Editorials, Panama’s security and foreign policy; and The Brazilians and us

The first national security consideration for any nation is to make sure that its people are fed. Rawpixel photo.

When neutral Panama should take stands

The basic premise of Panama’s national defense is that all world powers possessed of seaworthy vessels can and do use our canal, and all of the big ones derive substantial economic benefits from this. So why should anyone want to attack us?

The thing is, sometimes greed, power madness, ultra-nationalism or stupidity overcome reason. Moreover, some of our vital national interests go beyond avoiding an attack on our canal. We need to pronounce on a few basic principles beyond that, which might, however, annoy great powers.

To wit:

Freedom of navigation. Panama, a maritime nation, should be for free and peaceful navigation of international waters. At the moment there is one red-hot threat to this, a number of long-smoldering ones and a potential big one lurking out there.

The collapse of the Black Sea Grain Initiative means a Russian blockade against grain carriers going into and out of Ukraine. In the first instance this will strand, maybe even kill, some Panamanian noncombatant civilian seafarers. Then Panamanians will pay higher prices for staples like bread and noodles. Panama should oppose the Russian blockade, without regard to the merits or demerits of either side in the Ukraine War.

You didn’t know? There are floating maleantes, a few in Panama and some global hotspots for the phenomenon. All this “War on Drugs” propaganda may have concealed the reality of thugs boarding and stealing from peoples’ fishing and recreation vessels in Panamanian waters. Piracy, especially in some of the seas around Asia and Africa, is a very big deal and a hazard to Panamanian mariners and Panama-flag ships. There should be no requirement to join in any holy war or effort to impose an imperial order on this or that disorderly country for Panama to take a determined stand against piracy and cooperate with other powers that for their own reasons do the same.

We used to be colonized and we’re not going back. We used to have a US colonial enclave, the Canal Zone, in our midst. Before that we were a department of Colombia, an initially voluntary but eventually unhappy marriage. Before that we were a colony of Spain.

Do we oppose the most delusional of Zonian MAGAs who would restore the US colony that was the Canal Zone, or put American military bases here? Anyone who is for a sovereign Panama would be. It’s not only the obvious things known from acknowledged history, but the use of Panama as a platform for US operations against sister Latin American republics, or interventions in those countries’ civil conflicts. Those things Panama should oppose.

The non-aligned nations supported Panama restoring sovereignty over what was the Canal Zone, and we ought to revive some of that spirit of solidarity. That means, in part, opposing the pretensions of those who would restore the glory of bygone empires.

As in, Ukraine is a sovereign country, not part of the old Russian Empire or the old Soviet Union.

As in, the historical possessions of the Ming Empire and the places where its Treasure fleets went are not necessarily parts of China. Vietnam isn’t. The Straits of Malacca aren’t. The South China Sea isn’t. Those should be Panama’s diplomatic positions.

As in, the Canal Zone is over and Panama is unwilling to be a subservient US protectorate.

As in, drop the paradigm of the failed US “War on Drugs.” However, Colombian gangster cartels operating in Panama are foreign invaders and Panamanians who work for them or take their bribes are traitors. International cooperation against them, to the extent that it doesn’t impugn our independence, should always be an option.


São Paulo takes to the streets on Election Night. Lula actually lost in that populous southern state, but he still has a lot of support there. Photo from TeleSur reporter Nacho Lemus’s Twitter feed.

Other than a few diehard fascists, nobody wants to hear this Stop The Steal stuff

Is a coup d’etat, or a civil war, in the cards for Brazil’s near future? Brazil’s ultra-right president Jair Bolsonaro – some call him Latin America’s Trump – has yet to concede his officially proclaimed defeat by Lula da Silva. But despite a campaign of lies and threats, and more than 500 police roadblocks to hinder voters from getting to the polls in Lula strongholds, Bolsonaro became the first Brazilian president to lose a re-election bid, by some two million votes.

Times are tough in Brazil, as in the rest of the world. It has been a rough season for incumbent governments everywhere, of every ideological hue. Worldwide inflation will tend to do that. As do great pandemics that kill millions of people.

Bolsonaro, though, was something else. Jailing the opposition, censoring education to the point of trying to prohibit sociology in the universities, political violence in the streets, indifference in the face of upscale thugs cutting down and burning the Amazon rainforest, inability to confront gang rule in the urban slums, unwillingness to confront the COVID epidemic – that’s his legacy. Lula was the functional alternative that Brazilians knew and preferred.

Let the MAGAs in the USA scream about a red menace. Those who know Latin America don’t need to be leftists to know that this isn’t true. It means that so long as Democrats hold the White House, the US Southern Command will not be sent in to blockade or topple the government of Brazil.

The “if we don’t win, it’s fraud” election meme generates ever fewer takers and ever more disgust, in Brazil and around the world. Most people just about everywhere want democracy and some semblance of social peace and harmony, not police states.


Wangari Maathai addressing the 2009 World Congress of Agro Forestry. WCAF photo.

The generation that destroys the environment is not the generation that pays the price.

Wangari Maathai

Bear in mind…


Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or a banana split.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


It is better to have dreamed a thousand dreams that never were than never to have dreamed at all.

Alexander Pushkin


Accept the children the way we accept trees; with gratitude because they are a blessing. But do not have expectations or desires. You don’t expect trees to change; you love them as they are.

Isabel Allende



Contact us by email at fund4thepanamanews@gmail.com

To fend off hackers, organized trolls and other online vandalism, our website comments feature is switched off. Instead, come to our Facebook page to join in the discussion.

These links are interactive — click on the boxes