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Polo Ciudadano, Postulaciones para la junta directiva de la ACP

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Gordón
Proponemos que se complementen con un programa claro de transformaciones

Saludamos postulación de candidatos/as populares a la Junta Directiva de la ACP

por el Polo Ciudadano

El Polo Ciudadano de Panamá saluda la postulación de algunas personalidades del campo popular y académico propuestos por un grupo de organizaciones populares, gremiales y sindicales para que cubran las tres vacantes que este año se producen en la actual Junta Directiva de la Autoridad del Canal de Panamá.

Por primera vez en más de 20 años, un sector del movimiento popular se ha animado a postular representantes y a exigir el espacio en la ACP que por derecho propio le corresponde al pueblo panameño y que ha estado copado por empresarios y oligarcas. Nos congratulamos de que se haga en el marco unitario que abarca a un número representativo de organizaciones.

Consideramos que la unidad en torno a esta iniciativa podría haber sido más grande de haberse convocado con antelación a un espectro mayor de organizaciones que, seguramente, habrían apoyado esta iniciativa e incluso podrían haberse considerado otras u otros representantes que, con igual legitimidad que los actuales, pudiesen haber sido propuestos.

Preocupa a algunos sectores populares la relación o vínculos en el pasado y ahora en el presente de algunos de estos postulados con el partido gobernante del PRD, y que de hecho puede que ya cuenten con la bendición de éste. Por otro lado, debemos tener en cuenta la experiencia negativa en otras entidades públicas, donde existen supuestas representaciones de gremios y sindicatos, pero cuyas actuaciones se desconocen por las bases, dando la impresión de que son absorbidos por los malos manejos del sistema.

Por esa razón, y sobre la base del apoyo que en principio damos a la propuesta de conjunto, el Polo Ciudadano propone a las personas nominadas, y a las organizaciones que las han propuesto, a formular un programa claro de transformaciones para la ACP y una guía de actuación la cual se comprometan a cumplir ante el pueblo panameño, quiere propuestas concretas y no frases demagógicas.

El Polo Ciudadano propone que, entre otros aspectos, las y los postulados consideren los siguientes criterios, reforzando así la representatividad de los sectores populares:

  1. Comprometerse a luchar junto al movimiento popular por una reforma total al Título Constitucional (título XIV), que fue pactado por el régimen nacido de la invasión norteamericana de 1989 y redactado por la oligarquía en 1994.
  2. Que el primer artículo de un nuevo título constitucional sobre el Canal de Panamá derogue el antidemocrático criterio de que el presidente de turno nombra una cantidad de representantes en la Junta Directiva a su criterio personal.
  3. Que los miembros de la Junta Directiva de la ACP sean electos democráticamente por el pueblo panameño, con una representación clara del conjunto de la sociedad: trabajadores/as, indígenas, campesinos/as, academia, gremios profesionales, etc.
  4. Que los/as representantes del movimiento popular en la ACP se comprometan a proponer una reducción significativa del salario del administrador y de las dietas de los integrantes de la Junta Directiva y del Administrador.
  5. Que se creen mecanismos concretos de consulta a las organizaciones populares, los sindicatos de trabajadores del canal, los/as profesionales y las universidades sobre el presupuesto de la ACP, sobre sus planes de desarrollo y mantenimiento, sobre su plan hídrico y sobre cualquier decisión importante en su administración.
  6. Que cualquier expansión de la cuenca del canal será clara y debidamente discutida y consultada con el conjunto de la nación, especialmente por los habitantes de las regiones afectadas cuyos derechos y opiniones deben ser respetados en todo momento.

 

 

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Editorials: Change in Panama’s courts (we hope); and The US impasse

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Corte Suprema
Once upon a time the building housed the better part of Gorrgas Hospital, where people quite often got well. As the seat of Panama’s Supreme Court of Justice the “patient” —  the rule of law in this country — has rallied a few times but overall become worse and worse.

With a new female majority, a formal end to political patronage is declared for much of the legal system

The prosecutors are still a problem, and the civil and administrative benches are so far not seeing the sweeping changes. However, seven of the nine members of the high court have declared most of the country’s criminal court judges and most of the public defenders’ jobs vacant.

The change in criminal procedure systems from the inquisitorial one flowing from Roman law and the Napoleonic Code to ad adversarial one partly cribbed from the Common Law systems, particularly those of the USA, had been a long time in coming. I was determined in Martinelli times that the two systems were so different that the judges and prosecutors for the phasing-in accusatory system (SPA, for Sistema Penal Acusatorio) would be an entirely different cast of characters than before.

Ricardo Martinelli had hoped and expected to extend his presidency via the election of proxies in 2014 and was well on his way toward stacking the system. However, in May of 2014 he lost.

Panama has no popularly elected judges. Magistrates of the Supreme Court are appointed for 10-year terms, not all at once but on a staggered schedule. The high court has supervisory control over the lower courts, although there had been a bit of progress toward a civil service system for lower court judges over the years. But adoption of the SPA was intended by Martinelli to totally disrupt that. Out goes Martinelli, in comes Varela, and in August of 2015 a civil service system for penal court judges was adopted — and put under the control of José Ayú Prado, a Martinelli appointee to the high court. It was argued that since the money had not been appropriated for the civil service system to be adopted — competitive exams, background checks and those sorts of things — a high court magistrate would be entrusted with the discretion to appoint. Ayú Prado appointed some 80 percent of the penal system’s judges. The public defenders, both for the accused at the various stages of the courts system and for those supposed to represent crime victims, were also hired by this “discretionary” political patronage system.

