Editorial: A proper first response, but Panama needs to raise its guard

Minister tweet
“We regret the acts of violence that took place today at the Congress of the United States and are confident that democratic values prevail to protect the institutions and the respect for the rule of law.” A Twitter message from Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes.

Panama should do more than express regret

It’s fitting and proper that the Panamanian government joins most of the world’s democracies in its condemnation of the attack on the US Capitol.

While that was going on, a supporter of the capitol invaders posted a message on an English-language Facebook group defending the actions and saying that she would be moving to Panama. Down the thread she told the editor, a Panamanian citizen, to leave Panama.

Panama has a spotty record when it comes to incursions by US extremists. A Florida “patriot” militia that tried to set up shop in Bocas del Toro did take a police suggestion to leave Panama. But a Colorado far right radio personality who had served time in prison for fraud and who took his surname from the infamous Montana Freemen was allowed to come here, pitch bogus investment schemes and abuse the legal system when properly identified by The Panama News as a “hustler.”

And what of the Trump phenomenon? The Trump Organization ran an extortion attempt on the Varela administration. The US president’s family business leaned on the former Panamanian president in a vain attempt to override our laws and hold onto the management contract for the former Trump Ocean Club against the wishes of the condo owners.

For many months, as polls consistently showed that the US electorate was mostly fed up with Donald Trump and his lies and antics, his supporters had been saying two things of great interest to Panama. First, that if Trump lost the election they would not accept it and would stage rioting and an insurrection. Second, that a lot of them intended to leave the United States and relocate to Panama if Trump lost.

Panama has not allowed an influx of FARC people from Colombia. We have been more lax with people from far-right Colombian militias and allowed them to become a law enforcement problem here.

An influx of Venezuelans, virtually all of them opposed to the successive Chavista governments, has brought Panama mostly a ruined middle class looking for a better life but also among them a few tawdry racists seeking to revive old discriminatory practices that were banned by the Bolivarian republic, and a few activists who would bring Caracas political violence to Panama City.

The entry or passage of al Qaeda and Islamic State activists into or through Panama has been strictly forbidden.

Panama’s gringo community has all of the political divisions of the USA. Trump has supporters and detractors here. There are Panamanian neofascists who take inspiration from Donald Trump. It would disrupt and demean Panama to institute some sort of inquisition to remove the Trump supporters from our midst, based only on what they think. Better to talk such things out.

However, Panamanian immigration law provides that “Migration may expel the foreigner who… makes a justification for crime or incites racial, religious, political or cultural hatred.” For people wanting to come here to live, La Migra should do the basic background checks. If they have been urging people not to wear masks during this epidemic they should be excluded. If they defended the assault on the US capitol they should be excluded. If they are telling people who don’t agree with their politics to leave Panama, they should be excluded. If they come to preach hatred in the name of God, they should be excluded.

Moreover, if they come here with the Trump Organization business, they come here as functionaries of criminal organization and should be excluded. If they are with the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Boys, any militia movement other than the National Guard, any effort to propagate the QAnon conspiracy theories, any Klan or Nazi or white supremacist group — or now, after the riot at the US Capitol, the Donald Trump campaign organization — they should be excluded. In the latter cases, those in Panama who financially support such organizations should be treated the same as financial backers of the Islamic State. 

On Saturday Panama observes the sacrifices of those who died to end the partition of this country and make it a sovereign whole, the master of its own house. We can lose that if we allow an influx of people who have zero respect for such things. Let Trump supporters who want to leave the USA go somewhere else.


Sculpture by William Zorach (1936) at the National Postal Museum in Washington DC. This work in marble is one of the pride and joys of the New Deal, having been commissioned by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration’s Treasury Section of Fine Arts. Wikimedia photo.

As the Constitutional Convention ended, Mrs. Powel asked: “Well, Doctor, what have we got? A monarchy or a republic?” He responded:

               A Republic, ma’am, if you can keep it.

Benjamin Franklin               

Bear in mind…

The free expression of the hopes and aspirations of a people is the greatest and only safety in a sane society.

Emma Goldman

If you have much, give of your wealth; if you have little, give of your heart.

Arab Proverb

I think the poet is the last person who is still speaking the truth when no one else dares to. I think the poet is the first person to begin the shaping and visioning of the new forms and the new consciousness when no one else has begun to sense it; I think these are two of the most essential human functions.

Diane di Prima


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