Editorials: The candidates stumble out of the starting blocks; and Failure

she quits
After two weeks she quits. Anchorwoman and reporter for Martinelli’s NexTV Myrna Ortega won’t play make believe for Mulino.

Inauspicious starts

Playing it by eyeball from reading the news, perusing the social media and looking at the signs, it looks like the presidential race may be polarizing down to a contest in which Rómulo Roux and Ricardo Lombana are out front. Those are some imprecise impressionistic pictures, with no reputable pollsters’ surveys taken after Ricardo Martinelli’s definitive removal from the ballot and his replacement by José Raúl Mulino.

Exit the RM party’s campaign spokeswoman, veteran television journalist Myrna Ortega. She objected to the ridiculous, as in Mulino’s claims that old polls make him the front runner. First of all, misrepresenting public opinion polls as a campaign tactic is a crime under Panama’s election laws. Second, Ortega is a young working mother with a professional life after this election to which she might look forward – but not if browbeaten by desperate men to sacrifice her reputation. The damage would not only be a stint as purveyor of fake news, but also doing so at the apparent direction of Ricardo Martinelli, who in turn is under the protection of a Nicaraguan regime that criminalizes journalists and news media that it doesn’t like. There are political cults to whose members such things don’t matter, but a reputation as a liar and a scab would be toxic to a journalist’s future. 

(Old polls?” La Prensa reports a poll taken beginning after Ricky Martinelli had fled to the Nicaraguan Embassy and ending before the Electoral Tribunal made it official that the guy was off the ballot, wherein Mercadeo Planificado SA found Mulino in a hypothetical lead with 26% of the vote and a virtual three-way tie among Lombana, Torrijos and Roux as just over 20%. That poll concluded a week ago, which can be a long time in a volatile political situation.)

Meanwhile an apparent gain for Rómulo would be directly at the expense of Gaby Carrizo. A faction of the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement – MOLIRENA – has broken away from the party leadership that’s formally allied with the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party whose standard bearer is José Gabriel Carrizo and thrown its support behind Roux. That leaves both parties of Gaby’s forlorn coalition fractured, with legislator Zulay Rodríguez and former president Martín Torrijos having broken away from the PRD to run their own presidential campaigns before this MOLIRENA split.

The PRD presence is still very much in evidence around the country. They showered their local elected officials with money, some of which has been spent intelligently and apparently in the public interest on public works. But day after day the PRD-MOLIRENA majority in the National Assembly and party activists in public jobs demonstrate sticky fingers, giving the classic impression of the smash-and-grab period of a government not long for this world.

The outward signs of Lombana and his Otro Camino movement are lesser if you just look at the sign wars, but log onto X and up near the top of the Panama trends you find “Gracias a Lombana,” a wave of snide, largely anonymous or pseudonymous put-downs of the insurgent candidate. As if SOMEBODY feels threatened enough to be runninng a Stop Lombana campaign. Is it a threatened front runner? Is it someone who needs to get past Lombana to challenge the leader? Is it that Lombana is actually the leader?

uh huh
The Carrizo campaign’s promises look ridiculous because they ARE ridiculous. Were the country not so deeply into debt that might be another matter.

The poll paid for and published by La Prensa has Carrizo in sixth place and single digits, hard to believe given the historic hard PRD base and easily questioned when found by a marketing firm not especially distinguished in political polling. Is it a hardcore fanatic with political science and history degrees delusion to think that there actually is a difference between measuring and mobilizing voting trends and selling potato chips? That’s the viewpoint of this observer, whose error rate is somewhat less than that of Cassandra and who isn’t even the pope.

Speaking of errors, isn’t the Carrizo campaign one of the PRD’s worst? But then think about it. The vice president with the goofy grin and the family ties to the strip mining industry that most Panamanians despise is, by the ordinary cycle of alternation in Panamanian politics, not going to be elected president. But in five years, might he remake his public image and come back to win? Never know. Plus the guy is not so desperately poor that his only option for the future is as a perennial candidate and this reporter lacks the ability to read his mind.

Neofascist propaganda.

The PRD is a member party of the Socialist International, and Zulay Rodríguez until just a few days ago held a seat in the National Assembly to which she was elected on the PRD ticket. She hates immigrants of all sorts, she’s anti-abortion, like almost all of the other candidates she likes to beat up on the queers. Big into denying science, she seems to claim God-like powers to stop pandemics without vaccines.

Now that Martinelli is out of the race, she’s making her move to grab at least a share of his part of the vote from old polls. However, the lady has scandals of her own. As in under criminal investigation for allegedly stealing gold from a client of hers. As in one of the upscale politicians named for getting Panamanian government money for her kid to go to a university in the United States. As in the US State Department’s anti-corruption czar has been in town talking about pulling visas from politicians and their families and she had her big run-in with Uncle Sam years ago when as a judge she let some Colombian drug suspects walk and under US pressure was removed from the bench.

Does the partisan history sound incongruous? Remember that before becoming Il Duce, the fascist leader who made war against Rastafari and ended up with his body hanging at a Milan gas station, Benito Mussolini was editor of a Socialist newspaper. That history was a big boost for the Italian strain of communism – even for decades after the commie partisans caught up with the disguised dictator, who carried papers saying he was a Spanish diplomat but couldn’t speak Spanish.

Strange things might happen, but odds are that Zulay Rodríguez Lu is not going anywhere. She might get a boost if it looks too much like the American Embassy is leading the charge against her. Even so, “doesn’t get along with the Americans” isn’t one of the credentials to win a Panamanian presidential election. Too many of us remember.

debate 1
On track? Mulino, if he cares to do so, will occupy the empty podium in the next debate. Maribel Gordón, the woman in the middle, seems en route to consolidate the historic leftist vote behind her but if she doesn’t go much beyond that it’s not enough to win the presidency. Big business is gathering behind Roux, but in La Prensa’s poll the lawyer with Morgan & Morgan trails Lombana by a hair. Now if Mulino can head off total collapse in coming debates….



Well intentioned, but still imperial hubris

It’s hard to fault the Biden administration for consulting with Caribbean neighbors to brainstorm a way out of Haiti’s ongoing horror story.

However, the United States has intervened in Haiti before, multiple times. On the same day that Blinken was talking, US military aircraft evacuated an undisclosed number of “non-essential US personnel” from the American Embassy grounds in Port-au-Prince. The morning after, Haiti’s titular president tendered his resignation in the face of an ex-cop’s gangster uprising.

Meanwhile, US diplomats are talking with seemingly everyone but the Palestinians to form a new government for the Palestinians. With the racist apartheid regime in Israel opposing anything genuine coming from that, of course.

In Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Syria, in Southeast Asia decades ago there were variations on similar themes.

Governing other countries from Washington, or choosing other countries’ leaders in Washington, is a recipe for failure. We can and should argue about the morality of it but as a practical matter it can’t be done with any long-term success.


de las Casas

The reason the Christians have murdered on such a vast scale and killed anyone and everyone in their way is purely and simply greed.

Bartolomé de las Casas

Bear in mind…

Everything that you receive is not measured according to its actual size, but, rather that of the receiving vessel.

Juana Inés de la Cruz

n order to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd.

Miguel de Cervantes

I believe that everything is political, and as such it should concern all of us. Authors who claim they don’t deal with politics in their work are being naïve, because even that is a political stance.

Elena Poniatowska


Contact us by email at thepanamanews@gmail.com

To fend off hackers, organized trolls and other online vandalism, our website comments feature is switched off. Instead, come to our Facebook page to join in the discussion.

These links are interactive — click on the boxes

click to donate via PayPal