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Varela moves tourism, residency wait times back to where they were

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decree
A decree signed in late December but published on January 10 changes regulations but not the law.

Varela shortens tourist stays and residency processing period but rejects PRD extremes

by Eric Jackson

In the face of virulent xenophobia and proposals of draconian changes to Panama’s immigration laws, President Varela has tightened up a couple of the regulations that implement the existing laws, without touching the laws themselves. In 2010 the Martinelli administration lengthened the stay on a tourist visa from three months to six months, and the current administration has moved it back to three months. Those applying for resident or pensionado visas used to be able to stay for a year while the paperwork was underway. Now it’s six months and such folks have to pay $50 for the temporary ID card that goes with that status. In the decree adjusting these regulations, the reduction in waiting time for a resident’s or pensioner’s visa it is said that these days it doesn’t take more than six months to process the paperwork.

The decree appears to be at least partly aimed at heading off proposals by PRD legislators Elias Castillo and Zulay Rodríguez, which the deputies have described but which have not been published. They would shorten tourist visas to 30 days and allow only one return, ending legal “permanent tourism” and curbing many other sorts of tourism as well. They would also require tourists to register with and stay at hotels, and if found not to be staying at the hotels where they said that they would stay would subject them to arrest.

Rodríguez is quite open about wanting to prohibit foreigners, tourists or otherwise. She and her followers vilify all foreigners as criminals, spitting special venom at Venezuelans and Colombians but attacking the North Americans and Europeans who come here as well. Will she try to ride this campaign in to the presidency in 2019? Her problem with changing the immigration laws, beyond the damage that they would do to the Panamanian economy, is that her colleagues by and large can’t stand her and hesitate to do anything that would boost her politician fortunes. Although she was recently elected to head the women’s branch of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, many of her fellow PRD deputies also disdain her. For example, Rodríguez has charged another PRD legislator, Javier “Patacón” Ortega, with criminal defamation for describing her as “a person with mental problems, a crazy schizophrenic.” Across the aisle, Panameñista deputy Popi Varela — the president’s brother — said that “what comes from her mouth is trash.” Trash talk does, however, have a substantial following.

Let’s brush away the semantics and the fake news. “Permanent tourists” are a species of residents who live in Panama on tourist visas, leaving every so often and then returning on new visas. This is legal. There may be some who come here to commit crimes — which is illegal — but these are a small minority. The great majority of crimes committed in Panama are committed by Panamanians. Most foreigners in Panama do their best to avoid trouble.

Like standard tourists, the permanent tourists spend money in the Panamanian economy. Many rent or buy or build homes — which is legal. Some start businesses — which is generally legal. Many work for somebody else — which is generally illegal. Many hire Panamanians — which is legal and encouraged.

Why does somebody live the life of a permanent tourist here? Most would get resident or pensionado visas but can’t show enough of the accepted sorts of wealth or income to qualify. Some have criminal records that would bar them from residency. Some are hiding from creditors elsewhere. Generally they have to show a plane ticket back to the country from whence they came to get in as a tourist, such that if they come upon hard times or illness they are sent back to be some other country’s burden.

“Tourism,” whether of a traditional kind or thinly disguised residency, is big business here, more than seven percent of the Panamanian economy. Rich white people staying in expensive hotels? That’s the stereotypical ideal, which, judging from the occupancy rates of hotels that chase that market segment, is except for a few weeks per year a failure. Niche markets — young backpackers without much money, but who may come back in a few years when they have more money to spend, or people of the Panamanian diaspora who come back to visit family and friends and don’t stay in hotels, for two examples of many — are important to the industry as a whole if not to the hotels that bill themselves as five-star. The World Travel and Tourism Council estimated that in 2014 more than 135,000 Panamanian jobs directly depended on tourism.

Restrictive laws, unfriendly statements by public officials and the behavior of belligerent citizens can adversely affect a publicity sensitive industry like tourism. On the other hand, a perception that public policies work for the benefit of foreigners rather than citizens is toxic to the career of any politician who gets blamed for such policies. It appears that President Varela’s decree seeks to balance these concerns, as well has to head Zulay off at the pass. Tourism Minister Gustavo Him, however, avoids the partisan spins. He opposes the sorts of restrictions for which Castillo and Rodríguez call, he said, because “anything that reduces the possibility of tourists coming is worrisome.”

