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Ashrawi, Dying to be free

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3d Intifada
The Third Intifada, now underway whatever older Palestinian leaders — let alone people from Israel or any other country — might advise.

Dying to be free

by Hanan Ashrawi

By calling on Israeli Jewish citizens to openly carry arms, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is giving them license to shoot at will and execute Palestinians on the spot, proves that the Israeli government is transforming its own public into vigilantes and gangsters following the official Israeli policy of land theft and summary executions, while providing incentives and protection to settler terrorists. It has thereby generated a culture of hate, racism and violence and translated Israel’s state impunity into lawlessness and individual impunity for its own citizens.

Israel’s acts of aggression and violence have resulted in the killing of 24 Palestinians and the injury of more than 1,200 Palestinians. Israel is provoking violence in Jerusalem and creating a situation of instability and crisis as a cover to exercise control over the Al-Aqsa Mosque and expropriate Al-Haram Al-Sharif, transform the character of Jerusalem, annex more Palestinian land, and escalate its illegal settlement activities. All the while, it persists in spreading a false narrative labeling Palestinians as terrorists, and blaming the victim once again in an act of grand deception.

Yet another generation of Palestinian young men and women, born under occupation and enduring its ruthlessness and cruelty, has again engaged in popular resistance to send a clear message to Israel and the rest of the world that they will not forget or surrender; their spirit cannot be broken and they will continue the struggle for freedom and dignity. They are literally dying to be free.

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Ben-Meir, Before it is too late

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Palestinian youths, heading into a Third Intifada, assist one of their wounded near a Gaza crossing.

Before it is too late

by Alon Ben-Meir

It was always a question of when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would violently erupt once again, which only proves that, contrary to the prevailing views among a multitude of Israelis, no Israeli government can manage the occupation indefinitely. The current replay of past violent flare-ups points to the dismal failure of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policy.

That said, I do not suggest for a moment that all Palestinians are innocent bystanders; Palestinian leaders, including Abbas, have their share in provoking the unrest. But those Israelis who call on their government to use harsher measures to prevent further escalation should answer a simple question: what happens the day after a successful Israeli crackdown, and where will all this lead to?

They all seem to conveniently forget or ignore that what is fundamentally wrong here is the continuing occupation, which by its own very nature cannot be sustained without paying an increasingly heavier toll on both sides.

The stabbing and killing of innocent Israelis is most reprehensible, and the perpetrators should be brought to justice if they survive the aftermath of their atrocious acts. The Israeli government has the responsibility to take security measures to prevent such criminal acts.

The use of excessive force, however, only provokes more intense violent resistance and fuels the already-existing Palestinian extremism which is not likely to abate, however brutal and forceful Israel’s counter-measures might be.

Whether or not the violence was instigated by the Palestinian Authority’s unfounded accusation that Israel is changing the status quo at the Temple Mount/Haram el-Sharif is hardly relevant, even if it were true.

If the conflict over the Temple Mount did not instigate the current flare-up, any other incident would have ignited it because the conditions on the ground were ripe for such a violent uprising.

A multitude of Palestinian youths live in abject poverty, are despondent, and have no hope for the future. They feel completely abandoned by their own government on the one hand, and are choked by the Israeli occupation on the other.

The fact, however, that Jerusalem was the flash point is especially worrisome as the city houses the largest number of Israelis and Palestinians living side-by-side. If Jerusalem cannot provide the microcosm of Israeli-Palestinian peaceful coexistence, there will never be peace between the two sides.

When it comes to the use of force, Israel will sooner than later prevail, which may calm the situation, but only temporarily. The general shifting of the Israeli population to the right-of-center and the enormous power the settlement movement wields make matters considerably worse.

Extremists on both sides will continue to provoke each other, which will only set the stage for the next bloody confrontation if the political status quo and conditions on the ground remain unchanged.

Israel, rather than the Palestinians, will end up licking its wounds, because irrespective of how many Palestinians are killed and how much destruction they sustain, it is a small sacrifice they happily make in their march toward statehood.

The fact is, a handful of knife-wielding Palestinians can cause such havoc among the Israelis, rob them of their personal safety, and make them psychologically vulnerable.

