Editorials: Panama in 2024? and Coups d’etat

On the other side of the building, across the parking lot, the Martinelistas have an office with a big flag out front. Here the PRD was quietly gathering to set off in cars for a Saturday of political canvassing. Photo by Eric Jackson

Do you believe the 2024 Panamanian
election projections? Not so fast.

Any number of polls will tell you that Ricardo Martinelli is ahead in the 2024 presidential race. But first, it’s early, and second, he has two criminal trial pending, conviction in either of which would likely bar him from the race.

The dignitaries of the PRD are largely falling in line behind Vice President Gaby Carrizo. But history suggests that the party holding the presidency gets thrown out of office at the next opportunity. That’s on top of Carrizo coming across as would-be slick and insincere, a man of old tricks that are clumsily performed.

Rómulo Roux may or may not get through next year as the leader of a political party. His tenuous hold on Cambio Democratico is challenged by most of the legislators elected on that ticket, who are led by Yanibel Ábrego. The former, a bland corporate lawyer, wants to lead a coalition as its standard bearer. The latter, a sticky-fingered legislator with a reputation to match, wants to lead Cambio Democratcio into an alliance with Martinell, preferably with her as running mate. There are a great many ifs for each would-be party leader’s plans, starting with who will win control of the party in legal and intra-party election battles over the coming months.

A comeback for one of the traditional major parties, the Panameñistas? Their last president, Juan Carlos Varela, is facing trial on Odebrecht charges and a steady torrent of vilification from Martinelli and his mouthpieces. Their last presidential candidate, José Isabel Blandón Figueroa, got clobbered last time, in part for Odebrecht contracts thrust upon him and that ended up terribly disruptive to neighborhoods when he was mayor of Panama City. Give us the thuggish and inept current PRD mayor, Blandón looks stellar in comparison.

Ricardo Lombana came in third running as an independent last time, but this time he has a political party, Otro Camino, to boost his chances. People run guilt by association screeds against him for posts he held in the Mireya Moscoso and Martín Torrijos administration. The son of an immigrant Spaniard and great nephew of Panamanian feminist icon Clara González, he went on from a mundane law degree at the University of Panama to graduate studies at George Washington University, Oxford and Harvard. His run last time as an independent drew scorn from the traditional partisan crowds, a third place standing and 18.78% of the vote. Were he to double that percentage he’d win in a crowded field. Scorn from and for the traditional parties would boost him this time. Panamanians are sick of the old games.

There will be independents, the leading one at the moment the neofascist Zulay Rodríguez, who sits in the National Assembly as part of the PRD caucus but is pretty much shunned by that party and was unpopular with Torrijistas before she decided to run. Will the left, behind Maribel Gordón, leapfrog over other would-be independent candidates to get a spot on the ballot? Perhaps. Alliances between independents and party candidates are forbidden as such, but there is no stopping an indie from dropping his or her candidacy and accepting a party nomination.

There are all the small parties angling for an alliance that could win their members hack jobs and their donor bases government contracts, looking to attach themselves to winners. Were Panama to have parties that actually stand for whatever principles, then alliances would be more meaningful factors than just the temporary concurrence of personal followings.

We might see a 2024 race with Martinelli in the slammer and all other significant candidates being lawyers. Might it be the loud demagogue lawyer who cheats her clients versus a more traditional corporate lawyer?

Business and labor? This has been a year in which they spat venom at one another and the business groups lined up behind the most odious predatory monopolists.

It looks like 2024 might be the year for someone to come from out of the blue. Which may not be for the better.



If a coup is such a bad idea for the USA…

…and it is. So let’s not be so readily accepting of such stuff in Latin America, let alone be encouraging it.




Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.


Bear in mind…


Peace of mind for five minutes, that’s what I crave.

Alanis Morrisette


I have borne 13 children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Sojourner Truth


A big part of being confident is being brave, and you can’t be brave unless you’re scared.

Bo Burnham


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