 

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George Scribner: new paintings and workshops

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Scribner 1
“Casco Viejo Conversation” 10 x 13

What Panama’s Disney imagineer George Scribner is up to

paintings and note by George Scribner

Workshops

I’ll be doing a few beginning and intermediate workshops in the next few months in Sonoma, Westlake Village, New Smyrna Beach Florida, and The Art Room in Windermere, FL.

I’m now also offering a workshop on Painting the figure in a Landscape with suggestions on adding people to your landscape paintings.

Here’s a little more information: http://www.scribnerart.com/workshops
 

Scribner 2
“Blaze” 11 x 14 The title comes from the white marking on the horses face.

 

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Videos: Violeta Green y el ámbito de tambo jazz

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Violeta Green y el ámbito de tambo jazz

Violeta Green, a quien se dedica el 14º Festival de Jazz de Panamá, era una cantante versátil cuyo trabajo no podía ser descrito en su totalidad o incluso en su mayor parte como “tambo jazz”. Pero si Víctor Boa era la destacada pianista de esa escena, era la destacada vocalista. Escucha.

 

 

 

 

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Editorials: Day of the Martyrs; and Odebrecht

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La bandera. Photo by Melpanama.

The Day of the Martyrs

Another Day of the Martyrs is upon us on Monday, January 9. It’s a national day of mourning rather than a holiday as such, which means that those who will spend it at the beach need to stock up on alcohol in advance if that’s their vice, because there are no legal liquor sales on that day. Because it falls on a Monday this year it’s another long weekend, with crazy traffic starting back from the Interior on that day but with traffic in the city generally light compared to that of a working day.

But for those Panamanians most deeply concerned with the nation’s fate, it’s something more. To such folks the Day of the Martyrs is a solemn occasion on which people gather to remind themselves and others of the sacrifices that have been made to make Panama one country with at least the formal trappings of sovereignty, and of the long way yet to go before we have the full measure of independence.

It’s the anniversary of rioting that swept the nation in 1964, sparked by a relatively trivial incident but setting into motion historic shifts long in the making. Panamanians, Americans and Puerto Ricans fighting for the United States died in those events. People will make speeches about what the martyrs’ gesture meant, but what the nation meant is that Panama wanted to be master of its own house and that there were people willing to risk death for this cause.

So the American Embassy put out its annual warning, urging people to stay away from the Plaza Cinco de Mayo area, where some of the protesters will gather. Yes, if you are driving and you want to avoid traffic jams caused by people marching in the streets, don’t drive in that area or on Avenida de los Martires on January 9. And if you do get caught in a traffic blockage caused by people in the streets, wait it out with grace and good humor. Don’t be a belligerent jerk. This is Panama.

On this particular Day of the Martyrs, the hazards of being an ugly American appear to be raised for three reasons. We have demagogic Panamanian politicians railing against all foreigners and too many ordinary citizens willing to buy that “you’re poor because they’re rich” variety of anti-American screed. We have a US government demanding the sale of Panama’s oldest newspaper and its largest circulation newspaper — also the major national media with the most independent and eclectic editorial lines — to new owners who meet their approval, and we have a Varela administration that accepts this foreign imposition. And then the USA has just chosen a next president who got to where he is by racist characterizations of Latin Americans, a man whom most Panamanians despise. This is not the time for somebody to pick a fight with people marching to observe the Day of the Martyrs and loudly assert some claimed prerogatives of being a US citizen.

 

Odebrecht

In Panamanian parlance “magna carta” means any constitution. The 1215 English original, written in Latin at the time, is well summarized in one brief sentence, its clause 40, that also states the essential yearning of most Panamanians today: “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”

The Panama Papers are about the sale of justice. Alejandro Moncada Luna is in prison for crimes related to the sale of justice. Our public institutions are in disrepute because of the sale of justice. And that’s what the Odebrecht scandal is all about as well.

