Editorial: Progress, but it’s not over

Santeños being signed up for food assistance: Los Santos has not had a new coronavirus infection registered for nearly two weeks. That’s because it was cordoned off from the rest of the country before the disease could make much progress there. The economy is a shambles, except that much of the province is composed of ranching and agriculture areas where people can go on a subsistence economy. Here government workers sign up a family for the modest government food assistance program. They’re perhaps a bit flabby from a starchy and fatty cheap diet, but do not appear to be starving. Photo by the Presidencia.

The worst number tells the best story

More than 250 people have died in Panama from coronavirus infections, often enough in combination with other maladies. Every person who died was unique and irreplaceable, a bundle of good and not-so-good qualities, an individual worth saving by our society. It’s awful.

Except, we are an international air and sea crossroads. For that reason we had at the outset special vulnerabilities that few other places had. We started out with critical shortages of masks and other protective clothing, testing kits and ventilators. We are one of the most economically unequal societies in the world, which makes it hard to bring people together about anything. We depended for our national defense on the United States, whose wretched president has dismantled his own country’s defenses against epidemics and was in no position to help us when the disease hit.

And yet, here we are with a much lower per capita death toll than the USA.

It’s because our president, after a missed step or two at the start, took the situation seriously and interposed a severe low-tech defense, a strict quarantine that has been annoying and burdensome to all. But it has worked. People around the world are recognizing Nito Cortizo’s leadership and the relatively successful defense he has led.

The restrictions are now easing, very slowly for relatively few people. There are many sacrifices to endure before this plague subsides. There are many foolish or malicious voices in the siren chorus to ignore. Some of them are from foreigners with a colonial mentality who need to be sent back to from whence they came. Some are from home–grown fools who see nothing amiss with trying to live through a life-and-death crisis in an bizarro universe of alternative facts. Panama’s national defense is more than quiet endurance, it’s a vociferous dispute against bad advice, dishonest spins and outright if viral lies.

But carry on, good citizens of whatever nationality. We are winning this but the crisis is far from over.


Bear in mind…


All sins are attempts to fill voids.

Simone Weil


Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book.

Dwight D. Eisenhower


Whatever is produced in haste goes hastily to waste.



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