Editorials: Water crises and health risks; and Rape culture

SPI presidential guards passing out water to pilgrims making their way to Atalaya. Ministry of the Presidency photo.

Pushing our luck

On the day this is written, an editor who has been not only preoccupied with US politics but also under the weather for the better part of a week sees a screen through itchy, watery eyes and is uncomfortably grungy. No water coming to the house through the rural aqueduct for about three weeks now. It’s a familiar drill in which things like laundry, dishwashing, floor mopping, toilet flushes and personal bathing are rationed to get by on much less. It’s also a health risk, more to others whenever it’s necessary to go out and get supplies.

Is it the coronavirus? Probably not. Even if it is, there is a small chance of getting seriously sick, and if that happens, perhaps a one in ten chance of not surviving it. The news came through of Brazil’s first documented case on this day, but there is an incubation period that includes an asymptomatic phase in which the infected person is contagious. Brazil will see a geometric increase in cases. Probably Panama, The Crossroads of The World, has unreported cases and some of those will blossom.

Are people, and is the government, taking all due precautions? Well, yes and no.

The measures to prevent infected people from abroad coming in to infect us are sensible enough, yet not enough and at the same time harmful to our transportation and commerce hub economy.

Should we have called off the Carnival celebrations, and the Lent pilgrimage to Atalaya, to avoid large crowds that might be infected? Perhaps, but  because of precautions not taken long before a crisis, much of the metro area, many rural places and Atalaya have been without water. Unwashed people, and thirsty people, tend to be more vulnerable to getting infected and infecting others.

Do not panic. This, too, shall pass. But along the way we need a national discussion about water policy, and that also should be part of a constitutional debate. We have this bastion of political patronage and nepotism, the IDAAN water and sewer authority, not showing much competence at its higher levels but grabbing for control of the rural aqueducts from time to time. We have a collection of bankers, construction company execs and corporate lawyers on the Panama Canal authority grabbing for control of the national water supply and demonstrating a preference for generating ship tolls over protecting the public health.

To aggravate matters, IDAAN decided to shut down water supplies to all but the very rich in Panama City over the holidays, creating health issues for those who decided to stay put and avoid the big crowds. But the diminished count of cars headed to the Interior, a lot more people than usual decided to stay in the city, and if they had prepared for the announced water shortages, those turned out to be much worse than they had been told. We’ve had uncomfortable days and we shall see the extent that these were dangerous days. But don’t blame the hacks at IDAAN — they’re blaming a private consortium they contracted:


Privatization? Outsourcing? A charismatic adminstrator? A bureaucratic reshuffle? Taking the water we need from someone else who is unable to defend it? We have seen all of that over many years.

The problem is that water and snake oil don’t mix.


Vile stuff that the rabiblanco media offer us for entertainment. Fair use of copyrighted material, to show how creepy it is.

Rape culture up there and down here

Sexual gratification as one of the perquisites of wealth or power? It has often been the norm, surely since before the onset of recorded history. There are cultures and legal systems built around the presumption.

From a female perspective survival and propagation, the ability to feed and raise children, has often depended on picking a mate who can afford to do this. Hence the fury unleashed at various points in history at humble women who chose relationships with foreign conquerors whose days in power proved ephemeral. Hence the clear if incomplete DNA record of what really happened when Panama’s first nations were conquered..

Times do change, and cultures with them. Sometimes a change is just a slight correction, less often a profound transformation.

Was the conviction on sexual assault charges of Harvey Weinstein, with more trial pending, the daw of a new era for Hollywood culture? Or was it just notice that peviously existing limits that had been applied to more ordinary men may now be applied to the crudeness of US cultural moguls?

And what about rape culture here? A firestorm of criticism of the use of the La Cascara television program to suggest the rape of a semi-conscious drunk woman was followed by a quick and inadequate apology. Some of Panama’s labor leaders put it in a larger context, wherein rabiblanco television constantly celebrates rather than satirizes abuse agains those with the least power in our society.

Unacceptable, you guys. Harvey will have some lonely and difficult years to ponder social change if he cares to do so. Ubaldo may find time to reflect, as a former television personality, about the evolution of what viewers and advertisers will accept.


Elie W.

Bear in mind…

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.

Zora Neale Hurston


The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.

Hannah Arendt


When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.

Japanese Proverb


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