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Beluche, El jarabe de la muerte

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jarabeEl jarabe de la muerte y las víctimas del capitalismo neoliberal

por Olmedo Beluche

El amigo y colega Pablo Asís Navarro Icaza ha publicado recientemente su última novela: “El Jarabe de la Muerte o los inconvenientes de no saber chino”, en la que aborda de una manera amena el drama vivido por cientos, tal vez miles, de familias panameñas envenenadas por un “jarabe para la tos sin azúcar”, elaborado con refrigerante industrial. Como un Sherlock Holmes criollo, el periodista Luis Quintero, principal personaje de la obra y personificación del propio Pablo Navarro, va indagando y reconstruyendo la verdad de esta tragedia nacional.

Como explicara Pablo Navarro en la presentación de la novela, en el Salón de Profesores de Humanidades de la Universidad de Panamá, el impacto emocional que le causara el destape de este absurdo asesinato masivo, lo llevó a realizar una investigación exhaustiva, como buen sociólogo, que incluyó entrevistarse con muchas de las víctimas y sus familias, trabajo del que surgió esta versión novelística de la investigación. Así que, a los futuros lectores, a quienes recomiendo la novela de Pablo Asís, sepan que aunque el género es ficción, lo que se describe es cruda realidad.

¿Cómo es posible que una licitación para la compra de glicerina para la elaboración de medicinas del laboratorio de la Caja de Seguro Social, que pasó por tres empresas y tres países, acabe transmutada en “Dietileneglicol”, refrigerante de automóviles y veneno para las personas? La respuesta más simple e individualista es: la avaricia, combinada con ineptitud.

Pero esa interpretación, que focaliza en un par de individuos la responsabilidad por tamaño “genocidio” (como señala uno de los personajes), satisface a las autoridades del sistema, pero no a la sociedad, menos a las víctimas y muchos menos a quienes deseamos que nunca se vuelva a repetir. Porque en pocos años, vemos multiplicarse los crímenes masivos en la salud pública panameña que pudieron evitarse, en los casos de: dietileneglicol, poco después en las víctimas de la bacteria KPC y en los niños envenenados con heparina.

Es la avaricia, pero no la individual, aunque individuos concretos son los responsables ante la ley, si es que esta funciona alguna vez. Es la avaricia sistémica del capitalismo decadente en su fase neoliberal para el cual sólo importa el mercado y el lucro privado, a los que debe supeditarse incluso la vida humana. Es la aplicación de 30 a 40 años de políticas neoliberales que promueven el “libre comercio”, pero no el libre tránsito de personas. Esas políticas económicas, para facilitar la ganancia privada, han ido eliminando los controles aduaneros, fitosanitarios y de salud.

¿Cómo un producto que pasó por empresas de Panamá, España y China nunca nadie cotejó que lo dicho en la factura coincidiera con el contenido de los bidones? ¿Cómo es posible que la Caja de Seguro Social panameña no verificó la veracidad del producto que recibía en sus bodegas? ¿Por qué no se enviaron muestras al Instituto Especializado de Análisis antes de elaborarse el jarabe? La única respuesta a tanta negligencia es el neoliberalismo, que ha removido todas las trabas posibles al comercio.

La otra pregunta que la novela plantea muy bien: ¿Cómo es posible que un jarabe cuya distribución pertenecía exclusivamente a la Caja de Seguro Social envenenó personas que compraron en farmacias privadas? ¿Qué mafia a lo interno de la institución lucraba robándose los medicamentos y revendiéndolos en qué farmacias cómplices? La única respuesta posible e la corrupción generalizada que corroe al sistema capitalista panameño, de la que participan no solo los grandes funcionarios al servicio de los grandes capitalistas, sino también funcionarios de mediano y bajo rango.

Corrupción también es la manipulación y el ocultamiento de la verdad que practicaron tanto los directivos de la CSS, como del Ministro de Salud y del gobierno de Martín Torrijos, desde que se empezó a conocer la magnitud de las muertes esparcidas por todo el país. La novela de Pablo Navarro describe cómo se cambió el diagnóstico de muchas defunciones para atribuirlos a otras causas y reducir el número de víctimas admitidas.

