Editorials: Cleaning Panamanian justice? and Let’s have no US war with Russia

take him away

They let him keep his pants on, but arrested him without the shirt bearing his insignia. A FORMER member of SENAN, the police branch that includes the air patrol and coast guard services, taken away on charges of working for the Clan del Golfo drug cartel, an intruding Colombian force descended from one of Plan Colombia’s right-wing death squads. SENAN photo.

Panamanian justice in turmoil – which may be what’s needed

The Supreme court just declared the jobs of 153 clerks, analysts, mediators and accountants in one of its four benches to be vacant. They work for the court’s “fourth bench,” the chamber that deals with “general business,” often requests for summary constitutional relief – amparos de garantías – or matters that are elevated to hearings and votes by nine-member high court panels. This is also the bench that exercises supervisory control over lower courts.

It’s not that these court employees are immediately out the door, but that they have been given notice that they are on temporary status. They were hired in violation of judicial civil service laws, on the basis of magistrates’ personal preferences or political patronage. Some might retain their jobs or even get better ones through the civil service testing and hiring system but it’s a major shakeup. Especially so, because it follows similar actions against almost all penal court judges and public defenders.

In a separate series of actions, some other folks in the court system ARE immediately out the door, albeit most of them now being inside another door – one with bars on it. In the courts system, a process server who worked in Ancon was shown being arrested and taken away in cuffs in Public Ministry videos. Was her only offense a romantic involvement with someone accused in a drug smuggling investigation? In any case she’s out on bail, unlike most of those public officials taken in that and several other roundups.

When the new high court magistrates took office and the new court leadership was elected the lone remaining Martinelli appointee boycotted the session and a Varela appointee abstained.

Was it just annoyance about a game at which they were once at the controls ending, to be replaced by a PRD administration’s people in charge and a different set of retainers, relatives and mistresses in all the sinecures? That cynical way of looking at it may turn out to be the case, but more likely there are deeper movements of the ground beneath Panamanian justice.

We do know, for example, that the raids against the Clan del Golfo essentially follow upon a US intelligence operation, about which Panamanian authorities were only informed at the last moment to avoid word of the raids leaking out through the cartel’s implants in the courts as well as the executive and legislative branches of this country’s government. We do know that the raids against that cartel’s smuggling operations to European countries were done in collaboration with authorities on that side of the ocean. We do know that the richer countries are increasingly annoyed by Panama’s corruption, especially as it involves this country being a money laundering and tax evasion center for their own scofflaws.

One of those arrested in the Clan del Golfo roundups is the sister of a legislator. When she was detained at Tocumen Airport her cell phone seized. It had a copy of an unserved Panamanian warrant on it.

So will we hear shrill voices in the National Assembly denouncing foreign interference in Panamanian justice? There may be a valid point to that, but any conclusion that the protection of the politically connected must be restored would be bogus. We need to clean up our act before independent Panamanian justice worthy of the name can be a realistic expectation.


Yes, the white supremacists who want a second Civil War in the USA have their Oath Keepers. Then there are neoconservatives who want a Cold War II with Russia. But let’s understand that the impetus for these sorts of madness comes mainly from politicians, not from most veterans or most active duty US military personnel. Wikimedia photo by Ben Schumin.

Let’s not have a US war with Russia

Russian troop move forward and back around a Ukraine that has mobilized its troops. The United States, the United Kingdom and other NATO allies pouring weapons into Ukraine. Voices of alarm from many quarters.

Among the concerns voice by some of those voices of alarm, one comes from “across the aisle” but mostly on the Republican side in Washington, and from certain Ukrainian factions: has Joe Biden made a sinister secret deal with Vladimir Putin?

Let’s hope that a deal HAS been made behind the scenes. Let’s hope that it’s one that keeps Russia from invading Ukraine, and that keeps the United States and its military allies from using Ukraine as a forward military outpost against Russia.

The pretense that the world and its balances of geopolitical power are the same as 60 years ago is a dangerous delusion. The reactionary notion that what would make America great again would be the restoration of those precarious “good old days” is also a threat to peace, both within the USA and around the world.

Statements and silences playing to domestic crowds, and the regrettable practices of secret foreign policies, are parts of the political landscape. But better for everybody if Joe Biden et al understand that going to war with Russia over Ukraine shouldn’t happen and won’t happen.

And then, those armed racists who want to turn the US calendar back not to 1962 but to 1861? Those people belong in jail.


Mon Laferte in 2020. Wikimedia photo by Maritza Ríos, Mexico City Secretariat of Culture.

If any woman in any part of the world, of any age, of any color asks for help because she is attacked with violence, we will answer her call and we will find a way to support, protect and defend her.

Mon Laferte


Bear in mind…


When a true genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.

Jonathan Swift


You have to leave room in life to dream.

Buffy Sainte-Marie


It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.

James Baldwin



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