On January 3 two new Cortizo appointees, the relatively unknowns Miriam Cheng Rosas on the civil bench and María Chen Stanziola on the administrative bench, were sworn in. That afternoon the court plenum met with Ayú Prado absent (reportedly for depression) and Cecilio Cedalise abstaining, electing María Eugenia López Arias as the presiding magistrate. The next day Ayú Prado published his statement of what he owns, which he actually needed to do in 2013 when he joined the court.

On the sixth the court plenum declared all of the SPA judges’ positions to be vacant. It doesn’t mean that they are immediately fired, but that the process of replacing them with civil servants has begun. On the 11th President Cortizo said that a $15 million special budget appropriation will be forthcoming to finance this process. On the 13th the court plenum declared that all of the public defender posts are similarly vacant and those holding them stand to be replaced.

Might some of the current officials retain their jobs through the civil service system? Probably some will. Might this new departure be only new in that it brings in a bunch of PRD political appointees? Perhaps that might happen.

José Ayú Prado and Ricardo Martinelli just lost a crowd of their loyalists. The courts had already lost most of their believers in Panama. Other key components of the justice system — the civil and administrative judges, the prosecutors, the comptroller general, the electoral judges and the electoral prosecutors — remain in place.

We shall see what the new lineup, five women and four men, will deliver. Perhaps some more confidence in Panamanian justice, because there will be more reason for it.

  

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One common Democratic strategy chart. It’s likely that defending blue seats in Georgia, Arizona and Nevada will be great challenges, and as the election season advances Democrats may put Kentucky and Louisiana in play. How Dems do in November will in many cases depend on the approaches of the people whom they nominate.

So that betrayal only pays for a year or so…

One big issue in the 2022 elections is whether Donald Trump will get one or both houses of Congress answering to his beck and call. However, he will not be on the ballot. There will be all the usual vilification, but Democrats must convince US voters that they have worthy and possible things to offer. In many cases it will be about Democratic candidates for the US Senate running aginst Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema more than against the Republicans. A big win for Democrats can make these two senators irrelevant.

Then, strip away strategy and propaganda and what this year’s US elections are is a contest between the very rich who have taken almost everything and are demanding more, versus everybody else. The contest will be fought on shifting ground in which all manner of sleazy ploys to keep people from voting will be used. But then vote suppression might be just the issue that sends unprecedented crowds of angry Americans to the polls. Although there are plenty of state and local officials ready to take it away, there is a right under federal law for US citizens living abroad to vote for federal offices (US representative and US senator this year. Check your voting status and get registered now.

  

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English writer Charles Dickens, who grew up poor and was a court reporter as his “day job” at one point.

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for anyone else.

Charles Dickens

 

Bear in mind…

 

All formal dogmatic religions are fallacious and must never be accepted by self-respecting persons as final.

Hypatia of Alexandria

 

Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

C.S. Lewis

 

Once you give them the power to tell you you’re great, you’ve also given them the power to tell you you’re unworthy. Once you start caring about people’s opinions of you, you give up control.

Ronda Rousey

 

 

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¿Wappin? An old hippie’s mix / La mezcla de un viejo hippie

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Sandra
The young Sandra Sandoval, who just turned 51.
La joven Sandra Sandoval, que acaba de cumplir 51 años.

Dated, but never stuck in a time warp
Anticuado, pero nunca atrapado en un túnel del tiempo

Gene Chandler – Duke of Earl
https://youtu.be/kOcMdEImdy0

Samy y Sandra Sandoval – Gallina Fina
https://youtu.be/yHr8bHfiwzY

Séptima Raíz – De frente con Jah
https://youtu.be/qfEZeC77mcI

Joss Stone – Breaking Each Other’s Hearts
https://youtu.be/gteoLM5p00I

Luci & The Soul Brokers – Sal de Mar
https://youtu.be/JNMQfU9uzyg

Natalia Lafourcade – Mi Religión
https://youtu.be/mXUEjRiCXpg

The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go?
https://youtu.be/Na0wvihlRM4

Frank Zappa – Love Of My Life
https://youtu.be/3ips1AGCNj0

Los Silvertones – Mi Soledad
https://youtu.be/MnGk_XN4p_A

Jefferson Airplane – Good Shepherd
https://youtu.be/lOWX2-l788A

Patricia Vlieg – Alma Patria
https://youtu.be/yqU0i2ZdNH4

Mercedes Sosa – Al Jardin de la Republica
https://youtu.be/QfGTSYDHc7Q

Chrissie Hynde – Creep
https://youtu.be/r-HEuIEeSio

Keb’ Mo’ – Live at Nashville 2020
https://youtu.be/U5rq9c4uBME

 

Contact us by email at / Contáctanos por correo electrónico a fund4thepanamanews@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.

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Jackson, Catching up on the farm during a long Internet disconnect (3 of 3)

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Mama Dog
What?!? Leave a warm bed in the cool pre-dawn hours? The Mama Dog, I believe the senior dog by age in the household since El Campeón’s passing last year — although Fulita has more time in the household – solves that conundrum by jumping to the spot that I just vacated. How horrible of a problem is this? If I don’t keep the insects and arachnids off of her, I might end up getting bitten by fleas or ticks, or even get mange. Even though she lives a fairly sedentary lifestyle these days, she IS a dog. So, just like Fulita and The Gimpy Dog, right after any bath with flea and tick soap, after being washed and rinsed she will, at first opportunity, roll around in something. Fortunately, El Bajito isn’t a fishing village. But with their hunting instincts, dogs want to smell sufficiently gross so that any prey doesn’t get tipped off by an odor – either dog germs or the soap that people put on dogs. With The Mama Dog it’s generally dust or mud, depending on the season – or grass. Her habit makes me wash the sheets and pillowcases more often than I otherwise would.