También describe la novela cómo la CSS le pidió a las víctimas que devolvieran los frascos de jarabe dejándolas sin evidencia de haber sido envenenadas. Incluso en casos de defunciones ocurridas en los hospitales se ha denegado la solicitud de informar los tratamientos que se suministraron a los pacientes.

Incluso la novela de Pablo Navarro nos lleva a analizar la responsabilidad del Ministerio Público que, más de un lustro después, no aclara dudas como las siguientes: si se elaboraron hasta 260 mil frascos de jarabe y se admite haber distribuido 60 mil frascos, ¿Cuántos se recuperaron de verdad? ¿Cuántos siguen por ahí? ¿Cómo es posible que solo se admiten 300 afectados con tantos jarabe suelto por las calles, si con dos o tres cucharadas basta para matar a una persona? La única respuesta posible: más corrupción neoliberal.

La novela, que maneja muy bien la ironía, nos advierte desde el título una realidad absurda: en China, un irresponsable sastre, Wang Guiping, siguiendo la consigna “socialista” de “enriqueceos”, descubrió que era buen negocio suplantar la glicerina por el refrigerante industrial, pues le permitía ganar unos yuanes o dólares más. El hombre alega que lo probó y que vio que no hacía daño, por lo que procedió a venderlo, envenenando a decenas de personas en su país. Por lo cual fue juzgado y ejecutado.

Pero, aquí la ironía, en el caso del veneno enviado a Panamá “no hay delito”, pues la etiqueta exterior de los bidones tenía claramente las letras “T.D.”, cuyo significado nadie entendía por acá, pero que en chino significan “tidai”, o sea, “sustituto” (de la glicerina). Así estamos: avaricia capitalista, enriquecimiento rápido, libre comercio, eliminación de conroles, envenenamiento masivo, denegación de justicia, corrupción generalizada, en fin, el funcionamiento “normal” de este capitalismo neoliberal que nos acerca a la barbarie.

Finalizamos recomendando al público panameño leer “El Jarabe de la Muerte o los inconvenientes de no saber chino”, de Pablo Navarro, que nos hará reflexionar sobre la época trágica que nos ha tocado vivir en este Panamá y, ojalá, la novela nos impulse a la acción política, la única capaz de barrer esta basura genocida que gobierna al mundo.

 

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Waiting for the bus that never stopped

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tunnel
The light at the end of the tunnel: walking under the Rio Hato airport to Santa Clara.

Sunday bus service can be bad,
but this was truly ridiculous

Running ever so slightly late to be in Santa Clara for a 3 p.m. appointment — out the door at about 1:20 and no wait at all for the mini-bus to the highway. At the bus stop on the Pan-American Highway at 1:30, and then the wait begins. As 3 p.m. approaches, a call to the person I was to meet — but insane traffic and crowds at the bus terminal make her late, too. Coming out from the city, there were several bad accidents slowing things down. But the heavy traffic going toward the city, with buses all packed and even those that weren’t refusing to take a passenger who wasn’t going all the way into the city? It was the sort of thing that one expects on a Sunday at the end of a holiday weekend, buy why this Sunday?

As 5 p.m. approached, your editor did what he could have done hours earlier — got on a Penonome to Farallon minibus, got off at the entrada, and walked the couple of miles or so to the designated place in Santa Clara. That stroll was instructive about Martinelli-era construction work. Yes, there is a pedestrian walkway on one side of the tunnel under the airport — but between the bus stop and the walkway one must walk either on the road or in a ditch that’s perilously close to the road and is likely to be the stuff of which traffic fatalities are made. Just past the seafood market — closed on a high-traffic Sunday when a lot of folks might be interested in picking up something for dinner on their way home — there is a bridge over the little stream that separates Rio Hato from Santa Clara, with a safety walk on one side. The other side of the road from the walkway in the tunnel. There is no pedestrian bridge and the highway is divided by a deep ditch that’s overgrown with weeds. Thus, the walk across the unprotected side of the bridge, with maybe a foot and a half between the pedestrian and traffic. Perfect design, if the goal is to build as much as possible as quickly as possible and skim as much as possible from the transactions. Typical design, in a country where those who use public transportation and pedestrian walkways are not those who make the decisions and those who do decide have utter disdain for those unlike themselves.

 

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Growing demand to bring Martinelli to justice

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All grovel before Il Duce!
Ricardo Martinelli in one of his uniforms. Photo by the Presidencia.