Meanwhile, Israel’s image is further tarnished as friends and foes alike view Israel, rather than the Palestinians, as the culprit behind this new wave of violence. The persisting occupation and the expansion of the settlements provide a constant flame, and it takes little fuel to make it a raging fire that leaves terrible destruction in its wake.

Those extremists among the Israelis who really believe that the use of force is the only way to deal with Palestinian violence are living in self-denial, and the complacent among Israelis in general do not want to know the truth, preferring to live the life of false comfort that complacency provides.

Moreover, there is no way to take this Palestinian ‘uprising’ out of the regional context. The Arab Spring and the resulting regional turmoil reminds every Palestinian that fighting and dying for a cause is better than living a life of servitude and hopelessness.

Wisdom dictates that Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition rethink their position and devise a long-term strategy not limited to only stem the current bloodshed, but to prevent the vicious cycle of violence by changing the status quo.

Some Israelis and Palestinians might think that time is on their side. They are dead wrong. Time works on the side of those who know how to seize the moment and are committed to finding solutions to endemic problems, instead of waiting and falsely hoping that they can ride the wave of uncertainty and improve their position over time.

Every intelligent Israeli and Palestinian, and there are many, should speak up loud and clear that there will be no winners in this conflict — only losers.

The losses will transcend material, territorial, or physical control, but inflict far more acute damage: the loss of the moral tenet that frees the individual of the responsibility to do what is right. It a dreadful curse because it is self-propelling and allows for ever more latitude to kill and destroy without any sense of remorse.

The mutual acrimonious charges and counter-charges by Israeli and Palestinian leaders do nothing but instigate ever more violence. If Netanyahu and Abbas really want to end the bloodshed, they must appeal to their respective publics, preferably together, and unambiguously state that they are both determined to end the violence.

The question is, do they have the courage, vision, conviction, or will to do what must be done, as neither side can have it their way or wish the other away.

Israel has every right to exist as a Jewish and a democratic state and should protect that with all of its might. However, being that Israel is by far the more powerful party, it should use that might to change the reality on the ground, because its survival as a true Jewish and democratic country depends on the creation of a Palestinian state.

Given past experiences with Netanyahu and Abbas, I seriously doubt that either can rise to the occasion on their own. But for the visit of Secretary of State John Kerry to the region to have any positive effect, Abbas should accept Netanyahu’s invitation to meet during Kerry’s visit. They must promise that the status quo ante will change and together they will chart a new road to peace before it is too late.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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Scenes from the Toro Guapo Festival in Anton

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Anton 1At the Toro Guapo Festival

photos by Eric Jackson

For more photos of this event, visit our Facebook page. To give us a budget that allows us to get around Panama to cover more things, donate to the cause.

Anton 2

 

Anton 3

 

Anton 4

 

Anton 5

 

Anton 6

 

Anton 7

 

Anton 8

 

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The Panama News blog links, October 18, 2015

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The Panama News blog links, October 18, 2015

PBS, PanCanal expansion set off an environmental fight in Florida

Petroleumworld, Can the Panama Canal fulfill its global LNG promise?

MarineLink, Tokyo MOU welcomes Peru and Panama

Reuters, How the doomed El Faro met its end

JMDeportes, Panamá campeón en béisbol sub-14 panamericano

FourFourTwo, Mexico 1 – Panama 0 in soccer friendly

Video, Panama drag racing

Prensa Latina, Cancelan en Panamá concesiones hidroeléctricas

E&N, Fusión AB Inbev – SAB Miller crearía gigante cervecero de Centroamérica

Euromoney, Panama moves against illicit finance

PR, AIG sells Central American assets to ASSA

Xinhua, Economía de Panamá crece 5,8% en segundo trimestre 2015

Baker, Donald Trump’s tax plan ridiculed but the TPP deal gets a pass

Weisbrot, Lessons for the Trans-Pacific Partnership

ICIJ, How a World Bank translator became a hunted man

Kapur, Escape from the World Bank

Rights and Resources Intitiative, Who owns the world’s land?