Clause 50 of the Magna Carta seems so much more obscure and so much less relevant to anything today:

We will remove completely from their offices the kinsmen of Gerard de Athée, and in future they shall hold no offices in England. The people in question are Engelard de Cigogné, Peter, Guy, and Andrew de Chanceaux, Guy de Cigogné, Geoffrey de Martigny and his brothers, Philip Marc and his brothers, with Geoffrey his nephew, and all their followers.

Gerard de Athée was a Norman mercenary knight from Touraine in what is now France, who rose to great prominence under King Richard the Lion Hearted and his corrupt brother and successor, King John. England’s possessions in France had fallen one by one, but one of the last, the castle at Loches, held out under de Athée’s command. King John paid a large ransom to free the knight and brought him and his relatives and top lieutenants over to England, where they were installed in various public offices. Gerard de Athée became the commander of the royal forces in southern Wales, the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, and the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and the Royal Forests. The bad guy in the Robin Hood stories is based upon him. Scholars argue about whether he was the scoundrel of legend or just a maligned government official who fell afoul of a rising English nationalism that had low regard for foreign knights in public offices.

In any case, the expulsion of this knight and his entourage from public posts at the behest of the knights and nobles ready to do battle with the king at Runnymeade was an extraordinary constitutional event. They were not directly accused of crimes, thrown into dungeons, exiled, executed or put on trial. They were just the servants and beneficiaries of a predatory system whose abuses were curbed by the Magna Carta. Their disgrace was not about the rule of law, but a matter of revolutionary justice.

And now Panama sinks toward economic stagnation under a president who broke his promise to convene a constitutional convention. The predations of the system we have here are ever more internationally notorious. After the Panama Papers, the abuse of our legal system by foreign career criminals who would cover their tracks by having journalists jailed, Ricardo Martinelli thumbing his nose at the nation from Miami, now we have, by way of other countries, the Odebrecht bribery revelations. But the Electoral Tribunal insists that the Odebrecht contributions to political campaigns of which it knows are to be kept secret, the Comptroller General refuses to audit government contracts with Odebrecht and President Varela and the National Assembly passed a law providing that whatever crimes for which Odebrecht has been found guilty in foreign courts count for nothing in Panama.

The names of all Panamanian public officials who took bribes, campaign contributions or gifts from the corrupt Brazilian-based multinational conglomerate ought to be revealed to the press and public. Like Gerard de Athée et al, these people should forever be barred from all public offices in Panama. They sold right and justice to Odebrecht. Without regard to the niceties of court procedures the Panamanian people should not put up with that.

 

Bear in mind…

 

People say, ‘What a discipline, painting so much.’ I say, ‘No, I love it.’ Nothing amuses me as much as my work. To have discipline would be not to paint.
Fernando Botero

 

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience by which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’
Eleanor Roosevelt

 

We can almost recycle everything now. If we lived within our means, by being prudent, the seven billion people in the world could have everything they needed. Global politics should be moving in that direction. But we think as people and countries, not as a species.
Pepe Mujica

 

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The Panama News blog links, January 7, 2016

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The Panama Jazz Festival, both a series of concerts and a major educational event, is January 10 through 14.

The Panama News blog links

a Panama-centric selection of other people’s work
una selección Panamá-céntrica de las obras de otras personas

Canal / Maritime / Transportation ~ Canal /Marítima / Transporte

JOC, Suez Canal traffic steadily declines

crhoy.com, ¿Será 2017 el año del canal seco interoceánico en Costa Rica?

LAHT, Paraguay and Bolivia eye interoceanic railway

Sports ~ Deportes

Sporting News, CONCACAF: Why 2017 could be the year of Panama-mania

Schoenfeld, No one hits like Rod Carew anymore

Video, Uchiyama vs Corrales rematch

Economy ~ Economia

AFP, Panama looks to talks with France to get off tax haven list

ICIJ, Panama’s revolving door shows the challenge of offshore reform

MICI, Gobierno extiende control de precios

Eyes on Trade, Robert Lighthizer named as US Trade Representative

Science / Technology ~ Ciencia / Tecnología

Mongabay, Panama’s birds may not fare so well in a warming world

La Estrella, Falleció bióloga Ruth Reina

STRI, Are tiny grazers the new hope for Caribbean reefs?