One might dismiss the latest pronouncement as the usual stuff from the usual ineffectual civil society groups — but by and large these are people who were behind Varela’s upset victory in the 2014 presidential election

In the face of sneers from the Scarface set, calls to bring Martinelli back in handcuffs

by Eric Jackson
They are so afraid of my tweets. Look what happened in the Arab Spring.
Ricardo Martinelli, to Bloomberg
Do something. Do not allow these acts to remain unpunished.
Magaly Castillo, to the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court, having rejected magistrate Hernán De León’s move to throw out the complaint against Ricardo Martinelli in the Financial Pacific case, now has a dozen separate criminal matters concerning Ricardo Martinelli before it. With the acceptance of a case against Martinelli and legislators Sergio Gálvez and Vidal García arising from overpriced government contracts to buy rice, beans and lentils with kickbacks going to the politicians, four cases against the ex-president have reached the formal investigation phase. (On the latest one the three men named will be tried separately if the matter comes to trial, as their interests and alleged roles were different.) But all of the Martinelli cases are bogged down in the face of endless defense motions from teams of lawyers, many of them quite frivolous in a legal system that provides no penalties for vexatious motions interposed in order to delay. The former president is trying to run out the calendar for the investigation process or for the statute of limitations, both of which he shortened for his own crimes before leaving office. Those shorter windows of criminal liability are now under constitutional challenge before the high court, which is taking its time deciding the issue.

Martinelli appointed a majority of the magistrates and suplentes (alternates) on the Supreme Court of Justice. As two magistrates have been removed — Martinelli appointee Alejandro Moncada Luna was impeached and sent to prison for a small sample of his corrupt acts and Martín Torrijos appointee Víctor Benavides was forced to resign in the face of wealth whose provenance he could not explain — President Juan Carlos Varela could appoint replacements for both the magistates and their suplentes at any time. Were such nominations to be approved by the fragmented National Assembly, that would numerically end Ricardo Martinelli’s high court majority. At the end of December a third vacancy will be created as the 10-year term of Torrijos appointee Harley Mitchell ends.

The math is not that simple and the mood swings in Martinelli’s incessant Twitter tweets about the court reflect the complications of both the court and his mind. At some points Martinelli, who is reportedly holed up in a condo on Brickell in Miami that was used as a set in the gangster movie “Scarface,” boasts about how everything is under his control, how he will never be tried or convicted of anything. At other times Martinelli tweets about how Varela has the entire court bribed or browbeaten to the point that he wouldn’t have a chance before Panamanian justice even if he’s innocent. And then, through Twitter, through his television station NexTV, through his newspapers La Critica and El Panama America and by way of a small entourage of rented voices still on his payroll, Martinelli continues to play party boss and even tends to put on airs like a revolutionary.

Enough is enough, say the great majority of Panamanians who do not have a personally vested interest in politicians getting away with whatever heists they pull off. But Panama’s system is designed to minimize public influence over public policy in the five-year spans between elections. So what if 26 civic organizations, many themselves umbrella groups of multiple organizations, call for an end to impunity? So what if Magaly Castillo, an attorney and veteran anti-corruption activist with close working ties to the Catholic Church, calls for an end to the mockery? She, and they, have been ignored before.

This time, though, the call is directed in many ways toward the president and this one is not the object of their wrath. And this time it’s not only unaligned independent activists who have been around forever, it’s precisely those sorts of people who were long against Martinelli but only late in the 2014 presidential contest threw their support to Varela. Most notably, it’s the voice of that part of the business community that decisively intervened for Varela when it looked as if Martinelli would continue to rule by proxy on the strength of having bought the election with stolen public funds. (Isn’t it journalistically correct to say “alleged” here? Actually, this crime spree was waved in everybody’s faces and whomever Martinelli might convince to certify otherwise would not change the facts of the matter.)