Day two offline… and onto farm chores

by Eric Jackson

Conked out a little before nine last night, woke up a little after four this morning. Usual dark hours sleep time for me, which may be supplemented by a daytime nap. Started with some trials and errors about reconnecting to the Internet, but no such luck.

Was it time to brew some coffee? Would have been but I had this pitcher of very strong, bitter stewed tea. Yes, I know that this is horrifying to many. I took a slightly more than half-gallon pitcher, minced a turmeric root and tossed it in the bottom, poured in the boiling water, tossed in eight teabags – two each of green tea with lemon, sweet spicy chai, white tea with blueberries and plain black tea – and tossed in a couple of bits of tangerine peel. Then I just let it sit. There was still hot water left in the kettle, so with that I made a mug of chai and I didn’t stew it. That I drank with a few drops of lemon juice and some sucralose, a break from the tasty lifelong bad habit of sugar and a bit more lemon juice. That was yesterday morning’s refreshment, but a day later there’s this strong stuff in the pitcher. The hope is that the turmeric, medicine I take as last year’s head injury slowly heals, will be stronger along with the darker color and more bitter taste. The caffeine seems to be stronger as well.

With first light, and wanting to give my hands a rest from the machete work today, it was inspection time. First order of business, the Cuban oregano looked thirsty so I watered that. The Mexican oregano is doing just fine.

Then I went to check the battle lines of a chemical war against the leaf cutter ants. The southeastern corner of my 900-square-meter lot is and long has been problematic. The adjacent neighbors have long been into burning cut grass, fallen leaves, cleared brush and so on, just across from my fence. It creates good conditions for anthills, which don’t happen very much in soils that are built by just leaving the cuttings and droppings to decompose where they are. When the ants spread so that they put in entrances to my finca, or into the street or the public right-of-way, I will put hormitox – fenitrothion – into all holes into which I see ants coming and going, and adjacent entrances as well.

Leaf cutter ants are farmers. Their nests are built around underground chambers where they grow fungi on the bits of leaves and flowers that they deposit. They won’t EAT your spinach garden – just quickly strip it bare and take it away to fertilize their fungus garden. Fascinating, socialistic peasant insects. But then, the Nazis also claimed to be socialistic. When the leaf cutter ants visit my garden, I see the merit in the most embarrassing and terrifying moment of Patty Hearst’s youth: “DEATH TO THE FASCIST INSECTS!”

One of the big problems with hormitox is that it kills too many other things. Those beneficial to humans and also very busy socialistic insects, the bees, for example. It’s also toxic to people, dogs and cats.

Back in the 90s Panama’s IDIAP agricultural research institute was promoting a vine that leaf cutters will strip and take back to their fungus farm, vegetation which turns out toxic to the ants’ fungi. I wonder how it turned out, and if it was a failure, why so. It there had been no problem with it, I think they’d still be promoting it.

The anthills at the southeast corner and at the northeast, under the dying cashew tree, both look deserted after yesterday’s chemical warfare offensive. It would be no big surprise to see survivors create a new entrance and start anew.

On to the fence security inspection, mostly out back. In the latter part of 2021 my oranges were all taken, as were most of my lemons and many of my star apples. Instead of putting up food this past year, I gave away a lot of that stuff anyway. I just didn’t have the energy after last June’s attack.

Farming in Panama always entails some theft losses – or should we call it various degrees of aggressive gleaning? Civilized people don’t throw a poor man into prison for stealing a loaf of bread, nor for a piece of fruit or two. But the fruit rustler who will strip a tree or an orchard and haul it away in a truck to sell to someone else? Like cattle rustling, a more serious crime. Both sorts of serious agricultural theft are more frequently reported in Panama in recent years.

Next door in Colombia they have had massive cattle rustling, sometimes government supported as in the El Aro Massacre, but of course never officially admitted. A tactic of war? Of course. However, it’s a war over control of rural areas on the political periphery. Communism versus fascism, or drug-connected terrorism? There’s all that in rural Colombian political violence, to be sure – but generally the money from drugs is one of the prizes being fought for, not the cause of the violence. The political labels that rural warlords take on are about what it’s convenient to profess, not about any world view that goes much beyond self-aggrandizement.

We have land grabbing in Panama, too. The seizure and destruction of crops, farm animals and farms was common enough the last time that a major civil war was fought on the isthmus, the 1899-1902 Thousand Days War across much of what was then Colombia It was very ferocious in what is now Panama’s Cocle province, from whence these words are written.

There are no armies or paramilitaries in the field practicing such stuff here. There are, however, little gangster thugs who think that they can steal from foreigners and get away with it. Also reprehensible elected officials who preach that foreigners – and Panamanian citizens born to foreign parents – have no rights. There are even parents who think it somehow patriotic to send kids to steal from those of ethnicities they don’t like, be it the Chinese-Panamanian grocer or the gringo with fruit trees.

And then you have a lot of Panamanians who are poor, who if the choice is between grabbing a piece of fruit from someone else’s tree and not eating that day will take the fruit. The ancient farming tradition of the Jews, Christians and Muslims of growing where some fruit will fall off of the farm and into the public path and leaving that to whoever comes along also exists in Panama. Any religion that stands the test of time is against both hunger and theft.