UNEP, The future of coral reefs under climate change

EFE, Un gigantesco iceberg a punto de desprenderse de la Antártida

Mongabay, Free online analysis of forest change

Telemetro, Panamá registra dos mil muertes por año asociadas al tabaco

ScienceAlert, Device can bypass spinal injuries to help defeat paralysis

WSJ, Vera Rubin forced the cosmological theorists to think again

Quartz, A big problem with satellite imagery — and a solution

News ~ Noticias

AFP, Sons of Panama’s ex-president deny bribes from Odebrecht

Telemetro, Blandón defiende transparencia en contratación de Odebrecht

MercoPress, Odebrecht bribes return ratio

Reuters, Panama sees no change in relations with Taiwan and China

La Prensa, Juzgado niega fianza de excarcelación a Aldo López Tirone

BBC, Colombia approves amnesty agreed in FARC peace deal

Schwartz, Kelly claimed “narcoterrorism” has killed 500,000 Americans

Opinion ~ Opiniones

Hill, After Aleppo

Belam, We’re living through the first world cyberwar

Fischer, Europe’s new “indispensable nations”

Foreign Policy, Democracy is dying as technocrats watch

Thompson: In a world of fake news, real journalism must be paid for

Caldwell, What the alt-right really means

FIP, Concentración de medios en América Latina

Farthing, How TIAA funds environmental disaster in Latin America

Página12, “El gobierno de Michel Temer se acabó”

Smilde, 10 questions for Venezuela in 2017

Simpson, ¿Es Panamá un país corrupto?

Culture ~ Cultura

Ornstein, So what the hell happened to Bananama Republic?

AFP, Costa Rica estrenará primer filme estilo Bollywood de Latinoamérica

Rybus, Photos show why people are leaving the Guna Yala islands

 

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PRD legislators go after tourists, permanent and otherwise

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Zulay
Anti-immigrant demagogue Zulay Rodríguez, a deputy in the National Assembly and head of the PRD Women’s Federation, has announced that she’s piling onto PRD legislator Elias Castillo’s proposal to restrict tourist visas. In a vitriolic speech to the legislature, she attacked all Panamanian tourism, citing the more than a million and a half people who visited this country in the past year as a cause of poverty. Photo by the Asamblea Nacional.

Legislative open season on tourists?

by Eric Jackson

With the new year came word in the rabiblanco media about a new proposal to change Panama’s immigration laws. First attributed to PRD legislator Elias Castillo González, this, it was explained, would eliminate the “permanent tourist” game of people who live here on tourist visas, leaving the country every six month for a little while and then returning on a new tourist visa. Castillo said that tourist visas would be for 30 days, with a possible one-time-only 60-day extension. He also said that to be a tourist one would have to register with a hotel and if, due to a routine police inspection of the hotel registry or a complaint from the hotel management, a tourist was not checked in at the specified hotel, that tourist would become a wanted fugitive from immigration authorities. The problem, Castillo said, is foreigners coming here as tourists and working without work permits.

Given the number of foreigners who live here as “permanent tourists” — lots of Colombians, Venezuelans, Americans, Canadians and Europeans who don’t stay at hotels because they or their families own homes here — it’s an extraordinary proposal. But just how extraordinary, we don’t quite know. See, despite it having been summarized for reporters, and despite speeches in the legislature billed as the proposal’s “presentation,” we have not been able to read the actual proposal — or if the National Assembly’s website is accurate, multiple proposals.

The presentations? If you understand Spanish and can stand it, you can watch the half-hour video of Zulay Rodríguez’s speech that’s called that. In it she played to the militantly ignorant, throwing out scary but unidentified numbers, making insinuations about statistics she can’t cite, mobilizing public anger against foreigners in general. She cited the more than 1.5 million tourists who visited here last year as cause for alarm. There are “thousands, and thousands and thousands of foreigners in Panama…” for whom Zulay blamed an alleged $800 million in capital flight. (People living and working here on tourist visas EXPORTING capital, rather than spending and investing it here?) “Robberies, murders, homicides, drug trafficking…” — these she blamed on foreigners, and blamed the government for not generating the statistics for her to back up this claim. And on Facebook, nearly 40,000 people viewed it, more than 1,400 people shared it and she generated hundreds of comments, mostly ranging from uncritical cheering to hardcore hatred.

