Uninspiring, unsurprising new legislative committee chairs

Jairo Salazar, who on top of his salary as a legislator pícks up another one as a representante from Colon, was re-elected to preside over the Municipal Affairs committee. It tends to illustrate entertainer and activist Rubén Blades’s dismissal of today’s PRD as a political patronage party, and also anti-corruption groups’ complaint that there is little accountability for legislators. Photo by the National Assembly.

Finally, legislative committees are sworn in

by Eric Jackson

Usually new legislative committee chairs are chosen and sworn in within a day or two of the July 1 annual organizational meeting. On that date the PRD already knew which of their members would be on which committees. It had been decided earlier, at a notorious and illegal under health regulations gathering at Jimmy’s restaurant in San Francisco.

Was is that gathering where the coronavirus swept through the party’s caucus? In any case, several PRD deputies, including the National Assembly’s president, Marcos Castillero, got sick.  They have formal and informal allies, but the PRD is a vote shy of an absolute majority, a few deputies out on sick leave, plus an unpopular administration and ruling party combine to leave room for possible mischief. The party took three weeks to get its ducks in a row.

Some fairly notorious characters were rewarded. Deputy Arquesio Arias, from Guna Yala, is under house arrest on charges that he’s a serial rapist but gets to chair the Population, Environment & Development Committee. He also got elected to a spot on the Indigenous Affairs Committee. Weary colleagues reacted to Zulay Rodríguez’s vitriolic rants, deposing her as the legislature’s first vice president — but she will preside over the Women, Children, Youth and Family Committee. Héctor Brands, president of the Budget Committee last year, not only lost its presidency but was kicked off the committee entirely. However, he was re-elected as chair of the Education, Culture and Sports Committee,

This year’s committee chairs, all of them PRD:

Budget: Benicio Robinson.

Credentials: Roberto Ábrego

Commerce & Economic Affairs: Ricardo Torres

Municipal Affairs: Jairo Salazar

Education, Culture & Sports: Héctor Brands

Communication & Transport: Eugenio Bernal

Public Infrastsructures & Canal Affairs: Kayra Harding

Agricultural Affairs: Raúl Pineda

Indigenous Affairs: Ricardo Santo Montezuma

Foreign Relations: Fernando Arce

Labor, Health & Social Development: Crispiano Adames

Population, Environment & Development: Arquesio Arias

Women, Children, Youth and Family: Zulay Rodríguez

Economy & Finance: Cenobia Vargas