Editorials: Hard times in Panama; and Winning at peace


How bad is it?

The government hardly counts the number of people working informally, and even then rarely does it very accurately. There was a general consensus, however, that before the COVID epidemic hit the informal sector encompassed about half of working Panamanians. That percentage has surely grown during plague times.

We hear from the government and from the labor unions that about half of those formally employed in the private sector are laid off or permanently out of work. Many businesses that are reopening are doing so with fewer employees, and a lot of worthy businesses are now gone forever.

In the public sector, there has been an expansion to put as many PRD activists as possible on the payroll. That has expanded the national debt, which would not be all that horrible if we saw some significant additions to Panama’s national public wealth to show for it. We haven’t.

The law enforcement part of the public sector is slowly waking up to reality. Are gangsters being slain in upscale places? That the police do not ignore. Nor are they ignoring the US-imposed “War On Drugs.” However, the security minister downplays the threat to the public of organized crime figures killing each other, and lets the press coverage of a slain gang leader’s presence on the San Miguelito mayor’s payroll go without his comment. We are getting different sorts of communications from the police these days – commentary, reports and advice about the increasing garden-variety crimes that people see. Like warnings and video clips about gangs of pickpockets working around Metro stops – and getting arrested for it. Like advice about resisting the many fraud artists circulating, in society and online. Like tales of the police increasing their presence in places where they rarely went before, just to remind people that they exist to maintain public order throughout the land.

On the other hand, police riot squads are getting called out more often to confront protesters over social and economic issues. These are often over issues that directly affect many cops or their families. Color that social instability.

The economy is bad, and as it improves it will only do so at a slow pace.

We need to look into our own hearts, and to our neighbors, families and friends, to get by these hard times. Perhaps the government might start to help, but we can’t depend on that. Kindness, generosity and self-restraint are called for.


“Before.” And still, with a large influx into the USA, and people pouring across Afghanistan’s borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan, with many more Afghans leaving than coming back.

The war is over

Let the Taliban celebrate this day. We should not be surprised if for generations into the future, even after the Taliban is gone from the Afghan government, this will be a national holiday in Afghanistan. Americans should be no ruder about it than Brits are about the Fourth of July. The war is over, and adjustments must be made to the realities that come with that.

There remain tasks of making peace. At the top of the agendas of the United States but also the United Kingdom, there are citizens left behind. Those who wanted to leave need to be helped on their way, and those whom the new Afghan government insists must leave need protection and perhaps transportation. There need to be continued lines of communication and cooperation with the Taliban to do these things. It would be a good thing if the airport in Kabul, cleaned up and under a suitable new name, reopens and allows neutral country civilian passenger jets to come in and out with a free flow of people coming and going to rebuild their lives in different settings.

To properly evacuate everyone to whom the United States owes a duty of protection, the Biden administration needs to talk with the governments of both Pakistan and Iran. It would be a good opportunity to ease tensions, talk about many things and build bridges with the conservative new administration of Iran in the process.

Donald Trump now screams that the Taliban owes the USA millions for the weapons that departing US forces destroyed on the way out to prevent anyone else from using. The war hawks now scream about Joe Biden’s “crime” of ending this longest US war. Let them scream. Let them run for office on their conspiracy theories about it.

But let’s not allow US standing in the world to be determined by such boorish domestic politics. There is still a peace to be won, starting with the more complete evacuation of those who want or need to leave Afghanistan and continuing to a point when nobody in his or her right mind in either country will advocate going back to war.


Churchill, standing apart on the right, as a prisoner of war during the Boer War. He escaped. In the ups and downs of politics, he was as First Lord of the Admiralty blamed for the disastrous British attack on Turkey at Gallipoli in World War I, as Prime Minister rallied Britons to endure the German Blitz, was then blamed for the fall of Singapore at the outset of the Pacific theater of World War II, celebrated victory in Europe and was promptly thrown out of office by the voters, saw his old nemesis Gandhi — whom he had jailed — lead India to independence, then came back for another term as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Like many a politician before and since, he went the distance.


If Hitler were to invade Hell, I would at least make a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.

Winston Churchill


Bear in mind…


Write what should not be forgotten.

Isabel Allende



Man, far from being the overlord of all creation, is himself part of nature, subject to the same cosmic forces that control all other life. Man’s future welfare and probably even his survival depend upon his learning to live in harmony, rather than in combat, with these forces.

Rachel Carson



There never was a good war or a bad peace.

Benjamin Franklin



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