Editorials: A judge says no; Uncle Sam alleges; and A Scot tells the truth

Judge Baloisa
Judge Baloisa Marquínez is having none of the Martinelli games this time around. Members of Ricardo Martinelli’s phalanx of lawyers have charged her of a crime for that, and the newspapers he bought with stolen government money are raising a great hue and cry against her. Photo from a video by the Panamanian judicial system.

None of that this time

Delayed on the original date by doctors’ notes submitted by lawyers in the Martinelli entourage, the Odebrecht pretrial hearing is underway again.

There are 46 defendants accused of a vast graft scheme revolving around overpriced public works contracts with a notorious Brazil-based multinational construction conglomerate and kickback spread liberally around political systems. There were payoffs to those in power to rig the bidding and get the contracts, payoffs to the opposition to keep them from complaining and subsidies to artists, musicians and other cultural opinion makers to tamp down the public derision. Among those in the dock are two former presidents, Ricardo Martinelli and Juan Carlos Varela, who had a notorious falling out, such that in many other legal systems it would be considered an unfair trial to feature them as co-defendants.

Martinelli, who hopes to be elected president again in 2024 and has threatened retaliation against all journalists and public figures who have spoken or written about his corruption, is running a scorched earth campaign against the rule of law. The basic tactic is endless delay, until the charges against him get thrown out as too stale under Panama’s archaic version of the statute of limitation.

On day one of the pretrial the judge was hit with a barrage of nine motions to delay the proceeding. She slapped them all down and let it be known that if a lawyer pleads illness, she has public defenders in the wings to stand in.

There are surely more machinations in the works. There is surely more vilification coming from the Martinelli camp. But the whole world is watching. Panama stands to be crippled by international financial sanctions if the Martinelli show is allowed to continue. Especially if he finds a way back into the presidential palace the year after next. This is not a game. It’s a matter of national security.


Russian authorities might truthfully publish an analogous poster of US political and intelligence operatives, and in the USA such a poster might have gone up generations earlier. Russian and American propaganda wars against each other are nothing new. These suspects are never coming to trial in the USA – their indictments were a political show but not, as the MAGAs and some journalists allege, a pack of lies. Russia did interfere. Forget about the suffix -gate and finger pointing by the operative of a terribly flawed 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign, but let’s acknowledge some basic truths. From an FBI wanted poster.

The US State Department alleges…

A report released by the US State Department accuses Russia of spending at least $300 million to influence foreign elections since 2014. Interference in the 2016 US elections, in the UK Brexit referendum campaign, funding for political parties, candidates and propositions that the Kremlin figured would advance its various goals.

Shock and outrage? This would be far from a new practice. Most US laws designed to prevent such interference date back to when the Nazis were running propaganda campaigns in the run-up to World War II. The Soviet versions of this, while also existing at the time, became a concern after World War II. What Washington now alleges seems like relatively little, given 21st century campaign costs and the habitual practices of both sides in the decades of the Cold War.

The technologies have changed since then, but whether backing a newspaper or a website, the tactics are akin.

When a candidate, political party or campaign collaborates with such foreign interlopers, however, that’s cause for concern and a proper subject of a criminal investigation.

And when a major political party is so weak as to become vulnerable to such stuff, that party and its members should, rather than just assigning blame elsewhere, do some soul searching about their vulnerability.

Let the USA be neither naive nor hypocritical, but on guard. That goes for a lot of other nations too.


“Rory is no Tory and he is no bootlicker either.” So it’s chanted in the Twitterverse. Scottish police and the British government aren’t releasing the suspect’s surname, probably with vain hopes that they can avoid making a celebrity out of him. Was his heckling an animalistic crime? Traditionally, Common Law jurisdictions will call it disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct or such. But Prince Andrew’s appearance in public is a clear incitement to such outbursts. It’s the pedophile prince who needs to go away into anonymity and consider himself lucky if his place of exile isn’t a prison cell. Video from the Twitter feed of Joseph Anderson, a journalist with Holyrood magazine.

Rude and out of place, maybe. Rory’s not a criminal.

“Andrew, you’re a sick old man!”

It wasn’t a polite thing to shout at a pedophile prince following his mother’s coffin in a procession in Scotland, but it was the truth. A truth for which every British subject paid, in the form of the late queen’s hush money to a woman who was trafficked to Prince Andrew when she was a girl.

The 22-year-old heckler has been released on his own recognizance, to appear in court later. Law and custom are pretty clear that it’s a disturbance of the peace to shout insults at a funeral procession.

When will Andrew Windsor appear in court to answer for his offenses? And when will we hear the British government, or the US government, let alone the Israeli government, ever say anything truthful and critical about the Israeli police attack on the funeral of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who had been gunned down without provocation by an Israeli soldier, while she was peacefully doing her job? And did the British government ever apologize for the British Army attacks on IRA funerals during Northern Ireland’s troubles?

Let’s see some single standards, and some sense of proportion.


Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. Portrait by Daniele da Volterra, circa 1545. Wikimedia photo of a painting on display at the Met.

Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.


Bear in mind…

The greatest danger to our future is apathy.

Jane Goodall


We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Oscar Wilde


Just because things hadn’t gone the way I had planned didn’t necessarily mean they had gone wrong.

Ann Patchett



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