The common wisdom here? The crops that you don’t want stolen, grow close to the house where they can be watched over. Accept that there will be some losses at the edges.

The fence inspection? First of all, in the front and on the sides I am and have been well aware of where people hop the fences to come onto my little farm. In the back I had my suspicions.

One breach in the back, through which certainly many of this year’s lemons went, looks to have been built by multiple strong adults to be used by children. As in a heavy, old rustic wooden beam wedged between what was the electrical connection for one if the maleantes now in prison for the attack on my home and person last June – only the concrete slab remains of that dwelling now – and my back fence, just where somebody small can come in amid and shielded by hibiscus bushes that don’t have pickers, rather than the thorny citrus trees. Nearer to the electric meter than to the fence a cinder block kept the little ramp propped up. Had it not been there, the wooden piece was heavy enough that it may have toppled that section of the fence. It was like a rustic log, cut to be flat on one side. My guess is that it was a salvaged pillar, or part of one, from a casa de quicha.

Do I want to get into where such traditional Panamanian mud and wattle homes have been removed nearby, in recent times? Start making allegations based just on that circumstance and one runs the risk of a criminal defamation charge, but far more relevant to an honest journalist, just guessing wrong and practicing sloppy journalism to some innocent party’s detriment is bad enough.

I removed the beam that was leaning against my fence, busted up the block that was partly supporting it, and tried to lift the beam to carry over my shoulder. No such luck. Two adults, or perhaps one with the proper tools, lifted that. Perhaps the metal pole behind the slab for the electric meter was used as a gin pole.

In the northwest corner of my lot, the fence pole was just hanging loose, upright but the concrete foundation having been busted. Looks to me like one of the building materials trucks that occasionally go down there clipped the corner.

So, what to do? Short term, reinforce the fence in places where people have been going over with more barbed wired, and perhaps some inconspicuous sharp things sticking up from the ground on the inside of the fence where one would come over. Some concrete to reset that corner post. Longer term, replace those hibiscus bushes – some of which are termite infested anyway – with some thorny plants that would be discouraging to hop into.

The de luxe edition Der Estoppel automated death ray guard tower? You may not deny! But I really don’t intend to kill anyone in an argument over fruit. These days, is it considered un-American to have a sense of proportion like that?

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Signs of human predation.

 

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Insect farmers crossing over from the neighbors’ yard get the hormitox treatment before they get my garden.

 

 

 

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Jackson, Catching up on the farm during a long Internet disconnect (2 of 3)

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Shaolin Temple approved
Inspection of a cleared fence line. See how, to the left of the photo, I have thrown down palm fronds and other dead vegetation around the chaya bushes and decorative palms to decay into compost? Part of the day’s machete work was to deposit the choppings along that part of the front fence to the right of the gate, and sowing seeds in the resulting brush pile.

After a peasant day

by Eric Jackson

Usually at this hour I would be issuing a black on yellow warning strip, recounting the day’s COVID-19 death toll (if any) and in one way or another reminding people that this epidemic is not yet over. I have been doing this since March of 2020. At first it was white on black, to advise of a deadly peril. As the big lockdown was ending, I changed it to the yellow caution light.

On this night it isn’t happening because both laptops are down and I can’t see the news. I went into Anton briefly and could have bought a hard copy of one of the morning papers but a bread ration for myself and the animals took priority. It’s the first day since a brief interlude after last June’s home invasion that I have not seen the news.

I spent part of the day, in brief sessions, working to get back online. The longest was trying to log on using the Anton bus piquera’s free WiFi, which wasn’t connecting to the Internet. Best I can tell, the old Lenovo needs a new video board and perhaps the HP just needs adjustments. Perhaps it’s worse on either or both counts.

Most of the day, however, was spent in farmer mode. A lot of machete chops, not all at once. Like taking down a blighted coffee bush that had been growing in a big plastic pot. Like chopping away an ornamental palm clump both to adjust the shade and sun mix and to deny an assist to those who would want to scale my front fence. Cutting away a tropical evergreen and a variety of sunflower bush, to keep them from crowding out a couple of adjacent chaya bushes just in side the side fence. Carrying all of this cut vegetation out front of the fence, to lay down the beginnings of some new compost. Cutting down some saril and distributing the seed pods among the long brush pile I was creating.

The some lifting and dragging. The pot that had the coffee plant, to a sunnier spot where I think I will plant the long green beans – but from last year’s produce, with no telling just how and with what it has hybridized. Pulling up ferns that had rooted outside the pot and throwing them on the new compost. Pulling out new aloe vera plants that had spread from the little pot, and moving that pot onto the porch. Moving the trimmed back fern pot onto the porch. Weeding and relocating more pots in which I had grown beans this year, with thoughts of growing turmeric and ginger in them this coming agricultural season.

Water carrying as usual – gotta bathe, gotta do laundry and dishes — and the watering that will need to be a daily dry season chore. The irrigation calculus is a balance of water supplies that are going to run down as the season advances and the food I want to grow for myself in these months. Drought resistant stuff, for sure – the chaya will not need to be watered, the oregano, basil, turmeric and ginger will need a little bit and the bigger questions are how much in the way of beans, spinach and peppers will my water economy will be able to afford. Let’s see what bananas and star apples will be forthcoming from the unwatered back yard this dry season.

And let’s see how long this interruption in production of The Panama News lasts.