Video, How coral reefs spawn

Khor, Antibiotic resistance: a global plan at last

Mongabay, Frozen methane deposits off the US Pacific coast might be melting

The Intercept, The drone papers

Newsweek, Former CIA interrogator forced out of college post

ThinkProgress, Amazing moments from Fox News’s fake CIA “terrorism expert”

The Intercept, Snowden says Hillary’s statements show a lack of political courage

Bloomberg, Insurrection erupts at the Democratic National Committee

Time, Democratic debate transcript

Video, The Empire Files debates the debate

Caribbean News Now!, Cuban continues to hold graffiti artist

Carlsen: Ayotzinapa, state violence and terror

ADITAL, Acuerdo de paz en Colombia divide opiniones sobre castigo a criminales

Prensa Latina, Accusations against Uribe keep piling up

BBC, Colombia: ‘Crime drops’ after Venezuela border operation

EFE, Muere en operativo militar cabecilla del Clan Úsuga

Video, Coiba

Presidencia, Varela impulsa Coiba como destino de turismo verde

Xinhua, Defensa considera nula acusación contra Martinelli

Video, Martinelli faces 21 years for espionage

Espinosa, El desmoronamiento político y moral de la sociedad panameña

La Estrella, Liberación de institutores transcurre entre el desasosiego y la alegría

The New York Times, Panama’s Laquita Mitchell et al with the NY Philharmonic

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¿Wappin? Music videos by which to become bilingual

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DG -HS!
Denise Gutiérrez.

¿Wappin? Music videos by which to become bilingual

Janis Joplin – Ball and Chain
https://youtu.be/Z1LAphWvPwI

Led Zeppelin – Dazed And Confused
https://youtu.be/wx1a_Orz8o0

Sin Bandera – Entra en mi vida
https://youtu.be/SMuzsbukqrY

Sia – Big Girl Cry
https://youtu.be/LVHCTm3-jHY

Carla Morrison – Dejenme Llorar
https://youtu.be/JOFsUzyPSqY

Bob Marley – No Woman No Cry
https://youtu.be/32YvOpuYUyM

Cultura Profética – Rimas pa’ Seducir
https://youtu.be/Axpn-59HODI

Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing
https://youtu.be/icWAkDIcsZI

Celia Cruz – Te Busco
https://youtu.be/k3FkFyb1cJU

Joss Stone – Free Me
https://youtu.be/ucrAzOyw_ic

Romeo Santos & Usher – Promise
https://youtu.be/900kcXUzwCU

Imagine Dragons – Who We Are
https://youtu.be/FlMNrcazNWM

Enrique Bunbury – El Extranjero
https://youtu.be/a6FVISiJJLY

Zoé & Denise Gutiérrez – Luna
https://youtu.be/Mf_ib_gxtqE

Tina Turner – Simply the Best
https://youtu.be/oT4kqYEcXkY

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Martinelli squirms

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Eeeeew!
So Ricardo Martinelli shows his support in Panama by tweeting a copy of an ad in a newspaper he owns, said to be a statement by the Cambio Democratico caucus in the legislature. But the CD deputies, most of whom now ignore Martinelli, never actually met to issue this statement.

Martinelli dodges, pretends and delays as his world closes in on him

by Eric Jackson

He still has some newspapers, radio stations, websites, NexTV and his Twitter account in his media empire. That gives Ricardo Martinelli room to spin. As in, putting out the call for an October 14 demonstration in front of the Public Ministry. Few party leaders or elected officials of Martinelli’s Cambio Democratico party showed up, but they did hire or otherwise moblize a couple of dozen people to hold the signs and banners objecting to alleged persecution of Martinelli and a number of officials of his former administration. About 15 Panameñista counter-protesters showed up across the street, with signs of the “lock him up” genre and a small squad of riot cops moved in between the two groups, just in case. There were insults but no objects hurled and nobody was punched or arrested. But the way that Martinelli played it, the scene was a throwback to Noriega’s Doberman riot squad and CODEPADI goon beating on brave pro-democracy demonstrators.

It’s not a show that moves the masses, but it’s one of the few moves left in the former president’s playbook. The world is closing in on Ricardo Martinelli. Even if for whatever reason Washington lets him stay indefinitely or permanently in the United States, the Martinelli brand is toxic here. It’s likely that by this time next month there will be an international arrest warrant out for the illegal electronic surveillance that Martinelli ordered, and that would be but one of many legal troubles.