On Facebook Rodríguez gave the following introduction to the video of her speech:

The presentation of the proposal that not only eliminates the Crisol de Razas [program of the Martinelli administration], but also imposes migratory controls, visas, taxes to stay here and complements Bill 62 that was presented two years ago and that is in the Government Committee, which is to avoid the uncontrolled immigration that exists. The current situation has caused poverty, increased crime and unfair competition against nationals. And to that Deputy Jose Luis “Popi” Varela responds with threats, vexations, and foul language, calling me ‘trash’ just for denouncing the corruption of the current administration.

Trash talk? Most likely. You decide by whom.

But xenophobia is in the air. Not only foreigners, but those of ethnic groups considered foreign even if they happen to have been born here, are more frequently insulted here in Panama. The notion that foreigners — even the permanent tourists — actually contribute toward the Panamanian economy is not only not considered in the debate, it’s treated by Zulay’s followers as a big insult to Panama to suggest such a thing.

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Stratfor, Russians looking for a way out of Syria

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Tartus
The naval base that Russia rents from Syria in Tartus. It’s important to Russian presence in the Mediterranean, which guards access to warm water ports on the Black Sea. But the Russians say that neither this nor their long standing alliance with the Assad regime in Damascus are the reason for their intervention in Syria. They say that the fight against jihadis, most notably the Islamic State, is why they are involved in Syria’s war. Within the Russian Federation Muslim fanatic who want to wage a jihad do pose a security threat.

Russia looks for an exit in Syria

by Stratfor

Forecast

  • Despite the shared cause of supporting Damascus, Moscow and Tehran will continue to differ in their commitment to the conflict.
  • As Russia concocts an exit strategy, its relations with Iran will steadily sour.
  • The divergences between the countries will exacerbate the differences among Syria’s loyalist forces.

Analysis

With their capture of Aleppo in late December, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Assad secured their biggest victory in the country’s nearly six-year civil war. It is now clear that al Assad has weathered the critical threat to his administration’s rule over key parts of the country. Military, diplomatic and financial support from Iran and Russia has played a tremendous role in the loyalist victory. But despite their shared cause in Syria and the considerable resources that each government has invested in the war, Moscow and Tehran do not see eye to eye on several issues related to the conflict. The two countries differ most notably in their commitment to the loyalist cause. Though Russia has already demonstrated its pledge to sustain and support loyalist forces in Syria, Moscow’s commitment in the conflict simply does not rise to the level of Tehran’s. Through its intervention in Syria, Russia is trying to boost its position in the Middle East, demonstrate its global stature, curtail the extremist threat and attain leverage in negotiations with the West. Iran, on the other hand, views the Syrian civil war as a critical front in an existential battle that directly relates to its geopolitical security.

Compared with Iran, which is committed to achieving a total military victory regardless of cost, Russia is less willing to remain involved in an open-ended conflict in Syria and would rather withdraw while its campaign is at a high point. The war in Syria is far from over. Even as the loyalist forces were winning the battle for Aleppo in December 2016, they lost the city of Palmyra to the Islamic State, a significant defeat. As the fighting grinds on, Russian defense planners are realizing that a military solution would likely require years of additional intervention. But years of further involvement in Syria would erode the current perception of Russian military effectiveness and could embroil Moscow in a Middle Eastern quagmire not unlike the United States’ situation in Iraq. Russia is looking for a way out.

One foot out the door

For Russia to successfully extricate itself from Syria, however, there must be a negotiated political resolution to the conflict. Such a process would require the participation of rebel forces and their foreign backers, particularly Turkey. To that end, Moscow has steadily enhanced its dialogue with Ankara over Syria, even before the recent push to forge an agreement on a nationwide cease-fire. The battle for Aleppo revealed intensive Russian and Turkish efforts to reach a compromise that eventually produced an agreement for the rebels to exit the city in return for safe passage from the loyalist side.

