And NOW in Venezuela…
We get more signs of military unrest. Given Venezuela’s history, Latin America’s history, the severe and intractable nature of a Venezuelan economic collapse and a Venezuelan civilian politics that’s about bitter power struggles with hardly a thought for what to do about the country, a military coup would not be a huge surprise. The Bolivarian army stepping in to depose a Bolivarian president who is in the process of tearing up the Bolivarian constitution? Might happen. Any number of other possibilities, most of them awful, may be in store for Venezuela instead. If there is an afterlife, poor Simón Bolívar — who experienced comparable bitterness in his lifetime.
What should it mean for Panama?
First of all, that President Varela uncritically joins with President Trump in efforts to topple President Maduro makes it reasonable to suspect that the present policy of Panama would sign away Panama’s sovereignty as an independent republic. Perhaps the worst victims along the way would be other sister Latin American republic from which this country would serve as a springboard for an attack from the north. Panama should work with other Latin American countries, and only act to the extent that there is a consensus, to assist Venezuela past its troubles. A return to servile foreign policies of the past is a concern for Panamanians, not just for the people in other countries that are targets for foreign intervention.
Second, Panama can’t solve the terrible individual problems of the millions of Venezuelans. Asylum for political figures facing arrest over political charges is a traditional expression of Panamanian neutrality and assistance for peace processes, but it should first be fairly impartial as the tides of fortune move in and out and second should not be a license for anybody to use Panama as a platform from which to direct, arm or incite a civil war in another country. The many Venezuelans who have already come here? The hatred against them needs to stop. So long as they obey our laws their integration into Panamanian society should unfold. But our own economy is weak and we just can’t take in a much more populous nation whose real income has been cut in half over the past few years. One thing should be certain for Panamanians: anyone who would become president of Panama running on a platform of hating our neighbors would ultimately turn on fellow Panamanians as well. That person is unfit to hold that office which she or he seeks.
Third, Venezuela has a large outstanding debt to Panama, but as a nation Venezuela also helped Panama through some of our hard times. As the chaos lifts Panama should be generous, astute and looking out for Panama’s needs in negotiations to settle the debt. A process in which Goldman Sachs gets dibs on Venezuela’s oil revenues and what’s owed to Panama gets forgotten ought to be an unacceptable outcome here.
Bear in mind…
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