Editorials: Volatile Panama; and Trump’s base

The Odebrecht scandal has taken two serious new turns with the detention under house arrest of Amado Barahona. He was the supposed leader of the fight against money laundering and his case represents the first major implication of the 2004-2009 Martín Torrijos administration and of the Financial Analysis Unit.

Volatile Panama

Now we have had the first major Odebrecht-related arrest related to the last PRD administration, a money laundering case against Martín Torrijos’s main man in charge of fighting money laundering. We can expect all sorts of foot dragging and obstructions to continue through the upcoming election cycle.

Unresolved questions would likely hound Panama’s largest political party, notwithstanding all denials. The overarching national scandal is likely to affect the chances of not only that party but also of the independents who served in that administration or who were appointees of that administration. The two leading names put forward as possible PRD presidential nominees will be touched, perhaps only obliquely. People will want to know more about Zulay Rodríguez’s role in the courts during legendarily thuggish days. People will want to know what Nito Cortizo knew when he was Torrijos’s agriculture minister and what he did about it. The same would apply to former tourism minister Rubén Blades if he runs as an independent. Another set of corruption-related questions — what she knew and what she did about not only Odebrecht but also about David Murcia Guzmán’s activities and influence and about the mass poisoning case, to name a few salient matters — ought to haunt the independent candidacy of Ana Matilde Gómez.

Perhaps questions will be answered to the voters’ satisfaction. Perhaps all political factions in all branches of government, plus all of the rival rabiblanco media, will come to an agreement to suppress any and all such questions. But in these days of social media and the emergence of many small media from the rubble of the broken old advertising-supported news business paradigm, the fax and bochinche networks of late Noriega times that were the backbone of the 1989 Endara landslide will seem crude and ineffective indeed. A tacit agreement to squelch the uncomfortable questions is more likely to damage already malfunctioning institutions than to preserve them.

All of which leaves Panama without any obvious easy answers. Can a poorly educated nation do its homework and solve a problem? If not we will be falling into a dangerous place.


Trump and his bedrock base

He got 46.1 percent of the vote, and a poll in the wake of the neofascist disturbances in Virginia say that 64 percent of those who voted for Trump are standing by him. That’s less than 30 percent of the electorate, but other polls give Trump an approval rating that’s a few points higher. Such Republican leaders as both former presidents Bush and the leaders of both houses of Congress are distancing themselves from the president. His presidency may or may not survive and the nation and world have good reason to fear that he might start a war to distract attention and rally more support.

The core of Trump’s supporters, however, would likely follow him through all that. About one in seven American voters believes in “end times religion,” that the apocalypse draws nigh. These people tend to be hard right voters. Catastrophic war, environmental destruction, social breakdown, schools that don’t teach, crumbling infrastructures, malfunctioning institutions — none of these things faze them because they think it’s all going to end anyway. And they are something like about one-third to one-half of Trump’s diehard base.

Are these religious fanatics outnumbered in the ranks of core Trump supporters by racial fanatics? Trump comes from a white racist family and got to the presidency by waging a years-long racist campaign, including his championing of the Birther hoax and a call to execute black and Hispanic youths who were wrongly accused of an infamous crime in New York City’s Central Park. For Trump to abandon and condemn Ku Klux Klan politics would be for him to turn his back on the faith in which he was raised.

Subsets of the racial and religious fanatics in the Trump base, but also including a few folks who are neither racists nor bigots, are people who are very concerned about immigration. In this field Trump has accomplished more than in any other. However, the negative effects are beginning to be felt, the old well paid industrial jobs that left the Rust Belt have not come back and likely won’t and America’s isolation in the world is just beginning to unfold. Perhaps some spectacular crime by an immigrant will energize or dissipate this part of the Trump base.

Because most of Trump’s hardcore base lives in alternative social and media universes of their own, whatever setbacks come their way those scenes will be with us for years to come. But they will only be able to maintain political power by the cancellation or rigging of democracy, or by alliances with those whom they presently insult. The gerrymandering is already with us and the battle over vote suppression is already joined and will become far more intense.

Trump the man is going to fall, and his core political base is headed toward marginalization and widespread ridicule. But what comes next for Americans depends on who can inspire enough of a fragmented society by which positive message. That’s the big question mark of our times.


Bear in mind…

Neither millions nor alms — we want justice.
José A. Remón Cantera


I was born a Greek and I will die a Greek. Mr. Pattakos was born a fascist and he will die a fascist.
Melina Mercouri
of the man who voided her citizenship


The moment of victory is much too short to live for that and nothing else.
Martina Navratilova


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