Editorials: Panama City tax hike takes effect; and Puffed-up balloon rhetoric

tax bills
How people didn’t see this last August is a matter for introspection among the news media, a shock to little businesses in the capital, but probably not a fleeting incident for the incumbent mayor and representantes. Photo from Mr. Cubilla’s Twitter feed, the business’s name intentionally withheld.

Not at all the end of it

Slick maneuvers! With no debate and nobody sounding the alarm, Panama City’s representantes and mayor passed a hefty increase in relatively small taxes that mostly affect the smaller businesses in the capital. That was in August, and it wasn’t until this year’s tax bills arrived that many people noticed it.

It wasn’t until after the nation’s largest political party — the one to which President Cortizo, Mayor Fábrega and a working majority of the city council belong — got into an internal argument about the in crowd of incumbents avoiding primaries that people started saying things about this. How could this happen?

It’s easy to see, but let’s first look in mirrors. If journalism is the collective watchdog, there were reasons not to bark. The first of which is that this tax hike was jammed through in a time and manner with the intention of it not being noticed.

A second suspect has to do with the economics of news media organizations, including tiny operations like The Panama News. The corporate mainstream cuts costs by not hiring capable people to pore over each issue of the Gaceta Oficial and flag things like this for coverage and commentary. Small, largely volunteer operations don’t have somebody doing this either.

Also under the media business heading there is the outrageous but very real question of who matters. A tax hike that’s going to put a medium’s major advertiser out of business would matter. But to wealthy business owner this up to 200 percent tax hike is, in the grand scheme of things, a petty annoyance at worst. To a little fonda that’s hanging on the edge it might make a huge difference, but these businesses can’t afford to advertise in the large media so the tiny establishment’s cause for alarm will not immediately register in the corporate mainstream. Just another small business forced out, or if the proprietor is stubborn enough, will be forced to retreat into informality in order to continue. Nothing of concern to someone with the “proper” surnames.

Then, slightly more justifiably among both the media and political elites — including the opposition on city council as well — there is the slightly more justified argument to avoid demagoguery. At all levels, in public and private sectors, for individuals as well as organizations, our economy was in bad shape four years ago, then a pandemic hit us, then a far-away war disrupted the growing and shipment of some of the world’s more basic food staples and thus drove inflation through the roof. We could bring in all sorts of extraneous if valid arguments but pare it down to basics and the city and those who work for it need the money. To recognize that reality and not scream about it is no great journalistic sin, nor the most impeachable offense for an anti-PRD representante. It still should have been noted and commented upon last August.

The worst sins are about the mayor and representantes engaging in stealth politics, and the PRD move to exempt many of the participants from facing primary challenges. It should be noted that in the other parties there are also various moves to protect incumbents and hand-pick challengers in races thought winnable.

Let’s consider, aside from the legal challenge brought by former PRD secretary general Pedro Miguel González and the angry criticism leveled by former President Martín Torrijos, how it might actually work.

Eliminating a primary in a multi-member legislative circuit leaves open the option for annoyed members of the party faithful to vote for another PRD candidate but not the incumbent. It may not be such effective incumbent protection at all.

If the legal challenges fail, most of those getting free passes past the primaries will be local officials, mayors and representantes, in races where there is only one person to be elected. However, there really aren’t that many jurisdictions in which one party has a lock. There are more places in which one individual may have a lock, on whatever ticket that person may run. History suggests that the PRD will not hold onto the presidency for a consecutive term. With all of his gaffes and nonstarters, it’s difficult to imagine another term for “Tank of Gas” Fábrega. Will we see another election in which voting against all incumbents is a noteworthy trend? People with reason to promote that idea could have great success with, using, among other things, this stealthy tax increase to sweep away the majority of PRD members and those non-PRD members who voted with them last August out of office. 

It’s possible, even likely, that the PRD loses control over the Panama City municipal government over this stunt. Not that there aren’t other compelling reasons. Not that this tax hike directly affects most city residents. However, it’s a good reminder of with whom and what the voters will have to deal.


Well, that’s ONE hypothesis about the case. It’s not more notably divorced from reality than the things many Republican elected officials and acolytes have been saying.

Yeah, THAT’S the ticket!

Kari Lake, crouched in a field and looking up with her goose gun. Rather immediately, folks who live a bit closer to reality started to post jokes about it.

Delusional acolytes still glom onto Ms. Lake, from coast to coast.

PAUSE to delete and erase foolish things Republicans said about the Chinese observation balloon. ESPECIALLY now that it turns out that Trump ignored several of these during his administration. Except that Kari Lake is slow on the switch, being obsessed with other things. 

Time for new spins, new denials! But hey, that’s no huge deal. Most of the “fine people” — as Trump put it back in 2017 — who deny that the Holocaust ever happened vote with the MAGAs no matter what.

There are particular details about the purposes and effects of those balloon overflights that will not be made public information for many years to come. But Joe Biden promptly issued a ‘look and see and bring it down when it’s safe to do so’ order. The MAGAs may bait him and accuse him of being a senile old man. Biden showed us that he’s got his wits about him and he makes prudent decisions.


Malcolm X in Mecca.

When I was born, I was black. When I grow up, I’m black. When I’m ill, When I die, I’m black. But you – When you’re born, you’re pink. When you grow up, you’re white. When you’re ill, you’re green. When you go out in the sun, you go red. When you’re cold, you go blue. When you die, you’re purple. And you have the nerve to call me Colored?

Malcom X

Bear in mind…

Tolerance is forever a work in progress, never completed, and, if we’re as intelligent as we like to think we are, never abandoned.

Octavia E. Butler

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.

Galileo Galilei

We get a lot of strength from many principles including reciprocity (you are me and I am you) and that gives us strength as women and this connection with life and the web we have among each other.

Aura Lolita Chávez


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