Editorials, A crowded 2024 field starts to shake out; and Elliott Abrams

That was THEN. Ricardo Martinelli in a 2010 US Department of Defense photo. The US Embassy doesn’t want to be associated with the former president now.

Most important will be what PANAMANIANS think

With some definitions and eliminations, Panama gets closer to the time of negotiating 2024 election alliances.

The biggest decision still pending is the legal viability of Ricardo Martinelli, who my be disqualified from running by a criminal conviction. But then there would be the appeals, delays, motions for reconsideration and so on that could get him past the end of December without a confirmed conviction, which would leave him on the ballot. The defeat of his favored candidate in his old party – Yanibel Ábrego in Cambio Democratico – is a sign that whatever the would-be caudillo’s legal condition might be at the end of this year, his political condition is deteriorating.

Panamanians by and large don’t want the usual stuff, the usual politicians, the old parties. To Rubén Blades, that leaves the independents or the new party, Ricardo Lombana’s Movimiento Otro Camino. It’s interesting that the entertainer and former tourism minister’s take on the situation treats independent left candidate Maribel Gordón as a factor serious enough to mention but completely ignores independent neofascist candidate Zulay Rodríguez, who leads the race for signatures in support of an independent candidacy.

Are we about to see a race with five would-be establishment candidates fighting for the middle – and by and large avoiding being pinned down on any specific proposal of substance – with Zulay and Maribel and the right and left independent bookends? In a seven-way race with our first-past-the-post one-round system of picking presidents what MOST Panamanians do or do not want becomes ever less important. It becomes a matter of who can muster a plurality in a crowded field. Like the last time, really, but with the effect accentuated.

Then we get into whom Uncle Sam would accept. Too many commentators place too much emphasis on this, but we know from Fourth of July invitations by the US ambassador that Washington views neither Martinelli, Rodriguez, Gordón nor Ábrego as worthy. There is nothing too shocking about those rejections, and nothing too inspiring about most of those hopefuls who were invited. Some of the latter are downright ridiculous but perhaps our next president.

Let’s do something wildly radical instead – consider what WE want beyond the day after tomorrow, consider what PANAMA needs for the generations after today’s voters are all dead and buried. It’s a decision for Panamanians, not the US State Department, not hypothetical foreign investors, not the most fawning pundits of the rabiblanco media. It’s what WE want.

Set aside the mercenary traitors who would sell their country and only wish for a slightly bigger bag of groceries in exchange for their votes. Set aside the automatic partisans. Such folks are real and will be counted, but let the rest of us decide what WE want. An intolerant, authoritarian and corrupt regime on the right – one that brands the people of our sister Bolivarian republics as scum and a wide range of “others” as less than fully human – is a distinct possibility. So is a hard turn to the left, which if things are not clarified could have us wondering who is the “vanguard” and who is the “front.” So is some odd centrist coalition that might yet emerge.

What do WE want? There would seem to be a consensus for a new system that ends all the political patronage, ends the five-year peculation cycles. But which deceptive, demagogic facsimile of such might be sold to the voters, especially the less educated ones?

Gee – we have to think? We have to study the options? We may have to sacrifice present comfort for the future of this nation?

Welcome to the hard real world, and let those of us who wish Panama well inform ourselves and choose wisely.


A brief Pakistani take on what Elliott Abrams is, coming from an independent news organization that’s supported neither by governments nor corporations. Although Rashid News functions mostly in Urdu, they also do English and well understand US politics and history.

Say it ain’t so, Joe

Perhaps the way to go is to let the Republicans choose their representatives on bipartisan commissions, and perhaps this is exactly what Joe Biden did in his list of appointments.

However, from this latitude it looks awful. The guy who in the 80s never seemed to see a right-wing death squad that he didn’t like? The guy in the Trump administration who tightened the screws on Venezuela, sending tens of thousands fleeing to Colombia and then across our Darien border in hopes of reaching and getting into the United States?

Sure, imperial hubris is part of the US political mosaic and its inclusion in presidential appointments can be seen in positive terms as inclusion and representation. So could the appointment of racists or crooks.

The Elliott Abrams appointment doesn’t help Joe Biden in his efforts to unify Democrats ahead of next year’s elections. It also reinforces negative opinions about the United States all across Latin America. Plus, at a time of public revulsion about the dishonesty of Fox News and other MAGA media, a time when even a lot of Republicans are fed up with pathological lying as a political form, appointing a man who lied to Congress is an incongruous political message.

Wrong move, Joe.


1743 etching from The Life and Death of Jonathan Wild, the Great.

            Make money your god and it will plague you like the devil.

Henry Fielding            

Bear in mind…

If you are a dog and your owner suggests that you wear a sweater, suggest that he wear a tail.

Fran Lebowitz

There is always more misery among the lower classes than there is humanity in the higher.

Victor Hugo

I shall be an autocrat: that’s my trade. And the good Lord will forgive me: that’s his.

Catherine the Great


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