Editorials: Colombia; SENNIAF; and Afghanistan

UN human rights observers in Medellin on April 28. The violence has degenerated since then to the point that the United Nations team reported on May 4 that government forces had fired shots at some of their members. Wikimedia photo by “Humano Salvaje” – in Colombia it’s dangerous for photographers not embedded in government forces to allow the latter to identify them.

Beyond diplomatic recognition of whoever is in control, other countries should distance themselves from Colombia

Álvaro Uribe always was a death squad politician. When he was governor of Antioquia, his helicopter was overhead during the notorious El Aro Massacre. He said at the time that he knew nothing about it and the US Embassy in Bogota backed him. Now he may yet be tried, judged and sentenced for his long criminal career. Uribe’s protégé and successor, Iván Duque, has carried on the tradition. The current Colombian government is an instrument of violent rural land dispossession, racist attacks on indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities and as we now see, thuggish attacks on protesters who were well within their rights and people just walking down the street.

US tax dollars and Southern Command military advice all along. Panama allowing the United States to be a forward operating location to support this stuff all along. And is somebody going to say “But Venezuela…”? That excuses nothing, no matter what nasty things might be accurately said about Nicolás Maduro.

Not only shooting citizens of his own country, but now shooting at UN human rights observers? The world should turn its back on Mr. Duque and Mr. Uribe.


A reference to another scandal that the accused should have known about.
Photo from a protester’s Twitter feed.

Surely he knew more

Michael Olson was the legal coordinator for the Protection Department for the National Secretariat for Childhood, Adolescence and the Family — SENNIAF. Prosecutors say he effectively ran the department and had full knowledge of the matters that were brought up to it. He is accused of signing off on the transfer of two minors to an adult facility, although by various accounts there is more to that horror story than just that. He was let out on his own recognizance, with provisions that he not leave the country and that he report to police once a week while the charge against him is pending.

Two social workers at SENNIAF reported a long list of abuses, including several rapes, last year. They were fired. This litany would have been in the Protection Department’s bailiwick. As the tales that came to public light President Cortizo kicked the deputy director of SENNAIF upstairs to be governor of Panama province. She took Mr. Olson with him as her aide. It’s unclear if, now that charges are lodged against him, he still does that job.

Meanwhile, investigations drag on, with two people now serving time and 10 others awaiting trial for crimes or alleged crimes committed at facilities that SENNIAF ran or oversaw. There are some lurid accusations there.

Let’s uphold the presumption of innocence, even if we recognize that in Panama it’s not treated as a right but as a privilege of the rich or powerful. But let’s not accept a token slap on the wrist for an administrator, given how grave and widespread the abuses were.

Do we want to allege a conspiracy of evil people here? People may have conspired to cover up evil things, but that’s not the real problem. The real problems are about civil servants who get fired for doing their jobs honestly, and an arrogant cast of political patronage appointees who consider themselves unaccountable.


The Afghan National Army, a foreign creation. They may surprise us, but most probably they will be run off the field shortly after the foreign forces leave Afghanistan. Photo by Lieutenant Sally Armstrong.

Hillary’s assessment is probably right, but if her conclusion is that US forces should stay in Afghanistan, that’s wrong

Hillary Clinton warns of “huge consequences” in store if the United States pulls its military forces out of Afghanistan. She’s right. What’s likely to happen is a brief pause in the fighting for the withdrawal to take place, then a resumption of warfare that the Taliban is likely to win. That would mean large refugee migrations. It might mean not only persecution of those who sided with the Americans, but human rights violations against various segments of the population, not the least of whom would be women and girls used to more freedom than the religious strictures that would likely be imposed.

America needs to take a lot of these people in, and help the rest to find safety and the chance to start anew elsewhere. It will be costly. There will be people taken in who don’t find an honorable way to fit in. We are dealing in large part with traumatized victims of war.

The most damaging thing that the USA could do would be to skip out on obligations to those who fought for the Americans. Selfishness and all sorts of prejudices may be popular among segments of Americana, but in the long run betrayal is and should be a very unpopular thing.


Asa Philip Randolph. Library of Congress photo.

               Freedom is never given, it is won.

A. Philip Randolph               

Bear in mind…

All battles are first won or lost in the mind.

Joan of Arc

I do not want to die… until I have faithfully made the most of my talent and cultivated the seed that was placed in me until the last small twig has grown.

Kathe Kollwitz

Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

George Orwell


Contact us by email at fund4thepanamanews@gmail.com

To fend off hackers, organized trolls and other online vandalism, our website comments feature is switched off. Instead, come to our Facebook page to join in the discussion.

These links are interactive — click on the boxes







Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

I accept the Privacy Policy