Editorial, We could build a soundproof cell; and We need help to do our part

Whether or not there were fisticuffs or a kick in an alleged altercation inside, this sort of stuff tends to lead to bail revocation for harassment or intimidation of witnesses in most places. And would anyone in his family be offended by one of the lawyers’ homophobic epithets?

It’s time for Panama to insist that it ends

It should end in a padded cell with a 24/7 video watch for the guards, but where the other high-security inmates don’t have to listen to his rants. Convicted criminals do, after all, retain certain human rights.

His antics need to end, his ill-gotten media empire needs to be taken away and broken up, a bunch of his more unethical lawyers need to be driven out of the profession. Then, both when we have some new Supreme Court magistrates ratified and working, and ultimately as Panama considers a new constitution, we need to take stock of what is happening and has happened.

This case has been a revelation of easily seen abuses. A guy who fled the country to avoid prosecution getting out on bail? A mind-boggling succession of dilatory tactics? Along the way some favorable court rulings — later overturned — that it’s hard to conceive were not purchased? Harassment of a prosecution witness in an altercation, or via yellow journalism in the defendant’s media? How is this, beyond a Ricardo Martinelli scandal, not a Panamanian judiciary scandal?

It has been more than seven years since people voted down Martinelli’s bid for a proxy re-election. That was done after many online media that Martinelli didn’t own were the targets of hacker attacks leading up the the May 2014 elections. We voted that stuff down despite the purchase of votes from our less ethical neighbors, carefully organized using lists apparently compiled at least in part with material stolen from confidential government databases. Then, right after that defeat, Martinelli went before the deputies elected on his ticket and told them that they had to do what he said because he has a file on every one of them. Then he fled Panama to lead the upscale Miami self-exile mansion life, until Uncle Sam extradited him.

In that extradition process the US courts were abused, but not for long. They traditionally have not put up with that sort of dilatory stuff — although perhaps in the US legal profession and courts there are those who look at the games that get played here in Panama with envy.

Let’s finish this eavestropping case to an honest conclusion, let’s officially notify EVERYBODY whose intercepted communications showed up in the case file, and let’s move on to the next of many criminal cases pending against Ricardo Martinelli.

Meanwhile, let’s revoke his bail.


One in five of the new migrants are minors, and there have been some 19,000 kids so far this year. Here, in a Defensoria del Pueblo archive photo, a group of mainly Haitian migrants are about to be moved downriver from the Embera-Wounaan Comarca to a migrant camp in Meteti. Part of the Defensoria’s job is human rights eduction — first, assuring the people in this indigenous community that newcomers will not be given any of their land, and moreover warning that the police will get involved if anyone gets the idea that these migrants are convenient targets for crime.

They would go to the USA. They’re here.
That doesn’t shift all responsibility.

Panama is trying to be a good neighbor on the migration issue. It’s hard. We have few resources to spare. But at least we don’t have A leader separating off and trying to sell the kids. Cruelty to asylum-seekers is against international law and we should be glad that it’s not the Panamanian government’s present policy.

Just what is Nito’s policy? A few things can be seen, but we don’t know the content of all the diplomatic communications. We don’t know what promises have been made, the nature or maker of any threats, the amounts of international payments pledged or paid to defray our costs. It would be naïve to suppose that inter-governmental talks about migrants crossing the Darien Gap are not ongoing. However, the press and public are by and large not parties to such discussions.

These people, like the Venezuelan migrants, are fleeing from hellish conditions at least in part created in or by the United States. They have come into Panama. It’s a small corner of a global migration crisis and thus a global problem, but the United States and Panama have some special responsibilities here.

We should expect internationally supervised or assisted migrant camps in many countries for a long time, and some of them in Panama. This country can’t afford to bear all the costs, or even most of them. The world has a responsibility here. Any attempt to impose all the burden on us would surely incite the worst ugliness that we find among us and aggravate many problems on which Panama needs to spend some money.

SOME of these people we may want to accept among us as permanent residents and eventually citizens. Those among us whose senses of entitlement are much greater than their talents or work ethics would surely complain. However, this is The Crossroads of The World. It’s to Panama’s long-term benefit if we live up to both the better part of the reputation and the serious responsibility inherent in that.



Frank Zappa in Hamburg in 1974. Photo by Heinrich Klaffs.


                    Progress is not possible without deviation.

Frank Zappa                    

Bear in mind…


The reason there are so few female politicians is that it is too much trouble to put makeup on two faces.

Maureen Murphy


It is the early morning in the Amazon, just before first light: a time that is meant for us to share our dreams, our most potent thoughts. And so I say to all of you: the Earth does not expect you to save her, she expects you to respect her. And we, as Indigenous peoples, expect the same.

Nemonte Nenquimo


Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave; it is merely a loose misapplication of the word.

Mark Twain


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