Business turned against Martinelli. We can see where some of the exceptions like Nicolás Corcione and Aaron Mizrachi have fled, and where a bunch of others are in big trouble with prosecutors for their dealings with Martinelli. The American Chamber of Commerce would not criticize Martinelli then and the guy who was urging American business owners to donate to Martinelli? He has fled the country. But by and large business found the conditions that Martinelli created intolerable, and at the head of the capitalist revolt against the former president was the country’s richest family, the Mottas. Because of Panama’s campaign finance secrecy we don’t know how much they gave to the Varela campaign but it was reputedly a considerable sum and Alfredo Motta very notably led an independent campaign for Varela. And there at the press conference, sitting beside Magaly Castillo and calling for Varela to appoint replacements for the disgraced former magistrates and their suplentes, to veto legislation that would increase politicians’ privileges and immunities, to speed up the legal system and to bring Ricardo Martinelli before the bar of justice, was Alfredo Motta.

The Mottas have their interests and their critics. If you follow La Estrella closely enough, you will notice many allegations and arguments in favor of the proposition that they have too much influence over the Varela administration. But there you have it. The president isn’t just dealing with the usual pesky good government advocates that his predecessors have successfully blown off. This crowd includes key supporters of his. To the extent that Varela’s Catholicism is a big part of what makes him tick — something that is by most accounts the case — and to the extent that Castillo unofficially but authoritatively speaks for the church, the call matters. This was not the usual civil society pronouncement.

Cynics might dismiss Alfredo Motta by arguing that what his family wants is a port concession on the Pacific Side, but it that may well be true, bugging the president about a sensitive matter might not be the way to lobby for it. On his Facebook page, Motta put it this way: “We have come to the time to change the country’s direction and to take the path of transparency and honesty.” Look at where Panama has just been and where we are headed in the near future, and it sounds more like a business argument than a moral one.

 

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State of emergency continues in parts of the metro area

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A landslide in San Miguelito. Photo by SINAPROC.
A landslide in San Miguelito. Photo by SINAPROC.

A president with a reputation for going slowly with almost everything quickly gets Panama into a state of emergency disaster response mode, before we start talking about death tolls

Quick reactions to storm damage as the height of the rainy season approaches

by Eric Jackson

On September 16 the Cabinet Council issued a decree declaring an emergency in the San Miguelito corregimiento of Belisario Porras and the Panama City corregimiento of Juan Diaz, both affected by flooding and other storm damage, the former the scene of landslides that have affected about 90 homes in the hillside neighborhood of Samaria. A few days earlier the government took similar measures in the Colon neighborhood of Nueva Italia, where homes began to slide down the hill on which they were built.

For some years now there has been a mantra heard among international agencies and public safety first responders’s that maintains that there is no such thing as a natural disaster. There is, of course, but it’s neither the creator’s devout advocates nor those so irreligious as to want to take divine references out of the language who are behind the objections to the concept of an “Act of God.” While it is acknowledged that elemental forces beyond our control may send us floods or drought, destructive winds or damaging earthquakes, the argument goes that most of the property losses, deaths and suffering are due to human errors that put people in the way of reasonably foreseeable natural events. That sort of consciousness has been taking Latin America by storm for years now, and it’s why hurricanes tend to destroy dysfunctional and unprepared Haiti worse than their poor but prepared neighbors in Cuba. It’s why Chile had a September 16 earthquake that registered 8.3 on the Richter Scale and set off tsunami waves but only about a dozen people died — Chile may have billions in property losses and some human tragedies to address, but they also have building codes that mean something and coastal evacuation plans that work in an instant.

Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela may be an industrial rather than a civil engineer by training, but he seems to know about such things. It doesn’t mean that everything is under control or that all of the problems that make Panama more disaster-prone were inherited from prior administrations. (Surely the devoutly Catholic president will have heard about people who build on the sand, but has he figured it out that the same thing applies to those who would build on the mangrove swamps of Coco del Mar?)

In any case, Varela inherited the leadership of a country in which houses have been built on steep and unstable hillsides and on flood plains. He’s president of a country in which a lot of his constituents see a storm drain as a place to dispose of plastic grocery bags. His office gets complaints from voters who say that their houses flood because of things that people did to nearby rivers.

What Varela may eventually do about building and zoning codes or the solid wastes that clog the metro area’s storm sewers remains to be seen. However, on his watch the SINAPROC disaster relief agency has been quick to respond. When houses started to crack and slide away in places like Colon’s Nueva Italia and San Miguelito’s Samaria, inspectors were quick condemn not only the obviously broken houses but whole neighborhood built atop unstable slide zones. We will surely hear complaints in the days ahead, but the Varela cabinet has authorized emergency contracts and housing grants to get the dozens of displaced families back in livable homes again. The Ministry of Housing and Land Management (MIVIOT) has been put in charge of coordinating a disaster response effort on several fronts.

