Editorials, A national accord? and Antifa

This past May, those with whom the president consulted before announcing his plan for blocks of reopening the Panamanian economy. Photo by the Presidencia.

Those who are not at the table

A national accord among the registered leaders of the PRD, Cambio Democratico, the Panameñistas, MOLIRENA and the Partido Popular – who does that leave out?

Non-politicians in general. However, it would be naïve to suppose that the interests of wealthy donors and party-aligned media would have nobody at the table to do their bidding.

MOVIN, the Independent Movement with several deputies who caucus in the National Assembly as if they were a political party, and against which prodigious resources are dedicated by or on behalf of the PRD for scurrilous social media vilification campaigns. This proto-party has the backing of some of Panama’s richest people and some influential voices in the rabiblanco media. Their political agitation goes after the low-hanging fruit of public corruption, an issue that the compulsively thuggish political parties foolishly cede to them. Otherwise MOVIN mainly speaks for the rich.

The dissident, usually creepy, voices within the political parties. Within CD, and perhaps on its way to becoming a new party, Ricky Martinelli and his gang. Within the PRD, rowdy hateful demagogues like Zulay Rodríguez and Bolota Salazar, and alleged serial rapist Arquesio Arias, who remains under house arrest. Within MOLIRENA, the voice of Panama’s contingent of a US-funded international Christian ultra-right, Corina Cano. Can we talk about dissident voices in the Arnulfista tradition? The Varelas are pretty quiet these days and do not have a spot at Nito’s table, but remain one of many factions that live within the Panameñista Party.

Yes, we will probably find an occasional black face or Chinese surname or Panamanian with a US passport at the table, but the interests of Panama’s ethnic communities, whether native-born, foreigners or naturalized, will be neither represented nor discussed. If anyone from any of the comarcas will be present, they will likely be the choices of non-indigenous politicians rather than the autonomous voices of Panama’s autochthonous nations.

Just because the legislators who spit the most venom at them won’t be at the table does not mean that the LGBT communities will be represented or taken into account. There may be a few women there, and some may for this or that reason denounce someone for sexism, but Panama’s feminist movement will not have a seat at the table.

Might Nito bring in some company union guy? The actual labor movement will not be invited. Nor will the left, nor any of its fragments that have any sort of bona fides.

Most of all, the poor are and will be excluded. Big business will dominate the discussion. Might they let someone who runs a mini-super get someone to bring up his or her concerns? Certainly the huge majority of those who are in business for themselves, running micro-businesses in Panama’s informal sector, are to be excluded.

For years The Panama News editorial stand is that Panama needs a constitutional convention to sort many things out. But of course the opportunity to chart a new course is no guarantee that this possibility will be wisely embraced and used. By all appearances, though, Nito’s talks for some new national accord is yet another dodge to maintain the old pecking order.

In the first instance the search for a national accord is about a social security system that’s about to go bankrupt. Why? Because it was weakened by the partial privatization instituted under the PRD administration of Martín Torrijos, with the support of the other main political factions. Writ large, the Panamanian economy is broken and was even before the coronavirus came visiting. If the intelligent economic commentary of a year ago was about who might eat the losses from all the unsold inventory – of real estate and many other things – when the virus came the country was seven months and several billion dollars deeper into debt. Now the old equations no longer work for anybody.

Yes, Panama will need a new set of agreements about how to move forward. But even as the epidemic grows into an even more powerful second wave, there are ferocious social and economic struggles just beginning to get underway. A deal between factions of the political caste and some of the rabiblanco families, no matter which publicists and “influencers” are hired, is unlikely to result in agreements that most Panamanians will accept.


Anyone decent is antifa

A buzzword, an amorphous concept, a spin often imparted by people who don’t believe in it, those things too. But “antifa” is short for anti-fascist.

As in, against the atrocities that follow when demagogues play upon the fears of ruined middle classes, or those who think they are middle class and worry that they might be ruined by some sinister “other.”

As in, against the sort of nationalism wherein a once comfortable plurality declares itself to be the nation and designates groups and ideas to be diseases. Like the notion that certain groups, like immigrants or racial minorities or homosexuals, are cancers to be cut out. Like the notion that certain belief systems, like feminism or socialism or liberation theology, are infections to be eradicated.

As in, against bullying elevated to a social ideal, or even a religion.

Decent people are against these things, which are the stuff of fascism.


Bear in mind…

In spite of the difference between the notions of possessing the truth and being right, these two points of view have one thing in common: those who take one view or the other are not prepared to sacrifice their view to humanity or friendship in case a conflict should arise.

Hannah Arendt

Politics is the skilled use of blunt objects.

Lester B. Pearson

Reporters love a courthouse fight, in part because there is nothing like a lawsuit to put the truth on the public record.

Molly Ivins


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