A day’s peasant progress in any case, and is my old body sore! The hips, the lower back, the knees and the arms ache. The blisters on my right hand are tiny, but reminders of certain limits. I wouldn’t have any had I worn my gloves, but my right arm and shoulder would still ache. Give me a few days before more machete work and those tender spots will have hardened into calluses and the muscle aches will have subsided.

This old hippie is conking out. Let’s hope for more progress tomorrow.

The four siblings inspect this dude with a camera. Or at least two of them do.

 

 

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Jackson, Catching up on the farm during a long Internet disconnect (1 of 3)

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a canje
It was a barter deal of sorts. Photos by Eric Jackson.

Dry season chores

by Eric Jackson

The grass has been cut, which should keep the jungle that has been my finca under control until the rains come again. I cut down and composted a decorative palm out front – just in front of my fence line – although I will still need to burn out its roots. Seeds of some of what I intend to grow in front of that section of the fence are sown, but there is more planting and composting to come.

Machete work to come? The hard stuff is on the downhill side yard. I need to cut some bamboo, because termites got into the front planter box trellises I put in not too long ago and those will need to be replaced. I need to cut down what’s left of the blighted cashew tree in the northeast corner. Wood I will leave where it is, or maybe arrange it slightly, but then there are social considerations about what, if anything, I plant in its place. Citrus of some sort, with the thorns that might make that an unattractive fence-jumping spot? Maybe a fast-growing star apple tree, some of the fruit of which some of the neighbors would surely pick and I would not much mind? Rose apples? Or maybe some fruiting shrubs like blackberries or raspberries that with any luck will be producing in my lifetime?

On the uphill side yard I should chop out a few misplaced shrubs, and chop off some chaya branches to stick them in the ground so as to more completely line my side of the fence. Edible privacy, it is.

The front porch’s planter boxes and the pots around them are being slowly rearranged. Smooth river stones that had been more or less decorative are being moved inside to become door stops. The aloe vera is intended to be medicinal, but I have so much of it now that some will be replanted, some will be given away, but the one pot goes on the porch to be decorative. The fern was always decorative but is now moved.

Out back? Gotta turn over and water the compost. I have all of these unintentionally planted behind my bananas and papaya and cecropia trees mother-in-law’s tongue plants that SOMEBODY must want to decorate their place. These being lean times, I should be digging up some fattening yucca and otoes. Perhaps before the otoes go dry for the season I should harvest some big stems and leaves and fry them up with some garlic and whatever. (Like the roots, the greens are slightly toxic if not cooked, but if properly prepared they are nutritious additions to otherwise boringly starchy survival rations diets.)

Inside the house? ¡HUY! But do get me started. Actually, I am underway. It has been a slow process.

At least I am off to a start to what passes for spring cleaning at latitude 9°N.

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The front porch is being rearranged, low budget but comfortably.

 

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Off the back porch, I need to turn over this compost already!

 

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The mother-in-law’s tongue — as far as I know decorative only, and quite hardy.

 

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When you have been assaulted by maleantes on your porch,
it seems safer to keep river stones like these inside.

 

 

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House stripping

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El Bajito 1
By the back entrance to El Bajito, Juan Díaz de Antón, Coclé province. Not an unusual sort of thing to see in the Interior, but there is also house stripping in the capital. Photo by Eric Jackson.

The house stripping economy and culture

article and photos by Eric Jackson

Not far from my back fence, some folks who were part of a gang that smashed up and invaded my house, and robbed me, had a modest little squatter house to which they were adding. They are doing years in prison now. I was their victim who made a public issue of what they were doing, hence the attack, but I was not the only person whose home this crowd violated. 

The initial prosecutor was indifferent. Or shall I say, dedicated herself to blocking the collection of proofs about the crime wave and instead sought to set me up on a false police report charge? As the proofs came in, the police made arrests and were careful to do so in a way that the neighbors could see the suspects being taken away in cuffs.

What did some of the neighbors do, not necessarily as a favor to me? The maleantes’ house and its contents were quickly stripped. Just a concrete slab remains. Part of it is that people don’t want predators who took special aim at the area’s senior citizens to have a place to which they might return after they get out of prison. But an even greater part has to do with a long-running tradition, with roots in history and based in current economic policies and land tenure law.

Much of Cocle province was scorched in the 1899-1902 Thousand Days War. Yes, the history books will tell you that this was all about an allegedly stolen Colombian election. Here in Cocle, prior to the war the breadbasket that produced a great part of the capital’s food, it was the most vicious of close-quarters civil wars. There were religious overtones, as the Liberals believed in secular government and the Conservatives believed in the Catholic Church as the official religion. The Conservatives represented the big land barons — often absentees — while much of the Liberal base was small holders ever at risk of having their homes and farms snatched by the wealthy and connected families. It wasn’t just Victoriano Lorenzo’s legendary Cholo guerrillas against the Conservative army, but neighbor against neighbor, with many of the rules of civilized conduct and common decency suspended. Most of the war zone’s farm animals were killed, most crops destroyed, most buildings burned. Murder, rape, assault and vandalism ran rampant and most people fled either to one of the contending armies or to Panama City. Those who sought protection in Conservative-held Penonome or Aguadulce ran out of luck, as Lorenzo’s growing campesino army took those towns, too. The war ended, Lorenzo was betrayed and executed, but life in rural Cocle never went back to what it was.