MIVIOT engineers, and perhaps consultants hired under the decree that dispenses with the usual bidding process, are studying the causes of the floods and landslides and in the affected areas they have been given something approaching a blank check to demolish problem structures and build drains, slabs and other public works that might alleviate the local problems. The ministry has also been put in charge of acquiring land and building permanent new homes for those left homeless, and to rent temporary shelter for them in the meantime.

The emergency resolution also puts the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) to work on dredging and changing the channel of the Matias Hernandez River, from whence the flood waters that routed many Juan Diaz residents from their homes arose. The initial appropriation of $10 million that was included in the decree will only start to get the work done.

Meanwhile the SINAPROC disaster relief agency and the bomberos have been putting in overtime hours to respond not only to flooding and landslides, but to roads blocked and homes damaged by blown-over trees. Varela himself isn’t saying much about fast responses, but the agencies that are moving in to handle the problems are pointing that out.

 

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On the 2016 campaign trail: what Republicans are saying

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On the campaign trail with Republicans

 

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The Panama News blog posts, September 17, 2015

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The Panama News blog posts, September 17, 2015

Hellenic Shipping News, Unions commission safety study of new PanCanal locks

The Maritime Executive, Panama Canal uncertainty continues

Journal of Commerce, PanCanal loyalty incentives to compete with Suez

Xinhua, PanCanal filling Pacific Access Channel

Video, Foro UCR: El proyecto del Canal Interoceánico en Nicaragua

ANP, Panamá manifiesta interés en participar en puerto cubano de Mariel

EFE, Panamá analiza formas distintas a recibir refugiados para ayudar a sirios

MSN, Islamic State’s top military man is partly US-trained

ESPN FC, Román Torres out for the season

Prensa Latina, Panama’s capital districts remain in state of emergency

Mongabay, Arctic sea ice reached fourth lowest extent on record

Pacific Standard, See an open Northwest Passage from space

Christian Science Monitor, Global fish stocks down by half

Orange County Register, Collecting fossils in Panama

Globe & Mail, Final push for Pacific Rim pact set for end of September

Reuters, China’s US debt holdings fall

Courthouse News Service, Appellate relief for Argentina in bond scrap

Villahermosa, ¿Cómo enfrentará América Latina las turbulencias en China?

Vernengo, From BBB-razil to BB+razil

BBC, Brazil’s continuing corruption problem

Bloomberg, Odebrecht’s money launderer points to the banks

FronteraNorteSur, Old cartels never really die…

BBC, Swiss to extradite Uruguayan FIFA suspect

Caribbean News Now, New US charges likely in FIFA case

Time, Colorado raised more tax revenue from marijuana than from alcohol

Ramage, Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn

Pierce, Democratic revolt against Debbie Wasserman Schultz

WOLA, Pope Francis to address key issues in the Americas

Gandásegui, Se fue Dimas Lidio

Bloomberg, Martinelli’s new mafia digs

Alligator, UF Library’s Panama Canal Museum grant ends

 

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Alianza Ciudadana Pro Justicia et al, Alto a los fueros y privilegios

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asshole
Propaganda del periódico de Martinelli, cuya compra fue financiada por el desvío de fondos públicos.

Alto a los fueros y privilegios
que generan impunidad

por la Alianza Ciudadana Pro Justicia et al

Desde hace más de un año y, luego de los primeros resultados de las investigaciones realizadas por la Procuraduría General de la Nación, el país ha conocido la magnitud de los actos de corrupción y contra el patrimonio del Estado que se cometieron durante la administración del ex-Presidente Ricardo Martinelli.

En la mayoría de estas investigaciones es mencionado el ex-Presidente, que no puede ser investigado por el Ministerio Público, sino por la Corte Suprema de Justicia, debido a las prerrogativas de las cuales goza por ser miembro del PARLACEN, y debido a la Ley blindaje que lo protege a él y a todos los diputados.

Mientras los otros ex-funcionarios implicados en estos hechos están detenidos con medidas cautelares, o buscados por INTERPOL, el ex -Presidente Ricardo Martinelli continúa sin ser requerido por la justicia panameña, y se encuentra fuera del país en categoría de turista, sin dar explicaciones de todo lo sucedido.

