Editorials: Nito’s PRD problem; and Democrats and special elections

AN website
OOOPS! Nito’s legislative caucus, having failed earlier to pass a law lowering the necessary test score to get a medical license, pushed buttons in the bureaucracy and set off an uproar. The president slapped THAT ONE down, so “wronged” deputies and defenders of the untenable took to the National Assembly floor to denounce the injustice of it all. It got the legislative website crew busy erasing public mention of the folly, putting this face to the public while they were fixing it. About the time the sun began to shine the next morning, it was back to the usual presentation. No matter. The public relations disaster is a done deal. From the wee hours of March 9 National Assembly presentation to the public.

The PRD gets rowdy and
Nito has to step in again

A politically influenced board did the ridiculous. Actually worse than that, because they were putting public health at risk by reducing standards for the country’s licensed physicians. President Cortizo had to act against fools and charlatans in his own party. There was weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth in the legislative palace.

A scandal at SENNIAF that had been brewing for a long time started to bubble toward the surface, so a PRD political placeholder who had been parked in that office was kicked upstairs before the scandal engulfed her. Whistle blowers were fired, but that didn’t shut everyone up. One aspect of the problem was addressed in a sensational newspaper interview and a series of news reports in several media, so PRD “influencers” were deployed. The lesser known Twitter troll launched a racist screed against a top TVN journalist, but that person may not actually be real – the numbers and profile suggest a fake persona. The known government “influencer” went after a young woman who was forced to bear a child against her will in a most invasive way, calling into question SENNIAF’s and its contractors’ respect for records and information about minors. SOME DAY folks will look at the numbers SHE sports and ask if those are mostly bots rather than people following her, and if this it the case if the government has been defrauded by having her as its paid “influencer.”

Meanwhile in the National Assembly, the neofascists in the PRD and its ally MOLIRENA passed an “adoption in the womb” law that not only offended most of this country’s women’s groups but went against the firm policy of the PRD’s founder, the late General Omar Torrijos, that while other countries may sell babies to the US market, Panama doesn’t allow people who don’t live here to buy kids as was the practice, at the time, of countries like Guatemala, Colombia and Chile. That amendment was inserted into the text of a general adoptions law and lasted only a couple of days or so. One may presume the threat of a presidential veto but we were not told of any such thing and the presumption is rebuttable.

So what did the legislators do instead? They banned adoptions by same-sex couples, which Panama has had for many years without it creating problems.

And so the Democratic Revolutionary Party, member of the Socialist International, lowers itself to the memes and policies of the Donald Trump crowd in the USA, all the while denigrating the citizenship of Panamanians of various ethnicities.

Let’s see whether Nito will veto the ban on gay and lesbian couples adopting. Let’s hope so.

The bigger problem facing the current administration is that its ability to run the government with reasonable competence and a proper sense of ethics is called into question. No call center, press flack, ad campaign or catchy slogan is going to answer that. Those not required to mouth the slogans as a matter of party discipline will be unlikely to believe any of that stuff.


One of these Louisiana Democrats will surely be going to the House of Representatives in the near future. There are many other Democrats and a few Republicans also running, but Louisiana’s Second Congressional District is one of those gerrymandered “concentrate the black vote” districts that runs from part of New Orleans, through rural areas, to part of Baton Rouge. The leading Democrat will win, but there may be a runoff between two Democrats. The state Democratic Party has not endorsed one candidate, but opined that any of these three candidates would well represent the district and the state. Senator Troy Carter is endorsed by the former congressman, Cedric Richmond, who left to take a job with the Biden administration. Carter has held city or state elected posts continuously since 1991. Journalist and media platform owner Gary Chambers is from Baton Rouge and criticizes what he calls an almost exclusive New Orleans orientation of his two main rivals. Chambers looks to mobilize youthful energy and votes from the 27 colleges and universities in Baton Rouge, which include historically black Southern University and the large Louisiana State University campus. Senator Karen Peterson has the endorsement of Stacey Abrams, Emily’s List, a host of other women’s organizations and some progressive groups like Our Revolution and Democracy For America. Among African-American voters, women notoriously vote much more frequently than men.

