Editorials: They’re off and running; and This atrocious war’s first birthday

All kinds of gambling and maneuvering are coming into season. If you expect your party to take a beating and may not even win re-election to your present post, why not run for something higher, not even with much chance to win but as a bargaining chip for future dealings? Or…. Graphic from Crispiano Adames’s Twitter feed.

First moves for a 2024 presidential race that’s bound to change

Ricardo Martinelli has announced that he’s running but he has upcoming trials that will probably harm his presidential ambitions. Conviction later this year in either the Odebrecht or New Business bribery and money laundering cases would get him ruled off of the ballot.

Even if he manages to beat both raps, the things that will be discussed in those cases will make him appear to be much lesser man. That would not faze his hardcore supporters, but they’re a minority and it may well prod other forces to unite to stop him.

The PRD is broken into four or more factions, and voters here tend not to keep a party in the Palacio de Las Garzas for consecutive terms. The conventional wisdom was that the clumsy corporate lawyer, Vice President Gaby Carrizo, will easily win the primary. A physician who represents the purely political patronage game seeks the embrace of most of the party’s door-to-door activists, National Assembly president Crispiano Adames, has as little charisma as Carrizo and might yet upset him. But now ex-legislator and former party secretary general Pedro Miguel González has jumped in, running more or less to revive the old left-side “tendency” and championing the proposition that the PRD should stand for something. As if to balance him out, on the right side of the party the neofascist PRD deputy from San Miguelito, Zulay Rodríguez, is running as an independent with her xenophobic, homophobic, anti-banker screeds. Should be interesting to watch, anyway.

There will be other parties and candidates, then alliances will be made, over the next year. People here aren’t satisfied with what we have but by and large haven’t rallied around any particular alternative.


Repairing a fiber optic cable in the rubble near Kyiv, to keep Ukrainians in touch with the world via the Internet. Photo by Yuriy Matsyk.

A year on in the Ukraine War and all is not well

What does Vladimir Putin have to show for the invasion he ordered? Huge Russia, a country rich in resources, people and cultural heritage, did not waltz into Kyiv to the adulation of crowds. A fortune that Russia could not afford to blow has been blown on a war based on the miscalculation that Ukrainians would not fight. There have been heavy Russian battlefield casualties. Although any Russian opinion about the war other than enthusiastic (or faked) support is illegal there have been implicit and explicit expression of displeasure. The flagship of Russia’s warm water fleet, the Moskva (Moscow) has been sunk. The undersea gas pipeline that was to make Germany and much of Western Europe dependant on the Russians for energy has been blown up by US and NATO divers. The bridge that was to unite parts of Ukraine seized by Russia was hit with a truck bomb. Russia is diplomatically and culturally isolated in the world, and even if Western sanctions have not been all that effective, the cost to Russia is an increased economic dependence on trade with China. Go back seven or eight centuries to when Russia was a vassal to invaders from its east – Russians think that way – and it becomes an unpleasant prospect.

Ukraine is devastated with many lives lost, many wounded, its cities bombed into rubble, its farm production impaired, its ethnic divisions inflamed, its citizens personal freedoms reduced due to wartime necessities, its electrical system and other infrastructures devastated. It’s not the first time in its history that Ukraine has been a battleground for greater powers, in person or by proxy. Millions of Ukrainians have fled abroad.

Who’s winning? Which side will prevail in the end? If Kyiv, with Mr. Zelensky as Ukraine’s president, holds on for the duration, he’s the great national hero and Mr. Putin, however he may want to spin it, is the big loser whose power will soon be cut off.

We don’t know how it will end. There will be more fighting, and probably a negotiated settlement that will displease the hardest core backers of each side. How far back into history do the borders go back? Ukraine would settle for the way they were on the day that the Soviet Union collapsed, but of course, Sevastopol was founded on the orders of Catherine the Great as home of the Russian warm water fleet and Russia would surely fight on to keep it. There are some ethnic Ukrainians scattered across Russia and a lot of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, many of the latter loyal Ukrainians. There will be no peace without respect for ethnic minorities.

There must be peace, however. Russia and its fifth column in Ukraine, and Ukraine and its Western backers, must sit down to talk, and come away from the table with an enduring end to hostilities.

There are some principles that need to be vindicated:

* No recognition of the claims of bygone or diminished empires should be taken as legitimate. Not Putin’s dreams of restoring imperial Russia’s or the Soviet Union’s possessions and spheres of influence. Not US dreams of being the unquestioned leader of a unipolar world. No NATO membership, nor adhesion to some Moscow-run alliance, for Ukraine. Can Putin’s presidency live with that? Probably not. But Russia surely can.

* The US neoconservative dream of US world leadership based on the diminution of Russia, China and any other up-and-coming power needs to be seen as a nightmare for the rest of the world, a dangerous emotional disturbance that needs to be cured. If that ruins the US weapons and war economy, that would actually be a good thing for the personal and family economies of most Americans. Haven’t people yet figured it out? Daddy Warbucks isn’t the sort of guy who shares his wealth.

* Secessionist movements happen at different times and in different places but they are cruel and destructive. It was obnoxious for Putin to promote ethnic Russian secessionists in Ukraine. It would be obnoxious for him to promote that Republican extremist who is supporting red state secession from the United States from her seat at the US House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee. Did Ukrainians take violent military action to prevent the dismemberment of their country by Russian-backed secessionists? That is how such things normally work. Ukrainian military action to keep their country whole is not, was not and should never be an excuse to dismember the country.

* The notion that citizens of a lapsed or reduced empire who remain in old outposts provide an excuse to annex the places where they are was the ploy that Hitler used to start World War II. First the forced marriage with Austria, then the Sudetenland grab, then the invasion of Poland on the pretext of bringing Danzig (now Gdansk) into Germany. Any old Zonians who have the Canal Zone Forever delusion should forget about that reactionary idea, too. Imperial irredentism is by its very nature a breach of world peace.


Picasso self portrait, 1901.

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.

Pablo Picasso

Bear in mind…

I am gradually approaching the period in my life when work comes first. No longer diverted by other emotions, I work the way a cow grazes.

Kaethe Kollwitz

Prodigious in concessions to the interoceanic railroad company, generous to the extreme with implacable speculators, we did not understand that giving the territory was giving the dominion, and that giving the land for permanent and costly works was almost giving the territory.

Justo Arosemena

Men often ask me, ‘Why are your female characters so paranoid?’ It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.

Margaret Atwood


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