Es por esto que hacemos un llamado a la Corte Suprema de Justicia para que actúe y llame ante los estrados de la justicia al ex-Presidente Ricardo Martinelli. La lentitud por parte de la Corte Suprema de Justicia en atender estas denuncias está generando percepción de impunidad y pone en peligro el derecho que tenemos los ciudadanos de conocer la verdad y que se imparta justicia.

Solicitamos a los Magistrados de la Corte Suprema de Justicia que fallen sobre la inconstitucionalidad de toda la Ley 55 o Ley Blindaje, ya que la misma sigue afectando las investigaciones contra Diputados y miembros del Parlacen.

En ese orden de ideas, hemos solicitado al Presidente de la República, Juan Carlos Varela, que vete la nueva Ley Blindaje, lo que debe obligar a la Asamblea a discutir nuevamente este tema, tomando en consideración que los Diputados deben enfrentar la justicia, como todos los ciudadanos, sin fueros ni privilegios.

Le solicitamos también al señor Presidente que nombre cuanto antes a los dos nuevos magistrados/as que necesita la Corte Suprema, cuyos nombramientos realizados con transparencia y consulta ciudadana, ayuden a mejorar la imagen y el actuar de este Órgano del Estado.

¡Basta ya de impunidades! ¡Basta ya de fueros y privilegios!

En esta coyuntura histórica, necesitamos más que nunca que los Magistrados de la Corte Suprema de Justicia cumplan la misión de impartir justicia objetiva, expedita e independiente o pongan sus cargos a disposición sin más dilación!

Panamá, septiembre 2015

Alianza Ciudadana Pro Justicia
Alianza Estratégica Nacional
Asociación de Comunidades de Áreas del Canal
Asociación de Abogados Litigantes de Panamá
Asociación Conciencia Ciudadana Centro de Estudios y Capacitación Familiar
Centro de la Mujer Panameña
Centro de Estudios Promoción y Acción Social Panameño (CEASPA)
Comisión Nacional Pro Valores Civicos y Morales
Comité Latinoamericano para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer (CLADEM)
Comité Salvemos el Río La Villa
Escuela de Ciudadanía de Panamá
Espacio Encuentro de Mujeres
Fundación para la Equidad de Género (FUNDAGENERO)
Fundación Instituto para el Estudio de Las Ciencias Sociales
Frente Herrerano Anticorrupción
Justicia, Paz e Integridad de la Creación Cmf
Juventud Democrática Popular
Mesa de Análisis de Leyes y Políticas Públicas de Discapacidad
Movimiento Ascanio Villalaz Paz
Movimiento de Desarrollo Integral Ngäble Bugle y Campesino (MODICO)
Movimiento Institucionalidad y Justicia
Movimiento Democrático Popular
MOVIN por Panamá
ONG Independientes por Panamá
Unión Nacional de Mujeres Panameñas (UNAMUP)
#JuntosDecidimos

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¿Wappin? Free form for the morning after

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Luis Enrique
Salsero nicaragüense Luis Enrique.

¿Wappin? Music for the morning after

Luis Enrique – Yo No Sé Mañana
https://youtu.be/Evqsw0hAgmc

Carole King – Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
https://youtu.be/5XFLruFA-9Y

The Beatles – A Day In The Life
https://youtu.be/PSSs9IACPZw

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers – Refugee
https://youtu.be/fFnOfpIJL0M

Alannah Myles – Black Velvet
https://youtu.be/tT4d1LQy4es

Johnny Cash – Hurt
https://youtu.be/TE8U3ObpjVQ

Bonnie Raitt w/ Crosby, Stills & Nash – Love Has No Pride
https://youtu.be/-fzCaE0-7IE

Danilo Pérez – Irremediablemente Solo
https://youtu.be/aYHoMh_qYtI

Stevie Wonder – Superstition
https://youtu.be/Vg3fB-H6Na0

Shakira – Illegal
https://youtu.be/TeAqz2cVFfQ

Hector Lavoe – Triste y Vacia
https://youtu.be/JfXLuZJxdE8

Jefferson Airplane – Wooden Ships
https://youtu.be/hIccZsURyLc

Peter Tosh – Lessons In My Life
https://youtu.be/EacqXViUK8g

Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris – If This Is Goodbye
https://youtu.be/jO368hLtazM

Santana – Everything’s Coming Our Way
https://youtu.be/SVLr0bLYiIs

 

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Kaul, The GOP agenda (or lack thereof)

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KhalilTo hear Republicans tell it, America’s major issues boil down to Hillary Clinton’s emails, Benghazi and Planned Parenthood

The GOP agenda (or lack thereof)

by Donald Kaul

To hear Republican presidential candidates tell it, you’d think the most important issue facing the nation is Hillary Clinton’s old emails.

