Editorial: Truth and troubles, but also time for a truce

the union brothers

The crisis is worse, but for the moment
most of us are calming down a bit

October 22, the first men’s shopping day under the renewed coronavirus restrictions. This reporter has to get to Western Union as a somewhat urgent matter of whether the dogs and cats will be fed over the next few days.

(Dogs will eat almost anything, so yucca could be dug up, but with cats, that’s another story. It’s a classic calculation, as the most ancient of Prime Directives, even older than the Bible, is written on the walls of Egyptian tombs: “FEED THE CAT!”)

Anyway, the calculation was that Western Union at the Machetazo in Penonome opens at 7 a.m., so I’d have to be there early. I stepped off the bus at the stop across the street and my dumb phone said 7:04. The lady at the Western Union booth said that they had run out of cash the day before and she didn’t know if any would arrive on this day.

SO, a shift of plans and calculations on the fly. The place at Mailboxes Etc., across from Super 99, opens at 8. Conserving resources, exercising these buzzardly old bones, the better choice – saving a $1.50 cab fare – would be to get off the bus at the hospital stop, climb up and down the stairs on the walkway over the Pan-American Highway, then take a lazy stroll the rest of the way.

Lo and behold – a spectacle and chance to kill some time! The brothers of SUNTRACS were blocking the road in front of the prosecutors’ office! It was part of a national “picket” to register annoyance with the government’s latest labor decrees in particular and its handling of the economy of a country with a great many working people and business owners shut out of work in the face of an epidemic.

The man with the microphone started off talking about the day’s special grievances, then soon came to the usual slogans – “Without struggle, there are no victories!” and so on. That can get boring, and meanwhile the prosecutors and cops outside of the Public Ministry’s building were part of the audience. ESPECIALLY when a bunch of them are carrying guns, you don’t want to leave such folks, bewildered, excited or perhaps worst of all, bored, so the speaker addressed them: “They’ll call on you to suppress our people’s movements, but you can’t even suppress the crooks in your own buildings!” This reporter can’t read minds, but DID notice some smiles and chuckles at that line. These didn’t appear to be expressions of scornful dismissal of the ridiculous.

Got to Mailboxes a bit before eight, and when they opened their doors the lady told me that they were out of cash, too, but some might come in by noon. The guard at the door suggested the WU office at Mas Me Dan across the driveway, so I strolled over and got in line. After some waiting and uncertainty, SUCCESS! No mad political scientist experiments in trying to get cats to like yucca over THESE holidays.

Also had this weird old hippie to feed, and visits to both of the little Chinese grocery stores in the complex led to the awful discovery of NO MUSTARD GREENS. No bok choy, either. Other cruciferous veggies would have to do, so something that this reporter won’t usually do was done: I got in the line to enter Super 99. Sickly looking broccoli, no cauliflower but a reasonable selection of cabbages – at higher prices than before. No soy protein. Got one of their last five-pound bags of brown rice.

~ ~

Set aside the slogans. Do pay attention to the self-centered and extremist rants of business leaders, because they’re the only ones to whom this administration listens. And don’t entirely dismiss the rumors that Nito is too sick to be running things, such that we are now in effect a co-dictatorship of the bankers and their leader the vice president on the one hand and the party boss of the legislature’s PRD caucus on the other hand.

Look at THOSE scenes and you see some notorious situations that would make members of SUNTRACS and the National Police – both recruited from very similar social strata – agree about certain things.

* The Electoral Tribunal’s committee, having heard all of the public commentary, advises a change in the electoral law to eliminate immunity from investigation, trial or punishment for crimes committed by candidates for public office. Head counts of the 40-member PRD and MOLIRENA majority at the legislature by several of the few media that have direct access estimate that this proposal is dead on arrival when it gets to the National Assembly.

* The Olympic Committee of Panama (COP) is acephalic after attorney and former Olympic basketball player Damaris Young got 37 votes to be the committee’s next president against the establishment slate’s 36. Now the old guard, with the PRD legislative boss Benicio Robinson in his role as Panama’s baseball czar, is demanding new elections. There is no movement at all to prosecute the various legislators present and past who have looted the governmental PANDEPORTES sports fund. There is a movement to defend women’s status and rights, and Damaris deserves its support right now.

* So, a nation in crisis? The trolls for legislator Zulay Rodriguez – who just got the Supreme Court to rule that she won’t be investigated for corruption – are waving the flag of a new constitution above a Twitted campaign supporting Donald Trump against the supposed Venezuelan plot to steal the US presidential elections from him. Most of the folks who have actually been pushing for a constitutional convention for many years aren’t saying anything about this neofascist attempted hijacking.

* Who gets a picnic ham, and who gets a pig’s head, in their holiday food relief packages? It apparently depends a lot on the party affiliation and factional alignment of the representante. Meanwhile, due to the bad economy, the usual Christmas hams and turkeys aren’t forthcoming from the government and the supermarkets aren’t all that well stocked but aren’t selling out, because so many people just can’t afford it this year. But Benicio got his 10 new corregimientos in Bocas, so the salaries and perks of new representantes — with their respective entourages — are on the horizon there.

The economy is bad and it will get worse. The ruling circles never learn.

In the year to come the protesters will be out, and so will the riot squads. It does make a lot of sense, however, that for the time being things calm down for a holiday truce of sorts. It’s a time that people in different social roles and political places other than on the gravy train can look for a bit of solidarity, understanding and love.

Times were also hard and the government legendarily obnoxious when Mary and Joseph’s family grew all those centuries ago. Perhaps, with all of our sundry misfortunes, this is a good time to get into the original sense of things.


Mrs. Besant. US Library of Congress photo.

The birth of science rang the death-knell of an arbitrary and constantly interposing Supreme Power.

Annie Besant


Bear in mind…


A dog owns nothing, yet is seldom dissatisfied.

Irish proverb

That’s the trouble with a politician’s life – somebody is always interrupting it with an election.

Will Rogers

Do not cut down the tree that gives you shade.

Iranian proverb



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