Editorials: Mining talks; and Stop Beck’s would-be Crusade

pipe rupture
A rupture of pipes through which mine tailings flowed from the Minera Panama copper mine. It turned the water downstream gray. Lawyers and their experts might argue about how toxic the spill was, but for people who take their drinking water or eat the fish downstream it was a catastrophic blow to their way of life. Will the company “come clean” and agree to pay the affected families enough to move to a crime-ridden apartment block elsewhere in Colon province and get used to urban life? The neoliberal notion that there is a free market in which everything is monentarily quantifiable and financially negotiable is just wrong – morally and factually – yet that’s the starting point at which the mining company and the Cortizo administration are starting in their bid to revive a concession contract that the original concessionaire declared non-viable under Panama’s environmental laws and which the Supreme Court years later declared unconstitutional. Minera Panama photo.

Negotiating what?

The Supreme Court ruled that the original Petaquilla mining concession, from which the Minera Panama copper mine was later separated out, was unconstitutional.

So what does the government do?

It makes a “deal” with a Canadian-registered company, whose chief operating officer is a Panamanian from a prominent PRD family – a fact which Nito tried to conceal from us – to revive the failed gold mine, with pending applications to expand the gold mine and to establish a gold refinery that’s sure to raise the ire of countries and international organizations that are trying to stop the traffic in conflict minerals.

It starts negotiations with the separate and ongoing copper mining company, with the expressed main intention of Panama receiving more money than it has been. Protests erupted, so we were told that the first phase of the talks will be about environmental matters. The idea that any full measure of reclamation after the environmental damage is going to happen or actually can happen within the lifetime of any person now living is ridiculous. What “environmental talks” are likely to happen will be about to what extent the company and its successors will be able to violate this country’s existing conservation laws.

Some will say that Panama is in a deep economic hole and MUST continue and expand the illegal mining concession. We have chamber of commerce types urging that for “legal security” Panama must find a way to legalize an illegal contract, so as not to be sued by a multinational corporation. As if the corporation’s lawyers couldn’t have looked up the facts on the ground and the laws on the books and known the mess into which the company was buying.

The worst flaw of the whole renegotiation process is the government’s slavish mentality. A huge copper extraction contract being negotiated by a government that has no industrial policy? Nobody at or near the top of the government even thinks about adding value to minerals extracted from Panama, in this country, so that we make, use and export things made of copper instead of just exporting semi-refined copper ore? No manufacturing jobs here?

Extraction without value added is one of the hallmarks of underdevelopment. Even when someone gets a skim and buys fancy cars with part of it.

Panama is better off without that sort of an economic model.


Men praying at the famous Blue Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif. There were – and are – historic Christian and Jewish communities in Afghanistan, but these are minorities in a Muslim land. Moreover, at the outset of the US intervention this area was the scene of a terrible war crime, in which many Taliban prisoners of war were tortured to death, so bitter local memories may inflame public passions. Will this iteration of Taliban rule take the Quranic injunction that Muslims should protect “People or the Scriptures” – Christians and Jews – as a serious part of the Sharia? We shall see. What the world does not need to see is a right-wing American fanatic setting the Christian minority against Afghan Islam. Photo by vetman.

No would-be Crusader should be allowed to start another Afghan War

Glenn Beck and a Christian organization created a stand-off with the Taliban, attempting to fly a few dozen US citizens, a few people who assisted US forces in its Afghanistan war effort, a number of Afghans who confess to the Christian faith to fly out of the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif?

Better for the US State Department to talk things out with the new government of Afghanistan, to try to let anyone who wants to go to leave peacfully. Better for the US Justice Department to pay Glenn Beck a visit, with our without an arrest warrant in hand, and let him know in no uncertain terms that he will not be allowed to interpose himself, or his religion, in a sensitive situation in which lives are on the line.

The US Constitution was not handed down by God and is not legally persuasive outside of the United States and its possessions. In any case, the use of Christian missionaries and those whom they convert as pawns in whose supposed defense imperial powers go to war with smaller countries is the stuff of 18th and 19th century European colonialism. The notion of the United States getting into holy wars like the Crusades or the Wars of the Reformation was specifically rejected by the founders of the United States of America.

Will Mr. Beck plead freedom of the press? US notions of that don’t apply under the Taliban’s brand of Sharia law. If Americans look honestly and deeply into US history, yellow journalism like the Pulitzer versus Hearst newspaper wars that provoked the Spanish-American War and The New York Times and The Washington Post publishing lies about Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction have brought on great human suffering for no good reason. The United States was an active participant in the trial and execution of the publisher of the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer, and raised no objection to the trial and punishment of Rwandan journalists who promoted an ethnic massacre. By any proper standard, freedom of the press does not include any right or privilege to incite pogroms, genocide or war. Such incitement is what Beck’s “save the Afghan Christians” ploy is all about. The whole world should stand against that, no matter what nasty things might be truthfully said about the Taliban.

Putting on ploys to provoke holy wars in hope that the United States would be involved are criminal acts. By their very nature, these things get people killed. If Glenn Beck gets himself haled before an Afghan qadi or the International Criminal Court, the US government should not object or intervene. It would be better for the United States to avoid such things by itself dealing with the Glenn Beck problem, so as to keep a fragile peace.


Mexican poet Octavio Paz. Photo by Rafael Doniz.

                    Deserve your dream.

Octavio Paz                  

Bear in mind…


He’s a writer for the ages — the ages of four to eight.

Dorothy Parker


Anything that contradicts experience and logic should be abandoned.

Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama


Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.

Madeleine L’Engle


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