The accord between Russia and Turkey was not straightforward, though, thanks to Iran’s initial opposition to the plan. In Aleppo, Iranian-led militias quickly mobilized to block the rebel exodus, and Tehran acquiesced to an exit deal for the besieged fighters only once its own priorities were added to the agreement. (Iran stipulated that the besieged Shiite villages of al-Fuah and Kefraya be incorporated into the plan.) Furthermore, on December 20 Tehran publicly criticized the Russian-supported UN Security Council resolution on Aleppo that had passed the day before. Complications surrounding the Aleppo evacuation recalled the September 2016 Syrian cease-fire effort that the United States and Russia brokered. That truce fell apart in large part because rebel as well as loyalist forces — some under the direct command of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officers — refused to abide by the agreement to halt hostilities. The IRGC has also expressed opposition to Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s participation in an upcoming round of peace talks despite Russia’s efforts to include them.

Disruptive elements

Notwithstanding its considerable leverage over Damascus, Moscow has been frustrated in its attempts to dictate the direction of the Syrian conflict by the often-overlooked fact that its influence in the country is secondary to that of Tehran. This is hardly surprising considering that Iran contributes far more to the loyalist war effort than Russia does. Moscow lends its support primarily in the realms of diplomacy and air power. By contrast, Tehran has contributed what overstretched loyalist forces crave most: manpower. Iran has bolstered the loyalists with tens of thousands of militia fighters, including elite contingents of Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters. Moreover, Iran has proffered copious financial aid to help keep the Syrian economy afloat.

Russia is aware of these issues and is already moving to redress them. In late November 2016, the Syrian armed forces announced the creation of a new military formation — the 5th Corps — assembled with help from Syria’s foreign allies, who would pay the fighters’ substantial monthly salaries of up to $580. Though not yet confirmed, initial indications suggest that Russia will provide most of the support for the 5th Corps, including weapons and training. The addition of a Russian-backed ground element to the loyalist roster would offer Moscow a critical counterweight against the Iranian-backed militias that have won Tehran greater influence in Damascus.

Though the competition between Russia and Iran in Syria is stiff, it is important to not exaggerate it. Coalition warfare is inherently messy, and Tehran and Moscow are both still committed to their common cause, bolstering loyalist forces against their mutual enemies. Aware that infighting could undermine their shared mission, Russia and Iran are also working to ensure greater coordination on the battlefield. In fact, the two countries announced December 20 that they would create a joint headquarters in Syria to coordinate their support for loyalist forces. Nevertheless, loyalist differences remain an important factor in Syria. These differences do not rise to the level of infighting often witnessed in the rebel camp — including disputes among rebel supporters — but they continue to affect the loyalists. Occasionally, the differences have escalated into outright accusations of betrayal, as was the case in the rebel victory over predominantly Iranian-led forces in the battle of Khan Touman. As Moscow increasingly considers an exit strategy from the Syrian civil war, the divergence in Russia’s and Iran’s commitments will become all the more apparent.

 

Russia Looks for an Exit in Syria is republished with permission of Stratfor.

 

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Syria: WHO and others treat the wounded

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Farouk in the hospital. Photo by Dr. Jaafar.

WHO’s response to trauma
cases saves lives in Iraq

by the World Health Organization

Since October 17, 2016 the World Health Organization has supported the Government of Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government with emergency lifesaving health services, including emergency medicines and other medical supplies like trauma and surgery kits. These supplies are meant to support the increasing number of trauma cases received at trauma stabilization points and en route to the final points of performing surgery.

Four-year-old Farouk,* his father and three other members of his family were at a water distribution point near their home in Mosul when they were injured. Soon after the incident, a military ambulance team transported them to a hospital in Erbil, making multiple stops at trauma stabilization points to monitor their condition and provide care. It took them four hours to travel from their village to Erbil because health facilities in the newly liberated areas of Mosul are non-functional. At Hamdaniya, they were transferred to a civilian ambulance for transportation to an emergency hospital in Erbil.

Dr. Gona Jaafar, a WHO consultant who is training doctors in Erbil on war surgery, was in the emergency room when Farouk and his father were brought in. According to Dr. Jaafar, during her routine visit to the hospital on December 26, 2016 she saw three injured children and one adult lying on the beds in the emergency section, while another adult with an injury on his neck moved from bed to bed checking on the injured. She learnt that this family of five had been injured. The two children were Farouk’s brother and cousin, one injured on the upper right chest and another injured in both legs.

