Editorial: Maneuvers as Election Day draws nigh; and When Bibi goes off to war

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 82
Instability: thinking the unthinkable. Except that Panama has a history of what happens when we get governments that most people reject but the system doesn’t prevent them. We had coups d’etat in 1903 (the founding of the republic), 1927, 1941, 1946, 1951 and 1968, plus many other attempts. Democracy can fail here, and has done so.

Simplification, polarization, end-game alliances:
normal processes but an abnormal election year

A lot of the usual, and many would-be, “kingmakers” are delaying their bets until we get a court decision about whether José Raúl Mulino is on the ballot. By the plain letters of some constitutional and statutory requisites, he doesn’t qualify. He’s a major party candidate who didn’t make it through the primary process? He has no runnin mate? Reasonable disqualifiers.

Judges might also have reason to call those minor flaws that should be overlooked in favor of a major political force that has been leading in the polls being presented to the voters.

With a Friday deadline some 30 people or organizations have filed arguments pro and con with the Supreme Court. A decision that day would be 16 days before the vote. The timing might be used as an excuse to leave Mulino on the ballot, but that would be a victory for impunity for rich and powerful criminals, who can play exaggerated court delay games, lose on the merits of what they did, yet win political salvation and pardon through procedural manipulation.

Martinelli is a convicted criminal evading a more than 10-year prison sentence, taken in for some weird reason by the government of Nicaraguan strongman Daniel Ortega and, in violation of international law, conducting a political campaign from a diplomatic asylum. He, and now his proxy Mulino, have been campaigning for years by using stolen property – the EPASA newspaper chain – to promote themselves. “He stole, but he got things done” was the slogan at one point, but the general intent of the Panamanian constitution is that one who steals on a grand scale and gets caught and convicted for any part of that process loses political rights.

Let us see what the court decides, and hope that they nor we worry too much about public disorders if the Martinelista ticket gets decapitated. Ricky is great on to assemble rent-a-crowds, but these tend to be wimpish “What’s in it for ME?” opportunists, not folks read to risk very much to support any cause.

The polls, however, suggest that a substantial majority of Panamanians expect Mulino to be elected and then to follow Martinelli’s orders. Polls also suggest that most of the voters who expect that don’t support it.

Is there a timing issue about derailing this approaching calamity? It was entirely of Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal’s creation. The Supreme Court ought to kick him off of the ballot. Respected legal experts are divided, as of course are the usual lawyer hacks. Rubén Blades may be a renowned entertainer and a veteran is less stellar political activist, but he’s also a University of Panama and Harvard educated lawyer and thinks Mulino should be disqualified. In this Blades has the concurrence of locally famous legal scholar Carlos Bolívar Pedreschi. Equally renowned jurist Miguel Antonio Bernal takes the opposite point of view. And Don Ricky’s phalanxes of lawyers, delay specialists and others? We’ve heard enough from the mafia lawyers for too many years. Their big boss man stole more than $70 million from us and we’re supposed to look away toward promises of money in our pockets?

Anyway, get past Mulino and the rest is a disorderly mess. The PRD is split into three, the Panameñistas into two, MOLIRENA into God knows how many fragments and the left is not gaining much traction. The PRD standard-bearer, Gaby Carrizo, is ridiculous and at all levels there are party members willing to write him off in hopes he doesn’t drag the down-ticket candidates to defeat with him. There is an appearance that Roux’s support in large part rests on a Panameñista resurgence led by his running mate, former Mayor Blandón. Lombana’s rises seems to have been slowed by his running mate’s distancing from the notion of a secular state, and his own comments appreciating some authoritarian leaders in sister Latin American republics. Torrijos’s appeal becomes ever less compelling when his 2004-2009 presidency is examined.

Panama must choose and we are not sure of what choices there will be. More certain are the complexity and difficulties of our choice.

Are independents of the Vamos kind advocating a new constitution that includes the death penalty? We do need a new constitution – especially one with a second round of presidential voting when nobody gets a majority in the general election – but barbarous punishments would do nothing to make us safer. The Vamos gaffe reminds us to look more closely at the down-ballot races, and among the independents make distinctions about which independents.

If anybody ever told you that democracy is easy, that person was wrong.


Al Nakba
Al Nakba in 1948: ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, many of whom were forced to move to Gaza at the time. The conflict didn’t begin with that. Was it all provoked by the Biblical times massacre at Jericho? Or Roman times oppression? Or Muhammad times Islamization of Jerusalem? Or the Crusades? Or…? It certainly didn’t begin with the October 7, 2023 Hamas offensive, nor with the Israeli bombing of the Iranian Consulate in Damascus, nor with the Iranian response to that. It’s better to talk about how to stop this violence than about who started it and when. Photo from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace archives.

Neither history nor religion excuse this

It has gotten to the point that there are Republicans in Congress threatening Qatar for trying to broker a peace deal, when some years ago the United States suggested the Qataris as mediators between Hamas and Israel, who would not speak to one another.

It has gotten to the point that the essentially Republican billionaire arms merchant club AIPAC, has immersed itself in Democratic primaries to promote the idea that to question the word of the far-right Netanyahu government is antisemitic.

It is way beyond the point of brazen hypocrisy in the UN Security Council.

It’s becoming a national security issue in Panama, where neutrality is the main defense of our canal and where Israel has repeatedly attacked us – via the Mossad guy who organized Noriega’s UESAT death squad, via Israeli Pegasus electronic surveillance systems being deployed against all manner of journalists, dissidents and public officials in Panama, via Shin Bet veterans instructing Panamanian cops and presidential guards in racism, via Israeli backing for hoodlums who ran weapons to Colombian death squads through the Panamanian vessel Otterloo…. Yet there are would-be media kingmakers angling for a presidency aligned with Israel.

There are no saints to be found among the combatants, but there are war criminals to be brought to justice and punished. For the Israel massacre of Gaza civilians, for the Hamas violation of Islam’s prohibition against making war against noncombatant women, children and old people.

Mr. Netanyahu? Perhaps it would suffice to have him disgraced, tried and punished for mere financial crimes, over which he took his country to war as a distraction.

Let the United States not be dragged into a war with Iran. Let Panama not be hoodwinked into an alliance with Israel against Iran. The biggest possible step in the process is for Biden to cut off Netanyahu’s money and arms stream from the USA. For Panama the important thing is to be a dignified, principled, independent country that’s nobody’s partner in crime, that takes foreign policy orders from no other country.


who's afraid?
Virginia Woolf in London in 1939, a couple of years before her death.

        The older one grows, the more one likes indecency.

Virginia Woolf        

Bear in mind…

Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers.

Jimmy Breslin

I’ve always said that in politics, your enemies can’t hurt you, but your friends will kill you.

Ann Richards

We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others, that in the end, we become disguised to ourselves.

Francois de la Rochefoucauld


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










Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

I accept the Privacy Policy