Editorials: Environmental health; and Death squad boys

Cerro Patacon on fire in a major way for at least the 10th time in the past four months. Photo by the Bomberos.

A health crisis that’s here and will get worse

We are told: “The Ministry of Health recommends the use of face masks in case of high smoke concentrations.”

Gee, thanks. If we have violent neighbors, do they also tell us to keep a supply of band-aids handy in the event that we are hacked with a machete or shot?

People with chronic skin and breathing problems are already observably affected by all the garbage fire, but for years to come there are going to be more cancer cases and more respiratory ailments coming into Panama’s public and private health care facilities because of all the toxic smoke to which people in the metro area have been exposed. Add to that similar situations here and there around the country.

When there is clearly someone to blame, prosecute that person. But that doesn’t fix very much.

Yes, we need a state-of-the-science solid waste management system to replace the Cerro Patacon dump and its smaller cousins. Not a new contract replete with bid rigging and kickbacks, but viable solutions.

Panama also needs to adjust its health care system to meet a known need. Heavy on the expertise in the clinics and hospitals, light on the consulting fees and jobs for relatives and those politically connected. The sorts of things to come are not a huge medical mystery.

It’s way past time that Panama institutionalized, structured and funded environmental health. If proper public health advice would impose difficult burdens on the public treasury, let’s talk about that as a nation and make the best informed responses that we can.

Is kicking the throwaway lifestyle harder than kicking a heroin addiction? Painful but vital either way. Worse if we pretend that there is no problem.


Proud Boy Jeremy Bertino’s Right Wing Death Squad (RWDS) patch among his regalia. The guy pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and flipped to state’s evidence against his fellow gangsters. Cropped from a Wikimedia photo by Anthony Crider.

We made that mistake with Colombia’s right-wing paramilitaries and got infiltrated by the Clan del Golfo

Mauricio Garcia, the gunman who shot 15 people, eight of them fatally, at a store in Allen, Texas was Hispanic – by definition he must not be one of those white supremacists. So goes the theory circulated in Republican circles of the USA these days.

All moot by now because the gunman is dead, but we don’t want to give refuge to dark-skinned Cuban-American Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio either. And Augusto César Pinochet was also a Latino, and Seko Sese Mobutu was a black man.

Foreigners here are deportable by Panamanian law if they preach racial, ethnic or religious hatred. Although it’s usually white folks with colonial mentalities, the law here doesn’t go by the twists of US race relations.

When a cop ended Garcia’s rampage with a bullet, he was wearing one of those RWDS patches, too.

The sorts of US citizens who sport patches like that – and vandalize black churches, and attack the US Capitol, and brawl with people who oppose fascism or believe that the lives of black citizens matter, and threaten people online – are every bit as threatening to Panama as their Colombian counterparts who impress them so.

Migracion should be put to the task of keeping such people out of this country, and rooting out and expelling those who have slipped through. Nobody should be allowed to bring their foreign wars to our shores.


Ambassador Eleanor Roosevelt with the Spanish draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. UN photo.

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Bear in mind…

     Few people can see genius in someone who has offended them.

Robertson Davies     

     Man is a clever animal who behaves like an imbecile.

Albert Schweitzer     

     God gives every bird his worm, but he does not throw it into the nest.

Swedish Proverb     


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