Both were in a stable condition while the adult patient was Farouk’s father, also in a stable condition.

Farouk’s condition, however, was more critical. He had sustained serious injuries to his left chest and lower abdomen. “As I checked his pulse, I saw that he was seriously hurt, but he was not crying and frequently tried to close his eyes,” said Dr. Jaafar. “And then I noticed something else; in his right hand were two keys and one coin that he held tightly. He said to me, “They are mine.” After his surgery, Farouk was moved to the intensive care unit, and continued to hold on to his keys and coin. Dr. Jaafar believes that Farouk could have drawn his strengthen from these objects.

Eight days after arriving at the hospital in Erbil, Farouk has since recovered and is out of danger. He remains quiet in his recovery bed, occasionally glancing at medical teams that come to attend to him. He and his father will soon be discharged and will head back to Mosul from where the family will continue dressing Farouk’s wounds. Farouk and his father will face additional challenges on their journey back home, as many areas around his area remain inaccessible and insecure. In spite of these uncertainties, he is happy to join his family back home.

Farouk and his father are just two out of a total of 2,666 casualties arriving at hospitals in Erbil from Mosul since October 17. To make sure that they survive the long journey without additional risk, WHO is currently working with the Directorates of Health of Ninewa and Erbil together with health partners to strengthen trauma stabilization points close to the front lines in Mosul, with the goal of ensuring that critically injured patients are referred to hospital as quickly as possible.

WHO continues to support referrals through 10 ambulances donated to Directorate of Health of Ninawa and 27 ambulance teams belonging to Directorate of Health of Erbil. In addition, WHO is supporting Emergency Hospitals and West Emergency Hospitals in Erbil by building staff capacity and providing medicines and supplies for patients requiring surgical care. On average, the hospitals each receive 20 to 30 injured patients a day. The majority suffer from shell injuries and gunshot wounds. Lying next to Farouk was a 14-year-old boy, Mohamed, whose leg was amputated due to injuries he sustained from shelling in another area inside of Mosul.

As the conflict continues, WHO estimates that a total of 40,000 people will require urgent hospitalization for injuries. WHO is working with national health authorities and partners to establish field hospitals as well as restore main hospitals closer to the front lines. In addition WHO has subcontracted an NGO partner, Emergency, to provide comprehensive care and increase bed capacity for all trauma cases in the emergency hospital.

WHO’s activities for the Mosul response are possible with continued support from the European Union (ECHO), the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the government of Kuwait.

 

* Both names used here are not real ones, they have been changed for security reasons.

 

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Vuelve el Cine U

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sounds
El sonido del barrio (por Kleber Mendonça Filho, Brasil 2012)

El Cine Universitario vuelve a la escena cultural

por Roberto Enrique King

El Cine Universitario, la primera sala alternativa que se creó en nuestro país para el disfrute del cine mundial, regresará desde este mes a recuperar su lugar dentro de la escena cultural universitaria y de la ciudad, y volverá a ofrecer gratuitamente a su público ciclos, muestras, retrospectivas y festivales, así como actividades complementarias, con la intención de convertirse en la casa del cine nacional, latinoamericano e internacional, siguiendo las políticas de las nuevas autoridades que dirigen la Universidad de Panamá.

De vuelta a la administración del GECU, tras años fuera de esta entidad, la sala de 160 butacas iniciará, en una primera fase, proyecciones durante los primeros meses del año solo de lunes a viernes, en horario de 2, 5 y 7 pm, teniendo en planes realizar un relanzamiento en propiedad en abril, una vez se hayan hecho algunas adecuaciones con el fin de brindar el mejor servicio a todos los amantes del buen cine.

La programación de enero se iniciará con una Muestra de Cine Latinoamericano, del 10 al 20 del mes, organizada en colaboración con CIMAS y compuesta por películas de calidad de Brasil, Colombia, Cuba, Chile, México y Venezuela, premiadas y reconocidas en relevantes festivales de cine, que se estarán exhibiendo solo en días de semana como ya se ha dicho. La programación al detalle se estará divulgando en los próximos días, especialmente en las redes sociales. Mayor información al GECU 523-5455 o al 6659-9579.

