Kevin Harrington Shelton has, as he once told the editor of The Panama News he would do, gone to The Great Eire in the Sky. Considering who he was and what he did, one would think that the local corporate mainstream media would notice. But not so. Rabiblancos consider him to be this awful traitor.
To The Panama News and its editor, Harrington was an instructor in Spanish, diplomatic protocols, the ways of the banking world, and who’s who and what in the local inbred aristocracy. He was sometimes one of our contributors and often a source.
To the media barons and the ad cartel behind them The Panama News is nothing and no association with it is noteworthy. But Kevin Harrington’s association with this publication is a tiny footnote on his CV. The son of a shipping exec who was one of the founders of the Colon Free Zone and part of the brain trust that negotiated Panamanian sovereignty over the old Canal Zone, Kevin Harrington got a top-notch education at Georgetown, was fluent in several languages and was a competent economist. A member of Panama’s elite Union Club, he worked for Citibank, was Panama’s consul in London, was the court-appointed receiver and administrator for Toro Pérez Balladares’s PYCSA folly that involved an private toll road concession with a company selected in a rigged process and a business plan that never really contemplated the company paying its debts, served as chief translator for the Ministry of Canal Affairs when Ricardo Martinelli was the minister and became Panama’s most persistent freedom of information litigator, racking up a few victories against many losses that laid bare the secrecy culture in which public corruption thrives here.
And when the Panama Canal Authority called a snap referendum in 2006 and dumped tens of thousands of pages of studies in English on the public and then lied in Spanish about the contents of those English documents he spoke up. But of course, he was against most of the politicians, all of the banking and construction industries, the entire ad cartel and almost all of the mainstream media, the latter having been bought off with massive illegal expenditures of public funds for one side of a ballot issue campaign.
(‘How can you say it was illegal? The Electoral Tribunal held that if the president does something against the law, his being president makes it legal!’ So charge the editor with criminal defamation if that’s your pleasure.)
All ancient history and sour grapes? But when Martín Torrijos bought all copies of La Prensa so that people would not see an unfavorable editorial, when Torrijos’s politically motivated information control about toxic medicines directly led to hundreds of preventable deaths, when the vote suppression for the 2006 referendum included taking almost all cabs and buses off the streets for election day, when the use of public funds for partisan campaigning was “legalized,” the stage was set for the enormous crimes of the Martinelli regime.
And all along, there was Kevin Harrington, warning of the consequences of what was being done and later, as the man who had translated Martinelli’s speeches for a living, warning of the nature of Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal.
So La Prensa found nothing worthy of mention in Kevin Harrington’s passing. But radical construction workers mourned, as did some fairly conservative business people who are into such stodgy concepts as honest book keeping, arm’s-length dealing in public contracting, the reality and not just the rhetoric of transparency and a judiciary that’s both independent and honest. As did many others. Kevin is gone, but his place in Panamanian history will not be buried.
In the United States many Americans are appalled at the vulgarity with which Donald Trump has noted the passing of Senator John McCain. Panamanians have every reason to feel the same way about La Prensa ignoring the passing of Kevin Harrington Shelton.
No matter. They have the freedom of the press to ignore whom and what they will. The many Panamanians who admired Kevin Harrington have the freedom of expression to say that the would-be power brokers and their business and political backers are the ones to ignore.
He has admitted to crimes. Now that his legal case is destroyed and still disintegrating, he counts on political salvation. He has his large cheering section, the heart of which is composed of white supremacists, cheering him on.
That’s not America but it might as well be if people who object to crime in high places and the increasing nazification of US public policies don’t vote in a new Congress that obstructs Donald Trump’s malignant designs.
Are you a US citizen living in Panama? Cast your vote from abroad. Go to votefromabroad.org OR fvap.gov OR overseasvotefoundation.org to get registered and order your ballots. The deadlines are upon us.
Bear in mind…
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