Consider the gyrations:

  • With prosecuting magistrate Harry Díaz asking for a trial before the Supreme Court and a 21-year prison sentence, magistrate Jerónimo Mejía has about two weeks to rule on that motion. But Martinelli’s lawyers moved down another avenue to delay the case, by trying to get Díaz removed as prosecuting magistrate. The full court immediately heard that motion and unanimously rejected it.
  •  There is talk that to avoid this high court trial and reset the calendar on the spying case, Martinelli will resign from the Central American Parliament, thus devolving the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over him and sending this and a dozen other cases to ordinary courts and prosecutors.
  • Meanwhile, the gears of Italian criminal justice grind against Martinelli, who has recently retained an Italian criminal defense lawyer to handle those cases.
  • All of Panama’s corporate mainstream media that Martinelli does not own are in a frenzied competition to discover and report new details of how the former president and his two sons became silent partners in the hydroelectric dam business and used the government to feather their nests. The cast of characters overlaps with those of other matters under criminal investigation and the money trails from various scandals are merging and diverging here, as is common in a racketeering conspiracy case. But Martinelli isn’t denying any of the specific allegations anymore — he’s just attacking La Prensa and the Motta family that controls TVN in general derogatory terms.
  • So where is Martinelli? By most credible accounts he’s in Miami. The ones that had him in Paraguay — coming from a single convicted money launderer and notoriously unreliable source — may have been disinformation for which the former president paid. In any case, now the man’s talking about moving to Spain or Puerto Rico. There is also talk of him formally applying for refugee status in the USA, which even if the Obama administration opposes that could start years of litigation in the US courts to delay any deportation or expulsion.
  • About one-quarter of those who were Cambio Democratico members at the time of the 2014 elections have quit the party and now a majority of CD deputies ignore what Martinelli has to say. He is, however, still leader of that party and as such retains some useful to him immunities from investigation and prosecution that can be lifted but only after time-consuming proceedings before the Electoral Tribunal. The party has internal elections set for October 25, but moves are afoot to move that voting back to next January. Why? Because that would extend Martinelli’s extra-special election season immunity as party boss.

Because the US government has not stated a position on Martinelli’s legal woes or the desirability of his presence in the United States, we can’t tell with much certainty the probability of Ricardo Martinelli taking up residence in a concrete and steel cage. But it looks possible enough and imminent enough to him that he’s visibly squirming.

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Toro Guapo Festival this weekend in Anton

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TG
Here we don’t have the blood sport of bullfighting as in Spain or Mexico — but we do have the Toro Guapo.

Such a handsome little bull!

The parties and ceremonies are already underway as the sun goes down on Thursday, October 15 in Anton. Friday at noon there is the first parade, the diablos de espejos, a uniquely Interiorano sort of folklore.

The partying and parades turn up to full blast on Saturday and Sunday, the 17th and 18th. If you can only make it to Anton for part of the party, be there on Sunday for the oxcart parade.

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Gandásegui, El Comando Sur y la base de Punta Coco

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Punta Coco
¡COMPRA AHORA!

El Comando Sur y la base de Punta Coco

por Marco A. Gandásegui, hijo

La base aéreo-naval en Punta Coco (en el Golfo de Panamá), en la actualidad, tiene dos misiones. Por un lado, según el Comando Sur de EEUU, forma parte de la red logística que tiene Washington en torno a Colombia. Según informan los boletines del Comando, la base tiene la responsabilidad de detectar las rutas que utilizan los traficantes de drogas ilícitas que salen de Colombia con dirección hacia EEUU. Por el otro, la base de Punta Coco, según los asesores del presidente Juan C. Varela, también tiene la tarea de alojar a ‘criminales de alto perfil’ que son enviados a la isla.

Según otras fuentes no oficiales, la base en Punta Coco podría tener otros propósitos.

Hay quienes especulan que EEUU podría utilizarla para encarcelar a prisioneros políticos de sus guerras globales que son detenidos sin acusaciones por largos períodos de tiempo. Las agencias de inteligencia que operan desde Washington podrían traer ciudadanos de otros países a Punta Coco, “al estilo de los procesos extrajudiciales que aplica EEUU (rendición extraordinaria) donde sospechosos son secuestrados y enviados a cárceles clandestinas en otros países”. Según documentos oficiales que describen las operaciones de estos centros clandestinos, los prisioneros son sometidos a torturas y tratos crueles.

