Editorials: The Mob in high places; and Imperial hubris in Miami

And then there were two
Left to right: Raúl Pineda, the late Agustín Lara, and Laurentino Cortizo. 2019 campaign trail photo.

Mobbed up politics

NOW, we have the brother of slain Registro Civil deputy director, PRD activist, former candidate for legislature and law partner of legislator Raúl Pineda, Agustín Lara, accusing legislator Leandro Ávila of behind behind his sibling’s gangland-style assassination.

Pineda? There have been relatives of slain intra-PRD rivals who have accused him of being behind assassinations, but never have such allegations stuck. Nor have drug smuggling activities that involved his aides, associates or automobiles ever been pinned on him.

National Police director John Dornheim says that the investigation is on to go after the intellectual author of the Lara hit, he’s not going to say too much, but at the outset he opined that Lara was gunned down as part of a dispute between drug gangs.

PRD secretary general Pedro Miguel González points the finger at gang infilitration of Panamanian politics and says it needs to end.

Do we accuse González of misdirection, that it’s something wrong with his party, not anybody else’s? That would be a bogus allegation. The corruption in our political system reaches into all factions and all levels and branches of government.

November 15 was the ninth anniversary of the disappearance of Securities Market Superintendency investigator Vernon Ramos, who was looking into the Financial Pacific insider trading fraud and money laundering scandals swirling around the Ricardo Martinelli entourage during that administration.

Organized crime is not just drugs, but a lot of drug money has been invested in politics and the racketeers tend to play rough.

González is right, but under our present constitution the judges and politicians tend to confer impunity on one another.

The solution is far easier said than done. The difficult answer is an originating constitutional convention that assumes all governmental power while in session and drafts and convinces voters to pass a new national charter that dismantles all of the structural incentives for corruption, bars a long list of people from any public office and schedules new elections to replace all leaders of all branches of government.

But we would need a constitutional amendment to convene such a thing, and then elections to the convention wherein people don’t sell their votes and their country for bags of groceries.

We would need a new political culture, wherein people gain the sophistication to distinguish between politicians with whom they disagree and traitors to Panama, between those to tolerate and those to cast away.




Miami politics hits reality

No doubt the gatherings of right-wing Cuban, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan exiles — probably with a few Panamanians in the mix, too — were major events in Florida Republican politics. Matt Gaetz must feel encouraged about his re-election chances, and Ron DeSantis about his presidential ambitions.

The uprising in Cuba that they had hoped to boost? It was a dud.

Yes, it can be truthfully said that the Cuban government intervened to make it a dud. Would-be protest leader were not allowed to leave their homes that morning. There are already too many dissidents in prison in Cuba, for various offenses, some of which should not be on the books. People in Cuba know that to go out in public and criticize the government is to risk some unpleasant consequences.

But still, were Cubans moved by the call coming from an exiled resistance movement founded by Fidel Castro’s ex-brother-in-law, they would have braved many things to turn out and protest. This 1940s and 1950s fight between two very rich Cuban families, the Castros and the Díaz-Balarts, may not be framed in such terms either in the USA or in Cuba. But it’s something historical, something antiquated. Cubans are pressing for freedom on many fronts in terms of their own society. The Cuban government is responding to the demands in various ways, often enough granting them or parts of them, but always under severe constraints imposed by the US economic embargo. It’s just a different paradigm from what the Miami exile leadership wants it to be. Cubans, even those who are annoyed by their government, don’t want to take orders from Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz or the Díaz-Balart family.

So what does it mean, what should it mean, for the rest of Latin America? The Miami exile leadership has had undue influence in Washington, and it has hurt US relations with the rest of the hemisphere on a regular basis for many years.

The most recent salient example was the coup in Bolivia, which has not only failed and left bitter memories in Bolivia, but which has pretty much destroyed the credibility of the OAS.

In Panama a few years back a Miami exile terrorist cell would have set off a 300 pounds of semtex bomb that would have destroyed the University of Panama central campus and killed people at the nearby Arnulfo Arias Hospital Complex, and after that plot was disrupted those arrested for it corrupted Panamanian officials in order to get away with it.

The Miami exile leadership is just another far-right Republican faction, a US phenomenon now. They don’t speak for Cubans in Cuba, not even the dissidents. They certainly don’t speak for any other Latin American nation. The gap between this movement’s self-promotion and the reality on the ground in Havana was the main thing that was demonstrated on November 15.



Frida Kahlo portrait by Arty Fame.

          At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.

Frida Kahlo          


Bear in mind…


In most things success depends on knowing how long it takes to succeed.



Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.

Margaret Atwood


If I have questions about the universe on my mind when I go to bed, I can’t turn off. I dream equations all night.

Stephen Hawking




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night oil