There is an agricultural trait of the balo trees upon which the area’s living fences are and long have been strung. These plants fix nitrogen and their leaves make good fertilizer. Thus, 120 years later it’s possible to fly over parts of Cocle and from the air see old fence lines of farms abandoned during the way and left fallow since.

Forged old land titles, gangs stealing the real estate of the elderly and willing to kill those who expose them, a political caste that habitually impedes attempts by those with rights of possession perfected by 15 years or more of tenure to get formal title to their land — these things exist here and there in Panama, but especially in the former war zone of Cocle, where chains of land tenure were broken long ago. There are many communities in which everyone, or almost everyone, occupies land by rights of possession rather than title. Typically the people in such places can’t afford lawyers even if they have titles, so as to be able to pass such titles on to heirs when they die.

An unoccupied country house? Nobody can show by official documents that she or he owns it? Who or what is to protect it?

If occupied by heirs or purchasers, are they strong enough to hold it against fraud artists and bullies?

Thus the popular presumption that if nobody owns it, anyone can take it. The roof, the doors, the bars protecting the windows, the electrical wiring and fixtures, the pipes and plumbing fixtures.

It’s an old tradition. Panamanian Spanish lacks the Castilian lisp because the people who came here were mostly from southern Spain, from places that at the time of the Spanish conquest of Cocle had relatively recently been conquered by Catholics from the north from the Arabs, with the royal decree banishing Muslims and Jews from the Spanish Empire only having come down in 1492, with the fall of Granada. The appropriation of Arab Spain’s real estate, and legends of previous demolitions or appropriations, are parts of the stories of some of Spain’s most famous places. Young men with few good prospects in life who headed west to the New World from places like Seville took those traditions with them to places like Cocle.

Looked at in macro-economic terms, the stripping of buildings in Panama destroys that part of the nation’s overall capital.

In many other parts of the world there are things like escheat offices, dedicated to the preservation of property not owned by a private person, which is taken over by and disposed of by the government. Other places have laws prohibiting the stripping of fixtures from buildings.

On top of those things, around the world some places with building codes restrict the incorporation of things salvaged from old buildings into new buildings — even though the more modern trend is to reuse or recycle for environmental reasons. As a practical matter, though, a lot of the cheap hollow cinder blocks and metal roofing materials used in Panamanian popular construction do not age well enough to recommend their incorporation into new buildings.

Balanced against the preservation of buildings in Panama is the power of the construction industry, whose interest is to destroy the old to make way for the new. The real estate sellers and landlords also have vested interests in keeping the housing supply down so as to keep sale prices and rents up. The lawyers always want a cut, even when it prices them and many a house out of the market.

These interests have over the years prevailed upon the politicians to enact favorable policies which, however, do change with time and the push and pull of competing interests. There are the tax exonerations for new buildings for a certain number of years, aimed at encouraging new construction. In practice these tend to degrade building standards — an apartment building that’s going to be exempt from real estate taxes for 25 years is likely to be built to last not much longer than 25 years. There is the ban on the accrual of rights of possession over condemned urban residential properties, coupled with a prohibition on anyone collecting rent from these. These laws precluded urban homesteading and encourage arson — burn the building down and the title holder who couldn’t collect rent gets the lot back for whatever disposition.

Out in the countryside, what might happen to those living alone? Go to jail, or to the hospital, and afterward come home to find your home missing? A real possibility.

 

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Cómo interpretan los abogados la constitución de la dictadura

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¿El artículo 40 dice que las abogadas no pagan impuestos?

Comentarios por el Colegio Nacional de Abogados y Eric Jackson

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por Eric Jackson

Podemos estar razonablemente seguros de que a las autoridades fiscales extranjeras les gustaría tener datos en el registro sobre cuáles de sus ciudadanos pagan a abogados panameños. También podemos estar seguros de que al cliente con problemas matrimoniales que consulta a un abogado sobre un posible divorcio no le gustaría que se revelara esa reunión confidencial a través de declaraciones de impuestos. La diputada panameña que se lleva el oro de su cliente probablemente tampoco apreciaría presentar eso ante la DGI.

Este argumento realmente nos dice dos cosas:

1. La actual Constitución panameña no es suficiente para satisfacer las necesidades de hoy; y

2. Si se trata de elegir delegados a una asamblea constituyente, los panameños no deben encomendar el trabajo a los abogados.

 

Contact us by email at / Contáctanos por correo electrónico a fund4thepanamanews@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.

Para defendernos de los piratas informáticos, los trolls organizados y otros actos de vandalismo en línea, la función de comentarios de nuestro sitio web está desactivada. En cambio, ven a nuestra página de Facebook para unirte a la discusión.  

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Jackson, Sorting mythology from history about The Day of The Martyrs

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Masonic Temple
Back in january 0f 1964: A US Army sniper and spotter in the Sojourners Lodge Masonic Temple in Cristobal, back then in the Canal Zone on one side of Bolivar Avenue while the other side of the street was the city of Colon, under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Panama. These days there is no international border running down the middle of the street — that’s something for which Panama’s martyrs died. The fighting around the Masonic Temple and the YMCA next door to it was furious and controversial. There were people killed on both sides. The usual version omits events outside of Panama City and adjacent parts of the Canal Zone, but in fact there were several days of a national uprising against the existence of the US enclave, with disturbances, demonstrations and strikes across much of Panama.

A Panagringo history major from Colon remembers

by Eric Jackson

First of all, how to identify the characters?