El centro carcelario insular podría tener otro objetivo: servir de prisión para trasladar a los privados de libertad, o algunos de ellos, actualmente detenidos en la base militar de EEUU en Guantánamo. Hace ocho años el presidente de EEUU, Barack Obama, prometió en su campaña electoral que cerraría la prisión en la base de Guantánamo. Sin embargo, la complicada legislación que creó la nefasta mazmorra en el extremo oriente de la isla de Cuba le ha impedido obtener su objetivo. Hay quienes especulan con la posibilidad de que el gobierno panameño, para obtener el beneplácito de Washington, se preste para alojar a los prisioneros políticos de origen árabe, afgano y paquistaní en Punta Coco.

La base de Punta Coco, a 107 kilómetros de la ciudad de Panamá, fue construida por el Comando Sur de EEUU hace seis años a un costo de $73.5 millones. La cárcel es administrada por el Servicio Aeronaval (SENAN), una institución creada por decreto ejecutivo hace 15 años. La Constitución Política de Panamá señala, expresamente, que no se crearán fuerzas armadas en el país. Sin embargo, por insistencia de EEUU, se creó el SENAN e, igualmente, el Servicio Nacional de Fronteras (SENAFRONT). Ambas fuerzas operan independientemente de la Policía Nacional. El Sistema Penitenciario Nacional, del Ministerio de Gobierno, encargado de todos los centros carcelarios del país, fue excluido de Punta Coco.

La cárcel de Punta Coco también es responsabilidad del SENAN, que depende del Ministerio de Seguridad Pública. Esta dependencia también fue creada hace un par de lustros por insistencia de Washington. Se supone que centraliza todas las actividades asociadas con las políticas de ‘seguridad nacional’ que forman parte de la política global de EEUU.

En julio de este año, la avioneta en que una delegación militar norteamericana que regresaba de Punta Coco se estrelló cuando llegaba a un aeropuerto de vuelos domésticos en la ciudad de Panamá. Los 6 militares norteamericanos, entre ellos el jefe de la Oficina de Cooperación de Defensa de la Embajada, un colombiano no identificado y el piloto panameño salieron ilesos del accidente.

Según la información que se filtró del incidente, el grupo de militares “fueron a inspeccionar el radar que Panamá está construyendo en la base de Punta Coco”. Según fuentes norteamericanas, el gobierno panameño está instalando un total de 19 radares en diferentes bases aéreo navales distribuidos en ambas costas del país.

Según la misma fuente, el gobierno del presidente Varela mantiene un silencio total sobre las bases y los radares. En el caso de Punta Coco, el Grupo HSC, que trabaja para el Comando Sur, ha construido –a un costo de $5 millones– una instalación eléctrica con capacidad para generar 40KW. La página de internet del Comando Sur informa que la instalación fue construida para su uso. El Comando también invirtió casi $4 millones en la construcción de unas barracas y un muelle. EEUU justifica estos gastos señalando que Punta Coco “se encuentra en una zona peligrosa de tráfico de drogas (ilícitas)”. Además, la base es parte del “plan estratégico del Comando Sur para mejorar la capacidad de su socio (Panamá) en la captura (de sospechosos) en un ambiente marítimo”.

El autor es profesor de sociología de la Universidad de Panamá e investigador asociado del CELA

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Two potential buyers for Banco Universal

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FP - Banco Universal
How much has the taint from the Financial Pacific brokerage house and the Banco Universal spread into Panama’s banking and securities sectors?

Who gets Banco Universal — oligarchs with Martinelli ties or Miami Nicaraguan exiles?

by Eric Jackson

Are the powers that be annoyed with the way that the process of finding a new owner for Banco Universal is going? On October 12 the Banking Superintendency’s secretary, Gustavo Villa, held a bid reception ceremony from which reporters were excluded and after which he quickly left without answering questions. The appointed interim manager for the intervened bank, Jaime De Gamboa, was a bit more responsive. He said that of 49 entities invited to bid for the scandal-plagued bank, only two had submitted offers, that a committee would be reviewing the proposals and that a decision would be made by October 28. The two potential buyers are Panama’s relatively new Canal Bank and the Miami-based Nicaraguan-American company Latin American Financial Services Group (LAFISE). Both were invited to bid, neither is on its face a mob operation, but both raise distinct sets of nagging questions.

