Editorial, The ex-ambassador’s misgivings

Looking back on it, a possible injustice is admitted. But looking forward, what the Panamanian government and its bank did to a man and his family – at the behest of the United States – is now pending before this country’s high court, with astronomical damages reasonably claimed. It’s unlikely that a US House of Representatives dominated by white supremacist Republican would allocate any funds to compensate Panama, its institution or victims who happen to be of Arab ethnicity. Photo of the BNP headquarters on Via España by the Presidencia.

Feeley’s misgivings about the Waked family’s persecution

“The United States is not a perfect democracy and if we have made a mistake, I think it is up to us to correct that mistake. I urge and hope that there will be a review and that the authorities will do their job.” Thus spake John Feeley, the former US ambassador who was the point man here for the hounding and dispossession of Abdul Waked, including the vetting of new owners for La Estrella and El Siglo.

For Panamanian national sovereignty, and for the cause of freedom of the press in general, it’s a grave matter when the government of the United States moves to determine who gets to own large media like the GESE newspapers. It’s also an ugly threat to both those involved and to fundamental freedoms when the American Embassy continues a long-running blacklist against media and individual journalists that don’t report or kill news stories according to the US government’s preferences.

The information control games are notorious, like the continued imprisonment and persecution of Julian Assange. They are also quietly effective, so as to make the one-time de facto Plan Colombia alliance between the United States and the AUC death squads forbidden history in the United States. The AUC later morphed into the successor AGC far-right militia that threatens democracy and violates human rights in Colombia, and into the Clan del Golfo crime cartel that smuggles drugs to the United States and Europe and human beings across the Darien Gap.


And WILL THERE BE any US review of what happened of any consequence? Can there be any thorough investigation and correction?

That would have to include a close and fair look at the US Southern Command’s ugly broad-brush smear campaign against Latin Americans of Lebanese descent in particular and against Muslims in Latin America generally. It has been couched in terms of concerns about Iranian influence in the region and fear of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah – “Party of God” – militia and political party, conflating those folks’ violent responses when US forces intervened in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s with fears about Islamist terrorism in the 21st century, which has not happened to any significant extent in Latin America. Yet while Lebanese plots in the region are hard to find, the crime wave and cruel terrorism of erstwhile Plan Colombia allies is real and ongoing and rarely make it to the short list of SouthCom briefings to Congress.

It might all be dismissed as another set of historical footnotes best left unspoken. However, Abdul Waked has sued the state-owned Banco Nacional de Panama for his immense financial losses when, at US behest and with US participation, it played a major role in dispossessing him of downtown Panama City’s Soho Mall. Panama’s Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case and Waked is demanding more money than the bank’s current liquid assets. Does a former US ambassador’s misgivings translate to reimbursing Panama and its bank for any losses flowing from a judgment in Waked’s favor?


Under arrest in Montgomery, Alabama, for “loitering” in 1958. Police photo distributed by AP at the time.

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Bear in mind…

You ask me why I do not write something.… I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words, they ought all to be distilled into actions and into actions which bring results.

Florence Nightingale

Take forgiveness slowly. Don’t blame yourself for being slow. Peace will come.

Yoko Ono

Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.

Carl Jung


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