Bernal, Insecurity and authoritarianism

Amidst all the of the police trophy pictures of drug busts, you more often see somebody under arrest for a property crime. That’s because robbery and theft are skyrocketing out of Panama’s economic misery and in-everybody’s-face inequalities. Photo by the Policia Nacional.

Insecurity and authoritarianism

by Miguel Antonio Bernal V.

Blind to the everyday challenges faced by the great majority, our rulers have chosen to ignore the harsh social reality that prevails today. Day by day the malaise grows in all social sectors of the country. However the power brokers who control the branches of the national government, the municipalities and the autonomous or semi-autonomous public institutions are each day more bureaucratic and authoritarian. They are unable to allow any true citizen participation in public affairs.

Hunger and misery have entered many Panamanian homes, at the same time that throughout our national territory, insecurity grows in the shadow of an authoritarian pseudo-constitutionalism that no longer only seeks to be the image of power, but the power that corrupts, threatens and represses.

We are not dealing with a government that conceives of citizen security as a public policy with specific reference to human rights, through the strengthening of citizen participation, the democratization of power and the actions of entities. Instead it’s power imposed by pressure and punitive repression, which erodes fundamental guarantees – for example decrees under the pretext of the pandemic. It’s the power of intolerant attitudes.

In their unbridled desire to criminalize poverty, they will practice “social cleansing,” while favoring and sponsoring the destruction of the environment (note the contracts with mining companies.) They would curtail acquired labor rights and violate international standards. That’s not to mention the nefarious intentions for pensions and social security.

The decisions that the Panamanian government has been making in matters of security are totally contrary to international human rights standards. They represent a direct threat to due process and recourse to the law. They’re against the right to privacy and the protection of honor and dignity. Theu’re against freedom of expression, assembly and association. The’re also against social and labor rights, as well as the right to participate in matters of public interest.

It is vital that citizens read the report on Citizen Security and Human Rights, which serves to demonstrate how imperative it is to modify public policies on citizen security, shifting the focus of attention from repression to prevention of crime and violence. Otherwise this government, with its repressive laws, will only bring us more insecurity, militarism and authoritarianism.


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