Me? Just 11 years old then, living by the old Coco Solo Hospital out on the Trans-Isthmian Highway, a weird kid, kind of a social outcast. Born in a US hospital in a part of Colon occupied by the Canal Zone, which was later turned over to the Republic of Panama. Born to American parents.

Under current laws, that makes me a dual US and Panamanian citizen by birthright. (There are xenophobes in the legislature who propose to strip those of us born in Panama to non-Panamanian parents of our citizenship. Can you say “fascist guttersnipes?”)

I went to Canal Zone schools until age 13, then moved to Michigan. With the exception of some non-immersive Spanish classes, my entire formal education was in English.

So does that make me a Zonian? Or, as this gringo chulo on one of the Zonian Facebook groups insisted, am I out of the club on account of my religion and creed — perceiving no halo around Donald Trump, thinking that QAnon and his devotees don’t so much need to have their heads examined as they need to be put on trial for fraud and incitement of violence, being a democratic socialist all of my adult life and an active Democrat, being anti-racists, choosing to live in post-colonial Panama? I Yam What I Yam, and moreover part of my strange economy and lifestyle is that I’m a subsistence spinach farmer, so have prepared to go the distance with Bluto.

The Zonians? The white minority of the civilian population of the segregated Canal Zone. There were about half as many of them as the two-thirds of the Panama Canal Company work force who weren’t American — most of these black people who traced roots through the West Indies. Back then the white Zonians were in toto paid more than the black majority. It was remarkably like the Jim Crow south, except that in both places things were changing. All white Zonians were not belligerent rednecks, but those who were would shove everyone else aside and shout everyone else down and present themselves as the only Zonian voice.

The military kids would go to school with the Zonians, as did a few Panamanian kids whose rich parents paid tuition. But a great many of the white Zonians treated the troops with scorn — “RAPs,” for Regular Army Personnel. Once there was a RAP who was stationed in the Canal Zone back in the 1920s as he honed his skills as an officer and administrator on his way up the ranks. He used to drink at Bilgray’s Tropico Bar in Colon. They called him Ike. Prudent about what he said like a soldier avoiding controversy and demerits, but observant of his surroundings. He was not the only US military officer who saw Canal Zone and Panamanian society the way that he did. The guy doesn’t much fit into current Zonian Hall of Shame – in which Jimmy Carter is the key villain — but Dwight D. Eisenhower was the guy on the US side who set into motion the eventual decolonization of Panama.

The brass, by and large, thought of the West Indians as a good pool of recruits to turn into soldiers, sailors and airmen, and intermediate to that, to work as civilian employees on the complex military bases. Through service in the ranks, one could get US citizenship. For working as a civilian for Uncle Sam, one might eventually get a visa to move to the US and get a green card, later perhaps citizenship. People took advantage of these opportunities and sponsored family members to move to the States after them. They generally retain places in their hearts for Panama — the
feeling is a major part of Panama’s tourism business even if those who allegedly speak for that industry ignore them in favor of white people with a lot of money. (Or, in the case of the related but different “residential tourism” part of the real estate business, often thugs of whatever color or nationality looking to launder large sums of money.)

On the other hand the US military officer corps tended to look upon the white Zonians as these belligerent louts. It’s human nature for disdain to be met with reciprocity.

Adding to the tension was that under US law, the Canal Zone was a military dictatorship of sorts. Yes, there were courts, and with some fine and fair judges. But as it was under US jurisdiction but neither a US state nor an incorporated US territory, the constitutional doctrine set forth in the Insular Cases applied. That legal construct had it that the US Constitution didn’t necessarily apply. The Canal Zone governors were appointed by the US presidents and by custom were current or former US Army Corps of Engineers major generals. The governors enjoyed broad summary powers that kept a lot of possible controversies out of the courts. A Canal Zone resident thought troublesome could be sent back to the USA forthwith, with no more process of law than a letter from the governor ordering such deportation, and no option of just moving across the street to Panama if a US citizen.

Albeit before Pearl Harbor, part of World War II — recall that Ike had something to do with that war — was a US-engineered Panamanian coup d’etat by which Hitler’s friend Arnulfo Arias was removed as president in October of 1941. Panama’s Policia Nacional, later to become the Guardia Nacional, then the Panama Defense Forces, then after the 1989 invasion the various forces under the present Ministry of Public Security, was by and large set up by the Americans in the first place. Its commanders had subordinate liaison officers to handle relations with the Canal Zone Police and often had personal working and social ties with the US military brass on the isthmus.

One such friendship was between José A. Remón, the guardia officer most involved in the 1941 coup, which brought about a new civilian president rather than direct military rule, and several other behind-the-scenes guardia-engineered changes of government. Washington always approved. Then, shedding the background role, Remón went and got himself elected president of Panama, about the time that Ike got himself elected president of the United States. The men understood one another, the issues in the Canal Zone and the problems between the United States and Panama. The two men made the first step in a long process that would devolve the US enclave that bisected the Republic of Panama into Panamanian sovereignty. Remón was assassinated while the final touches were being put on the resulting treaty, which nevertheless bears his name along with Eisenhower’s.

Had John F. Kennedy heard about the white Zonians when he was in the US Navy during World War II? In any case Kennedy’s foreign policy was largely a continuation of Eisenhower’s, and in Panama that included an agreement with then Panamanian president Roberto F. Chiari to fly the Panamanian flag next to the US flag in all civilian sites in the Canal Zone where the American flag had flown alone. There were protests, lawsuits and resignations in the Canal Zone as soon as the policy was announced.

