Editorials: Palacio de las Garzas up for grabs; and Strange times

Ricky Youth
Martinelismo without Martinelli? What would that be like? Photo by Eric Jackson.

Early into the 2024 election cycle

Vice President Gaby Carrizo is stepping down as minister of the presidency to run for president. National Assembly president Crispiano Adames says he wants to be president. They’re both PRD, the current PRD administration has been beset by disaster and hard times that can’t be fairly blamed on President Nito Cortizo, but in any case Panamanian voters tend to throw the party that holds the presidency out of office in the next election.

The leading alternative in the polls is former president Ricardo Martinelli, but he faces a pair of criminal trials this year and is surely despised in Washington, such that if he were to be elected US-Panamanian relations would sour. Under a Democratic administration Martinelli’s two sons were convicted in a US federal court of laundering millions in Odebrecht bribe money for their dad. If a Trump administration is the US future, Martinelli and Trump had their falling out when a Trump signature hotel was built on a known flood plain, there were flooding problems, and Trump blamed Martinelli.

If we get the independent breakaway from the PRD candidate – still sitting as a member of that party’s caucus in the legislature – Zulay Rodríguez, consider that the lady not only rails against foreigners that the American Embassy might be expected to in some way defend if they are US citizens, but that the US government is said to have had a hand in her removal as a judge when she granted bail to some Colombian drug running suspects whom the DEA wanted to take off of Panama’s hands.

No PRD, no Martinelli? The Panameñistas have still not recovered from Varela times gaffes and Juan Carlos Varela himself is scheduled to go on trial for Odebrecht bribes this year. The shell that was CD gives us the blandest of corporate lawyers in Rómulo Roux versus the sleaziest sort of grasping politician in Yanibel Ábrego. The eternal mini-parties that angle for spots in a coalition and jackpots of political patronage seem unlikely places from which a presidential contender might emerge. The fragmented left may get someone on the ballot here or there but won’t win the presidency and is also likely to repeat the less pardonable blunder of failing to elect at least one regular voice in the legislature from that end of the spectrum.

It adds up to instability. Might that open the door to bitcoin hustlers, proponents of mass arrests or those who would incite and exploit ethnic strife? It might. Or, as bad as the usual may have been, might Panamanians opt for a more moderate, ordinary next leader? There will be some of those to choose among in this process, too.

It becomes a problem when we have but one round in the general elections. Get a half dozen or more people on the ballot and a fringe candidate can come to office with a quarter of the vote. That candidate could then turn out to be an admirable leader but would always have his or her legitimacy questioned. That, too, can be destabilizing.


‘LOOK! It’s a Jew-ish space laser!’ An unattributed photo of Marjorie Taylor Greene and George Santos during the speaker election marathon, widely posted on Twitter.

A halfway House for the weird

Let’s not get too nostalgic for the way things were. However, a US House of Representatives that mainstreams QAnon will have entertainment and not much else that’s positive to offer a country with serious unmet needs. Don’t expect this show to be long-lasting.


1718 portrait of Voltaire by Nicolas de Largillière.

I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.


Bear in mind…

Human beings have an inalienable right to invent themselves.

Germaine Greer

Should you shield the valleys from the windstorms, you would never see the beauty of their canyons.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

It is very simple to be happy, but it is very difficult to be simple.

Rabindranath Tagore


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