A rural peace dividend
This past weekend a teacher drowned while fording a stream en route to where she teaches in the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca. Such tragedies are monotonously common and yet another reason why it’s hard to get good teachers for remote and poor communities. It’s one more part of a cycle of poverty and marginalization.
While that drama was unfolding two others commanded bigger headlines here.
The United States, which broke formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in the 1970s, called its top diplomats in Panama, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic to Washington for consultations about these countries dropping recognition of Taiwan in favor of full relations with the Peoples Republic of China. The boorish and browbeating message from the Trump administration prompted protests from President Varela and Chinese Ambassador Wei Qiang. “As a sovereign nation we will always make our foreign policy decisions as a function of the interests of the Republic of Panama,” Varela said. “A double standard and arrogance in its pure form,” Wei said about the US statements.
Meanwhile it was revealed that the Trump administration had been talking with Venezuelan military officers about staging a coup against the troubled Maduro administration. It is reported that the United States backed away from cooperation with the project for reasons of Washington’s own. In Panamanian history we know of the US coup tease as a way to set up dissident military factions for elimination so as to be out of the way when a move gets made to install a would-be puppet regime.
Nothing completely unprecedented, but from the White House word has gone out that Latin American republics are supposed to do what Washington says. Except that Washington is incoherently led and says contradictory things. Except that against growing economic relations with China, the hollowed-out US government and economy has less to offer these days. Except that Washington constantly asks countries in our region to do futile and destructive things.
For Washington the smart way to avoid Chinese economic domination of Latin America is to fix the United States. It will take new educational, scientific, industrial and economic policies that work for most Americans to avoid eventual US marginalization. Threats and boasting will never accomplish anything positive.
Meanwhile Panama has its SENAN helicopters deployed to fight the failed to the point of ludicrous US “War on Drugs.” Not to protect our fisheries, not to track down polluters, not to pursue excellence in any of Panama’s areas of interest.
And not to protect the lives of our schoolteachers.
SENAN would have to of course make up for lost US aid if we turned our back on the militarized approach to fighting drug addiction. But then we could use the helicopters as an air taxi service for teachers and other public servants, so that nobody would have to risk his or her life crossing a stream to serve a remote community. We could have an air ambulance service that would encourage senior citizens who would like to retire in places like Sora, El Valle or Santa Fe de Veraguas that it can be done without as a practical matter losing quick access to emergency hospital care. It would boost rural economies so that not all of the young adults would feel compelled to leave in order to make a living.
Let’s declare an end to Panama’s participation in the US version of the War on Drugs. That way, with a smart reorganization of national priorities, we would be in a position to collect a peace dividend.
Bear in mind…
Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get you.
Everyone is the age of their heart.
The best way to fight an alien and oppressive culture is to embrace your own.
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