Editorials: Gangster hits in Panamanian politics; and US political deflation

the late
Campaign sign for the late Fidel Álvarez, vandalized in stereotypical fashion.

Gangsterism mixed with politics, again

In the 2014 cycle, it was warfare among drug gangs aligned with PRD factions in San Miguelito that made the campaign deadly.  More recently, it was an alleged confluence among PRD politics in Los Santos, a cockfighting establishment and international drug smuggling, a judge having been so very considerate to put the trial off until after the election. Over in Colon now, Cambio Democratico candidate for legislator Samuel Bennett is under investigation by the anti-drug prosecutor on suspicions of money laundering. Bennett is the suplente for deadly hit-and-run driver deputy Maro Lazarus.

Should we be surprised at the latest? Martinelista independent candidate for representante of the Panama City corregimiento of Pedregal Fidel Álvarez was standing in the shade of a tree near a soccer field talking with several people when a stolen white car drove up, three gunmen emerged and shot three of the people under the tree, two of them fatally. The first to die was Álvarez. The hit men got back in the stolen car, drove a short distance, then waded across a river to make their getaway. Charges or wanted posters have not been issued, but it seems that the operating presumption is the sicarios were members of a local gang known to police.

Stay tuned for further details. Whatever the particulars, we are once again reminded that construction executives who pay kickbacks on public works contracts are not the only hoodlums who have infiltrated political life in the Republic of Panama.


A scurrilous and mostly untrue meme that was circulated all over Facebook right after Bernie Sanders unexpectedly beat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 New Hampshire primary. A lot of the postings of this were not directly by people but through bots. We are seeing a lot of scurrilous attacks against all Democratic hopefuls this time, even though Facebook and Twitter have removed many of the bots that were being used on their systems.

US political manners: first you deflate the opponent

Joe Biden’s manners with women and girls becomes an issue before he even declares his candidacy. Actually, it long has been.

The woman who raises her objections to Biden and her personal story about one of the reasons why she speaks out now is a former candidate and was a Bernie Sanders supporter in 2016. Surely there will be a vilification campaign against her. You already see it on social media. But she does not accuse Biden of sexual assault and she is frankly political about her reasons for coming forward. The Democrats, she says, have a large field with many good candidates this year, but from her experience she says that Joe Biden isn’t one of them

EVERY Democratic presidential hopeful who has gained national attention has had unflattering personal accounts, questionable political stands taken or denigrating matters of ideology or identity raised. It’s all part of the usual thing, but there are more participants due to the social media and some of these are malicious false personas.

One of the old-fashioned US campaign maxims is that you deflate your opponent early in the campaign and do what you can to define him or her by your unfavorable narrative. Perhaps the great pre-television era classic of that was Richard Nixon’s 1950 US Senate campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas, wherein Nixon portrayed his at the time House of Representatives colleague as this decadent Hollywood libertine who followed Communist orders. It was a total smear of the liberal Democrat but it worked.

Some of the smears directed against Democratic primary candidates are from other Democrats, or amoral and really apolitical consultants who specialize in this stuff for a fee but present themselves as Democrats. A lot of it is from Republicans. Some of it is from foreign interlopers, and probably not just the Russians.

This sort of thing works better with someone who is not so well known. Joe Biden has been on the national stage for a long time and people know about him, or think that they do. There are positives and negatives in the baggage that he carries.

If Joe Biden wants to jump into the race, he should.  He represents a mostly liberal on the social issues, mostly conservative on the economics issues strain that is part of the Democratic Party. In the total political calculation, he and all other would-be nominees are better judged by Democrats according to standards of ideas and abilities above all of the other considerations.


Bear in mind…


I shall be an autocrat, that’s my trade; and that good Lord will forgive me, that’s his.
Catherine the Great


Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.
John F. Kennedy


It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
Charles Darwin



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