Editorials: Times change; and Being prudent about climate change

A mixed message? President-elect José Raúl Mulino with the new sash he’ll wear on July 1, flanked by former President Mireya Moscoso and soon-to-be First Lady Maricel Cohen de Mulino. Mulino, who rode in with a minority in the presidential race and less than that support for his legislative caucus, will take over from a spectacularly failed PRD administration to lead a country whose voters are mostly annoyed with the political caste in general. The next president has taken a long, roundabout journey through the political scene and has many old friendships in addition to his emphasized ties with Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal.

Times change – let’s hope that you didn’t bet that they wouldn’t

On paper at least, the Panamanian government is taking a turn to the right. It’s unwise to get too stereotypical about that, or to take all of the campaign and post-election rhetoric at face value. We can more or less know/ what has gone before, but now is a different time. We can notice what President-elect Mulino said en route to the day when he puts on the presidential sash, but only partially know the pressures that he’s under now and will be under when he takes office. Best to wait and see.

Once upon a time someone in the gringo community here wrote a book in which she argued that Panama’s elite families and the business and political leaders they produce tend to be lazy, incompetent and dishonest, but to get by in this country you should suck up to them. What to do now, if you attached your hopes and dreams to a powerful person who was unceremoniously dumped by the voters on May 5?

If you are not a Panamanian citizen, be respectfully polite but not fawning in dealings with Panama’s truly or pretend powerful. Get by as best you can without depending on their sponsorship. A constant chase to be in with the in crowd is neither a secure nor a rewarding way to live.


Take prudent notice

Our El Niño drought and the water problems both for households and the canal seems to have run its course. Meanwhile, sea levels are rising. A whole community on one of the San Blas Islands has been forced to move to the mainland.

This is not like some annual land crab migration. Gardí Sugdub had been inhabited for more than 500 years.

This is not a time to accept climate change denial in high places. We might laugh at the readiness to accept all of the worst ideas from the USA, but this is no laughing matter.

Ask archaeologists where in Panama the evidence of the great migration across the Bering Straits and through the Americas down to Tierra del Fuego might be found and the usual answer is underwater. Those who made the trek on foot would likely have walked along the beaches and back in those times sea levels were significantly lower than they are now.

Look at the places that flood now, and figure that it will get worse.

So, as somebody’s signature development at public expense, do we put a railroad on low, coastal ground or do will build uphill just a bit, so that 20 years from now we may have to spend some more money to detour around new flood plains? Do we want to build new residential communities on beaches next to rising seas? Will “tourist development” become synonymous with “throwaway architecture?”

Panama’s debt crisis is real and serious, but it will be short-lived compared to our climate crisis. The latter problem, however, can be demoted from a “crisis” to just a fact of life to which we can adjust with some prudent planning.


Clara González de Behringer, a public domain archive photo. As a student she was a founder of the National Feminist Party. At the age of 27, in 1925, she became the first woman to practice law in Panama and later was this country’s first juvenile judge. She spent parts of her life in the United States and married an American civil engineer. She taught criminology, family law and juvenile law at the University of Panama, where she is honored by a monument on the central campus.


Feminism is the struggle of women to achieve the fullness of their lives, or the supreme effort of women to acquire all the rights that by nature belong to them on equal terms with men.

Clara González

Bear in mind…

A nation that draws too broad a difference between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools.


Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

James Baldwin

Some third person decides your fate: this is the whole essence of bureaucracy.

Alexandra Kollontai


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