Democrats on today’s campaign trails – Louisiana

On March 20 there are two special congressional primary elections in Louisiana. Under that state’s “jungle primary” system, if someone wins more than 50 percent of the vote in his or her race, there is no runoff. If nobody wins a primary majority, there will be an April 24 runoff.

In the solidly red Fifth Congressional District a huge field of Republicans is running for the seat won this past November by anti-masker GOP representative-elect Luke Letlow, who died of COVID-19. The one Democrat in the race, social worker Candy Christophe, might get through to a runofff due to a nine-way Republican split. It’s hard to imagine that she would win a runoff. Not only are rank-and-file Republicans remarkably impervious to any shame or pause to reflect arising from the thuggish attempt to disrupt congressional acceptance of the presidential elections, in Lousiana they tend to think of Qanon as heroes the hold in high esteem like the Confederate Army.

In the Second Congressional District the Democrats’ preference will make all the difference. On the face of it all three of the major contenders are touting fairly progressive platforms. However, Carter and especially Peterson flaunt establishment ties, while Chambers, who has never held public office, derides these ties and his major opponents’ records.

For Democrats in Panama who vote in Louisiana, there is a possible problem. The deadlines to register and order a ballot were in February. Those who met those deadlines but whose ballots are not yet in will likely have to go to the expense of paying a private courier service to have their ballots counted. Those with any questions about this should consult with the folks at Vote From Abroad.

There is also a possible opportunity for Democrats in Panama with ties to Louisiana, or even without. New Orleans to Colon was one of the major maritime legs in the California Gold Rush. It’s still an important shipping route. All during Canal Zone times it was a favored route for Zonians going to and from the States. For the West Indians who built the canal and then for their progeny, it was one of favorite migration routes to the USA.

This route from Panama to the USA shows up in the early history of jazz, when Afro-Panamanians like Luis Russel and Sonny White made their ways to New Orleans, then to points farther along, to make their noteworthy contributions to world culture.

A couple of other cultural influences go in the other direction. Walk around the Casco Viejo and you will see some old wrought iron work that looks like it’s right out of the French Quarter of New Orleans. By and large, that was actually imported from New Orleans. Then, consider the schools of preference for Panamanians who can afford to study in the USA or send their kids to do so – PERHAPS eclipsed by Florida State or Texas A&M, but Tulane is one of the major ones. Over the years so many Panamanians have gone to Tulane to study, then come back with an American spouse.

The back-and-forth trails of influence mean that there are people here with family and friends in the New Orleans area, who may be in a position to “reach in” and urge people whom they know and love up there to get out and vote.

It the present situation, though, Democrats Abroad rules get in the way. People in the organization may get involved in primaries, but the rule in all countries is that DA is a party organization that officially stays above primary contests and only throws the weight of the organization into a contest once Democrats have chosen a nominee. It becomes an issue, but individual Democrats can go and have gone around that stricture by volunteering for an individual candidate’s campaign. It certainly happens ahead of the quadrennial Democrats Abroad global presidential primaries, even if there are self-appointed establishment types who will try to bully supporters of the faction they don’t like by accusing them of violating party rules by taking a position in a primary.

Americans here – including dual US and Panamanian citizens – should obey all pertinent laws but engage in the US political processes from afar as is their right. The Democrats among us may want to contact the Peterson, Chambers, Carter or Christophe campaigns to volunteer or to donate money. Or express an opinion to those with Louisianans votes whom they know.

For more information, the Ballotpedia website is a good reference for voters and activists.


One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.

Marie Curie


Bear in mind…

The rich man’s dog gets more in the way of vaccination, medicine and medical care than do the workers upon whom the rich man’s wealth is built.

Graça Machel

Some people are old at 18 and some are young at 90. Time is a concept that humans created.

Yoko Ono

I was a prisoner, handcuffed and shackled, and I felt stronger and freer than those who in their robes of justice were going to judge me.

Haydeé Santamaría


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