Canal Bank was chartered in late December of 2013, the waning days of the Martinelli administration. It’s a project of the NASE insurance and reinsurance group, which on its website boasts of its outstanding clients:

…large projects related to the Panama Canal expansion, the nationwide road infrastructure network, government development projects of great magnitude; as well as big energy works and major companies such as Claro Panama, Constructora Santa Fe Limited, the Metro Bus consortium, FCC, Acciona, Conalvías, CUSA and Transcaribe Trading, among others….

The road construction company that blockaded La Prensa to retaliate for unflattering news coverage? The controversial hydroelectric dam industry? One of the companies in the problematic GUPC consortium that got the new locks contract on a lowball bid? The bus company that was recently kicked off of the job after many problems? Businesses that were showered with the Martinelli administration’s largess? Maybe big business has to deal with big business and those are the insurance clients NASE has to claim. And besides, Canal Bank has aimed at the micro-finance sector so far.

But are we to be impressed by surnames? Capital Bank is headed by former diplomat Roberto Alfaro, and notice the Alfaro surname on the Banco Universal board of directors, Eloy Alfaro. And should the Financial Pacific scandal and a Bolsa de Valores securities market in which there seems not to be much relationship between the underlying value of things and prices make a warning flag out of a securities industry tie? NASE’s treasurer, Roberto Brenes, until recently headed the Bolsa de Valores.

Indignant as people who trade on them might get about such a notion, associations work in both positive and negative directions. The illustrious families associated with Banco Universal — the Virzis, the Pérez Balladareses, the Alfaros and the rest — may be in denial now, but that connection was once waved around as an in-crowd credential. The banking authorities are going to have to look carefully at both the reality and the appearance of the Capital Bank bid.

LAFISE, essentially run by the Nicaraguan Zamora family, is more straightforward and more at arm’s length in its connections. Founded by Nicaraguans who fled the 1979 Sandinista Revolution, they offer a variety of financial services in Central America, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico and the United States. Its president, Roberto J. Zamora, is a US citizen and a substantial contributor to the Republican Party. A move into Panama’s banking sector would seem to be a natural expansion for this group of companies.

The LAFISE interest that could raise some Panamanian eyebrows has to do with the Zamoras’ eventual peace with the Sandinistas from whom they had fled, which dates back to the first Ortega administration’s re-legalization of private banking in 1985. Actually, the association of possible concern isn’t with Ortega and his party per se, but with a big project of theirs. In December of 2014 Mr. Zamora and a delegation from his companies met with a delegation headed by a Mr. Li of the HKND Group, the latter the Chinese consortium with a concession to build a Nicaragua Canal. In a press release put out by LAFISE, at whose behest the meeting was held, it was stated that “Mr. Roberto Zamora, President of Grupo LAFISE, said his group can offer a broad portfolio of products and quality services that will contribute to the successful development of the Grand Canal Project.”

There is nothing too sinister about Nicaraguan banking and insurance people wanting their part of what could be a major part of the Nicaraguan economy if the project does go ahead. But to Panama that would be “the competition.” In the ordinary course of business having such folks on the Panamanian banking scene would make sense both for them and for Panama. But in the Panama Canal Authority the Nicaraguan canal project is looked at with much fear and suspicion. Panama’s banking sector is well represented on the ACP board and it would be interesting to see how contagious the wary PanCanal attitudes might be within the Panamanian government.

So is the Banking Superintendency disappointed that it only has two potential buyers for Banco Universal? Or is it not the number, but that it’s these two, that’s cause for concern?

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Editorials: Rude questions; and The debate

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US Treasury
The alleged Honduran money laundering kingpins, who are accused of running their corporate HQ out of Panama. US Department of Treasury graphic.

Rude questions

The US government, with President Obama and former Secretary of State Clinton saying one thing while doing another and the Republicans baiting them for not being militant enough about it, supported a coup against an elected Honduran president. Since then death squads have stalked that country, in particular silencing critical journalists and in general sending many people fleeing the country for their lives, including children who without adults accompanying them have slipped across the US border. There have been “elections” held under that thuggish regime, duly certified by Washington as “free.” The US-sponsored Honduran regime has been a staunch ally in the “War on Drugs,” allowing the country to be turned into a DEA free fire zone in which soldiers in helicopters shoot people in little boats first and suppress all reasonable questions later. And until June, as Minister of Investment in that death squad regime, there was Yankel Rosenthal, one of the suspects shown above. He’s now in jail in the USA, charged with being one of the world’s principal drug kingpins.

