Editorials: Ricky demands; and Rule of law on the line in the USA

Does Panama have the rule of law without privileges or immunities based on a person’s social status? That’s an often ignored provision of the constitution that Panama has inherited from the dictatorship. Here we have the standard of care for prison inmates during the Ricardo Martinelli administration. Shortly after he signed a law exempting police from legal responsibility for any act of violence they commit while on duty, this cop and others set fire to a cell at the juvenile prison in Tocumen and taunted the boys as they burned to death. Martinelli later betrayed the cops and the man in the photo is now serving 40 years in prison. A still from an infamous video of the televised extrajudicial torture execution that Ricardo Martinelli staged.

Ricky demands

Ricardo Martinelli, regularly making an ass of himself at his Supreme Court trial for electronic eavesdropping offenses and theft that privacy-conscious Panamanians take quite seriously but which in the scheme of things are among the man’s lesser crimes, wants a makeover of his cell at El Renacer Penitentiary. The former president demands:

  • A maid to come in and clean up his cell every day;
  • A 45-inch television screen with cable TV connection and Blu-Ray video disc player;
  • A computer with Internet connection;
  • A sound system to his liking;
  • A personal water tank in his cell;
  • A dehumidifier; and
  • Wooden blinds for his cell.

What the guy really demands is impunity for a crime wave he imposed on this nation for five years. For that central demand to be granted would be a grave threat to public order, with many possible consequences. But like a little kid, Ricky seems to have never learned that the world does not revolve around him.


Rule of law on the line in the USA

On the eve of the July 9 sesquicentennial of the 14th Amendment’s ratification, Donald Trump is looking for a new Supreme Court justice to overturn Roe v. Wade and the whole line of cases that establish zones of personal privacy which under that amendment are considered liberties that states may not violate without due process of law. On his presidential campaign trail Trump bought into the white supremacists’ screed against “anchor babies,” opining that the US-born children of undocumented immigrants are not American citizens as provided by the 14th Amendment. Opposition to the 14th Amendment was the original founding principle of the Ku Klux Klan, at one of whose demonstrations Trump’s father was arrested. That belief system holds that black people are not citizens and may be mistreated at will.

Meanwhile, federal judges have ordered the president to stop his 100% intolerance border policy of refusing a hearing to foreigners who show up in the United States and request asylum as refugees. This right is established as part of the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, to which the United States is a party. Asylum might be denied in a given case, but in all cases persons with legitimate fear of persecution from whence they came may not be returned to face that persecution. The unity of refugee families is protected. Article 16 of that treaty guarantees refugees access to the courts. Under Article 6 of the US Constitution, treaties made by the United States are binding parts of US law.

Thus the stakes of the coming US Senate battle occasioned by the resignation of Justice Kennedy, and of this fall’s election of one-third of the members of the US Senate. Will Donald Trump get the five votes he needs to gut the 14th Amendment and ignore Article 6? The rule of law is on the line in the USA.


Bear in mind…


§1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
from the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution
ratified 150 years ago on July 9, 1868


You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.
Robin Williams


I make a distinction between the doctrines of the Church, which matter, and the structure invented by half a dozen Italians who got to be pope and which is of very little use to anybody.
Bernadette Devlin McAliskey
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