathy for this man, who in addition to making a display of his crass ignorance when he “abdicated” his candidacy for mayor, did nothing of relevance for which he can account in his ministry. He just passed the time as the cabinet’s “pretty boy.” But he did take pride in being a good friend of President Martinelli.
Now that the charges against him have piled up and in some cases have been combined, the disreputable president of the Suprme Court will let us know of how the judicial authorities intend handle these matters next week. What reason will the fugitive give to his “friends” left on the hook, who are prisoners while he lives a leisurely life, carousing and so on, in his golden exile? Doesn’t it seem unjust that many of his former subordinates are on trial while he’s protected by the gringos?
Others in his entourage are in the same boat, more or less left to fend for themselves, with their pitiful wives picketing in front of the Avesa Building. Family members claimed that former officials’ lives are in danger while they are incarcerated. Then when the arrogant former security minster was released on bail there came a strange mix of garbled Bible passages, threats and partying.
They say that “the best friendship is one that does not harm.” One of the first statements that President Varela made when the Mossack Fonseca papers scandal blew up was that Minister Without Portfolio Fonseca was his friend. This has raised many suspicions about the delay with which authorities have acted. Better if he had kept quiet about that, and nobody would be questioning him about it today.
Likewise, all of those who leave their cells — not necessarily in jails, which are intended for non-VIPs — proclaim to the four winds their unconditional friendship with the president they served. But where has he been to defend them? How come his battered party has not held a congress, the date for which keeps getting postponed?
I was surprised by the stubborn defense of those guilty of the horrible massacre of youngsters at the juvenile detention center, which alleged that the sentence, the most severe imposed in Panama, was excessive. It was made by ex-minister De Lima in an opinion column, in which he forgot what happened — the brutality and cruelty of the police officers who were there at the revolt, which was videotaped as an authentic proof of what happened. Nobody in authority in the government in which De Lima was a prominent member looked after the families of those who died nor of the two survivors, who needed special attention to heal their wounds and burns, in addition to psychological help. Such an enormous challenge it apparently was for the prison system, the Ministry of Government and the Ministry of Social Development. None of them showed any pity, nor did they do anything for these poor people. They delivered the putrified remains of their children in garbage bags.