VarelaLeaks: true enough, but…

Ebrahim Asvat is not just some lawyer pundit. A Muslim with roots that trace back to the Indian state of Gujarat, he was director of Panama’s National Police and publisher of La Estrella and El Siglo. He’s a cautious man, not given to making wild statements. Here he opines that “Reading the WhatsApp of Varela’s adversaries I understand that the Varela Leaks are to depose the Attorney General. That’s the objective.”

Porcell may resign, but the Varela Leaks are inadmissible in court

[Editor’s take: The Varela Leaks are damning about many things. In any other country they would be hearsay but the stuff of which criminal investigations would flow. But understand what else this is:

  • A sitting president’s communications with top officials, and with diplomats representing his administration elsewhere in the world, were hacked. It’s par for the post-invasion political course to ignore all considerations of Panamanian national security, so this dimension of what has happened does not get mentioned by establishment types.
  • A Panamanian president and US ambassador were seen negotiating the lineup of Panama’s corporate mainstream media. Was the fact that some of the corporate players are stolen property mentioned but edited out, or was that just agreed upon as a given by Mr. Varela and Mr. Feeley? In any case this is a media scandal as well.
  •  This may be rather obvious, or a misdirection, or something else. The Pegasus program and the equipment to use it which were bought with Panamanian public funds have been stolen and they were last noticed by anyone who has come forward in the constructive possession of Ricardo Martinelli. For years he has been threatening people with dossiers. The Twitterverse is alive with Martinelista screeching about the Varela Leaks, with all of the pseudonymous call center screeds that were the hallmarks of his politics. However, there are other Panamanians with motives to embarrass those who have been embarrassed. Plus, any number of countries have Pegasus or systems that do the same things. The leaks are published on a website maintained in the United States. Were we to think of reasons why the US government might be involved in such a thing, we have to take into account the possibility that it is so and that there is no reason, that the US president is a man with only the shakiest sense of reason, who is surrounded by acolytes, schemers and fanatics.
  •  There are now many calls for an investigation — but under the direction of which office or person? Under which set of laws or rules? There is a generalized institutional credibility problem that has been building for years and has Panama firmly in its grip at the moment.]

In its strongest point, La Prensa weakly opines:

“We cannot fail to raise a voice, to put on the table the complex and dangerous situation in which we find ourselves.”

La Estrella reasonably points out:

“Today Panama is surprised by the chats from a telephone of former president Varela, which reveals how he conspired with attorney general Kenia Porcel to prevent himself, his friends Lasso, Duboy and others, from being prosecuted for involvement in the Odebrecht case. How Varela conspired with former Ambassador Feeley to destroy the Waked family and how negotiations were made to favor friends with contracts. This society is in shock and has not yet processed all of information leaked.”

Pseudonymous libel warning

Below we post something that’s untrue and scurrilous, but which is also a powerful part of the public discourse in this post-truth era. We do not post it to spread the libel but to criticize it.

The allegation that all of the Motta family’s fortune, or that of Stanley Motta, is a flat-out lie. But the leaks do indicate that Mr. Motta had more influence on the president and his decisions than most Panamanians would consider proper. Notice the scurrilous front persona for this screed. It’s an ever more common social media tactic of which people in democratic societies need to be aware.

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