Editorials: Sticky fingers; Tragedy; and Spooks and leaks

in harm's way without full protection
Bomberos sent in to fight a massive toxic fire on Cerro Patacon without the needed equipment or the most basic protective clothing or breathing apparatus. Photo by the bomberos.

The health issues will be denied but the political rot won’t be forgotten

The morning that this photo appeared on social media, the lead story in La Prensa was about how the mayor, city council and a few top employees of Santiago, the provincial seat of Veraguas, passe an addendum to the city budget to divide a $260,000 tax-exempt pay raise among themselves.

The morning before that, La Prensa led with the tale of five no-bid contracts for Panama City’s Carnival celebrations being rejected by the comptroller general for crude disregard of the nation’s public contracting laws. Also above the fold in that issue was a story about how the National Assembly amended its own budget with a more than $86 million raise.

Yes, the most egregious members of the political caste will place the reports by media of various hues about what they are doing on a spectrum running from yellow journalism to organized crime. Then, if they act in accordance with traditions, they will pull some other self-interested fast ones during Carnival when few people are looking.

Will it degenerate to a faux-passionate set of arguments about who is better or who is worse? Probably it will. At the next elections, will we see a trend of distrust and disgust that sends most or many incumbent down in defeat? Panamanian history has precedents for that, too.

More than a year out from the next general elections, it’s smash-and-grab time, underway in earnest a bit earlier than usual. Public officials, both elected and appointed, are grabbing what they can when they can in anticipation of at least five years wandering in a political wilderness where the patronage streams run dry.


A crash between a bus loaded with some 60 migrants traveling from Darien to Gualaca and a minibus has, at most recent count, has left a death toll of 33. It’s awful. President Cortizo has led the nation with a proper and compassionate example of decency.

Awful tragedy in Chiriqui

Nito has said appropriate, compassionate things for the moment.

Already neofascist types are railing against those who were killed or injured. Discount or discredit what they say, perhaps, but we should NOT ignore the dangerous presence of such types in Panamanian society and electoral politics.

Then, from people who live in the area, come tales of how unsafe that road is. We need a dispassionate investigation of that, and whatever happens — let’s hope not a convenient and facile assignment of blame — Panama should get serious about road safety issues again for a change.

~ ~


The Martinelli regime orders a crime wave, back in 2011, notwithstanding court decisions that none of this ever happened. Part of a document released as part of #PegasusPapers international team journalism effort.

Is the editor this horrible spy?

The US intelligence agencies’ caution about protecting information sources and mean of gathering it is understandable but way overdone.

For starters, once information that had been secret is publicized at large and reasonably well confirmed, the pretense that it’s secret and only large corporations like The New York Times and The Washington Post may recount it or refer to it without being branded as traitors and subversives is grossly abusive. Over the years The Panama News has reported as best it can about things like the nature of Plan Colombia and its participants, the use of the former Howard and Albrook airfields for international military / political operations directed at other Latin American countries, the nature of the US-backed coup regimes in Honduras and Bolivia and so on. By loud proclamations and whispers, the American Embassy here has proclaimed that the editor is anathema because, as one diplomat said to leaders of Democrats Abroad, “We don’t represent the same interests.”

Earlier, a former US ambassador to here warned the editor about publishing diplomatic cables that were already in the public domain after being released via WikiLeaks.

But of course The Panama News is not the US Embassy’s press office. The press, when doing its job properly, is not a publicist under the control of any government.

However, a word of advice for Uncle Sam – use the intelligence agencies to actually promote democracy rather than overhrow it when Washington politicians deem it convenient to do so. Release the files that the NSA and others most likely have on Ricardo Martinelli’s electronic surveillance / hacking / sabotage of media operations. Publish things that authoritarian, totalitarian or merely thuggish governments or political operators have erased from the Internet onto the Wayback Machine Internet Archive. Help Panamanians make more informed decisions.


L.D. Barkely, second from right, among the inmate negotiators with the prisoncrats in the 1971 Attica prison rebellion. When Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered the police to retake the prison, he was one of the men who were summarily slain.

We are men. We are not beasts and we do not intend to be beaten or driven as such. What has happened here is but the sound before the fury of those who are oppressed.

L.D. Barkley

Bear in mind…

God forbid that any book should be banned. The practice is as indefensible as infanticide.

Rebecca West

The greatest tragedy in mankind’s entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion.

Arthur C. Clarke

I was beginning to learn that our poverty – the lack of the most basic human necessities – was not caused or altered by the will of any deity. The source of our misery was not in heaven but on earth.

Dolores Ibárruri


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