Not climate change, not the growing gap between the filthy rich and the deserving poor, and not our crumbling roads, declining schools, or tattered justice system — just Hillary’s emails.

As secretary of state, Clinton used her own private email account for government business and personal stuff. Some messages may have contained classified material (whether it was classified before or after she sent it is in question), making the Democratic Party’s presidential frontrunner appear to have improperly routed government secrets through a privately maintained, non-government server.

None of that looks good, of course. At best it’s very sloppy.

The Republicans, however, are trying to make it seem like the greatest act of treason since Benedict Arnold tried to sell out West Point to the British. It’s part of their grand plan to strangle Clinton’s presidential candidacy in its crib.

And maybe it will work. Republicans have a way of hammering on an issue, saying the same things day after day, even when the facts are against them. Eventually people say, “Gee, maybe there’s a fire there behind all that smoke.”

Why did Clinton do it? She says it seemed more convenient. Earlier this year, she claimed it was because she didn’t want to carry two phones around with her everywhere she went.

That’s lame. A secretary of state is constantly surrounded by dozens of minions who can carry an unlimited number of phones for their chief.

Why did she really do it? I have no idea. It’s precisely the kind of slightly off-center move we’ve come to expect of the Clintons. Their transgressions never seem to add up to much, but they leave you wondering if there’s something shifty going on

Now that she’s finally apologized for using a private email server, the Republicans will forgive her and forget about it, right?

Hardly — I misspoke before. The emails aren’t the only thing Republicans talk about. There’s also Benghazi.

Benghazi is a tragic chapter in our recent history. A US ambassador and three of his aides were murdered in a terrorist attack on their compound in the Libyan city of Benghazi in 2012. Clinton led the State Department at the time.

It was by any measure a classic security screw-up, the kind that happens from time to time. Not much is made of it unless Hillary Clinton is secretary of state.

But she was, so the Republicans can’t let go of it. Rumors have been floated of the secretary interfering with the security at the compound, ordering the military to stand down, even running guns out of the facility. All garbage, of course, but an opportunity to slime a potential political opponent is no time to go ethical.

Republican-controlled standing committees in Congress have conducted no fewer than eight investigations into the matter so far, all fallow. Not satisfied, Republicans formed a special committee to investigate the incident.

That was 16 months and $4 million ago. Now they’ve discovered that some of Hillary’s emails mentioned — you guessed it — Benghazi. That means more hearings on the way.

This from a Congress that’s just come off one of its interminable vacations and given itself 12 days to vote on the Iran nuclear deal, pass a complex spending bill, and stage a welcome party for the pope. Then our lawmakers will go on vacation again so they can go back home and tell voters what a bang-up job they’re doing.

Oh, I forgot. There’s Planned Parenthood, too.

A hardy band of Republicans is threatening to refuse to vote for any spending bill that provides federal health care money for Planned Parenthood, which among other things provides abortions for poor women (though not with federal funds).

They say that if their demands aren’t met, they’ll shut down the government.

That’s it, then. Hillary Clinton’s emails, Benghazi and Planned Parenthood. Solve those and all our troubles are over.

Not.

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Hundreds of millions in play on the ACP road show

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Video, by an ACP contractor, of the new Atlantic side bridge.

Fundraising in London and the USA to finance a huge bridges and road project that’s being done by the builder and banker-dominated Panama Canal Authority rather than the Ministry of Public Works

The ACP road show

by Eric Jackson

With the member of its board of directors who is most in the news lately, construction executive and alleged bribe coordinator and taker Nicolás Corcione, a fugitive from justice whose whereabouts are generally unknown, four top Panama Canal Authority (ACP) executives are out of the country making a series of pitches to potential investors, looking to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of bonds. Canal administrator Jorge Luis Quijano, CFO (the description used when the ACP is in the guise of private business corporation rather than a public entity) Francisco Miguez, vice president for engineering and programs Ilya Marotta and treasury and finance manager Eida Gabriela Saiz are visiting London, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and New York for a series of investor meetings organized on its behalf by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. According to the announcement sent to would-be investors, “A USD-denominated 144A/Reg S transaction MAY follow, subject to market conditions.” It is widely reported that the ACP is looking to raise $450 million for the Atlantic Side bridge over the canal, a project that is about one-third done and whose price has usually been reported as about $366 million.