Then Kennedy was assassinated and Lyndon B. Johnson put a lot of foreign policy initiatives on hold for review.

One reason for the hiatus was that from the Kennedy White House the president and his brother Robert had been running covert operations that included assassinations, which has included several attempts on Fidel Castro’s life. Johnson didn’t know if Kennedy had been murdered by a Cuban cut-out in retaliation and given Cold War tensions could not mention even the suspicion, nor let the Warren Commission delve into that question in any serious way. The brief immediate aftermath of Kennedy’s death was the wrap-up of the White House’s little murder incorporated and review of a number of foreign policy decisions. It’s not to say that all CIA and military special ops hit men were stood down for the duration of the Johnson administration, but the man from Texas was, despite the later caricatures of antiwar activists, more cautious than his predecessor.

That December the Canal Zone was informed that the new flag policy would go into effect in January. White Zonians aimed protests at the governor, Robert J. Fleming. Judge Guthrie Crowe, in a decision that questioned the wisdom of the flags policy, declined to strike it down.

Solitary flagpoles were left unused in an interim measure so that new dual poles could be installed. Then in Gamboa a Canal Zone police officer, Gordon Bell, raised the American flag in front of the policy station there.

Demonstrations took place at the schools, where students and sometimes parents raised American flags.

Then came the Panamanian kids from the Instituto Nacional, to raise their flag at Balboa High. The president of the Balboa student body would have given the Panamanians a cordial greeting, but he was shunted aside and a scuffle broke out in front of the flagpole, in which the Panamanian flag was torn. It was the spark that set Panama aflame.

The action in Panama City and across the street largely came to center in front of the old Tivoli Hotel, where now stands the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Tupper Center.

On the Panamanian side a gun store was looted and the arms passed out to the untrained.

On the American side the first responders were the Canal Zone police, and some armed men in civilian clothing who have never been definitively identified as either plainclothes or off-duty cops or Zonian civilians.

In any case the bloodshed had already begun before US Army General Andrew P. O’Meara sent in infantry units from Fort Clayton and ordered the Canal Zone police to leave.

US Army Brigadier General George Mabry, who had been awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II, took command at the Tivoli and after the police stopped shooting and left went out in full battle dress with about 15 soldiers who had bayonets affixed to their rifles and moved slowly forward to remove the protesters from the Canal Zone. Without Mabry or those alongside him firing a shot, the protesters moved back. However, plenty of shooting, much of it completely wild, continued.

The Americans fired at whom they thought had shot at them, including an 11-year-old girl on a nearby balcony, whom they had mistaken for a sniper.

The tales of American soldiers — or in some cases marines — opening fire on crowds with machine guns were not and are not true.

Where was the Guardia Nacional in all this? There are different accounts of why and it’s well nigh impossible to read a dead man’s mind, but in any case President Chiari ordered them off the streets and into their barracks.

The usual presumption is a reluctance for Panamanians to kill one another over a problem that the Americans started. Instead, Chiari broke diplomatic relations with the United States, leading to an impasse and then to a couple of rounds of long negotiations about the status of the Canal Zone.)

Over on the Atlantic Side, where this reporter lived, there was a delay before the protests began. January 9, 1964 was a Thursday, but the heavy violence didn’t break out in Colon until the weekend.

The first call in Colon was from the dock workers, who marched in protest.

A warehouse in Cristobal was set ablaze. The Cristobal train station was vandalized. Protesters broke into and damaged the Masonic Temple and the YMCA in Cristobal.

Infantry units from Fort Davis deployed, at first with weapons unloaded to avoid further bloodshed and provocation.

They cleared the people out of the YMCA building and Masonic Temple, and set up positions there. But the snipers, young men with no military training and pathetically small arms, came out on the Panamanian side. Three US soldiers were killed and nine wounded. This reporter’s father was working at the emergency room at the Coco Solo Hospital when the American casualties came in.

On the Panamanian side some snipers were shot, one of them, 18-year-old student Renato Lara, fatally.

Guardia Nacional Sergeant Celestino Villareta, attempting to restore some peace and order along the boundary was shot by some unknown person, and when an ambulance came to rescue him it was fired upon by US troops in the Masonic Temple.

In an attempt to flush out a suspected sniper, a US soldier fired a tear gas grenade that ended up in a Guna family’s tiny apartment. Six-month-old Maritza Alabarca was overcome by the gas and died but to this day the US government claims that since tear gas is defined as non-lethal American forces had nothing to do with the little girl’s death.

The use of the Masonic Temple and YMCA as American military redoubts, which drew damaging sniper fire and also became the targets for molotov cocktails, ended up before the US Supreme Court. The justices in Washington held that where US forces go into combat, Uncle Sam pays for no property damage.

To bring order to Colon, the Americans returned one Omar Torrijos, who had been head of the Guardia Nacional garrison there, from David where he had been transferred so has to lead the restoration of order from the Panamanian side.

Across the Interior there were instances in which US-owned or US-identified farms and businesses were attacked. Workers at the US-run banana plantations walked out on strike. The media railed against the Americans, with only a few exceptions. Masses were said. Panama’s lags were lowered to half-staff. There was huge attendance at some of the funerals.

As much as Panama’s 1821 independence from Spain and its 1903 separation from Colombia, The Day of The Martyrs marked another huge stride along the still incomplete path to Panama’s independence as a sovereign nation.

People still argue. There are historical points still to be clarified. But these are the reasons why so much of the country is closed today. We look where we have been as a nation, and Panamanians mourn on this day.

 

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