Editorials: Panama’s impasse; and MAGA gets manic

talks in Penonome
Talks in Penonome, where agreement has been elusive on key issues. Ministry of Economy and Finance photo.

We slide toward a relatively nonviolent dictatorship

The business alliance centered around the Chamber of Commerce is demanding everything and rejecting all other forces in society. They are not at the table in Penonome and it would not help matters if they were.

The three alliances at the table with the government in Penonome are on many issues at an impasse with the government. On the issues over which agreements have been reached, the big business crowd says they don’t recognize them and some of them are openly flouting them.

So, without an agreement, the government decreed a price reduction for many medications and broke up the exclusive importer / distributor mafia. The latter, with support from most of the rabiblanco media, are raising spurious technical objections.

In some of the grocery stores, some of the price controlled items have just disappeared, and for some others the legal price limits have been ignored. So the government has sent in ACODECO to hand out fines for the egregious defiance. There is also a business-instigated rice shortage, as there was widespread mislabeling of rice quality until ACODECO stepped in about that, too.

In the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca there was hardly any food price relief at all, which led the indigenous alliance to walk out of the talks. But then, the government stepped in with a promise to set up state food stores through the Agricultural Martketing Institute (IMA) in each of the comarca’s districts.

Perhaps President Cortizo might be personally persuadable to move against corruption, but his own party’s legislative caucus, local officials and patronage beneficiary base are unlikely to go along with the serious changes to the constitution and laws needed to deal with it.

There are this and that real technical issues, and some legitimate concerns, but what’s happening is that the privileged, asserting high-sounding principles, are digging in their heels to defend the untenable.

They don’t agree, they weren’t at the table, so forget that? Were any of the micro-businesses that make a living using the Internet in the room when wireless Internet rates went way up? Was there even a hearing? And what about the largest economic sector of all, in terms of the number of people involved – are the informal businesses in which about half of the economically active population labors ever consulted about anything?

Look at the structure of things here. There is a series of impasses, largely driven by a few family businesses that have called dibs on the national economy. Those jams are broken by presidential decrees or by commands to public institutions. It might be necessary to work that way under the circumstances. Nito may not be cut from the Benito Mussolini or Fidel Castro mold. However, democracy and civil discourse are being sidelined by presidential decrees. Perhaps necessary, but it’s not a good sign.


The social media screech of an already disturbed man falling into madness.

Whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad

There are still more than two months to go before US Election Day, but that things would be turning as they are was foreseeable months ago.

After all the preposterous lies and the January 6 stunt, a guy who lost the popular vote by some seven million votes in 2020 had a weak hand for starters. He managed to overplay it at about every turn.

The big blunder was by the GOP-packed Supreme Court, not only by repealing Roe v Wade by threatening such privacy rights as legal contraceptives, and same-sex couples being able to marry. It delighted the zealots and bigots, but annoyed most Americans and set of some serious organizing that handed Republicans unexpected defeats in a Kansas referendum and an upstate New York special election.

They made waving assault rifles around one of their usual gestures, then blame shifting after each day’s massacre the next part of their routine.

They put up a gallows in front of the Capitol to threaten Mike Pence into going along with their plans to overturn the 2020 election result. They wiped Secret Service and Pentagon cell phones. But snobs that they are, they let the people they deluded into assaulting Congress fend for themselves. Also the lawyers that they sent in to make unethical motions and who are now being disbarred. Of course some of the people who did their dirty work are turning state’s evidence against them. The MAGAs who haven’t completely lost their minds will see justice coming and some of them have good reason to fear it. Today that side of the political equation is being scattered by winds for which they had not prepared.

In the meantime, the MAGAs by and large “won” the Republican primaries. It’s likely to cost them in November. Especially so, because a con man from the bizarre universe of “reality TV” has recruited a dumb jock, a quack TV doctor and other unsuitable candidates to lead a Republican charge to take back the houses of Congress. Theirs is a hardened but shrinking base.

Democrats need to do their work between now and then to pull off that rare midterm election where the president’s party picks up seats in Congress. Nothing is to be taken for granted.

Then, are there stateswomen and statesmen in the Democratic ranks? Those sorts of people will not be looking to “reach across the aisle” to those who would hang them so much as create the conditions for a working majority and a loyal opposition, a good country rather than a would-be great empire, a calm country with reasonable fact-based arguments among people who will never fully agree, and with fair elections to decide the issues that can’t be compromised for the time being.

Papa Madiba. ILO Photo.

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

Nelson Mandela

Bear in mind…

There are times when dreams sustain us more than facts.

Helen Fagin

You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.

Pablo Neruda

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

Maya Angelou