Commentator Kevin Harrington-Shelton, whose columns often appear in The Panama News and who among other things he has done in his life was the chief interpreter and translator for the Ministry of Canal Affairs when Ricardo Martinelli was minister, notes that this set of meetings is pursuant to US and British security regulators’ disclosure rules but that notwithstanding the organic law that created the ACP, the authority has never complied with the basic reporting requirement of a semi-annual personal report by the canal administrator to Panama’s National Assembly.  He adds that “it is not clear why they ‘forgot’ to include this almost $400 million in the $ 5.2 billion budget shown in 2006 to the people, about what they said the canal expansion would cost. And in this context certain things look a bit incongruous at first blush, even if they might be readily explained.

For starters, why is the ACP raising $450 million to finance a $366 million bridge, a project that’s already well underway and is projected to be done sometime in 2017?

The expected answer from the priesthood of cognoscenti in the Administration Building would be along the lines of “You don’t have your numbers right, Jackson!” But let us see.

On the afternoon of January 8, 2013 — a great information management moment, as January 9, a Wednesday that year, is The Day of the Martyrs, a national holiday and both the crowd heading out to the beach and those already taking a five-day weekend would be paying scant attention to any news — the ACP announced that it had given the go-ahead to the Paris-based multinational Vinci Construction Grands Projets the order to start work on the Atlantic Side bridge project. The cost cited by the ACP at that time was $365.979 million.

Fast-forward two and a half years and the bridge costs $570 million. Might one say that this difference is the cost of the access roads to the bridge itself? At the time Vinci got the order, the ACP was representing that this was included in the price. Now we are told — with no definitive price tag attached — that the project will include at least one more bridge, over the Chagres River to Colon’s Costa Abajo, and road connections at the very least with that western region of Colon Province’s existing road system. So is this all part of the extra $200 million that has been added to the Atlantic Side bridge cost?

The contracts for the second bridge have not been reported as having gone out for bids. The public hearings about the environmental impact of a bridge over the Chagres River and connections with the Costa Abajo road network have not taken place. If location of the western end of the new bridge is any useful suggestion, the road will contiue through where soldiers at the old US Army Jungle Operations Training Center used to play war games in the woods and cross the Chagres onto the old Piña firing range, which is highly contaminated by unexploded ordnance that over the years has killed several people and is still hazardous. Panama’s birders and other environmentalists might also have something to say about a road cutting through that forested area. There are many variables, but at first glance it does not look like an inexpensive job.

But not to worry. We are assured by Fitch, S&P and Moodys that the Panama Canal Authority has an excellent bond rating, a much better one than the Panamanian government has. Might this explain why a road and bridge project that would ordinarily be in the bailiwick of the Ministry of Public Works is being built and financed under the aegis of the ACP instead?

So, if the bond sale road show is going to the United States and Britain, should we presume that the paper will be sold on foreign exchanges? Actually, no. That quintessential rabiblanco institution, Panama’s “newspaper of record” La Prensa, informs us that Panama Bolsa de Valores is ready to handle the bond issue. It quotes Bolsa director Roberto Brenes, who is leaving that job next month amidst a huge Financial Pacific brokerage house scandal that has yet to spread very far beyond Panama’s entire stock and bond regulatory system into other private entities, but begs an awful lot of questions. It quotes former ACP board member Eloy Alfaro, politely failing to mention that until a recent government takeover Alfaro was a director and spokesman for Banco Universal, which played the role of clearinghouse for many of the corrupt financial transactions of the Martinelli administration. (Of course not. To mention that would be gauche, not only in the adopted English sense of bad etiquette, but in the French political sense as well.)

The bottom line is it appears that foreign millionaires and billionaires are being given better access to financial information about a Panamanian public institution than are the Panamanian people.

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