Editorial, Conservatives down here and up there

In coming Chamber of Commerce president Jean-Pierre Leignadier (l) and President Cortizo (r) at the Chamber’s installation of new officers ceremony. Photo by the Presidencia.

What’s “conservative” anymore?

There are so many things that might be said about the narrow social base with whom President Cortizo consults over major policy initiatives, the realities of a country in which informal micro-enterprises are the vast majority of business but are not recognized as such, and political stances that have hardened over the years.

The Panama Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (CCIAP) is what it is, a generally known quantity. Their basic orientation is for the prosperity of their member businesses and for continuity of the established social order. In that sense they can be called “conservative,” even when they hobnob with a president whose party is a member of the Socialist International.

Might today’s Chamber be far away from the principles of the old Colombian Conservatives, basically a large landowners’ party in alliance with the Catholic Church? Perhaps. We could get into historical roots and interregnums, and semantic debates.

What was the gist of what Mr. Leignadier had to say? On common ground with most of Panamanian society, he opined that our legal system is bad for business and needs to change. The country’s leftist organizations and leaders would all say that, too. When it comes to proposals for change, the ground begins to fragment, but we all know what has to end.

Like so many of us, Leignadier feels the losses of this harsh quarantine. He was not railing against the man who ordered it, the president, who was in the room. “Every day that passes without starting up the economy,” the new Chamber president said, “affects the possibility of sustaining thousands of jobs.” He correctly noted that both businesses and individuals are being hurt.

But Leignadier called for caution in the reopening of businesses in Panama. He warned against magic solutions to economic problems. His organization has consulted with the government on plans to slowly get public activity, economic and otherwise, restarted in Panama.

The Chamber’s caution is in marked contrast with the reckless dismissal of all facts that goes under the brand name of conservatism in the United States. Gunman threatening the government to throw all medical caution to the wind, as happens up there, is nothing that any Panamanian business leader, nor any business-oriented politician, is about to condone.

Down here the conservatives want to actually conserve something. Up there conservatives are a smash and grab mob who don’t much care about the society and republic they leave behind.

Small-c conservative Panamanian business leaders may call way too many dibs for most citizens’ liking. But at least they have the sense to know that a work force and a consumer market devastated by mass death and illness is no way to conserve very much that’s worth having.


            Violence, in reality, defends no right and no one.

Mohandas K. Gandhi            

Bear in mind…


Winston Churchill would kill his own mother just so he could use her skin to make a drum to beat his own praises.

Margot Asquith


There are only two families in the world, the Haves and the Have Nots.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra


There ain’t no answer. There ain’t gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. That’s the answer.

Gertrude Stein


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