Editorials: The coming government’s challenges; and When HE grows up…

At least we’re now getting some rain! But the empty billboard above the pedestrian overpass is a common reminder that the politicians who will take office on July 1 will face a troubled economy. Photo by Eric Jackson.

The big transition issues

The first issue will be Ricardo Martinelli. Will Mulino want appear as he campaigned, and as many presume, just a front man answering to and following the orders of the former president? Even when he is the president and doesn’t have to do that? Giving his old boss safe passage to Nicaragua would prompt some protests, to be sure, but it would put the problem that much farther away, in a place where press freedoms are severely curtailed and the government won’t want all that publicity.

Some noises coming from the Martinelista camp posit Martinelli on the street and back into political action, with the ex-president not interfering with Mulino’s executive duties but being put in charge of arranging a right-wing coalition in the legislature.

Constitutionally, Martinelli might get his sentence commuted, but could not get a pardon. Will there be an attempt to ratify the theft and laundering of more than $70 million in public funds that allowed him to buy control of the EPASA newspaper chain?

What would the Supreme Court say about such things? What would the US government say? What would international financial institutions say? Would citizens who could take to the streets and shut down the national economy do that? What might the police do?

The debt

The new government will be severely constrain by the huge national debt that was run up by the current government, especially by Benicio Robinson’s majority in the legislature and grasping PRD local officials. Part of the debt problem for Mulino and potential RM / PRD alliance is that the next legislature will pick a new comptroller general and there will be strong objections to yet another one who looks the other way. Do we get a next comptroller who looks back and conducts audits of how we got into our current debt crisis and who the beneficiaries of improper money moves may have been?

In any case the debt is a huge constraint on good things or bad things that the government will be able to do. It will functionally mock some of Mulino’s more expensive campaign trail promises.

Rolling foreign dice

The Biden administration quite aptly called Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal and his two sons crooks. Is Mulino betting on Donald Trump returning to the White House and reversing that attitude? Is he betting on the Panamanian people putting up with Trump as a political factor here?

Mulino talks about closer ties with the MERCOSUR trading bloc of Argentia, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, with seven other South American “associate states.” As in hitching our wagon to an organization that barely functions, largely due to the waves of weirdness coming out of Argentina? Would that balance off annoying our more traditional trading partners?

The mine

Mulino is making one of First Quantum’s lawyers head of his transition team and, having avoided debates and statements on the subject during the election campaign, now talking about a negotiated settlement with the thuggish multinational mining company. So, to close the mine, will the routine be that it must be put into operation again? See how well THAT one goes.


Damming Rio Indio to get more water for canal operations is a no-brainer. Just kicking out those who live there with little or no compensation would be a typical brainless and heartless rabiblanco way to go about it. Really, a typical Ricky Martinelli way. If that’s as far as it goes, it would still leave much of Panama with chronic water problems. But would debt considerations allow us to do much about that?

The border with Colombia

Darien as a mass migration route has been terribly destructive of what had been a pristine area and is unsustainable by any of a number of ways of looking at the issue. José Raúl Mulino says that he’s going to close that border and that the Americans should help. That problem would be the details. We wouldn’t be well advised to tell indigenous families with members on each side of the border since well before there was a border that they are now permanently separated. An overpriced wall with kickbacks to generate a slush fund for politicians to steal? That would be a true Martinelli solution but would be breached in no time flat.

But would any border wall, physical of figurative, have to be maintained by the presence of US military forces? Both Panamanian and US considerations would make that an explosively dangerous thing to try to do.

The United States stopping its economic strangulation of Venezuela would be a practical way to slow the migration. The United State raising artificial islands from the sea floor to create internationally supervised migrant camps might help. US forces going to war in Colombia against the right-wing paramilitaries turned broad-spectrum criminal gangs who dominate the human traffic across the border. Given Washington’s dysfunction, there would surely be fools in Congress who would hail such intervention into the problem of warlordism on the Colombian periphery as a good idea. It’s not.


This one survives…

After a night buried under the rubble of Gaza, this infant survives. When he’s an adolescent boy, or a young man, think he’ll thank Israel and its arms suppliers for the experience?

The trite conventional wisdom is that down the road a few years this is another recruit for Hamas. That would be an optimistic prediction from an Israeli perspective. The next generation of Palestinian freedom fighters – if they are forced to have one – will make their foes wish they had Hamas back.


Portrait of Benito Juárez, National Palace, Mexico City.
Wikimedia photo by Jorge Méndez.

Never abuse power by humiliating your peers, because power ends and the memory lasts.

Benito Juárez

Bear in mind…

We’re not going to have the America that we want until we elect leaders who are going to tell the truth – not most days, but every day.

Ann Richards

The one and only method of teaching men the true religion was established by Divine Providence for the whole world, and for all times: that is, by persuading the understanding through reasons, and by gently attracting or exhorting the will.

Bartolomé de las Casas

My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.

Jane Austen


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