Editorial: Government for sale — if enough are ready to betray their country

“The good returns” with Rómulo Roux and the Cambio Democratico party. Televised extrajudicial mass torture executions at the Tocumen Juvenile Detention Center. Fraud used to grab indigenous land and water rights and destroy ancient monuments, without a thought about disbarment of the lawyer who filed the fraudulent environmental impact statements. Massive looting, bribery and kickbacks, running into the hundreds of millions of dollars — and thanks to the Electoral Tribunal Mr. Roux can’t be investigated about the papers he signed that were part of that. Elderly  people thrown out of their homes of many decades with no compensation or irrisory  compensation because a European auto heir wanted a view without them. A little boy who was doing nothing wrong shot dead by cops sent to teach Colon a lesson. Massive violations of privacy, using computer programs to turn people’s cell phones into bugs and making YouTube attack videos of domestic arguments caught in the operation. Presidential insider trading in an international gold stock swindle. Mr. Roux promises to bring all of that back, and to secure your vote he’ll give you a spiffy hat, or maybe even a t-shirt. If it’s like 2014, unprincipled people willing to sell the country to criminals may even get something more valuable in the deal. Graphic from Rómulo Roux’s Twitter feed.

Is your country for sale? Are you?

No matter which country or countries of which you are a citizen, if you sell your vote you are a traitor. No ifs, ands or buts.

That can be a problem in Panama, where by the letter of the law it’s illegal to sell your vote but by interpretation of a partisan Electoral Tribunal it’s OK if the funds for what is being offered you were from private sources, and by malfeasance of a corrupt Electoral Prosecutor using public funds to buy votes is also acceptable.

Five years ago, that was supposed to mean that we would get five more years of a Ricardo Martinelli presidency, by way of a pathetic proxy. But by surprise, too many Panamanians rejected the deal. Or took the gifts but voted against those who lavished them. The top vote-getter for the National Assembly was an independent, the only such elected, who didn’t play the vote buying game. And now she, legislator and former attorney general Ana Matilde Gómez, is running as an independent for president. To win she has a long uphill climb ahead of her. She’ll have to and probably will pass several others who are ahead of her in the polls to reach the current front runner, the former legislator and agriculture minister Nito Cortizo who heads the PRD ticket. Perhaps someone other than Gómez will make that climb. Perhaps nobody will and Cortizo will cruise to victory.

There is no perfect candidate for president this time, not even close. All of the political parties are compromised. The tradition is that the president’s party always goes down to defeat on the strength of fresh taint. That well worn path seems ready to be followed again. Thoughtful voters with honorable intentions will have some difficult thinking if they are to take their duty seriously.

If you are a Panamanian voter, choose as best you can, given the options. Don’t fall for catchy and vacuous jingles, or tall tales of a former golden age. Above all, don’t sell Panama to criminals.


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