The alleged corporate money laundering mill is said to have been run out of Panama City’s banking district. The Rosenthals’ Panamanian business structures were set up by the same rabiblanco law firm that set up another Panamanian company run by another well connected family in Honduras. That’s the Khafie family and their company is GENISA, of Barro Blanco Dam infamy. One of GENISA’s directors is behind bars in Honduras on allegations of a huge theft from the Honduran public health care system.

So now Washington takes a stand for the rule of law.

Why should anyone believe that US politicians have anything useful to tell Latin America? Why should Panama be a participant in the US drug wars? Why should Panamanians, or Hondurans, show any deference at all to the families with the illustrious surnames?

The debate

Debates, like wars, are properly judged on the basis of their political effects. It’s not like a contest between university debate teams in which points are added or subtracted, any more than a war is determined by body counts. In the US Civil War the Union side took considerably more casualties than their Confederate foes, yet decisively crushed the Old South and its social and economic structures.

It will take a few days and some scientific random polling to get a better idea of who won and who lost the October 13 Democratic presidential candidates’ debate. At first glance, although there were some points scored for and against each candidate, the showdown in Las Vegas saw no huge gaffes and confirmed that the contest is essentially a two-candidate race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Unless events intervene, there seems to be no opening for Joe Biden to step into the race with much hope of success. Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb were all confirmed as serious men with some interesting things to say, but non-contenders at this point.

Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz probably succeeded in reducing the audience for the debate. It seems that the audience was skewed a bit toward fervent Sanders supporters, while Wasserman Schultz is trying to rig the race into a Hillary Clinton coronation. Would a low-turnout primary and caucus season populated by Bernie’s enthusiastic legions work to Hillary’s advantage? That’s a dubious calculation. The whole exercise is driving many Democrats to ignore those increasingly shrill DNC fundraising emails.

Anderson Cooper was an insufferable moderator, both for trying to dumb down the debate into a food fight over contrived Republican narratives about Benghazi and Hillary’s email server and for his shallow ideological baiting of Bernie’s democratic socialism and skepticism about the dominant forms of capitalism currently practiced. On the latter score, count him as a corporate representative for a business that stands to lose billions in ad revenue if unlimited campaign spending is curbed.

On the issues the candidates voiced different views on inequality, war versus peace issues and guns, with Bernie having shifted his opinions a bit about the last of these and Hillary about the first, but a lot of details to be debated in future encounters. Hillary is a hawk, something of a neoconservative lite who does not acknowledge the connections between interventions in Iraq, Libya and Syria and the nightmarish consequences that followed. None of the other candidates are that reckless, but it may be that given the situations that have arisen there isn’t a great deal of difference among the candidates about what they would do now in those specific instances. Mrs. Clinton’s special animosity toward the Iranians and the Russians, however, doesn’t leave her in a very good position to confront the Islamic State in a way that’s coordinated with others who live in the same neighborhood with that brand of Sunni fanatics.

When Bernie jumped in to dismiss the fuss over Hillary’s emails as a tiresome and scarcely relevant distraction, some pundits figured that he blew it by conceding a potential avenue of attack that he could have used aganist his opponent. Let us see whether Democratic primary voters consider petty and vicious to be “strong,” as opposed to being fair and honest as “weak.” It seems that as part of the degradation of public discourse in the United States a strain of media personalities has become so blinded by its own “gotcha” style of reporting and commentary as to lose the sense of proportion.

So who won? Soon enough some good polling will suggest how this round should be scored. But there is a long campaign for the nomination ahead and nobody is yet a certain winner.

Bear in mind…

This country has socialism for the rich, rugged individualism for the poor.
Martin Luther King Jr.

 

There are also as many Eastern European immigrants coming who have relationships to a German grandfather, uncle, or whatever, and of course that gives them the right to German citizenship because of this strange law which says that only by blood are you German. It’s an antique, and one of the most repressive laws I can think of, dating back to the Hitler days. So the people who can prove any German descent whatever suddenly are German, while a foreign worker who might have lived thirty years in Germany with his family, has paid taxes, contributing to society, may not get German citizenship. Yet, a person coming from Poland can become German overnight. The situation is rather ridiculous.
Petra Kelly

 

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
Albert Einstein
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