Jackson, Dead reckoning with just over four months to go

Yes, let’s keep in mind polls that show Martinelli ahead for next May’s elections. Also consider the Panamanian constitution and laws, the tendencies of a Supreme Court whose members were chosen by Martinelli’s political enemies and what the ex-president’s camp is able to show at the moment. Think Panamanian history, too. Screen shot from the Twitter/X feed of Martinelli’s right-hand man.

Cassandra’s curse and Muhammad’s gift?
Those this editor lacks. HOWEVER…

by Eric Jackson

Dead reckoning is not a system Alice Cooper invented to figure things out. It’s a tool used by navigators of the seas and the skies to come up with the approximate position of the vessel or aircraft in which they are riding. Set aside the medieval charts that show where the sea monsters are supposed to be. Figure in where you were last known with certainty to have been, the direction you have been heading and speed you have been going and elapsed time of your journey so far. Estimate significant air or sea currents if applicable. How modern a technique? Unlikely to have been possible before the voyages of Zheng He and Magellan, dependent on the later than that invention of the watch, but somehow ancient mariners found places like Hawaii, Easter Island, the Canary Islands and Greenland before any of that.

In politics dead reckoning is a multidisciplinary attempt at prediction that takes into account history, polls, events as they have happened and as they are scheduled to happen, approximate knowledge of who is who and what, frank admissions of what is unknown and old adages like the one about how in electoral politics a month can be a lifetime. The distractions in that field aren’t guesswork maps with sea monsters but the deceptions of modern propaganda techniques.

Also, as has been this reporter’s downfall at times, wishful thinking.

Don Ricky, seasoned veteran of the bused-in rent-a-crowd for his political demonstrations? Monday was supposed to be his big show, his vigil in front of the Supreme Court. By the images sent out by the Martinelli camp there was no large crowd, nor was the vigil and all-nighter. None of the popular passion and personal commitment of the vigil that opponents of the mining colony mustered in the same place a few weeks before. Competent political counsel should have seen that coming, and known that comparisons would be made.

Considering various factors, the show didn’t go well for Martinelli. With polls suggesting broad support, the event suggested shallow support. With members of his former presidential circle facing trials or appealing prison sentences left and right and his own sons having pointed the finger at him while copping pleas to US money laundering charges in a federal district court in Brooklyn, does the absence of many faces from the old crowd and the apparent little blunder in front of the court suggest that Martinelli can’t get competent political advice anymore? OR that he can and does, and that the astute ones are telling him that his cause is most probably a lost one?

Way back when in the USA, I watched, participated in, sometimes helped to organize, various fizzled event of the movement to end the Vietnam War. It was still forced to an end, most of all by the Vietnamese who fought on despite a million deaths but also by US domestic politics, in which the antiwar movement made it impossible for the US war effort to continue as the hawks wished it to do. You don’t want to predict history on the basis of one minor event.

But if the high court peremptorily throws out Martinelli’s latest motion to overturn his conviction and more than 10-year prison sentence for laundering the proceeds of graft and using them to buy the EPASA newspaper chain between now and the beginning of March, it surely means two things. First, Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal is off of May’s presidential ballot. Second, the court order confiscating El Panama America, La Critica and Dia a Dia takes effect for the weeks running up to the election, leaving Don Ricky without those proxy voices to push his Plan B, C or D.

(It’s a BIG DEAL what happens to those newspapers, in this journalist’s estimation. A national university students’ newspaper to upgrade the Panamanian talent pool and put a coming generation’s ideas and attitudes into a public spotlight that it now lacks? The devolution of one of those media to a collection of all who worked for the EPASA papers in the 21st century, for them to run it as a worker-owned cooperative? More likely, an auction to sell the properties to one or more rich people who want to be political power brokers. Worse yet, a PRD power grab to make those papers into some approximation of what the media scene was like in Noriega times.)

So if Martinelli’s fortunes collapse over the coming weeks? Polls, and a sliver of history, suggest that PRD standard-bearer Gaby Carrizo, given the party’s pretty solid 30 to 35 percent of the electorate, is poised to step right it. He is running second to Martinelli in most of the polls.

The thing is, the Panamanian norm is to throw the party that holds the presidency out of power at the next opportunity. Even more persuasive to this observer is that José Gabriel Carrizo Jaén is a national joke. The exception to the trend? That was the stolen election of 1994, when between a dictatorship that had its progressive aspects under General Omar Torrijos passed into the hands of the totally out-of-self-control Manuel Antonio Noriega, who not only had his guardia goons but also the Electoral Tribunal at his disposal. They ended up creating a “margin of victory” for the Norieguista hopeful by throwing out all the votes from San Miguelto, atop other frauds and abuses. My guess is that today’s PRD bosses don’t have the sort of institutional control that their predecessors of 1984 did.

My guess is that in May the strikes of 2022 and 2023 will weigh heavily on the minds of persuadable voters. Those who think it just and fitting that all the public school teachers did not get paid on time and whose primary passion is that they fear and loathe the militant SUNTRACS construction workers’ union will heed the advice of business leaders – who are divided among themselves for this election. The bigger passion, noteworthy on this day of mourning for those innocents who were slain in the 1989 invasion, is the issue of colonialism. Panamanians are generally appalled at the environmental devastation that came with the Petaquilla gold mine and the First Quantum copper mine – the former of which Ricky Martinelli figured among the main shareholders for a brief moment. Much worse this year, however, was the wholesale sellout of the Panamanian national territory and political processes to a rapacious foreign entity in many ways reminiscent of Belgium’s King Leopold’s mining operation in The Congo. There are plenty of Panamanians willing to sell this country to the worst sort of thugs for a bag of groceries but I’d like to think that most voters have more patriotism and more common business sense than that. It ought to translate to an advantage to those candidates who are and always were against the mining colony.

However, it’s an eight-way race without a second round of voting. The winner will surely be a candidate against whom most voters cast their ballots.

Not being Cassandra, the character from Homer’s epics whose curse was the gift of perfectly accurate prophecy which, however, was never believed; nor Muhammad bin Abdullah, the orphan who grew up to be a merchant and then the prophet whose words and deeds all these centuries later still inspire the world’s many Muslims to actions usually beneficent but also sometimes misguidedly vile.

A prophet I ain’t. But I look at things as they are and by my dead reckoning figure out our true current position,, factor in likely coming events and extrapolate to expect that the people now leading in the presidential polls won’t be the next president of Panama.


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