Editorials: Bad situation; and Answer culture wars with talk of people’s needs

Colon passport office closedd
Government offices are not functioning in Colon. But hey, Bolota Salazar just got promoted within the PRD to provincial leader! So everything must be OK, right?

Panama gets dangerously unstable

With a disorderly Monday giving way to a general strike Tuesday, what are Colon’s business leaders saying? Not so much rants against militants seeking to sow disorder for its own sake, nor against greedy unions and community organizations making impossible demands. They’re pointing out that the PRD government made promises that it’s not keeping, perhaps never had any intention to keep.

Meanwhile on Monday, truckers were blocking the main border crossing to Costa Rica at Paso Canoas. All along the other border, with Colombia, the right-wing militia wing of the Clan del Golfo drug cartel had paralyzed all movement and economic activity with an “armed strike” – and that organization also operates in Panama and has fifth columnists in our police, courts, prosecutors office and political caste of both ruling and opposition parties.

The prices at the grocery stores are way up, fuel costs are making our bus and taxi services unsustainable in their current fare structures and many public employees have not been paid on time.

Is there some hero waiting in the wings to save us? Ricardo Martinelli wants to wear that mantle and polls suggest that he might were the election held today. But with less than one-third of the vote, and with the growing realization that Russia’s fate today would be Panama’s fate under a new Martinelli regime – international sanctions and arrest warrants that would aggravate an already terrible economy. Maybe we shouldn’t go across the planet for an example, but back in time – a Martinelli comeback would give us a repeat of Noriega times.

There are glimmers of hope, reflected off of fool’s gold. A deputy will go for the international glamour by engagement to a royal from an African country with no monarchy. The books disappear from our flagship public high school’s library and the principal says she was on suspension when it happened, doesn’t know anything about it and can’t or won’t find out. Ever more insane public works projects keep popping up for the benefit of the same sand mining companies and holy men rant against the queers but neglect to mention that the politicians with whom they align propose to do what the Bible says not to do – build on the sand.

It can’t go on like this. The paradigm might snap in an instant. These are dangerous times for Panama, notwithstanding all the real estate, offshore investment and Bitcoin hype. Nothing ever changes here? Expect the unexpected, and it may not be pretty.


Los Angeles marches against white supremacy and xenophobia. Photo by Ted Eytan.

Don’t run away from cultural wars, but
speak honestly about money and politics

We keep hearing from the forever corporate lobbyist politics wonks that Democrats have a “messaging problem.” That’s actually true, but both the content of what most of them want and the way it gets presented is a problem that this generation of Democrats don’t need. We have had a pandemic, the people they represent have taken their profits and the Democratic voter base, especially the younger adults that need to turn out in force for Democrats to win, can’t relate.

Tell young voters that they should vote for Democrats because the stock market does better under Democratic administrations and except for a very few – who mostly vote Republican – you might as well say to vote for the party whose candidates speak better Urdu. Throw the party, its leaders and its symbols behind a growing labor organizing drive and you speak to the needs, aspirations and pride of most young voters.

Tell US voters who live abroad that what’s really needed is a new tax break for the richest among them, and the richest among them will cheer – and vote for the Republicans. Admit to Americans living abroad that our consular services have been gutted and those that remain are generally more expensive, and advocate the dedication of resources to improve that, and you speak to the needs of overseas voters.

As the wildly popular with the Democratic base Jen Psaki takes her leave as White House press secretary and veteran journalist Karine Jean-Pierre steps up to the podium, shouting from the rooftops that she’s black and a lesbian will have marginal appeal to African-Americans and the LGBT communities. Omitting that she’s an immigrant from Martinique delivers the message that some identities are “in” and others are not, and that the spin doctors are betting that Americans have no idea what Martinique is and wouldn’t care to look it up. What Democrats want to see is a press secretary who does battle with the forces of more money than brains as well as Psaki did, or better yet, better.

The Republicans have bet on racism, hatred of anyone who is different and an across-the-board rollback of civil rights this year. At first glance, this is insane. But if two-thirds of Americans are appalled by their intention to repeal abortion rights, US political math is not based on a national majority-rule referendum. It’s a series of state battles in which small, backwoods places hold inordinate power in the Senate and in the Electoral College. But the Supreme Court was working on a post-election surprise, and when it leaked out Republicans in the courts and at large said many impolitic things. They want to ban birth control, too. They want to sweep away all notion that homosexuals have any rights. They want transsexuals, their doctors and their parents to die in prison. On top of that all their paranoiac QAnon ravings and “out” white supremacy. That’s their “anti-woke” banner and Democrats should smash into it head-on.

But that’s THEM, as in what we are against. They want to phase out Social Security and Medicare? We’re for protecting Social Security, and for improved, affordable and universal health care. They’re for protecting the profits and predations of the fossil fuel industries? We’re for moving past the coal and oil age into something cleaner and more sustainable. They’re for protecting the very rich from taxation? We’re for a fairer sharing of the burden. They’re for corporate power? We’re for labor unions. They’re for making it harder to vote? We’re for making it easier.

The Republicans have found some Democrats who support their side on these questions? Democrats need to rout them in the primaries.

It’s not the package, it’s the product.


European Peoples Party Helsinki photo.

Always be more than you appear and never appear to be more than you are.

Angela Merkel

Bear in mind…


The world is like a mask dancing. If you want to see it well, you do not stand in one place.

Chinua Achebe


I think everything about us as individuals affects the work we do. Ethnicity is part of who I am, and it contributes to my awareness and perspective. I don’t subscribe to the notion I was taught in school, that a journalist can be “objective.” I think it’s a myth that anyone can see any story without bringing their own view into the picture. What I think is critical is that we be aware of our own subjective judgment and that we be fair.

Joie Chen


Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.

Robert Frost



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