 

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Panameñista Juncá picked for Electoral Tribunal as legislative alliances shift

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Juncá
Alfredo Juncá signs in as the newest election magistrate. Photo by the Asamblea Nacional.

Alfredo Juncá joins the Electoral Tribunal

by Eric Jackson

Panameñista activist Alfredo Juncá Wendehake, an attorney educated in the Philippines and political science wonk who has long worked in behind-the-scenes political posts, was elected on January 3 by a 40 to 26 to 3 vote to a 10-year term as a magistrate on the Electoral Tribunal. On his accession to the post he made a rather standard declaration that he’s not a party member now and he owes nothing to anybody.

Juncá’s most recent job was as the director of plenary affairs at the National Assembly, where his main task was arranging the agendas of the entire legislature when it sat as a whole to consider proposed legislation on second and third readings or to pass on major appointments. He came to that position as a political patronage hireling, having previously served in the Panameñista Party post of executive secretary of parliamentary affairs.

One might look at the results and say that it means that President juan Carlos Varela maintains a working majority of support in the National Assembly. Varela would protest that this was a legislative decision in which he played no part. But looking beyond the result it appears that the PRD role in the legislature is very different now and the future of the Cambio Democratico role is still up in the air.

Since the 1989 US invasion Panamanian voters have always defeated the re-election hopes of whatever party has been in power. It’s early yet but polls suggest that in 2019 it will be no different. So who succeeds the Panameñista? The scandal-wracked Cambio Democratico party and its fugitive leader trying to run the show from Miami, or the Democratic Revolutionary Party, now under the leadership of legislator Pedro Miguel González, who has a US terrorism warrant out for his arrest? In the past two elections of the legislature’s officers, both CD and the PRD split, with PRD member Rúben De Leon getting the top spot on the strength of an alliance of factions of PRD and CD dissidents with the Panameñista caucus, the latter with only 17 seats in the 71-member National Assembly. The opposition to that in July of 2015 and 2016 was a proposed alliance of PRD party president and legislator Benicio Robinson and a CD loyal to Ricardo Martinelli. But neither Robinson nor Martinelli could control their parties’ deputies and the public at large generally despised any alliance which would give the former president any hooks into the present government.

That paradigm at least partially lingers on until the next set of National Assembly officers is chosen on July 1 but old arrangements have been superseded, at least from the PRD side. Under González’s leadership they will be in opposition to the Panameñistas and take their licks in the assembly in order to be a more credible alternative in 2019. González says that he will not run for any public office in that year and there is as yet no obvious PRD nominee. It might be the foreigner-bashing Zulay Rodríguez, the more social democratic Laurentino Cortizo, one of the rabiblancos in the party who has a lot of money to run a campaign or somebody coming out of the blue. But whatever they may in the end stand for, between now and the next national elections they don’t plan to stand with President Varela.

While the power struggle in the PRD essentially played itself out, in CD there are party elections yet to come. Most of the CD deputies voted for Juncá and perhaps the consolation prize was that earlier in the day Martinelli appointee Heriberto Araúz became the Electoral Tribunal’s presiding magistrate. (That post, filled by election among the three members of the tribunal, more or less rotates anyway, though.) Three CD caucus members voted for fellow party member Arturo Vallarino, former vice president of Panama, former deputy and the brother of one of the legislators who voted for him. Some of the former Martinelli cabinet members who are out on bail as corruption cases continue, former economy and finance minister Frank De Lima and former security minister José Raúl Mulino, criticized the CD deputies who voted for the Panameñistas. US policies may change, but it seems that the one big thing that Cambio Democratico has going for it as the 2019 elections approach is that Uncle Sam hates Pedro Miguel González and sees fomer canal affairs mininster, corporate lawyer Rómulo Roux, as its preferred next president of Panama. But then US backing may not be such a wonderful asset in the coming Trump times. Already there is talk from at least one CD deputy of starting a new political party and there will probably be some elected officials jumping over to other parties as the outlines of the 2019 contests take shape.

 

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