Marco A. Gandásegui Jr. ¡PRESENTE!

Marco A. Gandásegui, hijo. CELA photo.

Marco A. Gandásegui Jr. dead at 76

by Eric Jackson

“The coronavirus pandemic is not the end of the world. Nor is it the end of history. We cannot say that the pandemic will liquidate capitalism.”

from Gandásegui’s last column    

Family, friends and colleagues tell us that noteworthy Panamanian sociologist, journalist and activist Marco A. Gandásegui Jr. has left the world of the living. He was 76 years old. The cause of his death has yet to be disclosed.

For many years Gandásegui was the leading light of the Justo Arosemena Center for Latin Amerian Studies (CELA) and for the last several years he wrote a weekly column that appeared in La Estrella and on the Latin America in Movement (ALAI) website. He was also editori of the scholarly magazine Tareas. His columns also often appeared in English translation in The Panama News.

Gandásegui was a tenured sociology professor at the University of Panama, where he taught research methodology. Born in Panama City on April 28, 1943, he got a degree in journalism at the University of Chile, then earned a master’s in sociology from the international Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) and went on to get his PhD in sociology at New York University.

Gandásegui’s 1964 study, The Concentration of Economic Power in Panama, established his place in the front ranks of both academia and as a thinker if not organizational leader of the Panamanian left.

In the chaotic times after the 1968 coup, the University of Panama was closed for a year and there were serious purges and persecution. But within a couple of years Omar Torrijos overcame his partner in that uprising and rival thereafter, Boris Martínez, and set out in a new direction. Torrrijos offered social reforms and truces among old enemies in order to unite Panama in the effort to end the US occupation of the 10-mile-wide enclave known as the Canal Zone.

Gandásegui lent his support to that effort and thus, although not a vicious partisan on either side, by default fell onto the side of the great division of the Panamanian left that has persisted ever since, those who made their peace with the dictatorship versus those who did not. In recent years his was one of the voices on the Panamanian left in favor of moving past that divide. However, factions largely populated by people too young to have remembered either the Canal Zone or the dictatorship took on lives of their own on the separate old foundations.

In October of 1979 the Canal Zone shut down as a legal entity, although it would be another generation before the last US military bases left. Gandásegui would point out that Panama is mostly covertly still used as a center for US military operations in the region, something of which he always disapproved.

With the Canal Zone ended and especially after the 1981 death of Omar Torrijos, the coalition that came together for the treaties broke up. Business interests gained the upper hand, both in the fraudulent 1984 elections and especially after the 1989 US invasion. Gandásegui was always against “neoliberalism,” that globalized economic system on corporate terms. In his later years he frequently wrote about the decline of the United States as a hegemonic power but had few illusions about the Panamanian oligarchy and political parties adjusting their policies to that.


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