Editorials: Systemic failure; and Can vote suppressors be overwhelmed?

That straw man – they KILLED him! The campaign for a controlled, limited parallel constitutional process hits a restart button after a slow start to petitioning. We should not discount the possibility of the Electoral Tribunal putting its thumb on the scales to certify a failed petition campaign as a success, nor of Nito and the legislature stepping in, but those possibilities would be for future reference. In the here and now, money is being spent to change the subjects that have made the Panama Decide proposal so unpopular. It’s not a blank check per se. They could elect an “assembly” at large by province with partisan rules about quotient – half quotient – residue “proportional representation” that would deny an independent sweep an independent majority. They could write an expected draft constitution to tighten the grip of the rabiblanco “donor base” and corporations with government contracts over our elected officials, one that keeps the same old faces and families in the main positions of power – and the people could vote that down. At which point it would be alleged that people really don’t want change. From a Twitter message of claimed authorship.

Several establishment political fronts collapsing at once

Yes, it’s the economy. It was in a bad way when the PRD took over in mid-2019, and then the epidemic hit. To assign blame for all that to one person, one party or one group would be dishonest. It has been a long time in the making, the work of a lot of individuals and multiple social forces. Full accountability is beside the point at this point. The nation has far more pressing business at the moment.

Yet, in the state of emergency in which Panama still finds itself, usual suspects are by habit doing their suspect things, and they are not going very well:

  • With parts of the political establishment, most notably the PRD, on the sidelines due to their own internal divisions, the petition drive for a parallel “constituent assembly” has started out in a stall. Provincially at-large delegate elections under the partisan apportionment system now in place for multi-member legislative circuits is a formula to short-change independents, allow the Electoral Tribunal to manipulate the results among candidates of the same partisan alliances and above all make it more expensive for any individual to run for any seat in the “parallel” body that would to the extent allowed by the current courts and politicians draft a proposed new constitution. Of course the gathering of signatures is going slowly. Panamanians may on the whole be not as well educated as we should be, but generally we are not stupid. So how might this sick newborn survive? If those who are for a legitimate, originating constitutional convention don’t quickly set aside a lot of differences for the moment and draft a proposed constitutional amendment that would give Panama a chance to truly change things, it would leave the establishment farce as the only game in town.
  • The more moderate of Panama’s two largest labor federations, CONATO,. has after some exploration and soul-searching, again walked away from the “dialogue” about changes to the Social Security system. So has the weakened but traditional Panameñista Party. This monologue by big business is going to cut pensions and privatize more of the health care system, and most people here are going to dislike these things. Such neoliberal economics are driving citizens’ revolts across much of Latin America. If the process that Nito put into place does as expected, Panama will be a likely candidate to join the trend. It cannot be doubted that any systemic fix will include some bitter pills, but the interests that dominate that table intend for those other than themselves to swallow all of them while they profit from the transaction. How that will go is anybody’s guess, but a rare united labor revolt is brewing over it.
  • So, what to do? Order more equipment to expand the police riot squad, of course. But it turns out that, like in so many Cortizo administration contracts procedures during the ongoing state of health emergency, the purchase price is seriously inflated.  Who gets to skim what? That’s a “national security secret.” Surely the PRD knows that people are sick of such corruption, but very likely there is a calculation that the party that Omar Torrijos founded will be out of power for a long time after its current term in office ends. It’s as if the fifth-year smash-and-grab season started in earnest early, at about halfway into the first year, and now into the third year it continues to gather force. International lenders and other external forces are speaking about it. The whole faux nationalist narrative about Panama being picked on by nefarious forces in the world wears thin. For both the PRD’s survival and the nation’s economic recovery, acts need to be cleaned up. We just can’t afford all the corruption anymore.


So much of what put Joe Biden in the Oval Office was a determined effort by groups that were and are the targets of vote suppression — above all but by no means only African-American women — to vote and to assist others to vote, in the face of many vote suppression laws. Among the outstanding leaders of this effort were former Georgia State Senator Stacey Abrams and the Reverend Dr. William Barber II from North Carolina. Many states have passed new vote suppression laws and there is a Republican-packed federal judiciary that’s inclined to uphold these badges of slavery. That, and the tradition of a president’s party’s weakness in the first mid-term elections in a first term in the White House, will make it an uphill battle for democracy, and for the economic changes that most Americans demand but corporate forces block. That mountain CAN be climbed. Photo by Ted Eytan — The Express.

Yes, push the For The People Act and litigate against vote suppression laws, but…

If Democrats aren’t RIGHT NOW organizing a massive marathon run around all the vote suppression laws that various GOP-run states have passed, it will be as a practical matter ceding the 2022 mid-term elections to the Republicans and allowing them to block nearly anything worthy that Joe Biden might try to do. The need is for Democrats to pick up a net of at least two seats in the US Senate and to expand the party’s majority in the US House. It’s not a small order.

We were not supposed to be able to win Georgia in 2020, with all of the obstacles that Brian Kemp interposed. But a huge group of volunteers, led by Stacey Abrams, ran around those obstacles. The helped people to register to vote, helped them to get the newly required papers to do so and the ID they’d need at the polls, gave people without transportation rides as needed, cheered and rallied the voters through intentionally long longs. It was something of a holy crusade, except that Abrams, a Methodist, mobilized plenty of Jews, Muslims and non-believers too. Perhaps it was like one of her reported favorite television shows, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. With the help of a lot of stakeholders, she drove that pointed wooden shaft through the heart of the white supremacist election theft strategy.

This was done in many other places, by many other people. In the battle against vote suppression, the American people have some capable and experienced generals and quite a few volunteers who know the ropes and can teach others. There are many stunts that the Brian Kemps and Donald Trumps and wannabes will pull, which means that there will be many roles to fill by those fighting against them.

Fight hard, fight smart, fight fair. Starting now, if you have not already begun. We need to show those who forced their way into the Capitol on January 6, and their friends, what it means to be overwhelmed.



 Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as a necessity, or even a duty.

Simone Weil


Bear in mind…

Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.

William Shakespeare

After I’m dead I’d rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one.

Cato the Elder

We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.

Bertha Calloway


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