Labor protesters outside the PARLATINO building in Amador, where “talks” about the Social Security Fund are ongoing. Inside? The other main faction of Panama’s labor movement was walking out. The delegation from the opposition Panameñista Party also walked out. Some of the business leaders and ruling party delegates who have a lock the mix of increased worker contributions, reduced pensions and elimination of pension rights for new categories of people that they choose have become bored and stopped attending. On a recent day’s online broadcast of the session, 11 people tuned in. When the “reforms” are jammed through, there are likely to be a lot of people protesting in the streets. We might even get airport workers on strike. So how would THAT help revive a tourism economy that hangs on by the slimmest thread?
Tourism development – can you believe it? SHOULD you?
Any substantial resumption of cruise ships calling at Panama, or of planes full of vacationers coming into Panama, will not happen soon. Doing away with health restrictions in reckless ways, so that COVID infections start going up again, will make things worse. Massive lying around on the beach tourism isn’t going to provide a boost to Panama’s economy anytime soon.
The advice that the Chamber of Commerce gives is not only the most irresponsible importation of Trump notions with respect to the epidemic, it’s also in the educational sphere an assertion of privilege that ensures a sharp uptick in kids left out of school, never to come back. THAT, in turn, is likely to increase the numbers of adolescent boys and young men attracted to the idea of getting dinner by mugging tourists – a well-known recipe for the destruction of tourism economies.
Let’s not, however, give up to gloom any more than to foolishness. There are things that can be done NOW, to create jobs NOW, and leave us with a stronger tourism sector in years to come:
• Sports fishing, bird watching, whale and dolphin watching, diving and small-scale visiting in or adjacent to our wild areas are activities that pose lesser and more controllable disease risks and should be the first tourism sectors to bring back into more normal operation.
• There is a tremendous amount of infrastructure work that would boost tourism and serve other national needs. The same lack that keeps kids in the remote areas out of connection with online schooling also makes many of our national parks and wilderness areas out of cell phone range for tourists in distress. So why not put people to work and carry out the old unkept promise of full national coverage for our wireless telecommunications systems? If climate change spells the eventual end of the internal combustion engine, electric vehicles will be most of the replacement, but why can’t we invest now in a national bicycle path system that tourists would like to use and that would become part of the daily commute for plenty of working Panamanians? How about restoring hard-pressed coastal fisheries and promoting dive tourism by creating and protecting new artificial coral reefs, and by restoring the mangrove forests where a lot of fish and mollusks breed?
For less money than what’s demanded to save lost bets on would-be five-star hotels, we could be creating jobs now and making good long-term investments in Panamanian tourism.
An impression from one of our yesteryears. Democrats argue. But we have also come together and won.
The editor is vice chair of Democrats Abroad Panama, and in the wake of the 2020 US elections was thinking in terms of stepping back, maybe to an at-large board position, maybe to just being another volunteer. The epidemic has been a great reminder of Charles de Gaulle’s injunction: “Don’t think of yourself as indispensable or infallible. The cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men.” And then, look around contemporary Latin America, or consider the region’s history, and know ye well how destructive and self-destructive the urge to be a caudillo usually turns out to be. The editor has been Democrats Abroad Panama chair and has no desire to be party boss for life.
But the local Democrats have — in the editor’s opinion — fallen into the thrall of persons and ideas which we should not have, and it got us into a false start on this year’s country chapter officer and board elections. After some acrimony, a restart button of sorts was pushed at a March 14 by email board meeting. Whether on the next try things will be sorted out in more suitable fashion depends on local Democrats. We shall see.
The choice will be up to the more than 500 local Democrats Abroad members. If you are a Democrat living in Panama and you are not a member, you can join online at https://www.democratsabroad.org/join.
The election that was to be held on March 31 is now rescheduled for April 28. Voting will be by Google ballots sent out to the members. The deadline to declare one’s candidacy or nominate someone else (with his or her consent) was set for March 16 but now it’s March 26. There will be an additional period for people to jump into or drop out of the race. To be elected to two-year terms will be Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, Treasurer and three At-Large Board Members.
These new officers and board members will guide the local Democrats into what promises to be a bruising uphill fight to hold onto the US House of Representatives and gain a working majority in the US Senate. A lot of state, local and special elections this year are likely to have a major impact upon whom Democrats choose to run for what in 2022. Join. Participate. You are not such a doofus as to have to leave everything to someone else.
Fervor is the weapon of choice for the impotent.
Bear in mind…
We are here, not because we are law-breakers; we are here in our efforts to become law-makers.
O Lord, help me to be pure, but not yet.
Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but, unlike charity, it should end there.
Clare Booth Luce
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